In honor of Passover, I thought I’d share a few of Harry Stilson’s photographs of Jewish friends along the West Clay line in Jackson Ward. That iconic neighborhood was established by African Americans and Jewish immigrants, many of whom went on to build Richmond dynasties of commerce. My great-grandfather encountered and photographed some prominent Ward residents but more often he took pictures of Jewish storekeepers, housewives, rabbis and workers. The men  below are posing where Hartshorn Memorial College once stood. Maggie Walker Governor School is located on that site today.

0072 two Jewish men

Harry’s journal entries record visits and photo sales to common Jewish surnames and I’ve tried to track down descendants of those people, like the Shirrucks. Harry was friends with Mr. & Mrs. Shirruck, whose store was located at 17th & Fairfield. He took pictures of the interior of their store, the couple in a field, but one of my favorites shows Mr. & Mrs. Shirruck on the Fairfield streetcar. Harry’s spelling wasn’t always accurate so he might have misspelled their name so if you know any Shirrucks/Shurricks, I’d love to meet them and share  pictures of their kin.

0074 ShurrickStore02  0046 Shirrucks on car

Harry labeled this photograph (below) “Jewish Rabbi at Hermitage & Leigh” but it was more likely a shocket who supervised ritual slaughter at Kingan’s Abbatoir or another Richmond slaughterhouse.

0107 rabbi

The Shockets were frequent subjects of Stilson photos and Shocket’s Popular Corner appeared in several of Harry’s images. We couldn’t identify the location until Barky Haggins looked at this photo and said “I delivered newspapers to that store when I was a boy!” He explained that there’s a very good reason that I can’t find the block: it no longer exists. It was on Leigh Street where Allen Avenue now cuts through.  That block disappeared decades ago.

Passover blog

Sometimes it seems that Harry Stilson did get commissions for portraits that paid more than his usual 15 cents. Beth Ahabah Museum has always supported our project and the quest for descendants of Stilson subjects. Arthur Strauss is one example of a member of the Beth Ahabah congregation who showed up in Harry’s pictures. This picture was labeled “Arthur Strauss” with a note about a “book for you, my friend” but that’s all I know about the portrait and the Stilson/Strauss relationship.

Arthur Strauss for Bonnie

No idea who this young man below is but his portrait is striking. The same background appears in other photographs in the Stilson collection but it’s a mystery as to where, how, and whether the backdrop belonged to Harry or a studio.

0150 boy in chair

This last picture wasn’t taken by my great-grandfather but Harry did know the subject. Forgive the repetition if you’ve heard this story before but it sounds like Hollywood fiction. Aleck Mollen invited me to the Weinstein Jewish Community Center to meet possible oral history sources. People crowded around looking at pictures and I heard a voice say: “I knew a streetcar man named Stilson. He let me drive the streetcar.” Morris Goldberg knew my great-grandfather, a man who died in 1934. I still marvel that this really happened. In 2012, I met the kid who “drove” Harry Stilson’s streetcar and have been blessed by his friendship ever since. On one of our field trips, I took this picture of Morris in front of his childhood home, which was also the family business, Goldberg’s Store, at Hancock & Clay. Morris hasn’t forgotten one minute of his years on the streets of Jackson Ward and his story-telling skills are a delight. He considers himself from Jackson Ward because the distinction between the Ward and Carver came later, after Carver School was built. My pal Morris has supplied me with incredible stories and descriptions of life when he was a boy and most of them have found their way into my books. Of course, he always has more to tell me so readers will be delighted by Morris Goldberg’s take on life along the West Clay line for years to come.

1morris-goldberg-blog

There are many photographs of the Jewish residents in Jackson Ward, Carver, Newtowne, and Navy Hill that I could share. Hopefully this glimpse of life when streetcars rumbled along Richmond’s streets and little boys were fascinated by them will capture your imagination. If you’re intrigued by images and stories from the West Clay line, my book On the West Clay Line is perfect for you. Go to http://www.richmondinsight.com to purchase books, see more of life through Harry Stilson’s lens, or to schedule a presentation of his images and stories. Invite me to bring Harry along to your group, synagogue, church, or organization. I’d love to share more images of people who celebrated Passovers in Richmond in the early 1900s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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