June 5, 04:47 PM GMT
7,000 - 10,000 USD
AN IMPORTANT COLLECTION OF POSTCARDS FROM AMERICAN JEWISH HOTELS AND RESORTS, [UNITED STATES: EARLY TO MID-20TH CENTURY]
297 postcards (each approx. 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 in.; 90 x 140 mm) on paper; printed text in English, handwritten text mostly in English with a few each in German and Yiddish and one in Hebrew; most in color (artists' renderings of resort grounds), some printed in black and white (photographs of the resorts). Most in good condition, some with signs of wear at the corners or around the edges, fold lines, small tears, and stains. Housed in a tan SAFE brand 4-ring album tooled in blind on the upper board; remnants of tape glue on spine; each postcard in its own plastic sleeve; almost every plastic sheet separated by a protective divider.
La Kvelle Époque, pictured in miniature.
In the period between 1880 and 1924, over two million (mostly Eastern European) Jewish immigrants arrived in the United States, about half of them settling in New York City. Given the squalid living conditions on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the economic panic of 1907-1908, some decided (eventually with the aid of the Jewish Agricultural Society, founded in 1900) to move northward to Sullivan and Ulster Counties and there to adopt agrarian lifestyles. Realizing with time that it was more profitable to take in boarders than to try to scratch a living from the poor-quality Catskill Mountain soil, many of these farmers converted their properties into boardinghouses, bungalow colonies, and hotels catering to an increasingly upwardly-mobile, Americanizing Jewish clientele that, due to antisemitism, was not welcome to stay at some of the local Gentile-owned establishments. The years 1920 through about 1970 thus constituted the golden age of the “Jewish Alps,” when millions of Jews flocked to what came to be known as the Borscht Belt for weeks and even months at a time.
The present lot comprises a large assortment of picture postcards depicting the grounds and amenities available at resorts frequented by Jews not only in the Catskills but also in various vacation spots in Connecticut, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, other parts of New York, and even North Carolina. (One card portrays the New York, Ontario and Western Railway station in Fallsburg, NY, while another features a rendering of a Jewish campground in Mountain Dale, NY.) Among the better-known hotels represented here are the Concord, the Flagler, and Grossinger’s (the latter referred to by one Canadian author as “Disneyland with knishes”). Many of these cards advertise the sports facilities, leisure activities, and various forms of entertainment available to patrons, as well as the (strictly) kosher culinary offerings and holiday packages for Passover, Shavuot, and Rosh Hashanah. At times, they also bear handwritten messages to friends and relatives describing the weather, accommodations, and especially the food. “Eating is the main attraction,” writes one guest.
A list of the hotels represented in this collection is available upon request.
Phil Brown, Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat's Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998).
Oscar Israelowitz, Welcome Back to the Catskills (Brooklyn: Israelowitz Pub., 2002).
Stefan Kanfer, A Summer World: The Attempt to Build a Jewish Eden in the Catskills from the Days of the Ghetto to the Rise and Decline of the Borscht Belt (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989).
Irwin Richman, The Catskills in Vintage Postcards (Charleston: Arcadia, 1999).
Irwin Richman, Sullivan County: Borscht Belt (Charleston: Arcadia, 2001).
Irwin Richman, Catskill Hotels (Charleston: Arcadia, 2003).
Marisa Scheinfeld, The Borscht Belt: Revisiting the Remains of America's Jewish Vacationland (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2016).
Stephen M. Silverman and Raphael D. Silver, The Catskills: Its History and How It Changed America (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015).