The Ten Best Things about Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling

Posted on October 18th, 2019 by

JMM Insights: October 2019 comes traight from the top – JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert shares his highlights behind our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, which opens on Sunday, October 27, 2019! Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!

I started working on our Scrap Yard exhibit more than four years ago. It opens to the public in just 10 days, so I think my excitement is understandable. But in case you’re still looking for a reason to get pumped, I thought I would share a few features that might perk your interest.

1. This is the first national traveling exhibit on the American scrap industry, an industry that came of age on the shoulders of immigrant junk peddlers of the early 20th century, grew into technologically sophisticated scrap businesses by the middle of the century and entered into global recycling in the decades preceding the millennium. It’s the story of the transformation of the families who transformed waste into useful raw material.

2. Based on an informal survey, if you are Jewish, I’ll bet you either had a relative in the scrap business or knew people who dealt with scrap. In 1930, Forbes magazine estimated that 90% of scrap dealers in America were Jewish.

3. If you or someone in your family is into BIG stuff, this exhibit is for you. We’ve got scale. Drone footage of a contemporary scrap metal yard, vintage film of ship breaking after WWI, and you can even view infrared footage of cars being swallowed whole by a shredder.

4. Speaking of scale, have you ever wondered if you’re worth your weight in gold? How about copper? This is just one more of the interactive elements that test your metal. You can also feel what it was like for peddlers to carry around a 30 lb. bag of metal or see how much strength it takes to compress a small bale of water bottles.

5. Relive a few of the most memorable moments of scrap in the movies and on TV. Remember Sanford and Son? What about the iconic car crushing scene from Goldfinger? There is also a listening station for scrap themed songs. Who knew?

6. If you like your history from primary sources, you can listen in on the true adventures of real scrap dealers at our oral history kiosks (at least they told us the adventures are true!); or explore photos in our aptly named scrapbook: or maybe encounter a profiled dealer like Morris Schapiro or Louis B. Mayer or my dad… more about that in my family biography program on January 10.

7. And that’s just one of a dozen programs lined up to accompany the exhibit. Starting with a “making of” Scrap Yard presentation by curator Zachary Levine, our plans not only include lectures by scrap historians (yes, there are experts in the history of scrap) but also family days and environmental action opportunities and on Mitzvah Day, the Disney film wall-E.

8. There are, as you might expect, some wonderful artifacts in the exhibit too: a dirt bike, disassembled into its component materials, a classic International Business Machines punch clock circa 1920 (when Watson was the name of the company’s president, not its chess program), and a board game about the virtues of scrap drives in WWII called “Get into the Scrap.”

9. Our education team was inspired to create a game of our own to use the dynamics of the scrap business to teach market economics to visiting school groups especially at the middle school and high school levels. For more information about this program and our science activities for elementary schools contact Ilene Dackman-Alon at

10. Last, but not least, I hope you’ll be excited to see one of the largest credit panels in JMM history – ok, I know this doesn’t sound as cool as the first nine, but trust me, there is a very special feeling to a project put together by a whole community – both those whose lives revolved around the industry and those who were interested in exploring a novel experience. I thank them all.

Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is made possible, in part, through the support of our generous donors: Institute for Museum and Library Services; National Endowment For The Humanities; Boston Metals Co. in Memory of Morris Schapiro; The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; David Berg Foundation; Baltimore Scrap: David, Larry, Ken, and Joe Simon; Liebherr; The Gershowitz Family and Gershow Recycling; Integrated Shredder Technology.

Additional support provided by: Diamond State Recycling Corporation; Arnold and Joyce Fruman; The Sandy Shapiro Charitable Fund; Sue and Jerry Kline; Deborah Zager, in loving memory of my father, Sammy Kahan, founder of Ansam Metals Corporation; Ray Aizen, Maryland Core, Inc.; Pinkert Family Foundation; Melvin A. Lipsitz Family Foundation; J. Solotken & Company; Ellen Kahan Zager and Jack Zager Philanthropic Fund; Robin Wiener and Roger Nehrer; Davis Industries; Howard Fields, in memory of my Pinkert grandad and uncles; ScrapWare Corporation; Atlantic Recycling Group; Dan Pinkert and Freddi Greenberg; Brian Shine, Manitoba Corporation; Kripke Enterprises; Neal Shapiro; Dale and Betsey Pinkert.


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You Should Visit the National Building Museum!

Posted on October 17th, 2019 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

The National Building Museum is one of my favorite indoor spaces in Washington, DC. Here’s part of the reason why:

In addition to being a wonderful space, the NBM puts on some fantastic exhibits.

True story: several years ago I introduced my sister to this museum by announcing that we were going to see an exhibit on parking garages, no, really, don’t make that face, it’ll be great, I promise! She was skeptical, to say the least. But it had toys, and movie clips, and fun facts, and – you know – actual information about the engineering and social history behind the concept of a parking garage. My sister loved it, and is now another NBM convert. …But I digress. Right now, due to some much-needed renovation work on the historic Pension Office building the museum occupies, the NBM is preparing to close down for a few months early next year, and that means you only have a short time left to see their current exhibits, including one about a topic close to the heart of many Baltimoreans: our local movie theaters.

“Flickering Treasures,” which expands on research done for her book of the same name, was co-curated by author and photographer Amy Davis. (You may remember her modern photos of local theaters, some of which were featured some years ago in our own “Cinema Judaica” exhibition.) Like so many of the NBM’s exhibits, it looks at both the physical architecture and the social history of the topic, and includes a wide variety of historic photos, documents, and artifacts along with Ms. Davis’s images. One of those documents is on display from the JMM’s collections: A ledger from the Hippodrome Theater, 1937-1941, recording the names – and local hotel residences – of the stage performers booked by theater owner Isidor “Izzy” Rappaport.

“Record of State Attractions,” on display in “Flickering Treasures” at the NBM. Gift of M. Robert Rappaport. JMM 1988.31.1

It’s always nice to see our collections out and about, but to be honest, in this exhibit it’s the artifacts on display that I particularly love. From a variety of sources, the curators and NBM staff gathered many bits and pieces of Baltimore theaters, ranging from the grand to the mundane.

Lion’s head cornice from the McCoy/Fulton, ca. 1915.

Seats and light fixtures in a variety of styles.

I love that someone saved a “no smoking” sign from one theater, and a payphone from another. Nearly every bit of the movie-going experience can be evoked through salvaged artifacts.

Though originally scheduled to be on display into 2020, “Flickering Treasures” will now close on December 1st. Not to advocate for you spending your valuable museum-visiting time at a place other than the JMM, but… well, that is exactly what I’m advocating. You should take the time to check out this great exhibit!

While you’re there, you should, of course, look at the rest of the museum. The permanent “House and Home” exhibit (which will return when the museum reopens) is a particular favorite, and not just because three of my own personal artifacts are on display. I enjoyed “Hoops,” which I saw for the first time this week, and found another Baltimore connection in one of the photos in this show – keep an eye out for the back view of a familiar nearby landmark.  And don’t forget to visit the set of rooms – I think it was the office of the head of the Pension department – on the second floor, which are unfurnished, allowing some of the architectural features of the building shine. If the room is open, you might see a small pop-up banner exhibit on the building’s architect, Montgomery C. Meigs.  The very first exhibit I helped work on, as a graduate student some 20 years ago, was about Meigs (well, technically it was about his Washington Aqueduct, but you can’t talk about one without the other); I always try to say hi to my old friend when I’m at the NBM.

Yes, they call the building “Meigsnificent” (of which I can only assume that Gen. Meigs, who put his name on every stair tread inside the Aqueduct, would approve). That’s why I love this place.

Visiting: The National Building Museum is in downtown DC, at Judiciary Square, just a few blocks (and one Metro stop) from Union Station. There is an admission fee to enter the exhibits, but not to enjoy the main hall, or to visit the (excellent) museum shop. The museum will close on December 2nd, 2019, and reopens in March 2020 – but your last chance to see “Flickering Treasures,” and reminisce about your own favorite Baltimore movie theater memories, is December 1.

NBM exhibit photos by J. Church, October 2019.

 I promise, this is not a paid endorsement – it really is one of my favorite museums.


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Volunteers Visit the Green Mount Cemetery

Posted on October 16th, 2019 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

Growing up on Baltimore, I had heard about the Green Mount Cemetery but for whatever reason, had never gotten there. I finally did – along with 18 other JMM volunteers.

On a beautiful Friday morning in September, we drove through the Tudor/Gothic-styled and imposing entrance gate designed by Robert Cary Long, Jr. Yes, he IS the same man who was the architect for the Lloyd Street Synagogue!

Once in the cemetery, we went on a walking tour with Wayne Schaumburg, a wonderful teacher and storyteller.

We learned that when the cemetery was developed in 1838, it was located outside the city limits on property called “Green Mount” previously owned by the merchant Robert Oliver (hence the name of nearby Oliver Street). The cemetery was designed by Benjamin Henry Latrobe II as a rural garden cemetery, with winding paths and gardens. Did you know that the original rural garden cemetery was in Paris – the Pere Lachaise? The first rural garden cemetery in the United States was Mount Auburn in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established 7 years prior to Green Mount Cemetery.  These cemeteries were such beautiful locations that many spent time picnicking there. They were also early prototypes for large urban parks like Central Park in NYC and Druid Hill Park in Baltimore.

Green Mount Cemetery is well known for the list of who are buried there – the infamous and the famous.

The most infamous is John Wilkes Booth, who is buried in an unmarked grave in his family’s plot. There were many more famous people interned there, from US senators and congressmen to Maryland governors to Civil War officers from both the Union and the Confederate armies. The names we easily recognized were Betsey Patterson Bonaparte (Once married to Joseph Bonaparte, but Napoleon wanted his brother to marry royalty, so they divorced. Betsey was rewarded with a stipend, making her the richest woman in Baltimore.), A.S. Abell, founder of the Baltimore Sun Paper (in a beautifully carved sarcophagus), Johns Hopkins, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, who funded the Johns Hopkins University Medical School with the stipulation that women would be admitted on the same basis as men, Henry Walters, Enoch Pratt, and Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin.

One of the most interesting graves stones was modern, marking the grave of the founder of the Ouji board – Elijah J. Bond. The Ouji Board pattern was placed on the reverse side of the marker.  

When I originally spoke with Wayne, he did not know of any Jews buried in the cemetery. But as fate would have it, five days before our tour he learned of Levi Collmus, the second Bohemian Jew in Maryland. Levi Collmus arrived in Baltimore from Prague in 1806 and was a defender at Ft. McHenry along with five other Jews in 1814. He was a member of the minyan that petitioned the Maryland legislature for a charter that would permit them to establish a synagogue. As a result of those efforts, Nidhei Israel/Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, the builder of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, was incorporated. There is a record dated Oct.6th, 1846 of Levi Collmus paying $50 for seats in the “New Synagogue.”

Levi Collmus was also a founder and treasurer of the United Hebrew Benevolent Society of Baltimore in 1834. According to Isaac M. Fein, the organization was Baltimore’s first non-synagogue Jewish organization.  A note from the Collmus family mentioned that Levi Collmus married a Quaker, Frances Ann Williams “because there were no Hebrew girls to marry” in 1812.

Another family note states he was buried “according to the full Orthodox Ritual.” His descendants are buried in the family plot with him.

We JMM volunteers agreed that we had a fascinating fall morning learning about who’s who in Baltimore history and about one of the founders of the Baltimore Jewish community. Now I can check visiting the Green Mount Cemetery off my bucket list, BUT I want to go back to further explore this urban garden!


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