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Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade in the East End, 1880-1910

Bryan Diamond

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade in the East End, 1880-1910* BRYAN DIAMOND My interest in the timber trade developed out of my research into my grand? father's business as a timber merchant in Bethnal Green from 1880, and that of his father who was a turner in Spitalfields from 1877. This Society's Transactions do not include references to timber or wood, although there was a reference to Jews in Wood Street (where wood was sold) in the City in the thirteenth century.1 There was in the nineteenth century extensive trade in timber from Lithuania to Germany, England and south Wales among other places; wood for pit props was much in demand in the coal mines in northeast England and south Wales, and some Litvaks emigrated on the timber ships to work there. Professor Schama has told how his great-grandfather in Lithuania, late in the nineteenth century, cut timber from great forests and floated it on rivers to sawmills in Grodno or Kovno, the lumber being sold to Russian railways or shipped from the Baltic for export usually by Jewish timber companies.2 Jews were well represented among Lithuanian timber merchants in the eight? eenth century and pioneered the use of waterways to transport their goods.3 For example, the Zionist leader David Wolffsohn was a prosperous timber merchant by 1896,4 following the example by i860 of his elder brother in Memel5 and, also in Memel, of the Schatz family (whose descendants include the well-known Shortts of Birmingham).6 The father of Sir Isaiah Berlin (born 1909) was a prosperous timber merchant in Riga. The Zionist leader Shmarya Levin describes how the Seldovich family were large timber merchants in southeast Lithuania who bought timber from Polish nobility and floated rafts to Odessa or Danzig.7 The scholar and anthropologist Joseph Jacobs gave in 1882 some figures for Jewish trades in some European cities, including significant numbers in wood? working in Vienna in 1869 and Bucharest in 1879.8 In 1905 Weiner said that joinery and turning, which needed physical strength but little capital, were among the eight main trades of Jews in Russia.9 The making of the cheaper type of furniture for working-class and middle-class homes, for sale in West End and provincial shops,10 developed in the now Ei * An earlier version of this paper was presented to the Society on 19 February 1998. 255</page><page sequence="2">Bryan Diamond postal district, including much of Stepney and the adjacent parts of Bethnal Green. By 1846 there were fifty-nine such premises and in 1859 there were eighty-nine and likewise in 1872.11 The 'small-master' system was boosted in the 1880s by Jewish immigrants; the Jewish labour pool thus strengthened the East End trade economically.12 In 1980 an industrial historian wrote that a high proportion of the names in the London directories in the furniture and timber trades from 1850 to 1950 were Jewish;13 but this view, as regards timber mer? chants, seems to need revision, as will be seen. Lipman describes how by 1888 there was a Hebrew Cabinet Makers Society,14 which had about 200 members in 188915 and which merged in 1893 with the Hebrew Branch of a cabinet? makers union. By about that time a London Jewish branch of a furniture trade union existed, whose secretary had to speak Yiddish.16 An independent Jewish union was also founded.17 However, immigrant Jews were not easily unionized and cabinet-making workers broke up into factions by 1896, when the Jewish unions made an agreement with the employers so as to assist the Jewish firms in competition with non-Jewish firms.18 During a major NUFTO strike at the Jewish firm of Isaac Griew's in 1909, strikers held funeral services in the even? ings outside blacklegs' houses.19 There is some evidence for the proportions of Jews in various trades in London in the period 1875 to 1902. Feldman gives figures from census returns for occupations or trades of Russian and Polish Jews in London (i.e. immigrants, mainly in East London), of which cabinet makers were 6 per cent of the gainfully occupied males in 1891, and this rose to 11 per cent in 1901.20 (For comparison, the figures for tailoring and dressmaking were very high, 42 per cent in both years, higher than the 25 per cent in tailoring estimated by Lipman's summary of trades of all London Jewish workers in 1880.)21 In 1850 a Jewish educational charity was apprenticing boys to a variety of trades, including turners, carvers, cabinet makers and chair makers, to form the beginnings of an industrial proletariat.22 Many Russian and Polish immigrants to England were helped by the Board of Guardians to become cabinet makers (the most popular trade for apprentices in 188323) since this provided a better livelihood than hawking goods at doorsteps. Cabinet making could be done at home, although often under wretched conditions. The report of the Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter in 1885 lists 539 inmates (all of them recent immigrants) only some of whom had specific occupations: 31 cabinet makers, 4 upholsterers, 2 carpenters, 6 turners (presumably wood turners), 1 wood cutter and 12 glaziers. The 42 in furniture trades represent 8 per cent of the total.24 The Board of Guardians, the main Jewish relief organiza? tion, reported that applicants for relief included 54 woodworkers in 1882, 160 in 1892, 163 in 1902 and 132 in 1912. Lipman, in his history of the Board, concluded that 'Jewish workers were not to any great extent engaged in the furniture trade until 1890 or 1900; the entry of Jews into this trade was not 256</page><page sequence="3">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade entirely the result of immigration, though it was to some extent responsible, since at the 1901 census some 10 per cent of the gainfully employed Russians and Poles Jews were in this trade';25 since the figures for relief relate only to those in financial trouble, I do not find this conclusion convincing. Elsewhere Lipman mentions figures for about 1880 gathered by Joseph Jacobs in 1891 from statistics for London from several sources, which describe 11.5 per cent of upper- and middle-class Jews being in furniture trades, while for the lower-income and working-class the tailoring, boot-making and furniture trades were prominent, but not as much as in the East End after 1882; cabinet makers and carpenters apparently totalled about 3 per cent, furniture making being better paid than bootmaking, the poorest-paid trade.26 The details of the upper and middle-class occupations of those with apparently Jewish names in Kelly's London Directory include, as quoted by Jacobs from a total of 2170 identified as Jews,27 14 cabinet makers out of roughly 700, 12 carvers and gilders of 250, 14 upholsterers of 600 and 60 'furniture brokers' (who did not hold stocks of goods28) of 600. These proportions average under 5 per cent, so it is unclear how Lipman got his 11.5 per cent, even taking furniture brokers alone. To my surprise, Jacobs does not mention turners as a trade having 10 Jewish names, or over 2 per cent of the total (although my Diamond ancestors were then so listed, but he presumably did not recognize them as Jewish or else included them with the carvers); nor did he mention timber merchants. I shall say more of this. For the lower classes Jacobs looks at the report of the Board of Guardians for 1879-82. This data, which relates to the financially poorest - so I believe would not include timber merchants - includes out of 1528 average per year only 21 cabinet makers and 12 carpenters, altogether just 2 per cent. More representative proportions may be derived from his other data: members of a Jewish Working Men's Club in 1875 totalled 1459, including 2 per cent (29) cabinet-makers, 0.4 per cent (6) carvers, 0.2 per cent (3) carpenters and 1 per cent (15) furniture brokers, with gilders totalling about 4 per cent. The Lads' Institute, presumably in 1882, had 347 members of whom those from the furniture trades, including upholsterers and a single turner, totalled 9.5 per cent. I summarize these various figures in Table 1 overleaf. The 1894 Parliamentary Report on alien immigration gave occupations of Russian and Polish East Enders from the 1891 census, and included in the category of cabinet makers and woodworkers, 117 in Bethnal Green and 437 in Whitechapel.29 There was no mention of timber merchants, who were presum? ably included under 'retailers' or 'miscellaneous'. In 1888 John Maple, MP for Dulwich and a partner in Maple &amp; Co, gave evidence to the select committee on the Sweating System, and said that 'very few foreign Jews were employed in the Curtain Road and Bethnal Green furniture making trade, from what I hear';30 this seems a surprising statement and one wonders if he was closely in touch with the workshops. In 1890 the author Arnold White spoke of the pauper 257</page><page sequence="4">Bryan Diamond Table i Source Date of sample Number of Jews Woodworkers No. (Per cent) Poor Jews' Temporary Shelter Board of Guardians 1885 1882 1892 1902 1912 Lipman (1959) 1901 census 539 1588 2834 2824 1899 gainfully employed Russians and Poles c. 42 (8) 54 (?) 160 (6) 163 (6) 132 (7) Furniture Trade (70) Feldman Feldman 1891 census gainfully employed (6) Russians and Poles 1901 census gainfully employed (//) Russians and Poles Jacobs Board of Guardians 1883 Trade Directory Lipman (1954) from Jacobs 1879-82 2170 from trades with &gt;=io Jews 1528 per annum 100 (4.6) in furniture trades upper- and (n-5) middle-class Jews 33 per annum {2) Jewish Working Men's Club Jewish Lads' Institute 1875 1882 1459 347 53 (4) 33 (10) Jewish immigrants coming into the sweated Curtain Road cabinet making trade; especially in Bethnal Green there were many foreigners.31 The 1889 report on the effects of foreign immigration, which concentrated on tailoring, contained a few interviews with furniture workers, and again there was no mention of timber except unloading at the dockside.32 The 1903 Alien Immigration Report includes a comment by the Rector of Spitalfields that although aliens tended to respect the English customs, a great load of timber was recently dumped on a Sunday by a foreign Jew opposite his church; but that another Jew spoke to him about this and the wood was removed; there is no information about the timber trades.33 258</page><page sequence="5">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade Table 2 Shoreditch Bethnal Green Whitechapel St George's in the East Furniture and woodworking Building work 13.2 6.9 14.6 44 0.9 9.9 2.4 0.8 94 General Dealers Dressmaking 0.7 7-9 For another view of East End occupations, Booth provides figures, abstracted from his 1886 survey, as percentages of the population, from which four lines for some of the parishes are abstracted in Table 2.34 One notes the considerable proportion, 13-14 per cent, in the wood-working trades in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green in contrast to the 2-3 per cent in other East End areas. An analysis of the 1891 census data by Llewellyn Smith gives 6 per cent of the Russians and Poles in East London as in cabinet making, rising to 11 per cent by 1901.35 Booth has other data from the 1861, 1881 and 1891 censuses as well as his own survey in 1887 showing 7.26 per cent of heads of families in 'Furniture, woodwork, etc.'36 From this variety of data I conclude that in 1880-91, around 10 per cent of East End Jews were in the wood-working trades, although probably a lower proportion of the poorer ones, compared with about 14 per cent of the total employed population in Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. Much has been written about the East End, including by Mayhew in 1851, Booth (who has considerable material on Jews) in the 1890s, and more recent books by Fishman, Lipman and the East End Conference papers. From these we can see that the southern parish of St George's in the East near the docks (where my grandmother Jane lived until her marriage) was a poor, rough district of ordinary labour. By contrast, Bethnal Green, where my Diamond forbears lived and worked, was a more respectable and hard-working area.37 By 1840 there were numerous silk-weaving looms in Bethnal Green, but the weaving industry collapsed in i860 when the import of French silk was allowed, and this led to the rise of new industries based on the home and small workshop, includ? ing furniture.38 In 1889 Booth found almost 45 per cent of the population there living in 'rough English poverty', the highest proportion in London, although he said they were hard working. The area known as the Old Jago, around Old Nichol Street, was a den of crime until it was pulled down in the 1890s. The map entitled 'Jewish East London' shows the proportion of Jews in the total population in the East End in 1899, and shows them as less than 50 per cent in Bethnal Green, compared to over 50 per cent in much of Whitechapel to the south.39 259</page><page sequence="6">Bryan Diamond Geography of the wood-working trades In Bethnal Green and adjacent Shoreditch there was much manufacturing of the cheaper type of furniture for sale to working- and middle-class buyers.40 A map in Oliver's book plots the distribution of furniture workshops throughout London in 1872 (just after my grandfather Isaac came to London from Poland to work here as a turner) and shows the high density of over 10 workshops per 4 acres in the Curtain Road area of Shoreditch. In that particular concentration in Curtain Road, residences were then being turned over to furniture making, including cabinet making, chair making (dependent for components on the turn? ery trade) and upholstery.41 More detailed maps by Hall (compiled, like that of Oliver, from trade directory entries) for the London area, and in greater detail for the East End in 1861 and 1901, show the different types of furniture-trade premises and saw mills, such as on Curtain Road and Bethnal Green Road; timber mer? chants are not marked, but were present in this area to serve these trades.42 Turners are shown, for instance, on Batemans Row (where my great? grandfather worked from 1880) and nearby. The later map shows that by 1901 the main furniture-making area had spread around Curtain Road and eastwards into Bethnal Green where there had not been much in 1861 (and where my grandfather Isaac commenced his trade as turner and then timber merchant).43 The workshops were mainly small,44 especially in Bethnal Green, and employed, as Aves and Booth found, 4-25 men, or more typically 4-8. The trade was highly specialized and subject to seasonal demand. Oliver wrote that a high proportion of the East End cabinet makers were Jewish and mot fluent in English', and were therefore selling their goods through wholesalers; immigrants with wood-working skills could easily set up in business.45 In 1888 Booth estimated the number of Jews in the East End furniture trade as mot large', at between 350 and 1000 and as increasing.46 Kirkham gives an account of Jewish furniture making,47 and Massil48 provides details of several leading firms founded by immigrants. Jewish immigrants from the Baltic brought techniques for producing plywood furniture.49 Timber merchants were present especially between Bethnal Green and the Regents Park Canal (opened in 1820), less than a mile to the north of Bethnal Green Road; the canal was a convenient transport route from the docks for timber imported as logs. The trade was divided into importers who bought from abroad, and merchants who specialized usually in softwood, hardwood or, lat? terly, plywood. The timber yards and sawmills mainly supplied, says Kirkham, a small number of so called 'trade working masters' who worked to make furni? ture as subcontractors to larger firms.50 The smaller firms would supply very small amounts of timber to the East End cabinet makers.51 A Jewish cabinet maker's memoirs tells of his workshop in Rivington Street, Shoreditch, in 1922 260</page><page sequence="7">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade where timber logs were delivered about once a month, carried in through the first-floor window and carried up to be stored in the attic.52 In 1930 the trade sawmills, on which most small firms depended, sent a man with a barrow at least once a day to collect timber to be sawn ready to be fabricated; this system had, I suppose, been in place for years. I have found few details of the firms of timber merchants. Mallinson's were founded in 1877, had from 1885 a substantial warehouse in Curtain Road, were principally merchants of veneers such as mahogany, birch and walnut and also pioneered plywood production.53 By 1907 they had seven addresses in the East End. The history of their firm contains pictures of their large veneer saws, presumably typical of those used at the turn of the century.54 A prominent firm was that of Montague Meyer, who started his career in the firm of Louis Bam? berger (see below) for ten years and who in 1914 was appointed Timber Buyer for every government department.55 Massil mentions a few other merchants, and says that these and other suppliers to the furniture trade were mainly Jewish. The Jewish ones were North Eastern Timber Co., L. Lambert, Twitchett, Balti? more Lumber Co., Griew Bros, Richenberg, Tosh &amp; Co. and the Goodmans.56 One of Charles Booth's interviews for his survey in 1888 was with Moss &amp; Co.'s sawmills in Hoxton Street (just south of the canal), run by a brother of Saul Moss, a cabinet warehouseman; the brothers were presumably Jewish.57 There is a detailed account of the sawmill, with twelve vertical and five circular saws; timber was supplied to smaller timber yards and upstairs rooms and power were rented to turners and polishers. I have mentioned a historian's statement that in the trade directory listings of timber merchants from 1850 to 1950 a high proportion of the names in east and north London were 'obviously Jewish'. However, I have looked at the lists of timber merchants in a business directory of 1878 and the Post Office London directories for 1881, 1883 and 1901, and among the over 300 names in each year there were numerous foreign ones that seemed to be Scandinavian or German, but few that I recognize as Jewish. I noted for 1901, for instance, Louis Bamberger at Fenchurch Street (forerunner of the public company Bambergers), Benjamin Goodman at 6 Bethnal Green Road (near my grandfather's premises), Goldman &amp; Jay in Old Broad Street, Arthur Levy and Herbert Levy both of EC, F. Mayer &amp; Co. of Camden Town, Moss &amp; Co. of Bishopsgate, Wm Moss of Leadenhall Street, Woolf Peshin of 162 Bethnal Green Road, Isaac Retchowitch of Curtain Road, Lazarus Kaiman in Whitechapel, Lazarus Goldman with three premises, the possibly Jewish Thos Gabriel &amp; Sons of Lambeth, and my grandfather, Isaac Diamond. But these few do not justify the statement and there seem to be even fewer Jewish names in 1878 and 1881. Some were prominent, however. Louis Bamberger was President of the Timber Trade Federation in 1916-19 and he published his memoirs of sixty years in the timber trade (from 1874) in which he mentions many other leading firms.58 Other Jewish timber merchants who established public compan 261</page><page sequence="8">Bryan Diamond ies include the firm of Hahns, founded in 1888 by a Czech family; Stern which began in Mark Lane in the City of London and moved to the Victoria Docks; Montagu Meyer; and Glikstens. Massil also mentions the Griew Bros, Richenberg, Tosh &amp; Co. and the Goodman family. In about 1880 Jacob Gliksten, a small furniture manufacturer, started in busi? ness in Tottenham Court Road. When his eldest son Reuben joined him they became suppliers of timber rather than fabricators and soon, as timber mer? chants, they moved to a wharf in Kingsland Road, Dalston. The 1901 directory shows the company as J. Gliksten &amp; Sons at 4-10 Kingsland Green, Dalston. The firm made steady progress: Reuben was able to live in Park Lane and his sons entered the firm which then moved to Stratford East and in 1946 became a public company.59 On a far smaller scale my family made a similar progression from timber user to supplier. Other items of interest survive in manuscript notes of interviewers working in 1888 for Booth, whose list of furniture firms includes turners and saw mills.60 A veneer sawyer of Bethnal Green, evidently a Gentile, told of 'wages falling in the last 3-4 years because of the great number of German and Jewish employees and the practice of importing veneer ready cut from abroad'; there were now no more than twenty veneer sawyers in London: Jewish employers worked their men for very long hours and at very low rates of pay; Jewish workmen did not work for English employers. 'Jews do not do any good but have to live somehow'.61 A turner in Chilton Street, Bethnal Green, who worked for two foreign Jews, said wages were falling, trade was almost all in the hands of Jews so he had to work for them. Many Jewish carvers came to England without a penny and he wanted to turn all Jews out of England.62 A warehouse porter employed by Gliksten said he had two dozen men, mainly Jews and foreigners, who worked on Sundays, but not on Saturdays, when they came in to be paid.63 Timber merchants and turners How did the timber merchant operate? A merchant needed capital to cover his stock of timber, and his skill lay in stocking what his customers would soon purchase from him. Booth's survey in 1889, on the so-called poverty trades, has useful information about the business in East London.64 Small furniture makers worked with little capital, buying timber in the form of planks for one week's work from a nearby merchant who often gave a week's credit, sometimes a month's. Larger timber merchants bought from the docks and supplied the larger furniture manufacturers and the smaller merchants (I have evidence of my grandfather having stock at the docks), while smaller merchants supplied only small manufacturers. Thus the merchant provided finance for undercapital? ized workshops, or as Feldman has noted 'workshops depending on more highly 262</page><page sequence="9">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade capitalized units in the same neighbourhood.65 They often cut up wood for their customers, or this was done by a sawyer who rented space in a sawmill. Timber was imported from America, Russia (including Lithuania), Canada or Sweden. In London the main timber wharves were in Lambeth. Plywood came from Russia. A turner made turned wooden items, some as small as ladies' embroidery spindles, furniture parts (such as chair legs and crosspieces), curtain rods and rings or the fat supports for shaving mirrors,66 and some as large as the headpiece of a church spire.67 He did this by rotating between a pair of spindles in a lathe a piece of wood while shaping it, first roughly with a gouge supported on a T-rest and then finishing with a chisel or scraper as it turned. In 1888 it took 8-9 minutes to make a chair leg, which sold for 35 pence. Turners also formed flutings in table and chair legs.68 Lathes were at first driven by a foot treadle, then powered by a belt from an overhead pulley driven by a gas engine, or, as early as the 1830s, by the steam power of a sawmill.69 Bethnal Green mills would rent out benches and power to turners and this is where most of them worked; in the largest mills as many as thirty were employed.70 The Geffrye Museum in East London has at least two wood turners' treadle lathes, probably from the turn of the century. Pictures of more elaborate ones (power driven) are shown in advertisements in the Timber Trades Journal (one of which shows also turnery pieces for chairs) and in trade catalogues such as Ransome's in 1891, which prices the simpler ones at from ?27 to ?50 according to the length of the bed. In the 1883 directory, under 'Turners', are 170 names, few of them obviously Jewish, such as Philip Barnett, Joseph Davida, Solomon Goldberg, Solomon Moses and Joseph Vogt. Massil's father came to Britain in 1905 and set up as a wood turner in Shoreditch. His book71 mentions four other Jewish turners. Another of the timber trades was that of the case and pallet makers, of which the directories show a hundred or more in the 1880s. There was a Joseph Levy in Fleet Street in 1870 and a Moss in Whitechapel Road in 1862, but I do not see a high proportion of Jewish names. The firm of E. Abrahams was in Bunhill Row in 1900, in Whitecross Street in 1901, and its successor, I. Abrahams, is still in business in Bow.72 A similar trade was the trunk and packing-case makers. The Diamonds in turnery and timber My great-grandfather, Zyman Diamond, stated that he was born in Warsaw. It can be calculated that he was married by i860 when aged eighteen, and arrived in England between 1861 and 1868 among the 12,000 Russian and Polish Jews who are estimated to have arrived in 1860-82, before the great wave of immigra? tion.73 His young son Isaac arrived with him, and a daughter Sarah was born in London, I was told, in 1870-5. Zyman's first known address in London is in 1877 when he was aged thirty-five, when he is designated as one of the 250 263</page><page sequence="10">Bryan Diamond wood turners in the trade directory, at 5 Club Row (later renumbered as no. 6), off Bethnal Green Road. Some very modest two-storey houses which survive opposite may have been standing in his time. This was not far from Curtain Road, a centre of the furniture-making industry (see above). I assume that Zyman had been a turner or something similar in Poland, but I have no con? firmation of this. It was unusual in those days for a workman to change trades, however.74 At his death, Zyman's granddaughter described him as formerly a 'wood turner at saw mills', which indicates how he worked for at least part of his career. Zyman had several later business premises which are shown on the map (Plate 2). In 1880-1 he was in Bateman's Row, a small house, measuring 16 by 28 ft, near Shoreditch High Street, a main thoroughfare.751 was told he then went to South Africa for two years where diamonds had been found in 1870, leaving his business in the charge of a manager. In 1883-93 his shop and residence were at 26 Holy well Lane, and in 1892 the Timber Trades Directory lists a Zaccariah Diamond, presumably Zyman, at 55 Curtain Road (a furniture maker was nearby at 51). From 1893 until 1902 his shop was listed at 9 Holy well Lane, a narrow house measuring 18 by 60 feet without a yard. These places, all within a small area, were where he spent his working life. A photograph of Shoreditch High Street in 1869, with horse-drawn trams and stalls on the pavement,76 is taken from near Holywell Lane and shows the narrow entrance to Batemans Row where Zyman lived. In 1880 he was designated in the trade directory as one of only seven 'cabinet turners', which means he supplied turnery to cabinet makers. In 1881 he is listed as a 'wood carver', which was the most skilled wood-working craft; but in his 1896 naturalization petition, when he was fifty-three, and in all other entries, he is a 'wood turner'. In 1902, aged sixty, he retired and went to live with his son Isaac, who arranged for Zyman to have a furniture shop for two years. After Zyman's death as a widower in 1921 there is no probate record for his estate. Zyman's daughter Sarah married a cabinet maker named Morris Ruben, who had been born in 1864 in Vilna, and who came to Britain when he was three, the eldest of fourteen children. His father was also a cabinet maker. At their marriage, Morris lived in Sclater Street, Shoreditch, just off Brick Lane. I was told that Morris met Sarah in an ironmongery shop which supplied cabinet makers, run by Isaac's wife Jane in Brick Lane. The marriage in 1892 was at the Great Synagogue, Duke's Place. Morris set up in business, with some help from his father- and brother-in-law, and started selling to Maples, specializing in bedroom suites, and soon became successful.77 They eventually employed in Scrutton Street, off Curtain Road, over 150 workers, and had showrooms nearby in Luke Street. In 1904-5 his firm was involved in a strike by the United French Polishers Society who protested against his use of cheap boy labour, which had been a problem in the industry for over a decade. 264</page><page sequence="11"></page><page sequence="12">Bryan Diamond 266</page><page sequence="13">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade Zyman's son Isaac, my grandfather, married aged twenty-three in 1881, also at the Great Synagogue, and started as a turner in a narrow three-storey house at 87 Redchurch Street (now Church Street), very near his father. He also res? ided there until 1885. In 1903 he said that he had begun as a turner with a capital of ?20.78 A skilled cabinet maker's income was just under ?2 a week and a young turner's wage would be similar, so his father presumably contributed to this. He also said that he began in Bacon Street, where he later had a timber business, but of this address as a turner I have no other evidence. Kelly's busi? ness directory lists him as a wood carver in 1882-4. He continued to have busi? ness entries as a turner until 1901, and in the 1891 census he is described as a wood turner. His timber-merchant advertisements say that he also supplied turnery. Four years after he had started in business, in 1885, Isaac moved his residence and business to a larger house, at 139 Bethnal Green Road, on the north side, a three-story house with attic and rear yard, on a plot measuring 18 by 60 ft. The house is extant and the street is much as it appears in a photo in 1905, then with market stalls.79 The house was half a mile from the German synagogue in Spital Square, of which he was then a member. He obtained naturalization in 1886 at the young age, as he then stated it, of twenty-five, taking advantage of the reduction in the fee that year. Isaac said in 1903 that he began as a timber merchant with a capital of ?200, a more substantial sum than for his turnery trade, although he said he started at 39 Church Road which I suspect he incor? rectly recalled. He had an address as timber merchant there from 1885 until 1903. In 1890 he gave his occupation as 'ironmonger', in informing of an infant death. Perhaps this referred to Jane's shop. The premises backed onto a sawmill which may have been one of his suppliers, although he later had several. This block had 50-75 per cent Jews in 1899, but this was exceptionally high for the area. Number 139 was designated as shop, house and workshop in the Inland Revenue 1910 survey, and the rent was then ?80 per annum. From 1890 until 1894 he also had an address as a timber merchant at 69 Bacon Street, a house measuring 13 by 40 feet, with no yard, situated between Chilton Street and Kerbela Street (which has been extensively redeveloped). There was another merchant at number 76, and a saw mill at number 36. This property remained in the leasehold ownership of Isaac's wife Jane at her death in 1928. The 1891 census return shows a wood turner and family in residence in two rooms there, so evidently Isaac did not use it all. From 1895 until 1903 he also traded at 167 Bethnal Green Road, a little further east, next to Gibraltar Walk (convenient for thieves to escape after snatching a watch in the main road,80 and where Harry Blacker lived 1910-1935, as he described in his memoirs).81 In 1903 Isaac said that he traded at number 161 from 1891, where he purchased the stock of a timber merchant for ?200, but there is no directory entry. He paid taxes on numbers 161 and 163 in 1891, which he perhaps leased for possible future use. The building at number 167 is 267</page><page sequence="14">Bryan Diamond not shown on the 1894 or I9?7 Ordnance Survey maps, so I suppose it was a temporary structure; later a vicarage was built on this plot. In February 1902 Isaac left this address and sold his stock. Isaac had further premises at 248 Brick Lane by 1896 and at 250 Brick Lane by 1901 (on the east side, near Princes Court, which is now Padbury Court in a new development). He styled these yards the Anglo-American Timber Yard. The lease of number 248 was purchased for ?75. Both this and the 139 Bethnal Green Road address appear in his Journal advertisements from 1889 to his bank? ruptcy in 1903. By 1897 Isaac had a telephone number, then still rare in that area. The service had begun in 1880, and in 1897 Glikstens had a line and Mallinsons had three. Isaac had an entry as cabinet ironmonger at number 250 Brick Lane in 1903, although this is said to have been run by Jane (perhaps from 1890, see above). In 1906 the directory entry was for the New York Lumber Co., while the 1910 survey designates these premises respectively as timber yard and house and shop. How he used these various premises is not known, but perhaps some had sawing equipment and others only stocks of sawn timber. My father remembered 167 Bethnal Green Road as having an office, a variety of timber, but no machinery.82 The maps do not show a large yard at any of them. The Timber Trades Directory of 1896, and that of 1901, list Isaac only as timber merchant, not, for instance, as a timber importer, dealer or sawmill pro? prietor. His adverts in the Journal are as a timber and veneer merchant under the heading 'London Mahogany &amp; Hardwood Merchants', indicating that he was in the hardwood trade. His adverts describe his premises, first in 69 and 71 Bacon Street and then at Brick Lane and Bethnal Green Road as 'Steam Mills and Turnery Works'. His stock was of pine planks, mahogany, walnut, birch, beech, oak and especially American satin walnut, and every description of turn? ery. It included squares in all woods, which would have been sold as material for turning, while the pine was for the bottoms of drawers and the backs of cabinets.83 His yards were, I believe, typical of the many small ones in the area that served the local (mainly Jewish) small furniture makers; although some smaller timber merchants operated without any storage of sawn timber. Louis Bam? berger wrote deprecatingly, with reference to the beginning of this century: 'For years there had been established in the East End numerous so-called timber yards, the custom was to take a shop, remove the front, and by including a small yard at the back of the house to turn the premises into a "timber yard" '; this seems aptly to describe some of Isaac's premises.84 By 1890 some yards were coming together to make larger chains. Transport from the docks would be by horse and cart. Mahogany from Africa or America was imported as logs and auctioned at the dockside, then sawn. Other hardwood came from the USA or Canada. Premises known as 'Trade Mills' would shape pieces for furniture, and although Isaac turned pieces, he might need large pieces, such as large globes 268</page><page sequence="15">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade for bases, to be turned elsewhere.85 Prices in 1895 were low: mahogany planks cost 6 pence per superficial foot, walnut from 5d, oak from 4d, satin walnut 4^d, American white wood (a hardwood) 2^d. In the 1880s a walnut dining suite of fifteen items cost under ?7; a skilled worker then earned ?1 18s per week. Isaac's experience in handling timber as a turner or carver would have been useful to him when he became a timber merchant from 1890. I have seen no other merchants advertising in the Timber Trades Journal during this period, when he also offered turnery, but Cobbett and Co., one of Isaac's creditors in his bankruptcy, advertised in a 1903 directory similar woods to Isaac and 'turnery of every description', which suggests that Isaac bought in at least some of his turn? ery items. Moreover in 1906 some timber merchants produced chair legs and rails.86 Neither Isaac nor the Anglo-American Company were members of the Timber Trades Federation, which was founded in 1893 to fight the railways over freight charges, and to which the larger merchants all belonged. There is only one photograph extant of any of Isaac's timber premises (it shows Isaac's eldest son); there is a published photo of a rather similar looking firm, that of A. Barmaper, c. 1920,87 and one of the frontage of 'Barnett's turning, saw mills etc' (a trade mill) premises at 96 Curtain Road in 1910.88 In April 1903 Isaac sold most of his stock to a company styled the New York Lumber Company Ltd, which had been registered in April 1903, the company paying ?143 for Isaac's stock at his own valuation, which seems a low figure. Jane was the main shareholder, paying ?314 for her shares. The directors included Zyman and at first Jane, who was replaced in 1905 by a daughter Miriam who was also the company secretary. In 1904 Jane was manager. This transaction indicates that by early 1903 Isaac realized he was in difficulty. In May 1907 Isaac had been discharged from bankruptcy (and was about to move to Southend), and in July 1907 the company was wound up, having served its purpose of allowing the business to continue during the bankruptcy.89 Bankruptcy in 1903-7 Isaac's last trade advert was as late as 26 September 1903.. The initial private meetings and the later official hearings were reported at length in the trade journal, giving more detail than the brief formal statements in the official London Gazette. The Timber Trades Journal reported a first private meeting of Isaac's creditors on 1 October 1903 to try to avoid bankruptcy: he owed the considerable amount of ?6555, and his assets were only ?1475, including ?480 stock at Brick Lane, ?236 at docks, ?32 at sawmills, ?80 machinery at Brick Lane and ?720 debtors.90 This shows that he was buying at the dockside and that his sawing and turning plant was of modest size. His creditors were, as I have found from their adverts, in the timber trade and included importers, sawyers and a machinery manufacturer. Among these were at least a dozen timber merchants, 269</page><page sequence="16">Bryan Diamond including well-known firms such as Bambergers (mentioned above), each owed between ?11 and ?1100. It seems curious that he dealt with so many, and one may wonder if they each supplied different stock, or if Isaac used them as mul? tiple sources of credit. Isaac's solicitor said that losses had occurred through trade failures, necessitating sales at low prices and bad debts. Isaac said he had been taking ?ioa week from the business and recently ?15 (equivalent to ?780 per annum) which included ?2 for business expenses. Only in the last week had he found he could not meet his obligations. There were questions about whether he had bought property in his wife's name, but his solicitor said that Mrs Dia? mond, who did not want her affairs made public, was not a partner. She helped Isaac, but had not received a farthing. Isaac said he did not know what private property she owned (both statements seem incredible, as it seems unlikely that Jane's father, a modest shopkeeper, could have given her much from which to buy the numerous properties which came into her ownership). The meeting was adjourned for five days to see if Isaac and his friends could guarantee paying 50 per cent (10s) of the debts, but this did not happen; he offered 7s 6d and then 8s 6d, but these were refused. A receiving order was made against Isaac (also trading as the Anglo-American Timber Yard) in November, and again there is a useful Journal report of the meeting of creditors. Isaac's statement that he was not connected with the lim? ited company set up in April was accepted, although his family's involvement was known. The order was also briefly reported in The Cabinet Maker, so that his customers were also informed. The deficit was then ?4098. The reasons for the failure were stated to be bad trade, bad debts and accidents to employees. The losses included estimates for forced sales of stock, machinery and fixtures of ?233, ?157 and ?650, robberies and embezzlement ?500, betting losses of about ?150 over three years, and a ?210 gift to a son (presumably his eldest, then aged 20) 'on his departure to South Africa in January 1903' (but I have found no evidence that this trip took place). Isaac consented to adjudication, and a public examination was fixed for 21 January 1904. Isaac paid dividends to his creditors of 25 per cent in March 1904 and a further 25 per cent in September 1904. In November 1903 he was refused an immediate discharge from bankruptcy on various grounds,91 including failure to keep adequate books of account, contribution to bankruptcy by extravagant living, preference given to two of his creditors, and trading while insolvent for at least a year within three months before the receiving order. There was a High Court hearing in July 1904 regarding this preference to his creditors, one of them being his sister Mrs Ruben, who was owed ?450 and the other a subscriber to the limited company. Both were repaid in September, when he must have known he was in difficulty. The judge ordered ?600 to be repaid to the trustee. His daughter Miriam (then a tailor) was the liquidator, and a loan 270</page><page sequence="17">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade of ?790 was repaid to Jane. Isaac was able to provide a wedding for Miriam in June 1906 at Stoke Newington synagogue with a stylish reception at the Portman Rooms, Wi. The 'New York Lumber Company' continued at 161 Bethnal Green Road (which seems to be adjacent to number 167) until 1913; subsequently the Balti? more Lumber Co. was at numbers 161-7. Isaac presumably sold his business to Abraham Goldman who ran the Baltimore Co. until 1948. The New York Lumber Company has an entry in the Timber Trade Directory in 1914 at 22 Chilton Street (in a plot measuring 18 by 28 feet), but this is not in the trade directory. The ironmongery shop is said to have survived into the 1940s. During his residence in Bethnal Green and Dalston, Isaac, and probably Jane, acquired, presumably with profits from their businesses, considerable house property both there and in neighbouring Islington. Rent collection and other management of this property was done by the eldest son, my father, who called it 'working-class housing' and said the investments were very remunerative. Shortage of housing in the East End allowed high rents to be charged. Some of Isaac's properties were rows of poor houses, condemned as slums in 1945, but others still standing in Dalston are substantial villas. On Jane's death some houses were left to each of the surviving children. Zangwill in 1899 commented that among middle-class Jews in Dalston, buying houses was 'a favourite form of investment',92 as my grandparents illustrate. Something of these purchases had become suspected by Isaac's creditors in 1903, as remarked above. After the discharge from bankruptcy in 1907, Isaac was aged forty-eight. He had been ill, as he told the bankruptcy hearing, and I suspect he did not trade actively thereafter, although he retained trading entries in the directories until at least 1913. His eldest son, and probably his wife, continued to help in the business. Nevertheless, Isaac managed to move from a comfortable villa in Graham Road, Dalston, where he had gone with his six surviving children in 1895, and had been followed by his sister and her Rubens family soon after to a villa two doors away, to the even more salubrious area of Westcliff on Sea in Essex in 1908. Dalston had been well served by railway and horse tram to the City and Shoreditch, and Westcliff was served by trains to London, so Isaac could have continued to attend his business while he wished. He had been a member of the Stoke Newington synagogue in Dalston; and in Westcliff he was soon Chairman of the Building Committee of the synagogue opened in Alexandra Road in 1912. His knowledge of timber, and presumably of other building materials, must have been useful. He was also a member of the Finance Committee, so his bankruptcy and losses by gambling were evidently no bar to communal office. Isaac had his children educated in private schools, and the later ones in boarding schools. He died in 1922 following a stroke, left no will, but had an estate worth ?1220, so must have passed on most of his property 271</page><page sequence="18">Plate 3 Isaac Diamond, aged about fifty-eight. 272</page><page sequence="19">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade ' " " # ? kr/ff/'" ? ^ |j ' ^^^^ ' ''''''^ Plate 4 Jane Diamond, aged about fifty-nine. 273</page><page sequence="20">Bryan Diamond to his wife Jane. On her death in 1928 she left ?8420. His business must there? fore have generated reasonable profits, despite his bankruptcy; his investments in house property will also have generated income. My ancestors illustrate a well-known progression among nineteenth-century immigrants, from poverty to prosperity, and I have been fortunate in being able to find out some details of how they lived and worked in the timber trade in East London, a business in which Jewish activity is little known.93 NOTES 1 Joe Hillaby, 'London: the 13th-century Jewry revisited', Trans jfHSE XXXII (1993) 91. 2 S. Schama, Landscape and Memory (London 1996) 17. 3 M. Greenbaum, Lithuanian Jewish Communities: A History (Jerusalem 1995) 67. 4 Ibid. 42. 5 Emil B. Cohn, David Wolffsohn, HerzTs Successor (New York 1944) 3. 6 Personal communication from the late Mrs Thea Shortt. 7 Shmarya Levin, Forward from Exile: The Autobiography of Shmarya Levin, trans, and ed. by M. Samuel (Philadelphia 1967) 19. 8 J. Jacobs, Studies in Jewish Statistics (London 1891). 9 D. Englander, Documentary History of Jewish Immigrants in Britain, 1840-1Q20 (1994) 10 P. G. Hall, The Industries of London (London 1962) chapter 5. 11 J. D. Oliver, The Development and Structure of the Furniture Industry (London 1966) 36. 12 Aves in Booth's Survey (1888), quoted by Hall (see n. 10) 89. 13 K. Hudson, Where we Used to Work (London 1958) 26. 14 V. D. Lipman, Social History of the Jews in England, 1850-^54 (London 1954) 117. 15 Charles Booth, Life and Labour of the People in London 4 (London 1902-3, First Series, Vol. 4) 217. 16 Oliver (see n. 11) 167. 17 C. Russell and H. S. Lewis, The Jew in London (London 1900) 84; quoted by Englander (see n. 9) 147. 18 Eugene C. Black, The Social Politics of Anglo-Jewry, 1880-1g20 (London 1988) 202 10. 19 Sid Fineman, Secretary of a branch of the National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives, quoted in R. A. Leeson, Strike: A Live History, 1887-igji (London 1973). 20 David Feldman, Englishmen and Jews, Social Relations and Political Culture, 1840-1Q14 (London 1994) 163. 21 Lipman (see n. 14) 79. 22 Ibid. 31, citing J C. 23 Jacobs (see n. 8) 27. 24 Englander (see n. 9) 116. 25 V. D. Lipman, A Century of Social Service, i8$g-ig$g (London 1959) 84. 26 Lipman (see n. 14) 81. 27 Jacobs (see n. 8) 37. 28 Ibid. 35. 29 Board of Trade Report on the volume and effects of recent immigration from Eastern Europe into the United Kingdom: Cd 7406, P.P. 1894., LXVIII. 30 First Report from Select Committee of House of Lords on Sweating System: S.P. 1888. XX, XXI; Vol. I p. 638, para. 6282. 31 Ibid. Vol. I p. 21 and Index to Pt I, 514, 516-7, 521. 32 Report of Select Committee of House of Commons on Immigration and Emigration (Foreigners) P.P. 1888, XI, 1889, X. 33 Report of Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, 1903, II Minutes of Evidence Cd 1742. 34 Booth 1 (see n. 15) 64. 35 Feldman (see n. 20) 163. 36 Booth 1 (see n. 15) Table, pp. 34-5. 37 Ibid. 4, p. 96. 38 Ben Weinreb and Christopher Hibbert (eds) The London Encyclopedia (London 1993) 63. 39 Coloured map of the Jewish East End as in 1898 by George Arkell in The Jew in London (see n. 17) . 40 Oliver (see n. 11) 1966. 41 Ibid, map 4, p. 40. 42 Hall (see n. 10); for furniture see pp. 75 91, incl. maps, figs 18-19. 274</page><page sequence="21">Isaac Diamond and the Jews in the timber trade 43 See also Pat Kirkham et al., Furnishing the World: The East London Furniture Trade, 1830 ig8o (London 1987) 5-21. 44 Feldman (see n. 20) 163; Booth 4 (see n. 15) chap. 6 by Aves 161. 45 Oliver (see n. 11) 165. 46 Booth 4 (see n. 15) 209. 47 Kirkham (see n. 43) 15-17. 48 William I. Massil, Immigrant Furniture Workers in London, 1881-igsg (London 1997) Chap. 8. 49 Robert Fitzgerald and Janet Grenier, Timber: A History of the Timber Trade Federation (1992) 29. 50 Kirkham (see n. 43) 11. 51 Booth 4 (see n. 15) 167. 52 Kedrun Laurie (ed.) Sam, An East End Cabinet-Maker (London 1983) 16, 22. 53 Fitzgerald (see n. 49) 29. 54 Walter C. Potter, The House of Mallinson, 1877-^47 (London 1947). 55 Fitzgerald (see n. 49) 47. 56 Massil (see n. 48) 62-4; and personal communication. 57 Booth Collection in British Library of Economic and Political Science A7; 440. 58 Fitzgerald (see n. 49) 132; and see n. 84. 59 J. Gliksten &amp; Son, The Gliksten Story (London 1958). 60 Booth Collection, A7. 61 Ibid. A39, 489. 62 Ibid. A6, 172. 63 Ibid. A7, 378. 64 Booth 4 (see n. 15) 167. 65 Feldman (see n. 27) 194. 66 Booth Collection, A7. 67 Booth 4 (see n. 15) 168. 68 Pat Kirkham, The London Furniture Trade, 1700-1870 (London 1988) 111. 69 Ibid. 70 Booth 4 (see n. 15) 167. 71 Massil (see n. 48) 66 and personal communication (Withrington were not Jewish). 72 Mr Geoffrey Ben-Nathan, a director of the company, referred me to this category as being 'the lowest of the timber trades' since it uses only crudely finished timber. 73 A. R. Rollin, 'Russo-Jewish Immigrants in England before 1881', Trans JHSE XXI (1968) 202. 74 Jacobs (see n. 8) 22. 75 These and similar measurements are from the 25 inch Ordnance Survey maps. 76 Photograph looking north up High Street is reproduced in J. Betjeman, Victorian and Edwardian London from Old Photographs (London 1969) plate 114. 77 Massil (see n. 48) 4, 10 mentions Ruben. 78 Timber Trades Journal, 28 November 1903. 79 Photograph from corner of Brick Lane, reproduced in Betjeman (see n. 76), also in Harold P. Clunn, The Face of London (London 1951), plate 143. 80 Booth Collection, B351, 191. 81 H. Blacker, Just Like It Was (London 1974) 82 Claude Diamond, tape recorded in 1980. 83 Harold Morris, retired timber merchant, personal communication, 1996. 84 L. Bamberger, Memoirs of Sixty Years in the Timber Trade (London n.d. [1930]). 85 Morris (see n. 83). 86 Hudson (see n. 13) 26. 87 Jewish Museum, photo taken c. 1920, reproduced in Massil (see n. 48) plate 20, and Jewish Chronicle, 7 December 1990. 88 Hackney Library, photo also shows Josifon's sawmills adjacent; reproduced in Jewish Chronicle, 31 October 1986. 89 Public Record Office, Company Memorandum and returns, BT31/10270-77136 and 34/1904-77136. 90 The Timber Trades Journal, 3 October 1903 and 28 November 1903. 91 London Gazette, 1903 IV 7098, 7103, 7988, 8083; see also 1904 I, II, III and 1905 III. 92 Israel Zangwill, 'They that Walk in Darkness', in Ghetto Tragedies (London 1899) 3 93 My wife Judith assisted me in the preparation of the lecture on which this paper is based, and in the arrangement of the data in Table 1. 275</page></plain_text>