Family Fare Part V
Article by Jennifer Vess. Originally published in Generations 2011 – 2012: Jewish Foodways
Part V: Mechanization and Innovation: “He had to get more machines to keep producing.”
In 1900 electricity and automobiles were exciting and new and beyond the reach of most people and businesses. New immigrants didn’t just start small, they started low-tech by today’s standards – sometimes even by the standards of their day. Bakers used wood-burning stoves, dairymen delivered on foot or, if they were lucky, by horse and cart, sausages were stuffed by hand, and delis used iceboxes. But as soon as money and technology allowed, small and large businesses alike took up electricity and mechanization. This wasn’t just a fad, it was a necessity to keep pace with the rest of the business world, and even more necessary for those who wanted to expand.
While most family businesses installed electric ovens, refrigerators, and packing machines invented by others, some Baltimore families created their own machines and systems to handle the unique needs of their businesses. Both Hendlers Creamery and Tulkoff’s Horseradish Products Company had engineers (by practice or training) in the family. Martin Tulkoff, son of the founder of the company, did not have an advanced degree in engineering but he invented several pieces of equipment to make the plant more efficient. Other companies bought these patented machines for their own production, in particular the Shrink-O-Matic. Hendler’s was so proud of being the first fully automated ice-cream plant that they created a brochure that described the electrification and mechanization of their plant on Baltimore Street. The company claimed a number of ‘firsts’—the first to install the Fast Frozen method, the first to use refrigerated trucks for transportation (which they developed in their own plant), and more. Albert Hendler remembered that his father, L. Manuel Hendler, “though he didn’t know it, designed the first air conditioning system. That was not his original intention. His purpose was to devise a method for protecting the ice cream plant from flies. To compensate for closing it off to the outside, he ventilated the building by blowing in air which traveled through ducts connected to coils. In wintertime heat was produced by steam, and in summer brine pumped through the coils cooled the interior.”
Mechanization was only one way to keep up. Business innovation takes many forms and even if Baltimore Jewish food businesses weren’t at the pinnacle of technological advancements they were sometimes innovators in terms of products. Before Tulkoff no one had bottled horseradish, before Gustav Brunn no one had Old Bay, before Fannie Cohen no had tasted a coddie. Product development was, and still is, as important to business as technological change.
 Ralph Brunn speaking about his father, Gustav and Ralph Brunn interview, May 7, 1980, OH 112, JMM.
 Martin Morse Wooster, “Roots to Riches: The Tulkoff Family has made horseradish a big business,” Country, May 1984, pg. 21-23; Paula Span, “The Tigers of Lombard Street” Baltimore Magazine, November 1979 pg. 178-180
 Baltimore Jewish Times, May 1, 1941, pg. 17
 Albert Henlder with Amalie Ascher, “Ice Cream Days,” The Sun Magazine, July 26, 1981