Bedlam with Corned Beef on the Side: The Jewish Delicatessen in Baltimore Pt. 3

Posted on April 10th, 2017 by

Written by Barry Kessler. Originally published in Generations 1993, reprinted in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways.

Part III: Caplan’s Delicatessen

Miss parts 1 – 2? Start here.

Caplan and Co, advertisement, 1933. Gift of Mrs. Renee Piel. JMM 1993.104.3.4

Caplan and Co, advertisement, 1933. Gift of Mrs. Renee Piel. JMM 1993.104.3.4

Harry R. Caplan’s was the longest-lived of this first crop of delicatessens, remaining in business – although in changed form – from 1897 into the 1960s. After several years in Baltimore as a tailor, Caplan had appeared under “provisions” in the City Directory as far back as 1898 and in 1904, in the alphabetical section of the Directory, his trade was listed as a delicatessen owner. His shop grew and moved around the neighborhood, from 911 to 915 east Baltimore Street, to 910 Watson, to 918 East Lombard, settling the 1920s at 23 South High Street (between Baltimore and Lombard Streets).

Caplan’s delicatessen is remembered today especially for the fragrant barrels of pickles and olives (maslines in Yiddish) in front of its counter, and for the high-quality sliced meats that people came to buy on Saturday nights. A 1933 calendar booklet issued in English and Yiddish by the shop claimed that it was the largest firm of its type in America.[1] Advertisements in the booklet for a wide range of groceries promoted brand-name products packaged by Rokeach, Manischewitz, and Goodman and Sons; the shop carried a full line of Carmel brand strictly kosher meats, including tongue, pastrami, and “wonder sausage.”

The shop sold many products it produced itself, such as Belvedere Coffee, “roasted and blended by us.” Fourteen varieties of fish were smoked daily by Caplan, including shad, Kieler sprotten (sprats from Kiel), capchunkes (salt-cured, air-dried whitefish), rybetz (Russian for big fish), and belerivitze, and he also imported fish directly from Scotland and Alaska – “packed by us in our specially equipped factory” and marketing in glass jars under the Gibralter label.

In 1940 Harry Caplan gave up retailing, turning over his distribution of name-brand groceries to the Joffe Brothers of West Pratt Street.[2] Trading as the Southern Food Corporation at 5 Lloyd Street, he was the regional distributer for the Hygrade Foods line of delicatessen meats from New York. Harry Saval, founder of what is now the largest distributor of deli meats in Baltimore, worked for [Harry Caplan] during this time.

Continue to Park IV: A Decade of Deli

Notes:

[1] Jewish Museum of Maryland, Gift of Renee Piel, 1993.104.4

[2] Baltimore Jewish Times, March 29, 1940.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Immigrants Get the Job Done

Posted on March 21st, 2016 by

Recently, some friends and I finished our submission* for the Washington Post’s annual Peeps diorama contest.  My friends are huge “Hamilton” fans, so the popular new musical became our theme.  In keeping with the spirit of the original, we chose a diverse cast of orange, green, blue, and purple bunnies. And as we built the set and dressed marshmallows in vests and gowns, we listened to the “Hamilton” soundtrack.  This was my first exposure to the lyrics and I wasn’t paying super close attention (gluing a tissue cravat to a Peep takes a lot of concentration), but this fantastic line caught my ear: “Immigrants: we get the job done.”

The opening act of “Hamilpeep.”  Photo by Kate Ramsayer; diorama by Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and me.

The opening act of “Hamilpeep.” Photo by Kate Ramsayer; diorama by Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and me.

So much of what we do here at the JMM centers on the experience of immigrants and their contributions to Maryland life and culture. Our new exhibition, Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, is a perfect example of the way our exhibits, programs, and collections often speak to the stories of preparation, departure and arrival, and establishing a new life in a new country.

Announcement, in Yiddish, of a celebration in honor of the arrival of Rabbi M. Taragin's family from Europe, 1929. Gift of Saul Taragin, JMM 1983.001.001a

Announcement, in Yiddish, of a celebration in honor of the arrival of Rabbi M. Taragin’s family from Europe, 1929. Gift of Saul Taragin, JMM 1983.001.001a

True, the internet has improved access to national immigration records, making the search for arrival dates and locations much easier than our microfilm rolls ever could.  Nor are we the only museum** in the state that focuses on the lives of those who came to this country, willingly or not, over the past several hundred years.  Nonetheless, we do have some unique resources, such as the HIAS records for Baltimore; organizational archives for various local Landsmannschaften; and oral and written histories describing Marylanders’ immigration experiences, from the 19th century through modern day.  And, really, practically everything in our collections can serve as evidence that immigrants – Portuguese, German, Russian, Lithuanian, and many others – do indeed get the job done, whether that job is butcher or seamstress, lawyer or scrap dealer, midwife or doctor.

Ella Rudick and her children in Dublin, en route to the United States, 1912.  Anonymous gift, JMM 1988.209.53

Ella Rudick and her children in Dublin, en route to the United States, 1912. Anonymous gift, JMM 1988.209.53

In my own family history, immigration to the U.S. is no longer at the forefront of our personal experience, with most branches having arrived here in the 18th and 19th centuries. But the stories related to the most recent arrivals – my father’s mother’s parents, who arrived (separately) from Ireland in the 1920s – are still recounted, even though no one now alive can tell them first-hand. Every immigration story is different, but there are common threads that tie them together: Deliberate or accidental name changes; leaving family behind, and trying to bring relatives over later; struggling to make ends meet in a new neighborhood, new language, new society; how much, if anything, to tell your children and grandchildren of the circumstances you left behind in your old country.  These elements make up my great-grandparents’ stories, and when I come across them in our collections they strike a familiar chord, helping to make each story both unique and universal. After all, almost everyone in this country is an immigrant, if you look back far enough.

* Alas, we did not make it into the finals of the Washington Post’s contest, but we were featured on the Huffington Post instead, if you’d like to see more Colonial Peeps: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/hamilton-peeps-diorama_us_56d4672be4b03260bf777589

**In addition to the larger, better-known places like the Lewis Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Industry, and the Maryland Historical Society, here are some smaller ones to check out: the Baltimore Immigration Memorial, the Latvian Museum in Rockville, the Sandy Spring Slave Museum, the Irish Railroad Workers Museum, and the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum. Visit Maryland compiled a list of other African American history sites in Maryland. And the Maryland State Archives is a great resource for researching immigration and arrivals on both the individual and the broader levels.  What did we miss? Let us know!

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

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Voices from My Childhood

Posted on July 1st, 2015 by

SuperKids, a summer camp program, is organized by a nonprofit called Parks and People Foundation. The organization is “dedicated to supporting a wide range of recreational and educational opportunities; creating and sustaining beautiful and lively parks; and promoting a healthy natural environment for Baltimore.” So it’s only fitting that SuperKids takes a group of young, inquisitive learners around different places in Baltimore, expanding their environmental sights and experiences as well as their vocabulary list. The Jewish Museum of Maryland has been privileged to be one of these sites for the last few years during their Jonestown neighborhood tour.

On a wet and muggy Tuesday morning, a yellow school bus reminiscent of my own elementary school days brought 25 eager students to the museum’s red brick road. They were extremely well behaved for kids who would essentially be on a different field trip every day for the summer. It was me who couldn’t contain the excitement of seeing my fellow peers (I may look like a 20-something year old, but I’m a child at heart). Since the group was too large to take all at once, Lois, one of our super volunteers, took half of the kids on a tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue while Falicia and I took the other half to do two activities- a scavenger hunt in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit and an archaeology puzzle activity.

I’ve never been one to simply observe, so here I am “making” a traditional Sabbath dinner with some of the kids while reading them the newspaper.

I’ve never been one to simply observe, so here I am “making” a traditional Sabbath dinner with some of the kids while reading them the newspaper.

While Falicia helped with the archaeology “dig,” I assisted with the Voices of Lombard Street portion where the talk of immigration brought back my own memories of my parent’s journey to this country from South Korea for the “American Dream.” Unlike the Jewish immigrants who came to Baltimore on a ship, my parents took a plane, and they weren’t fleeing religious persecution. But I remember rolling my eyes at my parents every time they lectured me on how hard they worked to build a nice home for the family, and how they too worked menial yet necessary jobs beyond their intelligence and skills. I remember threatening my parents to call child services for making me work at their dry cleaners on my free Saturday, only to be bribed by McDonald’s. Like Paul Wartzman whose mom used to make gefilte fish every Friday, my grandmother used to make dduk-mandu-guk (rice cake and dumpling soup) every Sunday. And how my mom used to drive out of her way to go to a Korean market not just for authentic Korean food from the Motherland, but for human interaction with people who also spoke her native language.

This is me, age eight, standing in front of my new house being built. Although we only lived here for a year, this was a milestone for my family because it was the first home that truly belonged to us. No more living in relative’s homes and no more renting.

This is me, age eight, standing in front of my new house being built. Although we only lived here for a year, this was a milestone for my family because it was the first home that truly belonged to us. No more living in relative’s homes and no more renting.

And for me to now teach elementary school kids about that same topic brings this whole experience to a full circle. To set the record straight, I’m a natural born U.S. citizen and I’ve learned to not take that for granted.

I’m not Jewish. My family is Christian, and in fact, I’m part of a very loving and active church community. I came to work at this museum, excited to learn about another religion and perhaps learn more about my own. I didn’t expect to have much in common with those who lived on Lombard Street, but as I talked about each part of the exhibit to the students, I saw my own childhood in the quotes hanging on the walls.

It’s funny how June was Immigrant Heritage Month and on the very last day, it took a group of kids to make me realize how important that month should have been to me. If SuperKids were real superheroes, their superpower would be sparking a child-like spirit, curiosity, and wonder in adults. I certainly feel rescued. I may not have a degree in teaching, but I’m still so honored to be a small part of that process, and I look forward to a summer filled with SuperKids!

IMG_0993A blog post by Education Intern Eden Cho. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

 

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »