Monday, July 27, 2009

Factories in the Tenement

One of 97 Orchard's residents, Eastern European immigrant Harris Levine, operated a makeshift garment factory out of his apartment. He paid two unmarried Jewish women $8 -$9 a week to put the finishing touches on items and an old man about $12 a week to iron them. Curatorial Director Dave Favaloro discusses other businesses run from tenants' homes.

Knowledge of Harris Levine’s shop comes from the reports of the Department of the Factory Inspector. During the 1890s, inspectors investigated tenement apartments that were being used for garment production, as well as other types of manufacturing. According to the Department’s 1893 Report, in which Harris Levine was also listed, Austrian-born Herman Queller operated a broom and window brush factory out of his home at 97 Orchard Street. Queller appears to have employed one man to work alongside him. Although Herman Queller was Jewish, the Report records him as working nine hours on Saturdays, the Sabbath.

Herman Queller, date unknown

The 1893 Factory Inspectors Report also records Michael Schkedron operating a cigar factory out of his home at 97 Orchard Street. Although Museum researchers do not know where Schkedron hailed from, the Inspectors Report that he was both the proprietor and sole employee of his business, at which he worked approximately 70 hours a week, including 10 hours on Sunday.

At the time, the Department of Factory Inspectors claimed to have investigated only 1/5 of the total number of shops operating in tenement apartments, so it’s likely that other residents of 97 Orchard Street operated manufacturing businesses out of their homes. Moreover, the Factory Inspectors only listed addresses for the shops they inspected during the early 1890s. It’s very possible other shops were operating out of the home before and after the 1890s.

In some sense, Natalie Gumpertz’s dressmaking shop could also be considered a manufacturing enterprise even though it’s unlikely she employed anyone but her children. As mentioned above, it’s likely that other manufacturing enterprises employing non-family members operated at other times in 97 Orchard Street but, unfortunately, Museum researchers have found no evidence of their existence.

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