A view of Lombard Street taken ca. 1963 shows a still thriving commercial district in what is now known as “Corned Beef Row.” (From the Gilbert Sandler book, “Jewish Baltimore: A Family Album,” The John Hopkins University Press, 2000)
In 1907, the kosher butchers of East Baltimore went on strike. The butchers wanted more money from the dealers that sold their meat. The dealers weren’t budging.
This strike was reported on in a March 31, 1907 Sun story, “Ghetto Sees a Truce in Kosher Butcher’s Strike.”
The tone of the article, which ran without a byline, veers between bemusement, awe and condescension — sometimes in the same sentence: “It is an undisputed fact, however, that the meat bought by a poor Jew in a kosher shop is very much superior in quality to that gotten at the same price in a different place by the impecunious gentile.”
Lombard Street looking east to Central Avenue, ca. 1939 (Baltimore Sun file photo)
The glimpses of East Baltimore Jewish life are tantalizing. The story notes that, “Between Exeter street and the bridge of East Baltimore street there are no less than seven (kosher restaurants). One of them keeps open all night.”
News about the strike, which occupies only the first four of 30 paragraphs, acts as a set-up for the main story, which is a general introduction to the Passover observance and kosher butchery. The article ran on the first day of Passover, which had begun the night before.
As for the butchers’ strike, there was a happy ending. On the eve of Passover, the warring parties arrived at a truce, and the butchers agreed to provide meat at the old prices, at least until the end of the festival. The accommodation was reached out of concern for the poorer members of the Jewish community, who, the story said, tended to be the most orthodox and observant.