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Further Voices of Lombard Street: Lazinsky’s Fish Market

Posted on January 31st, 2020 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.


Sometimes, the biggest difficulty in opening an exhibit is that once it’s finished, it’s finished. Unless the exhibit was specifically designed for future expansion, adding new stories or artifacts can be challenging and impractical.  But one of the best things about exhibits – from a collections staff point of view, anyway – is the way they encourage visitors to think about their own family history, and perhaps offer to share that information and material with the museum.

Such is the case with Voices of Lombard Street. For example, over the past few years, several descendants of the Lazinsky family have pointed out, rightfully, that there’s a story that’s missing from the exhibit: that of the Lombard Street fish markets, specifically their own, Lazinsky’s.  They’ve given us two wonderful artifacts from the store, in the hopes that these pieces will help us broaden the stories we tell about the Lombard Street culture and economy.  These two pieces are not in the exhibit – there’s just no easy way to add them to an already stuffed-to-the-gills (if you’ll pardon a fish pun) gallery – but thanks to the magic of the internet, we can share them virtually with our visitors.

Fish scale, ca. 1915. Gift of Marcia Berlin Goldman, in memory of Morris and Sarah Lazinsky and their children Helen Lazinsky Cohen, Samuel Lazinsky, Joseph Lazinsky, Lena Lazinsky Berlin, and Rose Lazinsky Schwartz.  JMM 2016.16.1.

This hanging scale was used at Lazinsky’s Fish Market, Lombard Street, owned by Morris Lazinsky (1867-1940).  The 1910 census shows Morris Lazinsky on E. Lombard Street, operator of a “fish business.” A scale is a vital part of a meat or fish store – this is as true today in a Whole Foods or Safeway as it was 110 years ago. This would have been a crucial piece of equipment in the Lazinsky’s business.

Not only was the scale used in Baltimore, it was made here too; the dial reads, “Ottenheimer Bros. Butchers’ Supplies / 213-215 North Howard Street / Baltimore, Md. / Capacity 30 pounds / Patented October 15, 1912 / Other Pat.s Pend.”

The scale went to one of Morris and Sara Lazinsky’s daughters (either Helen or Rose) after the market closed in the late 1930s.  When she died, the donor – her niece, and granddaughter of Morris and Sara – acquired it.  It was in her house for many years, in the dining room and later the kitchen, usually with flowers in it. Although it was no longer being used for its original purpose, it was still an important family piece, part of a treasured history.

Wooden abacus, late 19th – early 20th centuries. Gift of Murray and Lisa Friedman in memory of Murray’s great-grandparents, Sarah & Morris Lazinsky, and their children Helen Lazinsky Cohen, Samuel Sol Lazinsky, Joseph Lazinsky, Lena Lazinsky Berlin, and Rose Lazinsky Schwartz. JMM 2019.8.1.

This well-worn and much-used abacus – designed to lay flat on a tabletop, with the work surface of strung beads on a slight angle for the ease of the user – was part of the accounting equipment at Lazinsky’s.  It was brought to the US in the early 1900s by the Lazinsky family, who had used it in their general store in their home town in Russia.  They continued to use it in their fish market on Lombard Street, perhaps in addition to a modern cash register, which makes sense; in a family-run business, if some of the older family members were more comfortable with the abacus, why not keep using it?

There is much evidence of continual use, from the metal braces on the corners to the overall wear on the finishes and the wood itself.

Some of the wooden beads appear to be missing, likely having cracked and fallen off.

The donor did some research for us before bringing this unusual piece to us. He reports:

“This particular abacus has 9 rows.  The bottom and the 4th from the bottom have 4 beads, and the rest have 10 beads.  From the top, each bead in the top row represents 10000 rubles.  The next row down would have 1000-ruble beads, then 100, 10, 1, quarter ruble (=25 kopek), 10 kopeks, 1 kopek, and in the bottom row each bead was a quarter kopek, which was seems to have been the smallest unit of currency they ever had.  It was brought over from Russia & is pre 1900. The US halfpenny was discontinued in 1857, so I would guess that they never used the bottom row in this country.  Rows 2 & 3 from the bottom could have been used for pennies and dimes, the next row for quarters, and up the line to dollars, tens, 100s, 1000s and 10000s.  I would assume that the upper rows did not get a lot of use in a neighborhood fish store.”

The family does not – at least as far as anyone has yet discovered – have any photos of the market, whether inside or the exterior, and I’ve not been able to definitely find the market in any street views in our or other museum collections. However, we do have some memories to share from another source. In 1982, Helen Sollins interviewed her mother-in-law, Kathryn Rodbell Sollins (1901-1995), about her memories of Lombard Street. In the interview, Mrs. Sollins claimed to be able to remember as far back as September 1905 (earlier than could Seymour Attman, apparently, who had recently been interviewed by Helen; this seems to have been a point of pride). She grew up on East Lombard Street with her parents, Solomon and Fannie Rodbell, and her siblings, and was part of the busy life and culture along the street.

She recalled the Lazinskys and their market clearly, telling her daughter-in-law that the family started out as peddlers on the street with fish in a basket, eventually renting a first-floor flat on Lombard.  This isn’t a direct quotation – we’ve not fully transcribed the interview – but the typed index summarizes the early version of the market like this:

“Thursday morning, they [the Lazinskys] would empty the front room (the bedroom), move all the furniture into the other room, and put out their fish tables and wares. Thursday night they’d all crowd into the back room. Friday morning they’d sell the rest of the fish, then clean it all up and move back in until the following Thursday.”

Mrs. Sollins was friends with the Lazinsky daughters, Helen, Lena, and Rose, and spent a lot of time with the family since she didn’t have sisters her own age. She remembered that after the family had a more proper storefront, Morris (or Mendel, as she called him) Lazinsky’s brother opened another market across the street from Morris’s – Morris’s descendants confirmed this – and that both of these fish markets, in Mrs. Sollins’ words, catered to a “very, very fine” clientele.

 And there you have yet another Voice to add to the Lombard Street story. What memories of shopping or living on Lombard do you have to share?


 

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Oral Histories: Gaining Insights and Learning Personal Stories

Posted on July 28th, 2014 by

During my Exhibitions Research Internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I have had the opportunity to conduct research on the Sinai Hospital Nurses Training Program for the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition.  This research has included reading several oral history interviews from nurses who trained at Sinai Hospital (the program ended in 1975).  These interviews have not only given me new insights into the hospital and its program, but also have allowed me to learn some of each woman’s personality.

A group of Sinai nurses in gathered in their residence eating pizza, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

A group of Sinai nurses in gathered in their residence eating pizza, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Oral histories collect and record personal memories and commentaries, and are one of the most important sources of information available to historians.  An oral history allows one to learn about the lives of people that are not ordinarily covered in history textbooks.  The information gathered in an oral history can be used for research, excerpted in publication, filmed for documentary, or displayed in museum exhibition.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is home to hundreds of oral histories.  Those histories that have not yet been digitized or transcribed are kept in audiocassette form and organized in filing cabinets.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is home to hundreds of oral histories. Those histories that have not yet been digitized or transcribed are kept in audiocassette form and organized in filing cabinets.

Information we have gathered through the nurses’ oral histories will better allow us to place exhibition objects into context and craft a narrative for their display.  As Curator Karen Falk wrote in her “JMM Insights, July 2014: Where Culture Meets Science” blog post, Bobbie Horwitz’s interview gave context for the elaborate silver tea gifted to JMM by the Sinai Nursing Alumnae Association.  Horwitz explained, “They wanted to make ladies of us.”  One of the ways they did so was through a civilized “tea” held every Friday.

Sinai nurses drinking from their silver tea set, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Sinai nurses drinking from their silver tea set, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Another interesting story I came across was from former Sinai nurse Senator Rosalie S. Abrams.  Abrams recounted how she learned Yiddish while working in the men’s ward.  “I was a head nurse for the men’s ward,” she said. “That’s where I learned my Yiddish—on the men’s ward.  We used to sing them Jewish songs.”  Such stories illustrate the intersection of Jewish culture and medicine in the space of the hospital.

Three Sinai nursing students and their instructor stand around a patient in his hospital bed, June 1960. Accession # 2010.020.316. Courtesy of Nurses Alumnae Association of Sinai Hospital.

Three Sinai nursing students and their instructor stand around a patient in his hospital bed, June 1960. Accession # 2010.020.316. Courtesy of Nurses Alumnae Association of Sinai Hospital.

After reading so many interesting stories I was excited to receive training, with my fellow interns, from Curator Karen Falk on how to conduct an oral history.  We went over how to use the museum’s recording equipment and preparing the proper documentation for the interview.  It is crucial to be prepared for the interview.  One of the most important things to consider is what you want to learn.  You should know your topic and what information you hope to gain.  Prepare a list of questions that get at the heart of what you want to know and familiarize yourself with them.  Your rapport will be easily interrupted if you keep pausing to look down at your questions.  Keep in mind that you should also be flexible with your questions.  Your interviewee may bring up interesting points you never considered, but would like to explore.

Prior to conducting your oral history make sure all your recording equipment works.  Familiarize yourself with it and practice.  You do not want to waste your interviewee’s time trying to set up equipment that you do not know how to use or that does not work.

image 5.recording equip

Some of JMM’s oral history recording equipment, including a digital recorder and microphone.

Upcoming research for the Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition will include conducting more oral history interviews with Jewish medical professionals.  I hope that some of the great accounts from the Sinai nurses’ oral histories will be incorporated into the exhibit.

Sarah MooreA blog post by Exhibitions Research Intern Sarah Moore. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

 

 

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To Work in a Museum…

Posted on July 24th, 2013 by

Kathleen MorrisonA blog post by Archives Intern Kathleen Morrison. Kathleen works under the supervision of Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read additional posts by Kathleen and other interns, click here.

My internship will be over in less than a month from now, having gone by pretty quickly, at least to me. As the end of this experience nears, I realize how much time and labor goes into running a good museum. Behind the scenes are thousands of papers, photos, and objects, the majority of which have been cataloged and sorted and put away in one of our collection rooms. A lot of the things I’ve seen were done by staff and former interns, but there’s a fair share of volunteer efforts down here in collections.

Currently, I’m working on transcribing an oral history from the late Doctor Arnall Patz, one of several where he was interviewed for the museum. It was recorded by a volunteer. This museum, with its small size and budget compared to institutions like Johns Hopkins and the Smithsonian collections, does its best with the help of all the volunteers. The staff are lovely and work hard, but there is always more work than there are people. It’s so nice to go look for something and then see that a former intern cataloged it carefully and correctly, or that a volunteer went through the boxes and moved things around (with direction!) to create a little more shelf space for us to accept artifacts from people.

When I was younger, I thought I could do most any job as long as it wasn’t repetitive and boring. But working in a small museum has shown me what a labor of love it is. None of the staff would be here if they were not passionate about Jewish history in Maryland, or about working in a museum. You feel kind of proud when you put something away to be saved for future generations. Even though I’m not Jewish, I am a Marylander and it’s a good feeling when I come across things I didn’t know about this state and its people as I work. History is far more close and personal than some people, myself included, realize. To work in a museum is to help make sure we never lose that connection to people who lived before us, who did the hard work to give us the world we have now.

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