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00:00:08 - Starting work in America

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Partial Transcript: --a, a history program so we're trying to, to find out what individual people's experiences have been in the city.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan arrived in 1911 from Russia (where he didn’t like the government) to flee the chaos and oppression in the ensuing years before the Revolution. At home he was a teacher, but in the U.S. he had to take a factory job for $3 a week, for 60 hours, where he slept on the floor. He arrived like many others: with nothing, desperate, and didn't speak the language. As he progressed, he changed and learned trades. Working to survive the harsh economic times, he ate herring which was a delicacy back in Russia. He started in the textile industry working different jobs such as making pants pockets and suspenders and made a little more money. He recalls that he paid a man five dollars to learn to make back pockets in pants then got a job for $5 a week. He says that he struggled, living on herring and bread. He later worked on skirts, and had his own hot dog and hamburger stand near the City Hall Annex from 1935-1946.

Keywords: City hall; Clothing industry; Herring; Hot dog stands; Revolutions; Russia; Russian Revolution; Working conditions

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Immigrants; Small business--Ownership


Hyperlink: "Daroff & Sons factory workers press suits," 1910. Frederick A. Meyer. George D. McDowell Philadelphia Evening Bulletin Collection, Courtesy of Temple University Libraries.
00:04:55 - Working until retirement

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Partial Transcript: And then I went into the clothing trade.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan says he went into the clothing trade in 1946. He worked for 20 years to get a pension through the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, and retired in 1967 at the age of 77. Usually people retired at 65 to collect Social Security, but it wasn't enough so he worked for 12 more years. Kaplan shares that he is now 92 years old and in good health, and hopes to be 100.

Keywords: Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America; Clothing industry; Retirement; Social Security

Subjects: Employment; Labor unions

00:06:48 - The decision to leave Russia

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you some questions.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan says that he was not happy with his life in Russia, although he had a good job as a teacher. Once the revolution started, Kaplan had to serve in the army for 4 years after he turned 20. He didn't like the Russian government because it did not treat Jews well and did not allow them to live in cities or large villages, affording them few rights. He shares that those were the boom days of immigration to America, as long as you had $25.

Keywords: Jewish; Jews; Russian Army; Russian Revolution

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Immigrants

00:09:38 - The trip to America

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Partial Transcript: Can you describe for me how you came from Russia to America?

Segment Synopsis: When Kaplan decided to come to the U.S. he went to an agent who bought a ticket for him to illegally cross the Russian border. He and his stepsister fled to Warsaw where they traveled to Bedzin, then crossed the border to Germany in the middle of the night. After waiting two weeks they took the ship Graf Waldersee to the United States where his stepbrother was waiting for him. He arrived in Philadelphia at the Washington Avenue Immigration Station, walked to the house he stayed at, and in two days got his first job in a factory. Kaplan shares that all kinds of people were coming to the U.S.

Keywords: Bedzin (Poland); Bedzin, Poland; Chain migration; Ellis Island; Gentiles; Graf Waldersee; Poland; Revolutions; Russian Army; Russian Revolution; Warsaw (Poland); Warsaw, Poland; Washington Avenue Immigration Station

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Immigrants


GPS: Bedzin, Poland, where Kaplan crossed the Russian border into Germany. At the time Poland was divided between Russia and Germany.
Map Coordinates: 50.338586, 19.121162

Hyperlink: "Str. Graf Waldersee," c.1900-1905. Detroit Publishing Company photograph collection. Library of Congress.
00:15:37 - First impressions of Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Do you remember what you expected to find in Philadelphia?

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan says he didn’t know much about Philadelphia before his arrival and found it harder than what he had heard from letters. He found it hard to get a job without a trade and didn't speak the language. He shares that family members already there took care of newcomers from the old country. When he arrived, he appreciated that streets were cemented unlike his home in Russia which had mud coated streets when it rained. He also remembers that lights lined the streets and brightened the city, which was better than the lanterns he used in Russia. He was also impressed by how people dressed, how frequently people changed clothes, and that people bathed, unlike in Russia where there was no place to bathe.

Keywords: Amenities; Electric lights; Electricity; Paved streets

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Hygiene.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Sanitation.

00:19:17 - Bathing in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Another thing impressed me: the way they are dressed here.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan shares that in Russia, richer people hired a man to bring them water, while the poor got water themselves carrying it in buckets on their shoulders. In his village, once a month a man rang a bell to tell everyone in the town that there was hot water in the bathhouse. Kaplan then talks about the bathhouses in Philadelphia, which cost 10-15 cents. He went to one on Wood Street. He then remembers that there was no electricity on Wyalusing Avenue, the street he lived on when he first came to Philadelphia.

Keywords: Bath houses; Chain migration; Gentiles; Jewish; Jews; Russia; Wood Street bath house (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Subjects: Hygiene.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Public baths.; Sanitation.


Hyperlink: "Public Baths Association Building, Wood Street," Public Baths Association of Philadelphia Collection. Courtesy of Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
00:23:18 - Kaplan brings his sister from Russia and helps her learn Yiddish

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Partial Transcript: So when you arrived in the city, you moved, uh, out to West Philadelphia?

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan shares that he saved 50 cents a week from his $3 a week salary until he had enough money after a year to buy a ticket to bring his sister over from Russia where she worked as a maid. In Philadelphia, he paid for her education and hired a someone to teach her “Jewish” [Yiddish] so that she could communicate with other Jews in Philadelphia. Kaplan says that after his sister got married, she moved to West Philadelphia. Kaplan himself married at age 40, had a daughter who graduated from college, and works for the YMHA on Pine Street, and works with people with intellectual disabilities.

Keywords: Jewish; Russia; The Forward; West Philadelphia; Wyalusing Avenue (Philadelphia, Pa.); Yiddish

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Immigrants; Language and languages.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

00:25:34 - Reflections on education in Russia and Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: And I educated her and she beca--she, uh, got a trade making blouses, dresses.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan's sister married and moved to West Philadelphia. Kaplan himself married and had a daughter who graduated from college. Despite his past as a teacher who tutored students in their homes, Kaplan never taught in Philadelphia. Education was lacking in poorer areas of Russia and many Jewish immigrants were uneducated, particularly females. In Philadelphia, Kaplan picked up on the language fairly quickly. Within the Russian Jewish communities in Philadelphia, people continued to speak Yiddish.

Keywords: West Philadelphia; Wyalusing Avenue (Philadelphia, Pa.)

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Immigrants; Language and languages.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.

00:26:00 - Reflections on his daughter / More on education in Russia and Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Well, I was a bachelor till about 40.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan shares that he married when he was 40, and has a daughter who graduated from college and works for the Philadelphia YHMA. Kaplan says that in Russia, he taught people how to read and write Jewish and Russian in their homes. Many were uneducated, especially girls in small towns who got no education. He remembers reading to boys in Philadelphia who “didn't know nothing.”

Keywords: Gershman YHMA; Northeast Philadelphia YHMA; Pine Street YHMA (Philadelphia, Pa.); Shalom Building; West Philadelphia

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Immigrants; Language and languages.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.


Hyperlink: "History," Gershman Y, 2016.
00:31:01 - On learning English and becoming an American

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Partial Transcript: When you came to Philadelphia did you go to any agencies, any of the Jewish agencies for help?

Segment Synopsis: In Philadelphia, Kaplan came to his step brother and picked up on the English language fairly quickly. Within the Russian Jewish communities in Philadelphia, people continued to speak Yiddish. He shares that in Philadelphia, he was anxious to become an American, copy the styles, and to forget about being Jewish. Although raised in a religious house, he was not religious. He shares that his grandfather, father, and uncle were also teachers in Russia. When he was young, he helped his grandfather teach.

Keywords: Citizenship; Hebrew; Judaism; Naturalization; Religion

Subjects: Education; Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Immigrants; Jews--Identity.; Language and languages.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Worship (Judaism)


Hyperlink: "Russian Village," c. 1909-1920. National Photo Company Collection. Library of Congress
00:36:38 - Assimilating in America

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Partial Transcript: So how d--what did one then do to become an American?

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan describes how he acted and behaved as Americans did to the best he could in order to be a "real American," although he mingled with Jewish people still and didn't interact as much with "real" Americans. Kaplan never had someone teach him to be American and learned on his own. He went to theaters, operas, and movies to immerse himself in American culture. Unlike other Jews, he didn't cling to Jewish traditions. He views those that do as ignorant for being so stubborn.

Keywords: Americanization; Argentina; Citizenship; Culture; Falklands War; Greenhorns; Israel; Naturalization; Opera; Symphony

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Families.; Immigrants; Jews--Identity.; Language and languages.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Worship (Judaism)

00:42:34 - Ethnic relations in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: When--in your early years in the city, did you feel any discrimination against you from the people outside of--

Segment Synopsis: Asked about ethnic tensions in Philadelphia, Kaplan says that he never personally experienced it and did not witness it against others. He recalls that an Irish man might feel superior to a Jewish man. Kaplan then says that he did not mingle with Gentiles outside of work, and that few Gentiles worked in the clothing industry.

Keywords: Ethnic tensions; Gentiles; Irish; Italian; Jewish

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Ethnic relations.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Race relations

00:44:44 - Philadelphia's garment industry

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Partial Transcript: And that's all it was, it was Italians, working in my, my line of, uh, clothing.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan talks about his work in the textile industry and how he got into the industry. He mentions that in the past, Jews dominated the clothing industry, along with Germans before them. In time that faded, with African Americans, Italians, and Puerto Ricans doing most of the work. He remembers Jewish workers stopping to pray in the factories. He quit the industry at the age of 77 years old.

Keywords: Garment industry; H. Daroff and Sons Company; Jews; Textile industry

Subjects: Employment; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.


GPS: Pitcairn Building at 11th and Arch Streets, which housed the Daroff Company that Kaplan worked for.
Map Coordinates: 39.953807, -75.157634
00:49:38 - Going to the movies

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned earlier that you, um, used to go to the movies when you first came here.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan elaborates on his interest in movies when he first arrived. Tickets were cheap and there were several Jewish theaters. He notes that audiences typically behaved poorly during movies. People brought food with them inside the theaters. Over time this changed and behavior became more appropriate.

Keywords: Charlie Chaplin; Films; Movie theaters; Movies; Theaters

Subjects: Motion picture theaters.; Motion pictures.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social life and customs.; Recreation


Hyperlink: "Met Theater on Broad Street with advertisement for Abe Neff and His Orchestra," c. 1947. Philadelphia Jewish Archives Photographs. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries.
00:52:13 - Reflecting on how times have changed

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Partial Transcript: Um, any event in your mind that stood out that took place in the 1920s?

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan remembers major events from the 1920s through 1982. He recalls the many inventions of the time, such as cars, radios, and computers. He remembers the impact cars made on life in the city and how people would run after them. To Kaplan, there is no single great invention because they all outdid their predecessors. Kaplan reflects on how much has changed in society since he was young, such as the decreased interest in reading.

Keywords: Bicentennials; Charles Lindbergh; Computers; Inventions; Lindbergh Flight; Radio; Smedley Butler; Technology

Subjects: Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; Technological innovations

00:59:34 - Reflections on progress

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Partial Transcript: Yeah, I was always anxious what's going on.

Segment Synopsis: Kaplan remembers that when the revolution started in Russia in 1905, he was in a little town “and didn't know nothing.” He shares that it was a hard life, and that he would not want to go back to that life. He says that the U.S. progressed a whole lot more than Russia. Kaplan explains that unlike in Russia, the technological advancement spread to other smaller towns and not just cities.

Keywords: China; Hamburg (Germany); Hamburg, Germany; Russian Revolution; Social conditions; Technology

Subjects: Russia; Technological innovations; United States

01:02:47 - Boarding houses

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Partial Transcript: Let me turn the question around. What disappointed you when you arrived in Philadelphia? What didn't live up to your expectations?

Segment Synopsis: When asked what disappointed him in Philadelphia, Kaplan shares that he was disappointed by how hard it was to get a good job. He came here hoping to be someone and felt like nothing upon his arrival. He then talks about men living in boarding houses with other single immigrant men, sleeping sometimes three to a room. He shares that when he arrived, he lived with his stepbrother in a single room with one bed and no heat. He remembers that people used coal to heat their stoves and that there was no other heat in the houses. When it was very cold, the landlady had a little coal stove in the room, which gave him a headache.

Keywords: 'American dream'; Boarding houses; Boardinghouses

Subjects: Emigration and immigration.; Employment; Families.; Immigrants; Philadelphia (Pa.)--Social conditions.; United States


Hyperlink: "Southeast Corner of Front Street and Fairmount Avenue," November 13, 1915. Used by permission of PhillyHistory.org, a project of the Philadelphia Department of Records.