‘Pressed: Images from the Jewish Daily Forward’ tells the story of American Jews in the early 20th century

Posted On Wed, February 5, 2020 By

Posted On Wed, February 5, 2020 By In Events, History, Lower East Side, Museums

Lower East Side Matzoh Line, 1930; image courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street.

An exhibition now on view at the Museum at Eldridge Street shares a treasure trove of photographs and documents from the Jewish Daily Forward, a newspaper that has been published on the Lower East Sid since 1897–and today still thrives in digital format. For over 120 years, the Forward was the go-to source for news, culture, and opinion both global and everyday for New York City’s Jewish community. The printed paper’s deep archives trace its history and the stories it covered in “Pressed: Images from the Jewish Daily Forward.”

daily forward, museum at eldridge street, lower east side, jewish culture, history, newspapers, media, museums
The front page of the first issue of the Forward, April 22, 1897; image courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street.

In its heyday, the Yiddish-language publication–known locally as the “Forvitz”–had a circulation of over 275,000. The paper had a progressive bent–covering labor strikes and the struggle for equal rights for immigrants. In addition to culture and politics, the paper served as a social diary of sorts for readers’ daily lives, sharing photos of ordinary families and their daily lives in addition to leading intellectuals.

daily forward, museum at eldridge street, lower east side, jewish culture, history, newspapers, media, museums
Forward building on East Broadway, c. 1920s; image courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street.

daily forward, museum at eldridge street, lower east side, jewish culture, history, newspapers, media, museums

The Forward archives tell of Jewish intellectual and political life a century ago, covering progressive politics as well as explaining the rules of baseball and celebrating Yiddish theater stars and athletes, daily life and historic moments. The paper was a source of community for a population that often felt displaced or excluded.

On exhibition is a fascinating selection of metal plates used in printing these photos, many of which no longer exist. Contemporary prints have been made on traditional equipment at the South Street Seaport Museum’s Bowne & Co. Stationers, giving the resultant images new life, with detail beyond what the originals would have had. Also on display are pages from the Forward with the original images.

daily forward, museum at eldridge street, lower east side, jewish culture, history, newspapers, media, museums

These reverse-image metal press plates are nearly all that remain from centuries of depicting Jewish life and culture. This is a rare opportunity, as publications did not usually preserve these utilitarian printing plates.

The exhibition, which opened October 24, will be on view until spring 2020 at The Museum at Eldridge Street, 12 Eldridge Street.

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Images courtesy of the Museum at Eldridge Street.

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Neighborhoods : Lower East Side

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