Once Upon a Time…10.30.2015

Posted on June 28th, 2016 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

2010020046Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  October 30, 2015

PastPerfect Accession #:  2010.020.046

Status:  Partially Identified – Members of the Sinai Hospital School of Nursing’s class of 1909: front row, far left: Jennie Breschkin (later Kartman), one of the first nurse anesthetists in the country

Special Thanks To: Myra Fox (great-niece of Jennie Breschkin Kartman)

 

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Oral History: Connecting through time

Posted on June 24th, 2016 by

Through recorded oral histories, we preserve information that is not found in data tables, census records, or even preserved media. During the Great Depression, my great-grandfather actually attended and graduated high school twice, but this is not recorded by the government. His younger brother had found a job to help support the family, but was still required by law to finish his schooling. Jobs were hard to find and important to keep so for the sake of his family, my great-grandfather went back to finish high school for his brother. This story is an oral history passed down through my family. It is a story that would be lost without word of mouth and is not in any official record. If you were to look for a graduation record for Raymond Haber, you would only find one.

Familial oral history has preserved Ray Haber and his brother to my family, but if this story is not recorded it can be lost to humanity. This little anecdote is potentially a handy tool to understanding the dynamic that held families together during the Great Depression, but if I do not tell the story it will fall to the wind and be lost to future generations.  Oral histories once recorded and transcribed take on solid form and are better preserved for the future. Recording these histories through an organization like the museum gives more people access to the stories that have shaped generations.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland, its employees, and volunteers have compiled around 800 oral histories since they started in 1963. The first oral history in our archives is an interview with Jacob Edelman. Edelman and his interviewer, Dr. Isaac Fein, met on 6 February 1963 to talk about the garment industry in Baltimore.

As they spoke, their voices were recorded with a reel to reel recording device.

As they spoke, their voices were recorded with a reel to reel recording device.

These days we use equipment that creates immediate digital copies that can be accessed easily on a computer. While the recording technology has changed significantly since 1963, the basic idea of collecting oral histories remains the same. Our purpose is to preserve not only the voices of our interviewees, but more importantly their stories, insights, and overall humanity.

Our first oral history participant, Jacob Edelman, arrived in Baltimore on 2 February 1912. JMM 2000.97.2

Our first oral history participant, Jacob Edelman, arrived in Baltimore on 2 February 1912. JMM 2000.97.2

He was a boy of 15½ with no marketable skills, whose Russian and German were better than his Yiddish and had no English fluency whatsoever. The Hebrew Immigrant Agency & Sheltering Society helped him when he arrived and told him that the garment industry was the best place for him to find work, so that’s where he went. From this position, Edelman was privy to the strikes and unionization of the industry. He himself was a striker. He claimed that the strikebreakers were Europeans and that they were “broken by importations of scared, strikebreakers and many innocent, well-intentioned people that just got off the boat because boats were coming in every day… they didn’t know any better” (Jacob Edelman, OH0001: Jewish Museum of Maryland, 1963). His sympathy and explanation for the strikebreakers is a humanity best seen through oral history.

Edelman’s oral history is but a snapshot of his life and his involvement in the Baltimore area. From 1939 to 1971, he sat on the Baltimore City Council, first for district four and then for district five. He came from humble beginnings as an immigrant with no family or connections. He lived through the unionization of the garment industry and increased his personal status from an immigrant with nothing to a politician with family.

Here he shakes hands with Baltimore Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro.  Photo by Jerry Esterson, JMM 1996.026.273.

Here he shakes hands with Baltimore Mayor Tommy D’Alesandro. Photo by Jerry Esterson, JMM 1996.026.273.

 Even though it is a brief recording, Edelman’s oral history keeps his memories alive. He is here at the museum, preserved in the words he spoke on 6 February 1963, explaining the Baltimore garment industry of the 1910s.

Becky MillerBlog post by Public History Intern Rebecca Miller. To read  more posts by and about interns click HERE.

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Safety First

Posted on June 24th, 2016 by

June is National Safety Month, sponsored since 1996 by the National Safety Council (NSC). The NSC, founded in 1913 and granted a Congressional Charter in 1953, developed the Green Cross for Safety logo (later modified into the present-day NSC logo) in the late 1940s. The Green Cross was used for fundraising, on awareness campaigns, and as an award for safe workplaces.  (The NSC still gives out yearly Green Cross for Safety prizes.)

One of the early forms of the award was a large white flag with the Green Cross in the center. It’s not clear how recipients were chosen – did you submit your team for the prize? Was it based on a certain amount of accident-free work time? – but getting the flag seems to have been regarded as an honor worth commemorating. Here, for example, are Louisiana Shell Oil employees “with flag won for safety” in 1949. Closer to home, the staff at the Perkins Homes public housing estate posed with their flag in 1953.

JMM 1972.36.1.36

A Green Cross for Safety Flag was presented to the staff of the Perkins Homes, Baltimore, April 2, 1953. Gift of the Jacob Fisher estate. JMM 1972.36.1.36  Pictured, left to right: Horace Gwaltney, who was not featured in the “Chatter”; Anderson Washington, Laborer; Philip Di Seta, Laborer; Edward Stockett, Janitor; Nathaniel Burns, Laborer; Charles Eberlein, Maintenance Mechanic; Jacob Fisher, Housing Manager; Lucille Frampton, Junior Management Aide; Lorraine Krall, Cashier-Clerk; Andrew Wassil, Maintenance Aide; Marion Roberts, Typist-Cashier; John Keehner, Maintenance Clerk; Archie Tindal, Laborer; Washington Triechok, Maintenance Boss; William Lutsche, Maintenance Aide.

Jacob Fisher (1910-1971) worked as a Housing Manager for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (HABC), providing assistance for families living in housing complexes, such as Perkins Homes, Latrobe Homes, and O’Donnell Heights.  As a Housing Manager, he was also involved with the Southeastern Community Council and very active among the city’s public schools. Mr. Fisher’s heirs donated his scrapbooks, detailing both his army and civilian careers, to the JMM. These books are a fascinating window into the work culture of the HABC, the communal culture of the public housing estates, and the conflicts and cooperation between the City bureaucracy, its employees, and the residents for whom they worked.  They also contain a variety of photos, including this one, which looks like it was taken before the safety flag was raised up the Perkins Homes’ flagpole.

On the back of the photo, Mr. Fisher noted the names of the individuals shown.  Although I found nothing else about this event in the scrapbooks, I did find the May-June issue of the HABC newsletter, “Chatter,” in which the staff at Perkins Homes was asked, “What’s the most exciting or interesting thing that ever happened to you?”  (“Winning a safety flag” was not an answer.)  Thanks to this document, I was able to confirm name spellings, and identify each person’s job.

From Jacob Fisher’s scrapbooks of his years working with the HABC.  Gift of the Jacob Fisher estate. JMM 1972.36.1

From Jacob Fisher’s scrapbooks of his years working with the HABC.  Gift of the Jacob Fisher estate. JMM 1972.36.1

Workplace safety posters of the early-mid 20th century are a fun collectible today; try an internet image search, and you’ll find lots of shops that want to sell you reprints of carefully-designed dire warnings directed at preventing falls, spills, broken backs, accidental deaths, and the like, from the WPA era through WWII and beyond. The Green Cross was used on many of post-war examples, such as this mildly threatening poster in the Wisconsin Historical Society collections:

From the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

From the collections of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Yes, the posters can be entertaining to modern eyes, and I’m certainly guilty of sending some amusing examples to my coworkers this week while preparing today’s blog. (Here is my favorite, from the Royal Society of the Prevention of Accidents.)  But it’s important to remember that these signs were in deadly (if you’ll excuse the pun) earnest. A lot of the safety measures and regulations that we take for granted today were not in place in decades past, and in some cases are more recent than you might expect.  (The NSC has a timeline of some of these regulations, if you’re interested.)  So here’s to a safe and secure summer for all of our readers, and remember to keep both hands free to grip the ladder!

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

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