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Baron de Hirsch Fund Records

 Collection
Identifier: I-80

Scope and Content Note

The Baron de Hirsch Fund Records document the organization's involvement in the planning of agricultural communities across the country and to some extent in South America; the founding and administrative dealings of agricultural and trade schools; the establishment of the Jewish Agricultural Society; and the business records of the Fund itself. The collection is arranged in six series: Series I: Administration / Organization of the Fund, Series II: Jewish Farming Colonies, Series III: Jewish Agricultural Society, Series IV: Woodbine Colony, Series V: Woodbine Agricultural School, and Series VI: Baron de Hirsch Trade School. The records originally existed as several different collections that were later merged. The original order is thought to have been lost, but re-processing of the records attempted to reunite as many records as possible. In some cases, however, it was impossible to do so, thus the finding aid strives to bring together intellectually what could not be brought together physically without a huge undertaking.

Dates

  • undated, 1819-1991
  • Majority of material found within 1882 - 1935

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, French, German, Yiddish, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Executive Director of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, NY 10011.

The collection may only be viewed on microfilm. Please contact archivist for more information.

Historical Note<extptr actuate="onload" href="http://digital.cjh.org/images/images_ead-ajhs/WoodbineSchoolSignPainting.jpg" altrender="Photograph of the Sign Painting Class at Baron de Hirsch Technical School, New York City, circa 1910" title="Sign Painting Class at Baron de Hirsch Technical School New York City, circa 1910"/>

The death in 1887 of the only surviving child of Clara and Maurice de Hirsch, while a personal tragedy for the couple, turned out to be of the greatest benefit to world Jewry. With the death of their only heir, the Baron and Baroness de Hirsch decided to make humanity their heir. One such product of this largess was the Baron de Hirsch Fund, organized in New York City in 1891.

Like the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA), another major de Hirsch sponsored organization, the Baron de Hirsch Fund represented the Baron's belief the solution to Jewish suffering in Russia lay in emigration. The Fund's monies were expended not on encouraging emigration, however, but rather on supporting Jewish immigrants once they arrived in the United States and teaching them new trades and occupations. To that end, the Fund's Board of Directors, which included such prominent American Jews as Myer S. Isaacs, Jacob Schiff, and Oscar Straus, were given wide latitude in the selection of organizations and activities to support.

The Fund's activities can be divided into three broad areas: agriculture, trade, and general subsidies and grants. One of the Fund's major experiments in colonization was the creation in 1891 of the Woodbine Colony in southern New Jersey. The experiment never truly succeeded, however, as the land was poor for farming, the settlers were lacking in experience, and the site was too far from viable markets. Many of the settlers drifted into labor for manufacturers who were subsidized to operate in the settlement; even manufacturing was often a troubled enterprise though). The Fund provided large subsidies to start the colony but after many years of unsuccessful productivity, they began reducing aid in 1929. By the 1940s, the Baron de Hirsch Fund had left Woodbine.

Located near the Woodbine Colony was the Woodbine Agricultural School founded by the Fund in 1893. The school was never intended as a counterpart to existing agricultural schools or colleges. Rather, students were given both practical and theoretical classroom introductions to agriculture sufficient to enable students to acquire junior positions on existing farms. Any graduates who thereafter desired to purchase their own farm were given assistance by the Fund to do so. The school closed in 1917.

A third major agricultural project was the Jewish Agricultural Society (JAS). Established in 1900 as the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society (the name was changed in 1922), the JAS was originally founded by grants from the Baron de Hirsch Fund and the Jewish Colonization Association, although the Fund became its sole supporter in 1914. The JAS's major agricultural effort consisted of making loans to farmers and providing agricultural instruction on an extension basis. In addition to agricultural work, the JAS also did "industrial aid" work as the organization's original name stated. This referred to the mass relocation of immigrants from the crowded east coast cities to smaller towns across the country. Industrial aid was among the earliest projects undertaken by the Baron de Hirsch Fund, but the creation of the JAS allowed the Fund to shift those responsibilities to the Jewish Agricultural Society who in turn created the Industrial Removal Organization in 1901. From the 1940s until 1972, the JAS was practically the sole benefactor of the Fund. In 1972 the JAS was disbanded and its surviving projects were incorporated into the larger aegis of the Fund.

The Baron de Hirsch believed that anti-Semitism would be lessened if Jews could learn skilled trades and become successful in business. With this in mind, the Fund established New York City's Baron de Hirsch Trade School in 1895. Students received a short course of instruction lasting about six months during which time they were taught the basic skills necessary to become apprentices or entrepreneurs in their chosen crafts. The major fields of study were carpentry, machinery, plumbing, electrical work, and painting. The school became non-sectarian as of 1917 and in 1935 the Fund turned the school over to the city which had recently begun its own course of trade instruction.

The third major area of the Fund's work focused on various immigration aid activities largely through the financial support of several Jewish agencies. The Fund paid for agents to meet and assist Jewish immigrants at major ports of entry; subsidized English classes at the Educational Alliance (and at similar agencies in other major centers of Jewish population); undertook a program of scholarships for Jewish students planning on attending professional schools; subsidized dozens of American Jewish organizations whose work aided the Eastern European immigrant; and at the Baroness de Hirsch's suggestion, they experimented with model homes in New York City excluding the Lower East Side.

The Baron de Hirsch Fund was one of the most important Jewish philanthropic organizations in American history. At its peak it not only conducted its own honorable work, but assisted dozens of other Jewish philanthropies devoted to aiding Jewish immigrants in their adjustment to the United States. Through its many projects and experiments, the Fund was the changing force in the lives of thousands of Jewish immigrants and their descendants.

--Written by Seth Korelitz

Extent

109 Linear Feet (188 manuscript boxes; 9 16x20 boxes (OSI); 1 20x24 boxes (OS2); 3 map folders; 2 Xmap folders; 3 rolled documents)

Overview

The Baron de Hirsch Fund Records document the organization's involvement in the planning of agricultural communities across the United States and to some extent in South America; the founding and administrative dealings of agricultural and trade schools; the establishment of the Jewish Agricultural Society; and the business records of the Fund itself. In addition, the collection documents the protection offered to immigrants through port work, relief, temporary aid, promotion of suburban industrial enterprises and removal from urban centers through the Industrial Removal Office, land settlement, agricultural training, and trade and general education. In this respect, the collection is of major interest for Jewish genealogists as it documents a number of individual immigrants. In addition, the collection contains documentation on the administration and organization of the fund, documentation on Jewish farming colonies such as the Jewish Agricultural Society, Woodbine Colony and Agricultural School, and documentation on the Baron de Hirsch Trade School. In addition, the collection contains blueprints and photographs of facilities.

Other Finding Aids

A searchable database has been created of students who attended classes 7 through 66 at the Baron de Hirsch Trade School from 1897-1928. The information is taken directly from Pupil Record Books used for admission purposes to the school, found in boxes 154-162.

Provenance

The Baron de Hirsch Fund Records were received in several accessions from the Baron de Hirsch Fund and individuals associated with the Fund.

Microfilm Index

This collection is available on microfilm. A detailed list of microfilm reels is located here. The original documents are fragile; only the microfilm of the collection may be used to view the documents.

Related Material

Industrial Removal Office Records, I-91

Max Kohler Papers, P-7

Lucien Moss Collection, P-14

American Jewish Historical Society

Jewish Agricultural Society - Baron de Hirsch Fund, RG 651

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research


Zelda Rabinowitz Meranze Woodbine Collection

Philadelphia Jewish Archives
Title
Guide to the Records of the Baron de Hirsch Fund, undated, 1819-1991 I-80
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Seth Korelitz, July 1996, reprocessed by Michelle R. Sampson, October 1999
Date
© 2004
Language of description
English
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Edition statement
This version was derived from BaronFund.xml

Revision Statements

  • January 2006.: Entities removed from EAD finding aid.
  • 20130809: Added link to database

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States