Two souvenirs from a European vacation, 1911

Posted on February 21st, 2018 by

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

Isaac Hecht (1864-1913) was a prominent businessman in the small Maryland town of Havre de Grace. He owned a hotel and saloon; served as president of the several banks, the local taxi cab business, and the Havre de Grace chapter of the Fraternal Order of Eagles; and was active in city politics and local philanthropy. He and his wife, Elizabeth Weis of Baltimore, had two sons: Lee I. Hecht, born 1888 (later a well-known judge in Baltimore), and Lawrence, born 1899.

Isaac Hecht (at far right) and others in an automobile donated for a raffle held by the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Havre de Grace, ca. 1910.  Gift of Isaac Hecht II. JMM 1991.198.3

All of that biographical background is to set my readers up for this delightful souvenir plate from our collections.  It is made of fine porcelain, hand-painted in gold, with holes on the reverse – this was definitely intended for display, not dinner – and features a photograph of a well-to-do family above the caption “Karlsbad 1911.”

Porcelain souvenir plate, hand-painted, 1911. Made by A. Hoffman. Gift of Eleanor Hecht Yuspa. JMM 2010.8.4

We know, thanks to the donor, that the photograph shows Isaac, Elizabeth, and Lawrence.  Conveniently – and this is why I love souvenirs since, after all, they’re supposed to remind you of a specific time and place – the plate itself gives us the time and the place.

Elizabeth, Lawrence, and Isaac Hecht, on vacation in Karlsbad, 1911 – as shown on their souvenir plate. Gift of Eleanor Hecht Yuspa. JMM 2010.8.4

A little further research tells more of the story. Karlsbad, also known as Karlovy Vary, was a spa in Bohemia; now in the Czech Republic, at the time of the Hechts’ visit it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  It was a fashionable resort for many decades, though its fortunes faded after WWI; in 1911, the year our Hechts visited, it saw over 71,000 visitors, and even hosted a fancy chess tournament.

Though his businesses were in Havre de Grace, not Baltimore, Isaac Hecht was important enough to rate notice in the Sun’s social news.  Articles from the summer of 1911 tout the maiden voyage of a new luxury steamship line from Baltimore to Europe:

“The date when Baltimoreans will have their first chance to secure first cabin accommodation on a trans-Atlantic liner from this port is now only a short time off – June 28. On that day the magnificent North German Lloyd liner Friedrich der Grosse will make its first trip from Baltimore. Besides being the largest passenger ship ever to sail from this port, it will be the first vessel to carry first cabin passengers from this city, and, if patronized well enough, will be the first of a regular series of sailings by the finest ocean liners in the service of the North German Lloyd.”  (“Rush for First Cabin,” Baltimore Sun, June 8, 1911)

“Greetings from the ship Friedrich the Great.” Image courtesy Passengers in History.

The article continues, “Prominent person from all parts of Maryland in nearby States will also be on the ship, and the list of passengers is increasing daily. Among the most recent entries are Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Hecht, together with their son and Mr. Hecht’s brother, all of Havre de Grace…. Mr. Hecht is president of the Havre de Grace Banking and Trust Company.”  (I. Lee Hecht, older than his younger brother Lawrence by 11 years, was already off on his own.) A few months later, social news from Havre de Grace includes the tidbit that “Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Hecht and son, who have been spending the summer in Europe, have sent home quite a collection of pictures, bric-a-brac, needlework and other things for the various booths at the coming hospital bazaar.” (Baltimore Sun, October 8, 1911).  The trip to Karlsbad was even referenced in Isaac’s 1913 obituary, when the author noted that Mr. Hecht had leased his hotel “a couple of years ago. . . in order to go to Carlsbad, Germany [sic], for the benefit of Mrs. Hecht’s health.” (Baltimore Sun, May 21, 1913)

Two close-up views: hand-painted flowers (left) and the makers’ marks (right). Gift of Eleanor Hecht Yuspa. JMM 2010.8.4

I particularly like the bit about the family acquiring “bric-a-brac,” as it ties in nicely with their fancy “Porzellan-Fotograf” plate.  This was a substantial souvenir, more costly than a spoon or a fan, and more personalized than a book of photos, or a mug with the town’s name printed on it; it was meant for display, a reminder to yourself and your visitors of that pleasant visit to a prestigious, high-society resort.

But I promised you two souvenirs of the Hechts’s visit to Karlsbad, so here’s the other one; this one is of a much more plebian, transient nature, but is no less informative, and a bit more poignant.  Amongst a small collection of postcards received by Emanuel and Fanny Weis Hecht of Havre de Grace is this one, sent from Karlsbad on September 18, 1911.  The two families were double-in-laws; Emanuel was Isaac’s brother, and Fanny was Elizabeth’s sister. Emanuel ran the Hecht’s Hotel during Isaac’s long absence; he and Fanny had just had a baby daughter, Hannah, the year before. This postcard carries Rosh Hashanah greetings in German and Hebrew on the front, with an illustration of “The discovery of Moses.”

Gift of Elizabeth Hecht Goodman. JMM 1997.45.9

Addressed to Mr. & Mrs. E. Hecht and “Miss Hannah,” the message on the back reads, “Dear Brother and Sister and Little Hannah. A Happy New Year and many of them. Hoping you [are] all in the best of health. I wish I was home to spend the Holiday. With love, Isaac Elizabeth and Lawrence Hecht.”  After all, vacations are well and good … but sometimes you’d rather be home with family during the holidays.

Gift of Elizabeth Hecht Goodman. JMM 1997.45.9

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Exploring Jewish South Africa

Posted on February 10th, 2016 by

A few weeks ago, I got back from a vacation in South Africa, where among other things, I got to explore its Jewish culture and history. I learned that the first Jews came to region in the 15th century with the Portuguese navigators Bartholomew Diaz and Vasco da Gama. On board, were Jewish cartographers and astronomers assisting in the search for a sea route to India. More Jews started arriving with the Dutch East India Company in the 17th century, but immigration really picked up with the British colonization in the 1820s. Many Jews moved to South Africa after the Holocaust and now the South African Jewish community is often described as one of the most cohesive and well-organized communities in the Diaspora.

Synagogue interior

The Great Synagogue interior

I visited the South African Jewish Museum in Cape Town, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2000, which reminded me in many ways of the Jewish Museum of MD. Like us, they have two historic synagogues on their campus including St. John’s Street Synagogue (also known as the Old Synagogue, the first one built in South Africa, dating from 1863) and the Great Synagogue, (the oldest Jewish congregation in South Africa, dating to 1841). While St. John’s Street synagogue occupies a classical revival building (reminding me in many ways of Lloyd Street Synagogue in Baltimore), the Great Synagogue has a Baroque style edifice. There was also a Holocaust center in the Museum complex.

The Old Synagogue interior

The Old Synagogue interior

While in the exhibits, I discovered that many of the early Jews made their living as itinerant peddlers or as shop owners. In the late 1870s, some moved to the Oudtshoorn area to domesticate ostriches for their feathers to be used in hats. There was a section in the exhibit on how South African Jews were politically and socially active in the fight against apartheid. On the lower floor of the Museum, I found a reconstruction of a shetl from a village in Lithuania, the country from which most South African Jews trace their origins.

District Six Museum

District Six Museum

After my visit to the Jewish Museum, I walked over to the District Six Museum, which is a living memorial to the vibrant community that was forcibly removed to the city’s periphery during apartheid. The Museum wants visitors to “remember the racism which took away our homes and our livelihood and which sought to steal away our humanity.” Yet, it also aims to encourage others to rebuild the city where all races can live together peacefully. I learned that there was a Jewish connection as many Eastern European Jewish immigrants settled in District Six when they began arriving in the 1880s. On the floor of the gallery is a memory quilt where former residents have handwritten the names of businesses and community organizations that were once in their neighborhood.

Me at the ostrich farm

Me at the ostrich farm

While keeping in mind what I learned at the South African Jewish Museum, I later visited an ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn and drove by mansions owned by Jewish feather merchants. I concluded my trip with a ferry to Robben Island where I saw where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island

Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Travels with Mendes

Posted on July 23rd, 2014 by

My husband and kids were having a wonderful time on their first day of vacation in San Francisco. They had visited the Japanese Tea Garden, hung out with an old friend of my husband’s and dined on dumplings in Chinatown. And then my husband, Jonathan, called with a crisis. “We forgot to pack Flat Mendes” he announced sadly.

For those of you unfamiliar, Flat Mendes is a paper doll cutout of one of Maryland’s most accomplished Jew and the subject of an upcoming exhibition, The A-mazing Mendes Cohen (opening September 14). Because the real life Mendes spent three years as an intrepid traveler throughout Europe and the Middle East, we have created a virtual Mendes so that he can continue his travels in the 21st century visiting places he may have visited more than 150 years ago and places that we are sure he would have loved to had he had the chance.  For the Cardin-Willis Family, this meant bringing Flat Mendes with us to California and photographing him in every iconic spot we could find.

Flat Mendes

Flat Mendes

But first, we had to overcome this crisis. My husband and children flew out to San Francisco while the laminated version of Mendes was in Baltimore. Fortunately, I knew how to resolve this problem and directed Jonathan to a downloadable version of Flat Mendes on the JMM website. (You can do this too, go to http://jewishmuseummd.org/2014/06/flat-mendes/). Because the hotel did not have a color printer, my ever resourceful husband stopped at CVS, bought some crayons and the girls had fun coloring him in.

Jonathan and Mendes

Jonathan and Mendes

Then the fun really began. Mendes fit in quite a bit in his one-week jaunt through California.

First stop, Alcatraz, the famed prison off the coast of San Francisco. Here he excitedly holds his own ticket.

First stop, Alcatraz, the famed prison off the coast of San Francisco. Here he excitedly holds his own ticket.

Behind Bars - While the real life Mendes did have a brush with the law when he was fined for violating Virginia law by selling out of state lottery tickets there, thankfully, he never actually did time in prison.

Behind Bars – While the real life Mendes did have a brush with the law when he was fined for violating Virginia law by selling out of state lottery tickets there, thankfully, he never actually did time in prison.

Mendes enjoyed his trip up hilly San Francisco streets traveling by cable car.

Mendes enjoyed his trip up hilly San Francisco streets traveling by cable car.

Mendes even made some new friends!

Mendes even made some new friends!

With the Willis girls as his guide, Mendes got in some exercise biking over the Golden Gate Bridge. We have records of Mendes traveling by boat, train and horse but this mode of transport was surely a first for him.

With the Willis girls as his guide, Mendes got in some exercise biking over the Golden Gate Bridge. We have records of Mendes traveling by boat, train and horse but this mode of transport was surely a first for him.

 What better way to refresh after a long and arduous bike ride then with a stop at San Francisco’s beloved Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. Mendes proved to be quite the San Francisco fan and even picked up a souvenir baseball hat.

What better way to refresh after a long and arduous bike ride then with a stop at San Francisco’s beloved Ghiradelli Chocolate Factory. Mendes proved to be quite the San Francisco fan and even picked up a souvenir baseball hat.

On the way down the coast, Mendes stopped to admire the beauty of California’s Redwood trees.

On the way down the coast, Mendes stopped to admire the beauty of California’s Redwood trees.

I met Jonathan, Madeline and Julia in Pismo Beach, CA, along California’s central coast where we had a blast taking surfing lessons. Mendes had to get in the action too. I think he may have even started a new surfing trend. The next day we saw many surfing dudes wearing turbans!

I met Jonathan, Madeline and Julia in Pismo Beach, CA, along California’s central coast where we had a blast taking surfing lessons. Mendes had to get in the action too. I think he may have even started a new surfing trend. The next day we saw many surfing dudes wearing turbans!

Mendes’s final adventure was kayaking in Morro Bay where he enjoyed viewing sea lions and otters.

Mendes’s final adventure was kayaking in Morro Bay where he enjoyed viewing sea lions and otters.

Mendes is now home in Baltimore recuperating from jet lag. But he will soon be ready for new adventures and we can’t wait to see where else he goes!

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Next Page »