Jewish Museum Milwaukee sheds mild on significance of Jewish peddlers | WUWM 89.7 FM

You may consider “reusing” and “recycling” as comparatively new ideas. However, between 1900 and 1960, hundreds of scrap sellers had been listed within the Milwaukee Metropolis Listing. As much as 90% had been Jewish companies.

The Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s exhibition referred to as Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling tells their story. The exhibition comes from the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee added Wisconsin tales.

Curator Molly Dubin says there wasn’t even sufficient room to record all of the junk sellers, rag pickers and haulers. “So [we] needed to introduce a few standards, the final one we did was it needed to have been in enterprise for 2 years, which introduced us down to only in need of 400,” Dubin says.


This interview with Jewish Museum Milwaukee curator Molly Dubin aired on Lake Impact October 19, 2021.

A video helps guests perceive what Dubin calls the complexity of a scrap yard. It reveals a working yard in Maryland. “When you’ve gone to a scrap yard you recognize it’s a large area due to the sheer quantity they take care of. The yard additionally seems a bit chaotic as a result of there may be a lot there and so many steps—sorting, processing, and so on.” Dubin says.

>> Books to read about recycling, climate change, and scrap recommended by the Milwaukee Public Library.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland created the movie and the exhibition that surrounds it, even sending alongside a full-size motorcycle. The show breaks down its elements made from metallic, plastic, rubber —and the way they is perhaps repurposed.

“One of many causes they wished to incorporate that is to point out you actually the scrap trade impacts every thing that we deal with. The whole lot that we contact, every thing that we come into contact with, and that each merchandise will be damaged into uncooked supplies that may be reused, reprocessed, recycled — hopefully nearly all of it — some can’t relying on what the fabric is,” Dubin says.

Courtesy of Arnie Peltz.

Joseph Peltz, co-founder of Peltz Bros. Waste Materials Co., Milwaukee, Wisconsin, ca. 1960.

Dubin says trying into the scrap trade is consistent with the mission and matters the museum explores, “ Which has to do with immigration and early enterprise, and positively environmental justice…this actually exhibits you a few of that at work right here,” Dubin says.

Peddlers, Dubin says, had been the unique recyclers. As japanese Europeans made their option to America, peddling put meals on households’ tables. They offered scraps to mills and factories. In truth, Dubin says, immigrant collectors, peddlers, and sellers adopted the economic revolution because it moved throughout North America, bartering and creating commerce networks alongside the way in which.

“You want[ed] little or no cash, you didn’t essentially must know the language and it wasn’t one thing that basically existed. So due to that entrepreneurial spirit that we discover additionally as a commonality — in most of the immigrants and Jewish immigrants — this was one thing they may make their very own distinctive area of interest and develop and develop, which is what they did,” Dubin says.

The area of interest got here with stereotypes, some constructive, others not. The exhibit explores each.

“Yiddish theater exhibits, like Schmattes which suggests rags in in Yiddish. However there have been additionally damaging, depicting Jewish people who had been scrapers in raggy clothes, as soiled, as lesser than. The bigger or hooked noses. And this perpetration of those Jewish people as being untrustworthy,” Dubin says.

3 - Dig In WWII Poster.jpg

Courtesy of College of Minnesota Libraries, Higher Midwest Literary Archives.

“Dig In and Dig Out the Scrap” World Struggle II scrap poster, c.1945.

However throughout conflict time, particularly World Struggle II, when scrapping was essential to U.S. efforts, Dubin says the stereotype shifted.

“It was promoted as this type of patriotic marketing campaign. Everybody do your half, victory rallies to gather scrap, and swiftly this stereotype that skewed pretty negatively begins to turn into considerably heroic,” Dubin says.

Dubin says scrapping was grueling work. “[It] took them away from their households from early within the morning till late at night time, typically seven days every week until they discovered a manner they could possibly be closed for Shabbat,” Dubin says.

Dubin enters a room that includes Wisconsin scrappers, and reads a reminiscence shared by a peddlar’s descendent.


Susan Bence

Jewish Museum Milwaukee curator Molly Dubin within the Wisconsin part of Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s present exhibit.
The show case is full of junk seller plates, enterprise playing cards, even a scrapper’s account e book written in Yiddish.

“Phil Paley, he labored for Miller Compressing. ‘My mom all the time tells the story — that a part of her pleasure was that she would go peddling together with her father. They would go away within the morning with the horse and wagon, pack a lunch after which they’d drive out to Waukesha after which they’d peddle after which it was already darkish. They took any scrap they’d and they might throw it within the again yard,’” Dubin reads.

courtesy of Harold Paley and Phil Paley.jpeg

picture courtesy of Harold Paley and Phil Paley

The home on Vliet Avenue the place Paley’s mother grew up serving to her father scrap.

A black-and-white picture accompanies the quote displaying the household’s yard piled excessive with metals scraps, lumber and skads of unrecognizable scrap. Through the years, Jewish household companies consolidated, had been purchased out and have largely misplaced any taste of their roots.

At this time waste is each a global enterprise and a dilemma. Dubin hopes the exhibition helps guests respect the historic significance of peddlers and take inventory of their contributions to the waste stream.

Have an environmental query you need WUWM’s Susan Bence to research? Submit under. (If the module is not showing, please refresh the web page.)

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