Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Side Bar 4

Posted on June 7th, 2017 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

Side Bar: Gordon Salganik: “People in Washington didn’t know what to do with a brisket”

Missed the beginning? Start here.

Polish women making sausage at Wolf Salganik & Sons, c. 1930. JMM 2004.27.4

Polish women making sausage at Wolf Salganik & Sons, c. 1930. JMM 2004.27.4

“My grandfather started with a butcher shop…on the corner of Lombard and Exeter.  It was a retail butcher shop…[and] they lived above the store…. Then a company was formed….[named] Consolidated Beef and Provision Company, also known as CeeBee…. [The property ran] down Lombard street towards Wartzman’s bakery and then along, up Exeter Street to the middle of the block.  Initially, I believe…their property [was] 104, 106 South Exeter Street where the first plant was built, loading right from the street….  The first floor was where they handled the beef.  The second floor was where they handled processing, manufacturing of all kinds of meat products – bolognas, sausage, meatloafs, curing hams.  Course the curing was done in the basement.  And on the third floor is where another area where the…manufacturing of the meat products took place…[and] where they smoked the meats.

I, as a kid, went in there on Saturdays and worked around the plant…. The building expanded [and] my grandfather eventually gave up the butcher shop… My grandfather…would go out to the stockyards and buy the cattle.  And, of course the cattle were killed right there…off of Brunswick Street and Wilkens Avenue.  Cattle were brought in from the country and sold on the spot there, and around the stock yards you had several abattoirs…and…the cow would be led into one of their plants and that’s where they slaughtered the cow, and my grandfather would have some slaughtered Kosher, some were un-Kosher….  Course then it was trucked into the plant at Lombard and Exeter, and that’s where they operated and sold the beef from.

My Uncle Lewis was more or less the one in charge of the beef and the beef sales….  My Uncle Isadore took care of the manufacturing for all the meat products.  And I suppose it was 1936 or ‘37 approximately that my Uncle Jerome came into the business.  He graduated from the University of Maryland College Park and he took over responsibilities in the office…. My dad Maurice was a salesmen and sold to some accounts in Baltimore, but many accounts in Washington.  Traveled over to Washington just about every day.  And one of the things he would do in Washington would be to visit all the meat houses in Washington and purchase plates [a cut of meat] and briskets.  In those days the people in Washington didn’t know what to do with a brisket or a plate.  And they were in excess over there, anxious to get rid of them.  And the trucks…would deliver orders to various stores in Washington and would pick up plates and briskets to carry back so they had a load going over and a load coming back.

Polish women making sausage casing at Wolf Salganik & Sons, c. 1930. JMM 2004.27.2

Polish women making sausage casing at Wolf Salganik & Sons, c. 1930. JMM 2004.27.2

I’m not sure, but I think…my Uncle Isadore [was]…one of the first ones to cure corned beef in the city. …The briskets…were cured, put in sweet pickle and processed …for…corned beef.  The plates…were boned and then…rolled – pastrami…. I remember my uncle going into various loaves – meatloaves …pepper loaves and things, just processing a loaf.  Well, it’s a bologna, glorified bologna with various ingredients added to it and cured in a different way or smoked in a different way, cooked in a different way.  And they cooked hams, smoked hams, cured bacon and…smoked bacon.  And we sliced the bacon and sold it to many of the stores in the city….Consolidated… was one of the biggest suppliers of meat products…Course all this was processed right there on Lombard and Exeter Street.”

~Excerpted from Oral History 318, Gordon Salganik, n.d.

~The End~

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Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 2

Posted on May 10th, 2017 by

Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

Part II: Immigration: “In the United States they would have an opportunity.”[1]

Missed part I? Start here.

The streets of America may not have been paved with gold at the beginning of the twentieth century, but immigrants flooded into the United States looking for opportunities.  A large number of Jewish immigrants chose food as their opportunity.  New arrivals could begin modestly and gradually build a business, supporting their families and even giving a boost to others.

Sol Grossfeld a baker from Radom, Poland immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and established the Warsaw Bakery with partner Solomon Hartman. Courtesy of Mrs. Gertrude Grossfeld Katz. JMM 1992.211.1

Sol Grossfeld a baker from Radom, Poland immigrated to the United States in the 1920s and established the Warsaw Bakery with partner Solomon Hartman. Courtesy of Mrs. Gertrude Grossfeld Katz. JMM 1992.211.1

Immigrants did not often arrive in America with much money, but even so many sought to support themselves rather than relying on employment in someone else’s business.  The Lozinsky family, for example, started as small as anyone could.  They “would take big baskets to the fish market, buy fish, and bring it back. Then they would stand on the sidewalk and sell the fish.”[2]   Others sold out of carts or stalls on the street or out of rooms in their homes.

These small shops supported more than just the immigrants who started them.  The benefits often spilled out to others in the immigrant Jewish community.  Once settled in America, men and women helped to bring over siblings and cousins and other extended family, sometimes giving them jobs until the new arrivals could move out on their own.  As Milton Schwartz of Crystal’s bakery explained, “Everybody that my parents would bring over from Europe, they gave them a job in the bakery. I had several cousins working there. Until they got their start in the New World and could go out on their own, they always had a job in our bakery doing something.”[3]

Nathan London, born in Russia, opened a kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, c. 1900. Courtesy of George London. JMM 2001.109.1

Nathan London, born in Russia, opened a kosher butcher shop on Lombard Street, c. 1900. Courtesy of George London. JMM 2001.109.1

Some of the more successful businesses with large workforces gave jobs to new immigrants who were not relatives, perhaps remembering their own struggles trying to make a living.  Gustav Brunn (later the creator of Old Bay and owner of his own large company, Baltimore Spice) worked briefly for Wolf Salganik, the meat processor before striking out on his own.[4]  As late as the 1980s, Brunn’s workforce included a large number of recent immigrants from Europe and Asia.

In some cases settled immigrant families offered homes to newcomers.  Charles Bluefeld, whose wife later started Bluefeld catering, came to Baltimore without any connections.  When he immigrated in 1906 he boarded with the Schreiber family, who ran a meat business (and later a supermarket), though he had no connection to the family and did not work for them.  From earning money to providing a home food gave many immigrants a start.

Continue to Part III: Learning the Trade: “Baking was the only trade he knew.”

Notes:

[1] Dora Silber and Kathryn Sollins interview, n.d.,  OH 123, JMM.

[2] ibid.

[3] Milton Schwartz interview, November 9, 2005, OH 676, JMM.

[4] Louis and Philip Bluefeld, interview, August 6, 1979, OH 75, JMM; Gustav and Ralph Brunn interview, May 7, 1980, OH 112, JMM.

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Processions, Debates and Curbstone Encounters: The Struggle over Kosher Meat in Baltimore, 1897 – 1918 Pt. 8

Posted on March 29th, 2017 by

Article by Avi Y. Decter. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways

The boycott of 1910 was one dramatic episode in a twenty-year struggle over kosher meat that engaged meat wholesalers, retail butchers, shochets (ritual slaughterers), the Orthodox rabbinate, and thousands of ordinary Jews, especially in East Baltimore. In the first decades of the twentieth century, conflict over kosher meat was a familiar topic. Today, that contestation is little remembered and poorly documented. However, sufficient evidence survives to give us access to the trajectory and meaning of the protracted struggle over kosher meat. Here is that story.

Part VIII: Memory and Meaning

Missed parts 1 – 7? Start here.

Marble plaque from the shop of M. W. Rosenstein, c. 1900. Reads "Shochet" in Hebrew. Gift of B'nai Israel Congregation, JMM 1993.148.1

Marble plaque from the shop of M. W. Rosenstein, c. 1900. Reads “Shochet” in Hebrew. Gift of B’nai Israel Congregation, JMM 1993.148.1

A drama with so many scenes and so many actors lends itself to multiple interpretations. At its simplest level, the story is that of economic self-interest. The shochets were trying to make a decent living and to this end demanded increased compensation for their work while restricting access to the profession and resisting the importation of dressed meat from the Western packing houses. The local kosher meat wholesalers were caught between the shochets and the retailers – and under constant pressure from competitively priced Western beef.

The retail butchers and shopkeepers were under pressure from the local Orthodox rabbinate to market locally slaughtered beef and experiencing increased costs; when they tried to pass these increases along to their customers, the housewives of Baltimore – supported by unions and other local organizations – resisted fiercely, producing a series of boycotts, demonstrations, and occasional incidents of violence. The superimposition of the U.S. Food Administration and the constraints of a wartime economy exacerbated exhibiting marketing pressures, even after nearly twenty years of sustained struggle.

But economic self-interest offers only one perspective on this long and tangled tale. Ideology also played a key role. The Orthodox rabbinate, living in an American Jewish community in which their traditional authority was not well-established and concerned about loss of authority under conditions of Americanization, used their supervision of kosher meat making as a way to assert their leadership role in the community (as well as bolster their incomes). The rabbis’ stance on close supervision was also a key stimulus to the emergence of a distinctive Orthodoxy in Baltimore and to its institutionalization in the Federation of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations.

At the same time, the kosher meat wars within the Jewish community were also an expression of a very American struggle occurring during this period. During the Progressive Era, as it has veen termed, there were repeated efforts – local and national – to break up monopolies, restrain unfair practices, and reduce the power of large corporate enterprises. One of the characteristic forms of the trust-busting impulse, at both the local and national levels, was food strikes and boycotts. Consumer strikes against producers and marketers of milk, eggs, bread, and other staples were common in this period.[1] The Progressive impulse to restrain the power of the trusts influenced Jewish communities around the country, as shown by kosher meat strikes in New York (1902, 1910), Boston (1902), Philadelphia (1907), Chicago (1910), St. Louis (1910), and Cincinnati (1917), among many other cities.[2]

Historians have interpreted food protests in a number of ways. One approach sees food strikes as an expression of a traditional, pre-industrial mentality. In a feudal economy, bread was sold at a “just price” as part of the communal moral ethos; as the modern market economy emerged and superseded the traditional peasant economy, food riots became a way for people to protest what they believed were efforts to deprive them of food to which they had a moral and political right.  A specifically Jewish aspect of the urge for a “fair price” may echo a lingering resentment of the korobke (meat tax) that was levied on kosher meat in Central and Eastern European communities and that constitute a primary source of communal income.[3]

A second understanding of food strikes focuses on the roles of women. During the nineteenth century, food riots began to take on a female persona. Paula Human, for instance, views boycotting women as expressing “their power as consumers and domestic manager” and evidencing “a modern and sophisticated political mentality.” The militancy of Baltimore’s Jewish women reflects their participation in labor struggles and a general environment of labor militancy among the Jewish working classes. Even their language is similar to the language of labor activitists. And, around this time, women were increasingly taking leadership roles in garment industry organizing because they constituted a growing percentage of the workforce. The kosher meat strikes underline female consciousness and leadership, not to mention their competence in networking and in organizing mass meetings, demonstrations, and boycotts.[4]

Still a third perspective focuses on the cultural meanings of the food themselves. For Jewish women, “the rituals of preparing kosher foods played a crucial role in [their] religious and cultural self-definition…Women bought and served traditional foods not only out of mere habit, but also because those foods expressed their commitment to a religious life.”[5] The long struggle over kosher meat, then, reflects the symbolic power of food in the forging of personal and communal identity, the process of cultural adaptation, and the distribution of authority and power in Jewish Baltimore a century ago.

~The End~

Notes:

[1] See, for example, “Progressive Era,” at Wikipedia.

[2] Local reportage on food strikes in other cities include: “Many Quit Buying Meat [New York City],” Baltimore Sun, 19 May, 1902, p. 2. “Meat Riots in Boston” Baltimore Sun, 23 May 1902, p. 8. “No Kosher Meat for Sale [Philadelphia],” Baltimore Sun, 27 July 1907, p. 12. “Meat Boycott Spreads [Milwaufee, Cleveland, et al.],” Baltimore Sun, 22 January 1910, p. 1. “Meat Boycotters Aroused [Chicago],” Baltimore Sun, 4 April 1910, p. 14. “Women Win By Boycott [Pittsburg],” Baltimore Sun, 11 May 1916, p. 1. “Egg Boycott Started [New York],” Baltimore Sun, 28 November 1916, p. 1.

[3] Amy Bentley, “Bread, Meat, and Rice: Exploring Cultural Elements of Food Protests and Riots,” Oregon State University, 2000; updated 23 May 2012, pp. 3f.

[4] Paula Hyman, “Immigrant Women and Consumer Protest: The New York City Meat Boycott of 1902,” in Jonathan Sarna, ed. The American Jewish Experience, 2nd ed. (New York: Holmes & Meier, 1997), pp. 153-164.

[5] Dana Frank, “Housewives, Socialists, and the Politics of Food: The 1917 New York Cost-of-Living Protests,” Feminist Studies, 11, 2 (Summer 1985): 256 cited in Amy Bentley, “Bread, Meat, and Rice, “ p. 5.

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