Monday, November 19, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Little Jerusalem - St. Louis - 1900

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

This week we return to "Little Jerusalem" - an area of St. Louis mentioned in last Monday's entry - for an extensive feature story on the town. I discovered this article at ChroniclingAmerica as well.

St. Louis Republic, August 19, 1900

A Foreign Quarter in St. Louis That is Rich in Atmosphere

Photo Captions: (View the photos and entire article here)

Like the drone of a sawmill, or the buzzing of bees, is the sound of the sewing machine in Little Jerusalem.

All day and far into the night the swift-flying feet of her sons pedal in toil.

Like mountains of sawdust grow the waste ends and cuttings; like honey in the comb is the fruit of her son’s labors.


Little Jerusalem, that indefinite city within a city, whose boundaries no man can with exactitude define, is generally conceded to embrace the locality lying west of Sixth street, south of Cass avenue, east of Eleventh street and north of Lucas avenue. But here and there, like the riprap of a jetty, Little Jerusalem shoots out an arm into the great sea of St. Louis life around her, and St. Louis, in her turn, keeps washing in upon her coves and bays. So, while the shore line is ever changing, the approximate confines of Little Jerusalem survive pretty much the same from one year’s end to another.

Among the hundreds and thousands of Jewish residents of the little city within the big city, none are deserving of greater interest than the group of patriarchs who daily assemble at the little store just south of the Shields School on North Seventh street. Seated on benches and chairs, or along the stone coping of the schoolyard fence, they settle grave questions of Jewish law, while the younger element, standing respectfully around, drink in their words of wisdom.

Artists’ models are those patriarchs for the prophets of old.

Beneath the black skull cap of the eldest is contained the knowledge of years. Those cherished temple locks, the flowing beard, now white with age, the solemn, sonorous voice in which he speaks proclaim the man – the Elder. His life is now one peaceful period of Sabbatism. Barter and trade are things of the past to him. Soon his life’s sands will have run, and he will be gathered to his fathers, ripe in wisdom and full of years.

View with more speculative eye that group of curly-headed youngsters playing in the pink wagon near by. Watch the imaginary business transactions going on. That boy with the ethereal whip, lambasting a horse which is not there, will some day live to drive a real horse-or bargains.

See what pride his old grandmother-she of the red-brown toupee, sitting with hands folded across her lap there in front of the little store—views the earnest play of her daughter’s children. For it is in earnest the little children of Little Jerusalem play, dreadfully in earnest.

The old grandmother may never live to see the day when “Ikey and Issie” rise to prominence, and then, again, she may. For of the daughters of Judah, many are tenacious of life, and their children’s children rise rapidly.

Many and diversified are the lives of business and the paths of toil pursued in Little Jerusalem. Bakeries, butcher shops and grocery stores supply the residents with the necessities of life. Steamship agencies attend to their ocean travel. In their markets the flesh of goose vies with the flesh of goat. Sausages are made and sold in stores whose signs are in Hebrew. There are teachers of music, physicians and men of letters in their ranks. There are merchants, shopkeepers, pedants and peddlers. There are candy-makers and apothecaries. There are tinshops and Vienna kitchens, but over and above all sounds the constant whirr and hum and drone of the garment-maker’s sewing machine.

Every doorway and every window of man a house boasts its machine. Cutting, fitting, sponging, pressing, bent men in undershirts go about their tasks. And, as if there were not enough houses to go around, whole buildings, such as schoolhouses and orphan asylums, have been given over to the machine.

The contractor, he who works a gang, or gangs, of operators, goes to the manufacturer and bids for work. When a basis of settlement, a price for the work to be done, has been agreed upon, the contractor takes the manufacturer’s cloth, buttons, linings, trimmings and all, and carries it up into Little Jerusalem, where it is apportioned out and effectually lost to all but him who gives it out and those who receive it.

From every quarter of Europe these people have come; from Russia, Galicia, Austria, Italy, Hungary, Roumania, Germany and England—yes, even Engalnd. Weighted down with hardships encountered in their European struggle for existence, they have in past years flocked to the United States in the hope of materially bettering their condition. Of those who have settled in Little Jerusalem some have prospered, and some have waxed rich; many have found a fair living, and still others, who keep drifting in from day to day, find the same old struggle for existence that they have left behind them in Europe. When with hopes set high they have cast in their lot with their St. Louis brethren, they find that certain men control the various lines of trade, the giving out of work is in the hands of the contractors, there are already enough peddlers, and the struggle, if not quite so severe, they find, is still ever present.

But work must be had at any price, and if the English-speaking garment-maker finds himself without work he can generally attribute it to a lower bid put in by one of his own race who has not yet mastered the language of the United States.

When work is slack, which sometimes happens, the man of family, and the unmarried as well, find himself under the painful necessity of underbidding his usurping European cousin.

But the Jew is preserving, saving, industrious, and somehow or other the inhabitants of Little Jerusalem all seem to get along.

To the end of helping the immigrant Hebrew in St. Louis many prominent Jewish citizens have combined. A notable feature of the work has been the conducting of night schools. For this purpose the Jefferson School, at Ninth and Wash streets, has been used for six month in each of the late years.

Emil Mayer, a lawyer, with offices in the Oriel building, for two years past has filled the position of Superintendant of the Jewish Alliance night schools. Elias Michaels of Rice, Stix & Co. is president.

“Our next school session begins in October,” said Mr. Mayer to The Republic, “and we expect a large attendance this fall. At the close of our last term there were nearly 400 pupils in regular attendance.

“The pupils range in aged from 14 to 50, although in two instances we have admitted girls of 13, who, on account of household duties in their homes, have been unable to attend the public schools. We only take pupils who are employed during the day, you know. Of these about one-third are females, the remainder males.

“The course of study is a five-year course. Arithmetic, geography, United States history, reading, writing and grammar; in fact, a good common-school education is what we teach. Bookkeeping is also entered into, and it is no uncommon sight to see husband and wife, child and grandfather, enter our school together, with books and slate under the arm.”

The first class is composed of those who can neither read nor write, and, says Mr. Mayer, it is a regrettable fact and a sad commentary on the European educational system that there come many of such to our shores.

But it is surprising the avidity with which the mind of the young immigrant reaches out after information and learning. Once in a while, but only once in a while, however, there have entered youths whose minds ran more to folly and pranks than to the earnest getting of knowledge. Such have been speedily weeded out.

There is no such thing as punishment for infraction of rules at the Jewish Alliance night schools. Life is too serious, and the acquirement of learning of too great moment, to risk suspension and possible expulsion.

That its educational benefits are productive of results is attested by the instance of one pupil who last term completed the course. The boy is now conducting a shirt factory, with his father, who cannot speak English, for a partner. Another 15-year-old youth has already shown strong evidence of histrionic talent, and his teachers see in him an embryo Possart.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights during six months in the year the schools are conducted, beginning by 7 o’clock and dismissing by 9. Each Tuesday night there is a lecture, and among those who have addressed the pupils has been Judge Spencer of the St. Louis Circuit Court, who spoke on “Municipal Government,” Attorney Fred W. Lehmann, Librarian F.M. Crunden, the four leading St. Louis rabbis – Doctors Harrison, Sale, Spitz and Messing—have lectured, and Father Brennan and Francis E. Cook, principal of Crow School, have also spoken.

That the parents and friends of the pupils evince great interest and no little pride in their progress is evidenced by their crushing attendance on “the last night of school” when, as it happened at the closing exercises of last term, many were unable to get inside the school building.

A stroll through Little Jerusalem one day last week with The Republic’s camera developed the accompanying interesting photographs of the little city within a city and its people.

At a point on North Seventh street, between Carr and Wash streets, gasoline stoves, chairs, bedsteads, ice boxes, bicycles and odds and ends piled in profusion and confusion, told a tale of disrupted homes and discontinued jaunts awheel.

In the same neighborhood were encountered two splendid specimens of the older and younger generations. The inscrutable profile of the older man, clear cut against the light, left no doubt of his race, and gave no clew to his thoughs. The at-home air of his younger companion bespoke an extensive acquaintance with American customs and ways.

A little futher along could be seen the son of Rabbi Weisemann approaching, his thin coat and heavy beard blown back by the south breeze.

On the next corner stood a group of garment-workers’ wives discussing, possibly, some bit of gossip, or the price of peaches.

In front of Novack’s place, while the keeper slumbered, a group of boys took possession of the open window, sitting therein to eat their penny ice cream and drink their penny “pop.”

In front of a secondhand store sat the dealer and his wife. In the mother’s arms reposed the inevitable baby, while ranged before the door were four steps in the family stairs, one with a drum.
On Carr street the camera caught two scowling men, and at Biddle Market “somebody’s grandmaw” lent herself unconsciously to the art elusive, while haggling over the price of a hen with the chicken man.

Some day some artist will go up into Little Jerusalem and there will be a new “Madonna” painted. If he happens to go into a certain little grocery on Tenth street his picture will make him famous.
Still, no artist should find difficulty in selecting a Madonna head from among the daughters of Little Jerusalem. There are many there.



1) None of my kin are mentioned in this news article, though many of them spent time in Little Jerusalem.

Or are they?

According to the 1901 St. Louis City directory, my second great grandfather, Selig Feinstein, operated a second hand store (called The Western Junk Shop), on the corner of 8th and Biddle. In the 1900 directory he was still a blacksmith. Had he opened the store by August of 1900?

The Republic's reporter mentions a spot on North Seventh between Carr and Wash. (Wash street is now Cole street.) Then they take a tour. Do they go North or South? That secondhand store could theoretically be Selig's.  In which case I have a most amazing photograph.

I have no photographs of Selig or of his wife, Annie, to compare.

Annie and Selig did have a child, Joseph, born Dec 31, 1899. Is the baby in the picture around 8 months?  Joseph died in 1901. There were several children in the Feinstein family. In 1900 (not including Joseph) the boys would have been 2, 7, 12, 14 and 16.  I think the youngest boy in the photo appears too old for 2 and too young for 7. Alas, I'd like it to be them.

2) Three of my four paternal second great grandfathers, Samuel Newmark, Morris Blatt, and Moshe Leyb Cruvant were primarily tailors throughout their career. While Moshe Leyb was a tailor from 1890-1900, he too opened a second hand store from 1900-1901. His was on the 1100 block of Morgan street. He then went into the shoemaking business. Selig Feinstein was a blacksmith from 1890-1900. After his short stint in the secondhand business he went into laundry and real estate.

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