Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Side Bar 3

Posted on June 5th, 2017 by

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

Side Bar: Benjamin Bober: “Milkmen them days, it wasn’t like today”

Miss the beginning? Start here.

Unidentified woman posing with milk can, c.1924. JMM 1998.47.7.1

Unidentified woman posing with milk can, c.1924. JMM 1998.47.7.1

“We landed on Ellis Island, and they brought us from there here to Baltimore…to my aunt.  And her husband then was a milkman.  And milkmen them days it wasn’t like today.  It was small milkmen that used to go around with milk – two cans and a little pint measure.  And you had your customers.  There was a lot of them milkmen around…. And then when I came, the first thing my uncle did was, he took me along with him…. Now when it came to Highlandtown there was already bigger milkmen.  There was milkmen that had maybe fifty cows or more.  And they used to deliver to these little milkmen….  Everybody, amongst the Jewish milk people, mostly all walked.  I think there was one had a horse and wagon….. I used to carry a can and a pint measure.  And whatever the woman wanted I would come in the house and give her whatever she wanted…. I didn’t get paid from my uncle.  I just used to help him…

See now, my mother at that time she had a little milk store.  And there was some in that neighborhood they used to come for milk and she would also sell butter….

I was in the fourth grade when my mother married a man that used to have a little farm…. On Johnnycake Road.  And that was a little Jewish settlement, [Yaazor]…. Now my stepfather, he tried to make a living from the farm itself.  He used to raise what he could, like tomatoes and corn.  And he used to have a couple of cows.  They used to make cream and cheese…. Now later on, when I got older…stepfather allowed me to have cows.  And…my mother helped and I used to also make cream cheese and butter.  I used to come in town and I had my customers,….

And then I had a cousin that had a store in the city, a little dry goods store and…I used to take care of that little store…. it was easier for her to have somebody to look after the store while she was…in the house, she didn’t have to run back and forth….

I bought a great big farm with a hundred and seventy acres [on Old Annapolis Road].  And…course I had people working for us…. That was a different farm altogether.  That was a gentlemen’s farm…. And the men used to work on the farm.  The women used to do the picking….. And…we farmed in nineteen-twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two.  I think three years we farmed it…. I had a grocery store before I bought the farm.  I had a grocery store on Monroe Street.  That was during the war.  And the troops came out, and I had the flu, I was very sick.  A lot of people died.  When I came out I just wanted to get out…and that’s how this farm was advertised.  And we went and looked at it and we got together and we bought it.  We didn’t have enough money, we had to borrow money, get mortgages on the farm…. we used to send loads of stuff in.  To Marsh Market and they used to sell it…. Now when I bought the farm there was also a lot of cows.  I’d also run the dairy then…we used to sell the milk [to]…Snesil Dairy…. And then we used to raise a lot of vegetables, like we used to have mules and big wagons, we used to send them in to the wholesale market….

Then, we left the farm, and I went, went back to the grocery business.  And my partner was a baker and he went back to the bakery business…. I held onto the farm for about forty years…. I owned it.  And I, I had this farmer that used to farm it….”

~Excerpted from Oral History 161, Benjamin Bober July 29, 1982

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

 

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Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 5

Posted on May 22nd, 2017 by

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

Part V: Mechanization and Innovation: “He had to get more machines to keep producing.”[1]

Miss parts 1-4? Start here.

Hendler’s Creamery brochure, “A Picture Story of One of Baltimore’s Leading Industries: The Most Modern Ice Cream Plant in the World.” Hendler’s has been called the first fully automated ice-cream plant. Courtesy of Samuel Boltansky. JMM 2001.50.1

Hendler’s Creamery brochure, “A Picture Story of One of Baltimore’s Leading Industries: The Most Modern Ice Cream Plant in the World.” Hendler’s has been called the first fully automated ice-cream plant. Courtesy of Samuel Boltansky. JMM 2001.50.1

In 1900 electricity and automobiles were exciting and new and beyond the reach of most people and businesses.  New immigrants didn’t just start small, they started low-tech by today’s standards – sometimes even by the standards of their day.  Bakers used wood-burning stoves, dairymen delivered on foot or, if they were lucky, by horse and cart, sausages were stuffed by hand, and delis used iceboxes.  But as soon as money and technology allowed, small and large businesses alike took up electricity and mechanization.  This wasn’t just a fad, it was a necessity to keep pace with the rest of the business world, and even more necessary for those who wanted to expand.

Oven inside Pariser’s Bakery, 2011 – a big change from the early days of wood burning ovens. Photo by Ilene Dackman-Alon. JMM CP 28.2011.001

Oven inside Pariser’s Bakery, 2011 – a big change from the early days of wood burning ovens. Photo by Ilene Dackman-Alon. JMM CP 28.2011.001

While most family businesses installed electric ovens, refrigerators, and packing machines invented by others, some Baltimore families created their own machines and systems to handle the unique needs of their businesses.  Both Hendlers Creamery and Tulkoff’s Horseradish Products Company had engineers (by practice or training) in the family.  Martin Tulkoff, son of the founder of the company, did not have an advanced degree in engineering but he invented several pieces of equipment to make the plant more efficient.  Other companies bought these patented machines for their own production, in particular the Shrink-O-Matic.[2]  Hendler’s was so proud of being the first fully automated ice-cream plant that they created a brochure that described the electrification and mechanization of their plant on Baltimore Street.  The company claimed a number of ‘firsts’—the first to install the Fast Frozen method, the first to use refrigerated trucks for transportation (which they developed in their own plant), and more.[3] Albert Hendler remembered that his father, L. Manuel Hendler, “though he didn’t know it, designed the first air conditioning system.  That was not his original intention.  His purpose was to devise a method for protecting the ice cream plant from flies.  To compensate for closing it off to the outside, he ventilated the building by blowing in air which traveled through ducts connected to coils.  In wintertime heat was produced by steam, and in summer brine pumped through the coils cooled the interior.”[4]

CP 22.2011.001 – Shrink-O-Matic

CP 22.2011.001 – Shrink-O-Matic

Mechanization was only one way to keep up.  Business innovation takes many forms and even if Baltimore Jewish food businesses weren’t at the pinnacle of technological advancements they were sometimes innovators in terms of products.  Before Tulkoff no one had bottled horseradish, before Gustav Brunn no one had Old Bay, before Fannie Cohen no had tasted a coddie.  Product development was, and still is, as important to business as technological change.

Continue to Part VI: Marketing and Expansion: “We have to expand whether we want to or not.”

Notes:

[1] Ralph Brunn speaking  about his father, Gustav and Ralph Brunn interview, May 7, 1980, OH 112, JMM.

[2]  Martin Morse Wooster, “Roots to Riches: The Tulkoff Family has made horseradish a big business,” Country, May 1984, pg. 21-23; Paula Span, “The Tigers of Lombard Street” Baltimore Magazine, November 1979 pg. 178-180

[3] Baltimore Jewish Times, May 1, 1941, pg. 17

[4] Albert Henlder with Amalie Ascher, “Ice Cream Days,” The Sun Magazine, July 26, 1981

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Family Fare: Baltimore Jewish Food Businesses Part 3

Posted on May 15th, 2017 by

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

Part III: Learning the Trade: “Baking was the only trade he knew.”[1]

Miss parts 1-2? Start here.

Why choose to sell food?  In an oral history, Seymour Attman, whose father started Attman’s Deli, described each and every store that lined Lombard Street when he was a child in the 1930s.  Again and again and again he mentioned stores that sold food.  In fact, except for an occasional hardware store or clothing store, every business sold food.  Delis, bakeries, butcher shops, and confectionaries packed the blocks.  The heart of the East Baltimore Jewish community seemed to be all about food.

1900 U.S. Census, Baltimore. This census page shows Isaac Hendler, occupation dairyman, and his son Manuel, who later started Hendler’s Creamery.

1900 U.S. Census, Baltimore. This census page shows Isaac Hendler, occupation dairyman, and his son Manuel, who later started Hendler’s Creamery.

Part of the reason so many shops could exist side-by-side was because they sold different kinds of food.  The early twentieth century was characterized by specialization.  As Seymour Attman said, “In those days…everything was a specialty.  You went to the grocery store to buy your groceries, you went to the dairy store to buy your dairies, you went to…the butcher shop, or whatever, everything was their own characteristic store.”[2]  This allowed a long string of stores to share the same block without directly competing.

The nature of food service at that time created the ‘bakery on every corner’ phenomenon (and the deli on every block, the butcher shop just across the way, etc.).  People functioned largely within their neighborhoods.  Not everyone owned cars, so people relied on public transportation or walking to get to work or do their shopping.  Also, families didn’t have a way to store large quantities of food in their kitchens so they shopped more often, making short frequent trips to local markets necessary.  This meant that most of the stores they wanted were on the street where they lived, a block or two over, or a short trip on the street car.   The community could support a large number of small food businesses, many within walking distance of each other as well as the homes of their patrons.

Herman Wartzman and his niece Esther Levin outside the Wartzman Bakery at 913 E. Lombard Street. Wartzman learned to be a baker in the Russian Army. Courtesy of Paul Wartzman. JMM CP14.2007.1

Herman Wartzman and his niece Esther Levin outside the Wartzman Bakery at 913 E. Lombard Street. Wartzman learned to be a baker in the Russian Army. Courtesy of Paul Wartzman. JMM CP14.2007.1

But why did the store owners choose to make their living from food?  One simple answer is – they chose what they knew.

A business owner’s familiarity with food influenced his or her decision to open a shop.  Many proprietors had learned their trade in Europe, sometimes from their family (as Solomon Rodbell had), sometimes from apprenticeships, sometimes in the army.  Bessie Bluefeld, the founder of Bluefeld catering, had grown up in Russia with parents “who were really, if you want to say caterers, they were caterers in Russia, because when people came from one shtetl to the next, prominent people, they would say, ‘Where shall we stay?’ and, of course, they were told to go to the Biskers.”[3]  Both the founder of Pariser’s bakery and Herman Wartzman of Wartzman’s bakery had learned to be bakers in the European armies in which they served before leaving for America.  Immigrants brought their skills with them to the United States and often passed those skills on to their American-born children.  Selling food has not always been a highly lucrative business, but it earned a living for families and though money may not have been plentiful, food was.

Continue to Part IV: The Ma and Pa Shop: “My mother did all the cooking. We did all the rest.”

Notes:

 [1] Arnold Zerivitz quoted in: Gil Sandler, “Titans of Taste,” Baltimore Jewish Times, August 22, 2003.

[2] Seymour Attman interview, September 20, 1982, OH 0162, JMM.

[3] Louis and Phlip Bluefeld interview, August 6, 1979, OH 75, JMM.

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