Posted on January 23rd, 2015 by Rachel
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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?
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.
Posted on November 20th, 2013 by Rachel
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.
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:
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!
A blog post by Collections Intern Jen Wachtel. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.
Posted on October 25th, 2013 by Rachel
For my first project as an intern with the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I have been processing the Ladies Auxiliary of Levindale collection. In working with this collection I have learned a lot about the history of the Levindale Ladies Auxiliary and its members. Some of the most interesting pieces that I have gotten to work with are the issues of the Levindale Light which were released seasonally. Since it is fall, I thought I would take a look back at what the Ladies’ Auxiliary was doing this time of year in 1976.
Levindale Light- Fall 1976 Issue
In the Fall of 1976, Carole Fradkin had just completed her first year of being the President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary. Within that year the auxiliary had achieved several goals including the move of the Volunteer Gift Shop from the Kahn Levy Building into the Goldenberg Building off the main lobby and the necessary installment of sixty air conditioners for the bedrooms of all the residents. This achievement led to new goals for membership and future programs.
Carole Fradkin, President of the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Levindale in 1976
With the membership drive taking place, this issue highlighted the “Mother & Daughter Teams” of the Ladies’ Auxiliary. One of those mother daughter teams was the Fradkin family who were a third generation volunteer family. While Carole Fradkin was the president, her mother in law Mrs. I. A. Fradkin was in charge of keeping track of volunteers’ hours, and her daughter was close behind working as a Junior volunteer for several years. Family was an important aspect of the Auxiliary as the issue states “Throughout the almost 50 years of the Auxiliary’s existence, our volunteers have developed a warm feeling towards the residents- which has generated among members of the volunteer families” (6). In reading through this particular issue and looking at the photographs from the collection, I can definitely say that the Ladies Auxiliary promoted a strong sense of community and family through their volunteer efforts and programs.
Two other mother-daughter teams are photographed volunteering and spending time with Mr. Bain. The mother-daughter teams from left to right are Gail Feinberg, Mrs. Henry Lesser, Jackie Lesser, and Mrs. Gilbert Feinberg.
A blog post by Fall Collections Intern Meg Davis. To read additional blog posts by JMM interns, click here.