August 13, 2004
100 YEARS AGO
• While Morris Epstein sat drinking a cup of coffee in a corner saloon, his six daughters sat crying in the family apartment above Epstein’s Pitt Street bakery. The six girls, sisters and half-sisters, all products of Epstein’s previous four wives, were terribly upset after hearing the news that their 71-year-old father had secretly married 18-year-old Rachel Goldberg, who currently can be found selling pies in the family bakery. And it’s not only Epstein’s daughters who are upset: All of Pitt Street is talking about the secret wedding. For his part, Epstein commented: “It’s no big deal. This is not the first time this has happened, but my fifth. They’ll get over it.”
75 YEARS AGO
• Police in Warsaw have arrested New Yorker Morris Baskin, who married 62 Jewish women over the past two years and brought them to America. Also arrested was Mendel Kastenberg, who posed as a rabbi and performed the marriage ceremonies. The police also took into custody a Polish girl by the name of Mariasha Mirski, who was the 62nd wife, and accused her of attempting to immigrate to America by illegal means. The police allege not only that a large number of women emigrated illegally, but also that Baskin made a hefty sum by marrying all of them.
• A small, simple soapbox currently occupies one of the most honored exhibits in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. This box, which worked as a kind of electric- sound transmitter, was given to the museum by a young Jewish immigrant and was used initially to help improve an invention, called the telephone, that had been created by Alexander Bell just a few years earlier. That young Jewish immigrant, Emile Berliner, who came to the United States from Germany in 1866 at the age of 15, would go on to invent the disc-phonograph in 1887. Berliner died this week at the age of 80.
50 YEARS AGO
• In light of last week’s pogrom in Morocco, the new government in neighboring Tunisia has announced that it will not permit anti-Jewish attacks after it receives its independence from France. Also, Jews will have the same rights as Arabs. Tunisia’s leader, Tahar ben Amar, has declared that the country’s 100,000 Jews have nothing to fear from Tunisian independence. Members of Amar’s Cabinet also have expressed appreciation that the country will be receiving its independence from France’s prime minister, Pierre Mendes-France, who happens to be a Jew.