The borough of Brooklyn is one of the most important manufacturing centres in the United States, most of the factories being located along or near the East river north of the Brooklyn bridge. The total value of the manufactured products in 1890 was $270,823,754 and in 1900, $342,127,124, an increase during the decade of 26.3%. In 1905 the total value of the borough's manufactured product (under the factory system) was $373,462,930, or 15% of the total manufactured product of the state of New York. Brooklyn's largest manufacturing industry is the refining of sugar, about one-half of the sugar consumed in the United States being refined here; in 1900 the product of the sugar and molasses refining establishments was valued at $77,942,997. Brooklyn is also an important place for the milling of coffee and spices (the 1905 product was valued at $15,274,092), the building of small boats, and the manufacture of foundry and machine shop products, malt liquors, barrels, shoes, chemicals, paints, cordage, twine, and hosiery and other knitted goods.
Of its large commerce, grain is the chief commodity; it is estimated that about four-fifths of that exported from the port of New York is shipped from here, and the borough's grain elevators have an estimated storage capacity of about 20,000,000 bushels.
The water-supply system is owned and operated by the borough; the water is derived from streams flowing southward in the sparsely settled area east of the borough, and also from driven wells in the same region; it is pumped by ten engines at Ridgewood to a reservoir having a capacity of about 300,000,000 gallons, while a part of it is re-pumped to a high service reservoir near the north entrance to Prospect Park for the service of the most elevated part of the borough. Besides this system some towns in the south section recently annexed have their own water-supply.
The first settlement within the present limits of Brooklyn was made in 1636, when some Dutch farmers took up their residence along the shore of Gowanus Bay. About the same time other Dutch farmers founded Flatlands (at first called Amersfoort), on Jamaica Bay, and a few Walloons founded Wallabout, where the navy yard now is. In 1642 a ferry was established across East river from the present foot of Fulton Street, and a settlement grew up here which was known as The Ferry. The next year Lady Deborah Moody with some followers from New England founded Gravesend near the southern extremity of the borough. Finally, in the year 1645, a settlement was established near the site of the present borough hall, and was called Breuckelen (also spelled Breucklyn, Breuckland, Brucklyn, Broucklyn, Brookland and Brookline) until about the close of the 18th century, when its orthography became fixed as Brooklyn. The name, Breuckelen, meaning marsh land, seems to have been suggested by the resemblance of the situation of the settlement to that of Breuckelen, Holland. Of the other towns which were later united to form the borough, New Utrecht was settled about 1650, Flatbush (at first called Medwoud, Midwout or Midwood) about 1651, Bushwick and Williamsburg in 1660. All of the settlements were for a long time chiefly agricultural communities.
Flatbush was for a few years immediately preceding 1675 the largest; but Brooklyn was the first (1646) to have a township organization, and within a few years Wallabout, Gowanus, The Ferry, and Bedford - a new settlement to the south-east of Wallabout, established in 1662 - were included within its jurisdiction. In 1654 the municipal privileges of Brooklyn as well as of two of the other towns were enlarged, but with Dutch rule there was general discontent, and when, in 1664, Colonel Richard Nicolls came to overthrow it and establish English rule these towns offered no resistance. Nicolls erected the region composed of Long Island, Staten Island and Westchester into a county under the name of Yorkshire, and divided it into three ridings, of which Staten Island, the present county of Kings, and the town of Newtown in Queens, formed one. In 1683 the present county of Kings was organized by the first colonial legislature. During the War of Independence the chief event was the battle of Long Island, fought on the 27th of August 1776. In 1816, when the population of the town of Brooklyn was about 4500, its most populous section was incorporated as a village; and in 1834, when its population had increased to 23,310, the whole town was incorporated as a city.
By 1850 its population had increased to 138,882. In 1855 Williamsburg, which had been incorporated as a city in 1851, and the town of Bushwick were annexed. Other annexations followed until the city of Brooklyn was conterminous with Kings county; and finally, on the 1st of January 1898, the city of Brooklyn became a borough of New York City.
See S.M. Ostrander, A History of Brooklyn and Kings County (Brooklyn, 1894); H.W.B. Howard (ed.), History of the City of Brooklyn (Brooklyn, 1893); and H. Putnam, Brooklyn, in L.P. Powell's Historic Towns of the Middle States (New York, 1899).