A Family Pharmacy: AZO

Posted on July 17th, 2014 by

My role as an Exhibition Intern at the JMM has largely involved researching and reviewing subjects related to the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing. My internship thus far has been incredibly rewarding, as I have investigated topics which I have never studied before, namely pharmaceutical history. I’ve read sixteenth century medicinal guide books, studied the changing corner drugstore, and cataloged countless prescriptions. Gradually, I began to gain a greater appreciation of the field, and saw the pharmacy as the true medical marketplace, where doctors, patients, and prescriptions come together.

However, as my supervisor, Curator Karen Falk, adeptly pointed out, I neglected one major detail in my research: how do we make this a Jewish Baltimore story? Individuals may recognize the immense Jewish presence in the field of medicine and pharmacy, but how will we portray this community in the exhibit? As I combed through the JMM’s impressive archives, I began to find the answer: the pharmaceutical fraternity.

An AZO window sticker dating from the 1940s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2001.61.2

An AZO window sticker dating from the 1940s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2001.61.2

The history of AZO parallels the Jewish experience of medical school. In the early twentieth century, American universities used race-based acceptance quotas to counter the tide of Jewish Americans eager to enter the medical professions. Jewish students in Philadelphia realized the challenges placed before them and decided to band together. In 1919, twelve Jewish students formed Alpha Zeta Omega with the goal of a 100% graduation rate. Just three short years later, AZO began to spread and the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy founded the Kappa Chapter.

The original symbol of AZO. It was originally referred to as the “Dead Man’s Club” or simply, “The Dozen.”

The original symbol of AZO. It was originally referred to as the “Dead Man’s Club” or simply, “The Dozen.”

Though AZO was not an official Jewish fraternity and does not remain one today, Judaism and the Jewish experience was very much at the core of the organization. (One can easily identify Jewish imagery in the organization’s original symbol.) Therefore, AZO developed into more than a fraternity, but a community with similar professional goals and values. In fact, Baltimore’s AZO was so close-knit that the organization founded the first women’s auxiliary: the Azoans.

A group of Azoans after a very successful fundraiser, circa mid-1930s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2002.2.31

A group of Azoans after a very successful fundraiser, circa mid-1930s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2002.2.31

The Azoans was a philanthropic organization of pharmacists’ wives and sisters.  The idea for the Azoans was born after Sadie Karpa attended a meeting of the AZO Pharmaceutical Fraternity in Cincinnati and realized how well the women worked together, but without organization.  The first meeting was held on October 15, 1931 at the home of Lee Kramer, the first president of the group.

 Part of the Azoans ritual was to commemorate the many symbols of the organization. The Azoans were very much a Jewish organization. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

Part of the Azoans ritual was to commemorate the many symbols of the organization. The Azoans were very much a Jewish organization. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

The woman’s organization developed charity events which would profit medical institutions in Baltimore and Israel. With countless bake sales and auctions, the AZOANS were able to purchase an ambulance for the Red Cross, donate an iron lung to Sinai Hospital, and provide dental care to the Baltimore School for the Blind.

An image from a 1953 Azoan scrapbook. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

An image from a 1953 Azoan scrapbook. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19

The organization also developed into a vibrant Jewish social organization. When Azoans members had finished their charitable drives and functions, members would often gather together, socialize, and discuss issues of the day. The Azoans were famous for their skits, poems, and songs.

The Azoans were notorious rhymers. Attached is a song dedicated to Esther Pelovitz. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

The Azoans were notorious rhymers. Attached is a song dedicated to Esther Pelovitz. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

The women of the AZOANS represent the strength of Baltimore’s Jewish pharmacy community. Each neighborhood drugstore had its own loyal customers and its own corner. But, on the weekends, the owners and their wives would come together and discuss how their city could profit from partnership, better health, and better facilities. I hope that Jews, Health, and Healing can accurately display that passion.

To close, a speech given by Ms. Lee Kramer. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

To close, a speech given by Ms. Lee Kramer. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30

Mandy BenterA blog post by Exhibition Research intern Mandy Benter. To read more posts by interns, click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Researching a Family “Dynasty” of Jewish Doctors in Baltimore

Posted on July 2nd, 2014 by

As a summer 2014 Exhibitions Research intern at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I am helping develop the upcoming exhibition Jews, Health, and Healing.  The 2015 exhibition will explore how medicine shaped both the ways Jews are viewed by others and how they view themselves.  This intersection of culture and science has provided some fascinating ways of looking at the construction of identity and empowerment in the Jewish community.

A lot of my research has focused on the Friedenwald family “dynasty” of doctors.  Three generations of Friedenwalds practiced ophthalmology in Baltimore.   Using JMM’s archive collection I have looked at the Friedenwald manuscript collection, which includes correspondences, speeches, and diaries.

Some of the many boxes containing the Friedenwald collection.

Some of the many boxes containing the Friedenwald collection.

Our exhibit will pay special attention to Dr. Harry Friedenwald (1864—1950).  Harry was interested in the history of medicine, particularly Jewish contributions to the field.  This research led to the publication of his book Jews and Medicine: Essays in 1944.  The exhibition will feature a recreation of Harry’s study.

A photograph of Dr. Harry Friedenwald.

A photograph of Dr. Harry Friedenwald.

One of the most interesting things I have found in the Friedenwald manuscript collection is a letter from Harry to his son Jonas (another ophthalmologist) describing medical school quotas for Jewish students.  The July 21, 1922 letter describes a meeting that Harry organized with fellow doctors to review Jewish admissions to John Hopkins Medical school.  In the early twentieth century there were quotas to limit the number of Jewish medical students.  Harry wrote of the “inquisition” into the religious adherence of applicants.  This was conducted by asking for statements from each person’s mother.  Such policies were used to determine if an applicant was Jewish.  Harry hoped to end the quotas.

Harry’s July 21, 1922 letter to Jonas describing quotas at Hopkins.  One of the most difficult aspects of my research has been deciphering Harry’s handwriting!

Harry’s July 21, 1922 letter to Jonas describing quotas at Hopkins. One of the most difficult aspects of my research has been deciphering Harry’s handwriting!

Hopefully, this letter can be used in the Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition to illustrate the history of quotas on Jewish students in medical schools, as well as the broader story of discrimination in medicine.

Sarah MooreA blog post by Exhibition Research Intern Sarah Moore. To read more posts by and about interns, click Here.

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An Introduction to an Internship

Posted on June 25th, 2014 by

World War II electronics. Credit: National Electronics Museum.

World War II electronics. Credit: National Electronics Museum.

On June 2, 20214, I began my internship at the Jewish Museum of Baltimore with two days of orientation. On Friday of that week, we were invited to the annual Volunteer Recognition Luncheon at the National Electronics Museum in Linthicum, Maryland.  That visit brought back memories of my father who loved those spools of copper wire, radio/television tubes, radios and televisions. He wound spools of copper wire seemingly for fun. He would have loved that museum. Even I loved that museum. How electronics helped win the world wars.

Dr. Friedenwald’s  lecture

Dr. Friedenwald’s lecture, 1896

On Monday June 8, I began work on the Dr. Aaron Friedenwald lecture from 1896, handling those fragile noted with white gloves then typing what I read also in my white collections handling gloves digitizing the lecture. The lecture may be part of the 2015 Exhibit  “Jews, Health, and Healing.

The lecture includes stone age medicine. The medicine man could repair compound fractures using sticks, twine, and mud for a cast.  He was able to relieve pressure of the brain, by drilling holes into the skull of the patient, sometimes more than once. The books of Genesis and Exodus sited what the Jews did and did not know about medicine on leaving Egypt. There were even women mentioned in the work both as midwives and actual physicians. There was a cavalcade of learned men who were both Rabbis and physicians who translated medical works on the side.

Flag House

Star-Spangled Banner House. Credit: Laureen Miles Brunelli.

On Friday June 13, Marvin Pinkert walked the Interns and a volunteer over to the Flag House as a (one-day early) celebration of Flag Day and to see another small museum.  General Flowers asked Mary Pickersgill to create a flag to fly over Fort McHenry. The flag was to be red, white, and blue. The measurements were to be 32 feet by 72 feet. The stripes were to be 2 feet wide and the stars 2 feet across. The flag was to be made of the lightest weight wool bunting purchased from ex-mother England.

The Flag House contained original household items: andirons, candle sticks, a desk,  chairs, a painting of General Benjamen Flowers, Mary Pickersgill and Rebecca Young’s young and handsome relative over the mantle of the fireplace.  Mary and Rebecca as well as Mary’s daughters and an indentured servant all sewed the flag that flew over Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore There were perfume bottles, handmade quilts, and many other period pieces of the late 18th century at the time of the War of 1812.

Barbara IsraelA blog post by Summer Exhibitions Intern Barbara Israelson. To read more posts by and about interns, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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