Roads Taken: The Great Jewish Migrations to the New World and the Peddlers Who Forged the Way
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Between the late 1700s and the 1920s, nearly one-third of the world’s Jews emigrated to new lands. Crossing borders and often oceans, they followed paths paved by intrepid peddlers who preceded them. This book is the first to tell the remarkable story of the Jewish men who put packs on their backs and traveled forth, house to house, farm to farm, mining camp to mining camp, to sell their goods to peoples across the world. Persistent and resourceful, these peddlers propelled a mass migration of Jewish families out of central and eastern Europe, north Africa, and the Ottoman Empire to destinations as far-flung as the United States, Great Britain, South Africa, and Latin America.
Hasia Diner tells the story of millions of discontented young Jewish men who sought opportunity abroad, leaving parents, wives, and sweethearts behind. Wherever they went, they learned unfamiliar languages and customs, endured loneliness, battled the elements, and proffered goods from the metropolis to people of the hinterlands. In the Irish Midlands, the Adirondacks of New York, the mining camps of New South Wales, and so many other places, these traveling men brought change—to themselves and the families who later followed, to the women whose homes and communities they entered, and ultimately to the geography of Jewish history.
knew the items and knew customer tastes, seamlessly shifted from marketing house to house to making the same items for other peddlers and to sell over the counters of their own stores. No endeavor registered this seemingly organic drift from peddling to manufacturing more dramatically and globally than the clothing trade. Jews had participated in needlework for centuries, since long before the great migration. But in the places to which Jews emigrated during that long century, the making and
peddlers who did well. The peddler who opened the Globe Department Store in Dumas, Arkansas, Charles Dante, served as mayor, and upon his retirement, the local Lions Club honored him as Outstanding Citizen of the Year. Tupper Lake, New York, did the same for Mose Ginsberg, once an immigrant peddler who had traversed the farmlands and logging camps of the Adirondacks and eventually became the owner of the town's largest department store. The town named him Tupper Lake Citizen of the Year.91
part, out of peddlers’ earlier activities. Hundreds of thousands of Jews came to Chicago to labor in the men's clothing industry. Many sewed in the massive plant owned and operated by Joseph Schaffner, of Hart, Schaffner and Marx. That company had evolved out of Schaffner's peddling activities, undertaken when he first came to America. His years on the road provided the start-up capital for his emergence as one of the largest manufacturers of men's suits in Chicago, in the United States, and
E., Autobiography,” n.d., SC-11557, Small Collections, American Jewish Archives. 21.Maxwell Whiteman, “Notions, Dry Goods and Clothing,” Jewish Quarterly Review 53, no. 4 (1963), 306–321. 22.Quoted in Lucien Wolf, ed., Essays in Jewish History (London: Jewish Historical Society of England, 1914), 137–138. 23.Israel J. Solomon, Records of My Life (New York, 1887), 80. 24.Abraham Flexner, I Remember: The Autobiography of Abraham Flexner (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1940), 12. 25.Morris R.
the small community of Jews who “had been residing in peace for twenty years, until last January,” when he “made an onslaught from the pulpit before a congregation numbering three thousand persons.” What did the priest have against the Jews? Creagh condemned the Jews, mostly peddlers, “who are largely engaged in the sale of goods on the installment plan.”1 Creagh employed passionate and classically anti-Jewish language in exposing the misdeeds of the weekly men, the Jewish peddlers, who since