Traveling the Exhibit

Posted on October 18th, 2017 by

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

On October 10th, our landmark exhibition “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America” opened at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Cleveland.  Getting an exhibit of nearly 300 objects packed, moved, and unpacked again is quite a process, though one that is hopefully invisible and seamless to the visitors … and to the objects themselves.  We want it to look like everything was magically teleported to the new spot with minimal effort and impact, but of course it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Joelle and Amy with the all-powerful traveling exhibit binder!

Joelle and Amy with the all-powerful traveling exhibit binder!

Our summer interns, Joelle and Amy, were a fantastic help in packing the wide variety of artifacts and documents – from a one-inch package of scalpel blades to a full-size doctor’s examining table, from fragile blown-glass show globes to a sturdy vintage basketball – taking photos, writing condition reports, and typing up box lists to make sure everything would travel in good order.  Lorie, our Archivist, and our wonderful team from Precision Plastics were also crucial to the preparations and the actual move. Once the truck arrived at the Maltz, I had the lucky task of traveling to Cleveland to spend four days unpacking it all, checking it once again, and putting it in place.

Not only the artifacts need to travel. In addition to the panels and graphics, we sent the exhibit’s display cases, artifact mounts, and props.

Here’s the Gymnasium case nearly set up, with a bubble-wrapped textile form waiting to be unwrapped and dressed.

Here’s the Gymnasium case nearly set up, with a bubble-wrapped textile form waiting to be unwrapped and dressed.

My visual memory is pretty good, but it isn’t wise to rely upon it entirely.  A few judicious photos of the original exhibit help make sure we don’t have to reinvent the wheel or, in this case, the pharmacy window.

Good reference photos are a must!

Good reference photos are a must!

Lindsay Miller, Assistant Curator at the Maltz, was my partner all week as we installed the exhibit.  Their gallery is shaped differently than ours, and the Maltz had their own content to add; it was not simply a matter of recreating our exhibition exactly, and Lindsay knew what needed to be changed or adapted.  Plus, many artifacts require at least two pairs of hands for installation.

Here, Lindsay adds a few drops of food coloring to the water in one of the pharmacy show globes (yes, installing an exhibit can involve many unexpected, “other duties as assigned” tasks).

Here, Lindsay adds a few drops of food coloring to the water in one of the pharmacy show globes (yes, installing an exhibit can involve many unexpected, “other duties as assigned” tasks).

The Maltz has their own crew for the heavy lifting, just as we do.

Here, one of their team carefully moves a furniture crate to the “doctor’s office” vignette for unpacking.

Here, one of their team carefully moves a furniture crate to the “doctor’s office” vignette for unpacking.

A partial view of Dr. Abramowitz’s Office, with furniture unpacked.

A partial view of Dr. Abramowitz’s Office, with furniture unpacked.

Dr. Aaron Friedenwald smiles gently upon his new temporary home, waiting for visitors.

Dr. Aaron Friedenwald smiles gently upon his new temporary home, waiting for visitors.

“Beyond Chicken Soup” will be on display at the Maltz through April 8, 2018. If you’re traveling to Cleveland, we hope you’ll visit!

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Do You Have Your Library Card?

Posted on September 28th, 2017 by

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

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month so, as a proud member of the (exceptionally nerdy) club of people who have memorized their library card number, I though I’d share the oldest example in our collection: a card permitting the borrowing of books from the library of the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club of Baltimore, 1902.

Front (left) and back of a Yiddish library card issued by the Young Men's Progressive Labor Club, 1902. Gift of Barbara (Mrs. Howard) Merker. JMM 1978.16.1

Front (left) and back of a Yiddish library card issued by the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club, 1902. Gift of Barbara (Mrs. Howard) Merker. JMM 1978.16.1

The front of the card includes space for the borrower’s name and address, along with the terms and privileges of being a card-holder; the back indicates the dates that books were borrowed and returned.  We have not yet fully translated the card (if anyone wants to have a go, please feel free to send us a translation!) but, as best we can tell, card No. 298 belonged to one Rosa Malka of 532 N. Central Avenue.

JMM 1978.16.1

JMM 1978.16.1

Unfortunately, I have not been able to pin Rosa down. According to the 1901 Baltimore City Directory, a Hyman Levy, plasterer, lived at 532 N. Central. In the 1900 census, the Levy family is listed at this address – but there’s no Rose or Rosa among them. In the 1903 City Directory, a man named Alex Hammond, laborer, is at the address; I can’t find him in the census, and he doesn’t seem quite as likely to have had a wife or daughter reading Yiddish books at the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club. Without easy access to a 1902 City Directory* I have to guess that either another family lived at the address between the Levys and Mr. Hammond, or that one of the Levy family women – wife Annie, and daughters Rachel (age 10 in 1900) and Bessie (age 12) – had the Hebrew name Rosa Malka. (The third possibility is that we misread the street name; if anyone has another suggestion, I’d be happy to pursue it.) The donor of the card noted only that it was found “among old family books,” and so far I have not found any definite connections.

The date stamps on the back do not tell us the titles of the books Rosa checked out, and without an exact translation of the terms on the front, I’m only guessing that the rules allowed you to borrow one book at a time, getting a date stamp in the first column for check-out and a stamp in the second when it was returned. If that was the case, you can see that between May and October, Rosa read a book every one-two days: a girl after my own heart.

Coincidentally, our collections also include five books from the Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club library, “found in the basement of a Highlandtown rowhouse.”  Four of the library books are novels and plays written in Yiddish, but one – my favorite – is a copy of Camille translated into Yiddish.  All five of the books, published in New York City in the late 19th century, are stamped  in English with variations on “Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club, Baltimore, Md. Organized July 10 1896”, and all and show a great deal of wear – as library books frequently do.

An exceedingly well-read copy of Camille in Yiddish, published by Judah Katzenelenbogen, New York, in 1899. One of five books stamped with the name “Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club.” Gift of Orrin Yesko. JMM 1999.162.4

An exceedingly well-read copy of Camille in Yiddish, published by Judah Katzenelenbogen, New York, in 1899. One of five books stamped with the name “Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club.” Gift of Orrin Yesko. JMM 1999.162.4

The Young Men’s Progressive Labor Club is not well-documented, but happily several of these five books also include a stamp giving a slightly different version of the name: “Progressive Club Branch No. 9 of the Workmen’s Circle, Organized July 10, 1896, Baltimore, MD.” The Workmen’s Circle is more well-known, and in fact we have some later Workmen’s Circle library circulation materials in our collections as well … but those will have to wait for another blog post.

 

*I’d be happy to consult a 1902 directory, but we don’t have one here, and it’s not yet digitized through this extremely useful link at the University of Maryland Library.

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A “Just Married!” Extra – The Bridesmaid Gown; Or, You’ll Wear It and Like It

Posted on September 15th, 2017 by

Curators have to make choices: not everything can make it into an exhibit, and there’s seldom enough space to share every interesting fact about the things that are on display. That’s where social media comes in! Here’s a closer look at another “Just Married” story from JMM collections manager and Just Married! curator Joanna Church. To read more “Just Married!” extras, click here. To read more posts from Joannaclick here.

The bride and groom with their families and wedding party: the wedding of Rabbi Meyer Zywica and Frances Friedlander, June 11, 1950. Seated, left to right: Elaine Friedlander, Rebbitzen Rose Friedlander, Rebbitzen Esther Friedlander Rosenblatt, Hinda Feldman Esterson. Standing, left to right: Rabbi Yonah Weisbord, Rabbi Meyer Zwyica, Frances Friedlander, Jason Rosenblatt, Rabbi E.B. Friedlander, Rabbi Morris D. Rosenblatt, Professor Morton Esterson. Gift of Morton M. Esterson. JMM 1993.109.1

The bride and groom with their families and wedding party: the wedding of Rabbi Meyer Zywica and Frances Friedlander, June 11, 1950. Seated, left to right: Elaine Friedlander, Rebbitzen Rose Friedlander, Rebbitzen Esther Friedlander Rosenblatt, Hinda Feldman Esterson. Standing, left to right: Rabbi Yonah Weisbord, Rabbi Meyer Zwyica, Frances Friedlander, Jason Rosenblatt, Rabbi E.B. Friedlander, Rabbi Morris D. Rosenblatt, Professor Morton Esterson. Gift of Morton M. Esterson. JMM 1993.109.1

Though we have many wonderful wedding gowns in our collections, we do not, alas, have any dresses worn by bridesmaids or attendants. The closest we get is an adorable little flower girl dress from 1928. Thankfully, through photos and documents we can still get at what some of our wedding couples’ friends and family wore to the festivities … and what society (or Society) thought was appropriate.

Black and white photography, though stylish and elegant – and, of course, the cheapest (if not the only) option for many decades – does not convey the full glory of a bridesmaid dress; nor does mere description. But the descriptions are a lot of fun. For example, we can only imagine the rainbow array of gowns and trims worn by the attendants of Bessie Grossman Paymer (whose fashionable beaded silk wedding gown is included in “Just Married!”) at Hazazer’s Hall in 1911:

“The maid of honor was Miss Minnie Grossman of Philadelphia, a cousin of the bride, who was dressed in pink satin, draped in pink chiffon and embroidered with roses…. [As for the four bridesmaids,] Miss Evelyn Paymer wore a gown of white satin, draped in steel-studded chiffon, trimmed in crystal and white marabou. Miss Cecelia Paymer wore pink charmous [sic] satin, draped in blue chiffon and trimmed in crystal fringe. Miss Bessye Paymer wore turquoise-blue satin, draped with white chiffon and trimmed in pearls and white marabou. Miss Mary S. Levy wore yellow satin, draped in blue marquisette and trimmed in pearls and blue marabou.” -The Baltimore Sun, January 22, 1911

Not only are these dresses elaborately trimmed (indeed, they sound like the 1910s version of today’s stereotypical “my friend made me wear dreadful giant bows” bridesmaid gown), they are each totally different. In more recent decades, many brides choose to garb their attendants in identical shades, but I rather like the idea of a multicolored entourage. And perhaps the bride was following the advice of an etiquette author such as Mrs. Humphrey, who wrote in Etiquette for Every Day (1904), “…a considerate girl [will not] be arbitrary about the colours chosen [for her bridesmaids]. She will take into account the various complexions and tints of hair of the girls who are to wear the dresses, and will good-naturedly endeavour to choose something that will suit them all; as well as a form of gown that will be likely to be useful on other occasions after her wedding.”

By the 1920s many etiquette guides were singing a different tune. Bridesmaids should emphatically not expect any such consideration from their friends, as stated in both Emily Holt’s Encyclopedia of Etiquette [(1921) and Emily Post’s Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics, and in the Home (1922). The former notes, “The bridesmaid and maid of honor must yield unquestioningly to the taste of the bride concerning the color, mode of making, and all the appointments of their wedding dresses.” Post gives similarly inflexible instruction, though she does add that while the dresses must all be of the same fabric and design, a bride may choose some complementary colors for different attendants to wear, particularly to differentiate the maid or matron of honor from the mere bridesmaids; nonetheless, she concludes, “bridesmaids’ dresses are looked upon as uniforms, not individual costumes.”

Thus at the wedding of Helen Brylawski and Baltimore’s Sidney Lansburgh, Jr. at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., 1940, the bridesmaids were dressed all alike, with the matron of honor’s outfit having the colors reversed (as recommended by Emily Post). Two of the young women can be seen in the photo below. According to the Washington Post, at the Brylawski-Lansburgh wedding “Mrs. Arthur Lyon was matron of honor, wearing flesh-colored marquisette and a halo horsehair hat with ribbon streamers. The bridesmaids were Miss Therese Weil, of New Orleans; Miss Rosalie Lurvey, of Indianapolis; Miss Sylvia Glickman, of New York, and the Misses Elizabeth Hahn and Selma Friedman, of Washington. They were dressed in aquamarine marquisette and wore flesh-colored tulle hats with aqua streamers. All the attendants carried fans fashioned of pink roses.” The Washington Post, June 13, 1940

Left to right: Betty Hahn, Richard Lansburgh, and Selma Freedman at the wedding of Sidney Lansburgh, Jr. and Helen Brylawski at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., 1940. In your imagination, please color their dresses aquamarine, their fans pink, and their hats beige with aqua ribbons. Gift of Margaret Nomentana. JMM 2004.108.9

Left to right: Betty Hahn, Richard Lansburgh, and Selma Freedman at the wedding of Sidney Lansburgh, Jr. and Helen Brylawski at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., 1940. In your imagination, please color their dresses aquamarine, their fans pink, and their hats beige with aqua ribbons. Gift of Margaret Nomentana. JMM 2004.108.9

As noted above, a black and white photo can’t really do these sartorial choices justice. Happily there are a few colorful examples, such as the movie taken at the wedding of Phyllis Kolker and A. Harvey Schreter on February 1, 1942 at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. Snippets of the film are included in “Just Married!” and the full movie, courtesy of MARMIA (Mid-Atlantic Regional Moving Image Archive), can be viewed here. Look for the Emily Post-approved reversal of colors, with the first young woman in a yellow satin gown with a wide blue ribbon on her bouquet, and the two attendants behind her in blue with yellow bouquet ribbons. (And yes, no doubt the designer, salesperson, and bride herself would have used fancier color names, but until I find the newspaper description, “blue” and “yellow” it is.)

There are of course many other variations on the ‘proper’ way to do things, both before and after these decades… too many to cover in this short post, which merely touches on a few of the trends of the early-mid 20th century. However, one thing seems to remain constant, no matter the era, and no matter whether the bride is following the dictates of fashion or her own inclination: As the author of The Social Mirror: A Complete Treatise on the Laws, Rules and Usages that govern our most Refined Homes and Social Circles noted in 1888, “The principal duty of the brides-maid is to look pretty, and not out-shine the bride.”

When Rose Friedman married Sam Buckman at Lehmann’s Hall in 1920, the wedding party included 15 ushers, 14 bridesmaids (in a variety of fabrics and dress styles), 2 junior ushers, and 2 flower girls. Gift of Fran Gimbel. JMM 2007.18.1

When Rose Friedman married Sam Buckman at Lehmann’s Hall in 1920, the wedding party included 15 ushers, 14 bridesmaids (in a variety of fabrics and dress styles), 2 junior ushers, and 2 flower girls. Gift of Fran Gimbel. JMM 2007.18.1

 

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