Manuscript Collection 1: Dr. Stephen Laufer Papers

Posted on August 6th, 2015 by

Dr. Stephen (Schulim) Laufer (1894-1983) Papers

1908-1978

MS 1

 

ACCESS AND PROVENANCE

The Dr. Stephen Laufer Papers were donated by Dr. Stephen Laufer and Mrs. Wilma Laufer Gabbay, a longtime resident of Baltimore, as 1983.5.  The collection was processed by Dr. Laufer, Mrs. Gabbay and Anne Turkos in 1982. Further information was added in 2003 by Robin Waldman with the assistance of Wilma Gabbay.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library’s usual procedures. 

 

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Dr. Stephen Laufer was born in Bolechow in East Galicia on January 6, 1894, the first son and second child of Israel and Golda (Diengott) Laufer. He attended school in Bolechow until the age of twelve and then left for the neighboring town of Stryj to continue his education, as at that time Bolechow did not have a gymnasium. When World War I broke out in 1914, the Laufer family moved to Budapest, and Stephen obtained work in a leather factory. As he had only completed the seventh grade of gymnasium, he petitioned to take the examinations for the eighth grade and the matura. He successfully did this in 1915, returning to Stryj for the tests.

Stephen (Schulim) Laufer, far right, with friends David Kreppel and Abraham Hruszowski.  The three boys were in the same fourth year high school class in Stryj, Pland, 1910-1911. JMM 1983.5.6

Stephen (Schulim) Laufer, far right, with friends David Kreppel and Abraham Hruszowski. The three boys were in the same fourth year high school class in Stryj, Poland, 1910-1911. JMM 1983.5.6

In 1915 Laufer registered with the Austro-Hungarian authorities and was found fit for army service; he was exempted, however, on the basis of necessary work. In 1918 all exemptions were cancelled and he was drafted into the army but peace was declared before he saw combat.

After the war, Stephen’s family returned to Bolechow and he decided to continue his education in Vienna in 1918. He earned a degree in agricultural engineering and also a doctorate in agricultural chemistry at the Hochschule fur Bodenkultur in 1922. For one year he served as the director of an orphanage farm in Stanislawow, then as a teacher of science in a Jewish gymnasium in Kalisch, Poland, from 1923-1925.

Black and white copy print of the Streifer family from left to right:  Henry Streifer, Joseph Streifer, Miriam Streifer, Aron Streifer, Wolf Streifer, and Ann Streifer, 1902-1905.

Streifer family from left to right: Henry Streifer, Joseph Streifer, Miriam Streifer, Aron Streifer, Wolf Streifer, and Ann Streifer, 1902-1905.

In 1920 Laufer married Anna (Chana) Streifer, daughter of Wolf and Miriam (Pomerantz) Streifer, also of Bolechow. They had three children: Ruth, born in 1923, who married Jerome Morton; Irma, born in 1935, who married Jack Katz; and Irma’s twin, Wilma, who married Albert Gabbay.

Dr. Laufer had been active in the Zionist movement as a teenager. In fact his studies were designed to prepare him for work in Palestine. In September 1925, he left for Haifa with his wife, daughter and mother-in-law. While in Palestine they had no luck finding permanent employment. When their money ran out, the family decided to move to America as relatives of the Streifers were already living there. In February 1929 they sailed on the Alesia, a French ship, from Haifa to Providence, Rhode Island. They lived briefly in Jersey City and Brooklyn and the Bronx for several years, and then bought a home in Forest Hills, Queens, New York, in the summer of 1942, where they lived until 1982.

Dr. Laufer’s first position in the United States was as a chemist for Schwarz Laboratories, a consultant for the brewing industry. He stayed with the company for 46 years, retiring in 1975. He advanced to director of research, director of laboratories, and vice-president. He was in charge of the United States Brewers Academy, which was run by Schwarz Laboratories. Dr. Laufer published closed to 100 articles in the fields of food and fermentation. In 1936 he was honored with the Cincinnati Achievement Award of the Master Brewers Association of America. He is listed in American Men and Women of Science. Dr. Laufer died on October 4, 1983, in New York.

 

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The Laufer Papers consist primarily of reminiscences, miscellaneous documents from his years spent in East Galicia, World War I money, receipts and correspondence. Also included are publications pertaining to the brewing industry.

The reminiscences written by Dr. Laufer cover his early years in Bolechow and Stryj until the outbreak of World War I. A cousin of Mrs. Laufer’s, Frymka Brawer-Pordes, wrote a recollection in German about a school excursion also prior to 1914. This is an amplified version of a chapter in Memorial Book for the Martyrs of Bolechow.

Dr. Laufer’s strong interest in Zionism is represented by receipts for contributions made to various organizations and correspondence. The letters (written in German and Hebrew) are regarding possible employment in Palestine during the years 1922-1928.

Reminisces  of Stephen Laufer, written 1977-78.

Reminisces of Stephen Laufer, written 1977-78.

The papers are divided into three series.

Series I. East Galicia, consists of Dr. Laufer’s and Mrs. Brawer-Pordes’ reminiscences as well as the Bolechow memorial book. Also included are report cards from high school in Stryj; miscellaneous documents pertaining to school, army and citizenship in Polish and German; and Ukranian and Austrian money. Each category is arranged chronologically.

Series II. Palestine, contains receipts for contributions to Zionist organizations, letters from facilities in Palestine regarding employment, handbills concerning the opening of Dr. Laufer’s school in Haifa, and the plan of the ship Alesia. The arrangement in each category is chronological. 

Series III. United States, consists of some of Dr. Laufer’s publications, a bound monograph and several articles.

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Handwriting Samples

Posted on January 23rd, 2015 by

Today, January 23rd, is John Hancock’s birthday – and thus, it is also National Handwriting Day.  Handwriting is near and dear to the hearts of archivists, historians, and curators because we encounter examples of it nearly every day, from centuries-old documents to modern collections folders hand-labeled in pencil.

A sample of archival folders, each labeled by a different JMM staff member or volunteer.

A sample of archival folders, each labeled by a different JMM staff member or volunteer.

However, as computers and tablets and smartphones become more and more prevalent in U.S. culture, the art of penmanship has been dropped from some schools’ course schedules. Educators debate the pros and cons of skipping the cursive lessons, while grandparents bemoan the fact that little Emily and Mason can’t read their birthday cards unless they’re written in print.

From my point of view, the problem with not being able to write in cursive is that then you can’t easily read it. Perhaps the upcoming generation of historians – and, in the more immediate sense, upcoming summers of student interns – will have trouble reading a legal document written in clear, careful Copperplate, let alone something written in a more hurried or idiosyncratic hand.  Yes, deciphering someone’s individual writing style takes time and practice (there’s nothing quite like the revelation that the 19thcentury diary author, whose tiny smudged entries you’ve been struggling with for hours, never crossed her t’s).  It helps, though, if you’re at least familiar with the underlying structure of the writing: two bumps is an n, three bumps is an m, that swoopy thing in the front is a T, etcetera.

Diaries, journals, cookbooks, letters, legal documents, bills, photograph captions, business records, and more: handwritten information is everywhere in our archives.  So, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I urge everyone to brush up on – or start learning – penmanship skills.  Historians of the future need you!  And in celebration of National Handwriting Day, I offer a few examples from our collections.  See if the partial transcriptions included here match what you can decipher . . . then go home and handwrite someone a letter.

Donated by Paul and Rita Gordon.  1995.104.030

Donated by Paul and Rita Gordon. 1995.104.030

Studying the history of organizations and businesses can require a willingness to immerse yourself in the handwriting of the past.  Here’s a page of meeting minutes for the first meeting of the Frederick Section of the National Council of Jewish Women, written by Recording Secretary Mrs. Leo Weinberg. It begins: “March 23rd 1921. Realizing that ‘In union there is strength’ and appreciating the necessity for co-operative and harmonious action, The Jewish Women of Frederick met Wednesday March 23rd 1921 on the second floor of the Masonic Temple for the purpose of organizing The Frederick Section, Council of Jewish Women.”

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.1

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.1

Written on a scrap of cardboard from a larger container, this handwritten note commemorates an apparently epic games party near Eutaw Place, Baltimore: “Progressive whist given at the new home of Mrs. Hennie Strouse, 1628 Madison Ave., October 20, 1907.” It’s signed by attendees including Morton Emanuel Hecht, Rosalyn W. Sawyer, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph M. Mann, “Kid” Nusbaum, Phil Rose, and Sadie, Helen, and Joseph Ulman.

Donated by Rose Kushner. 1985.62.2

Donated by Rose Kushner. 1985.62.2

Midwife Lena Barber of Baltimore kept records of all the births she attended, making handwritten notes in pre-printed journals such as this volume from 1892-93. Here are two records from February 1892: on the lefthand page is male baby born to Anna and Louis Glaubenfeld, and on the right is a female baby born to Hana and Samuel Block. Interestingly, comparison of the writing on various pages – such as the two pages pictured here – shows several different writing styles throughout the book, indicating that more than one person was helping Barber keep track of things. Sometimes, a handwritten document reveals more than just the information that’s written down.

Donated by Mrs. Samuel Block.  1971.20.260

Donated by Mrs. Samuel Block. 1971.20.260

It isn’t only paper collections that require some handwriting knowledge; photographs are frequently captioned by hand.  This image of Harry Greenstein (seated in the center) surrounded by well-wishers has this handwritten note on the front: “With affectionate greetings on my 30th Anniversary as Executive Director of Associated Jewish Charities, 5/1/1958, [signed] Harry Greenstein.”

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.2

Donated by Mrs. Gerald Heller. 1962.9.2

In 1865, Isaac Strouse of Baltimore went to Europe. During his travels he kept a journal, written in pencil in a leather-bound, pocket-sized blank book.  The page shown here begins, “I have spend [sic] my time up in [Dek?] from 1/2 after 6 to 8 in walking about & conversation & now I am in the smoking salon …” …and here’s where my handwriting-deciphering skills fail me; I’m not sure about that “Dek.”  (Brackets indicate a word the transcriber is unsure about.) A full reading of the surrounding pages will likely provide some hints, but in the meantime, do any blog readers have any ideas what that word says or means?

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

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Invaluable Archives

Posted on November 20th, 2013 by

Since my last update, I have learned so much more about Baltimore Jewish history by processing a wide variety of collections. Entering the library closed stacks, I am never quite sure what lies in store for me within the mysterious archival boxes. In the case of the library closed stacks, no two collections are alike!

Over the past month, I accessioned photographs, cookbooks, invoices, holiday cards, invitations, financial documents, and all manner of fascinating manuscript materials for the archives. I strongly encourage anyone interested in Baltimore history to conduct research in our archives. I recently processed original documents pertaining to the career of Lun (Licien) Harris, a fashion illustrator who was an active preservationist and founding member of Baltimore Heritage. Lun Harris was appointed to the Baltimore City Planning Commission and voted against interstate highways through Baltimore. This month, I accessioned several of Harris’ photographs as well as original diplomas and awards for the JMM archives.

Here is a photograph of Lun Harris in a three-way mirror. The scan is available in the JMM’s digital records, but we also have the original in our extensive photograph collection.

2008.95.1

2008.95.1

Beyond  Lun Harris’ photographs, we also have various documents pertaining to this remarkable woman’s lifetime achievements courtesy of Linda Lapides. For example, here we have Harris’ gorgeous certificate commemorating her service with the Baltimore City Planning Commission:

 2008.95.12

2008.95.12

Although this scan is available for research most of the JMM’s twenty thousand catalog records are not digitized. Anyone interested in Baltimore history would benefit from the materials available in our archival collections. As much as I enjoy digitizing new accession materials,  I am amazed by the sheer volume of physical manuscripts, books, paintings, maps, blueprints, and other original documents in the archives. As a history student at UMBC, I am pleased that such a wealth of local history is readily available.

Another compelling collection from this past month, donated by Morton Esterson, includes more recent records. JMM archives include not only faded original manuscripts but also recent records of Jewish life in Baltimore.  These resources, preserved in the permanent collection, will be readily available for future generations. My interest in these recent documents in particular sprang from my personal contact with the Baltimore Jewish Council’s Holocaust Speakers Bureau as a UMBC Jewish student leader. While I was directly in touch with the Holocaust Speakers Bureau, I added original documents about their resources to the JMM archives. This coincidence speaks to the continuing relevance of the archives for Jewish life in Baltimore. The archives include resources with enduring meaning beyond the realm of academia. Other “modern” documents I added in the past few weeks include Rosh Hashana greeting cards – yet another surprising find in the library closed stacks! Although some of the collections I processed are more mundane than others, just by sheer exposure to this variety of documents I have learned so much about Jewish life in Baltimore. Once again, I look forward to the next collection!

After my last blog post, my classmates at UMBC pleasantly surprised me by mentioning that they follow the Jewish Museum of Maryland on social media. Please continue following the JMM on Twitter and Facebook!

twitter-icon Don't forget to Like us on Facebook!

 

Intern JenA blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.

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