Wednesday, 27 June 2012

From Rags to Riches…an epic even Catherine Cookson would have been proud of.

Earlier this year we had a call to offer the museum the golden balls sign from Zermansky’s pawnbrokers and we jumped at the chance. These have been donated to the museum by Stewart and Michael Manning, the sons of the late Pearl and Cyril Manning who ran Zermansky’s on North Street, Leeds, for many years until it closed 1981. The balls are currently being refurbished and will be installed above the pawnbroker’s shop display at Abbey House Museum in the autumn.

Following on from this, Stewart Manning has also donated a fascinating collection of objects, photographs and documents relating to the shop and the Zermansky family. This collection has been catalogued and researched by Helen Shelley, a student placement from Leeds Trinity University College:

The arrival of the patriarch, Harris and his wife Shaina (Jane) in 1902 marked the beginning of the Zermansky family’s presence in Leeds.

From humble beginnings in the then less than salubrious Burmantofts area, Harris and Jane embarked on a journey of expansion that would first see the ownership of a small grocers shop in 1902 to be followed by the opening of a bakery in 1915. However, it was not until 1920, with the opening of a pawnbroker business, that the family made their mark and become one of the prominent names amongst the Jewish community.

I had the pleasure of handling many items that were of interest to me but for the purpose of this blog I will limit these to the various wedding photographs included within the collection.
The donor’s maternal grandparents on their wedding day in 1923.

The donor’s parents on their wedding day in 1948. 

The donor’s wedding photograph of 1978. 
I have chosen to highlight these three photographs as it was through these that I was able to see not only the changing fashions and the influence affluence had with donor family, but also a change in the social constraints society placed on individuals. The very strict and sombre early photographs were in complete contrast to the relaxed and informal photograph of the donor’s wedding.

Enhancing the very Jewish nature of the collection were items such as a bar mitzvah scrapbook which included the donor’s speech and congratulatory telegrams, bar mitzvah invitations and several ‘Grace Before Meals’ booklets. This is a very definitive Jewish tradition which also occurs at weddings and the presence of both a bar mitzvah and a wedding booklet amongst the collection, will provide historical evidence to the different focus and importance of prayer at these major religious events.

Posted by Kitty Ross, curator of Leeds History, and Helen Shelley, from Leeds Trinity University College

Friday, 1 June 2012

Alf Cooke & Diamond Jubilee

Diamond Jubilee of  Queen Victoria 1897,
presented by the Mayor of  Leeds, Sir James Kitson Bart MP
printed by Alf Cooke, Leeds
 This portrait of Queen Victoria doesn't appear to show her really enjoying the prospect of her Diamond Jubilee.  She was clearly still in mourning for Prince Albert (who's portrait is pinned to her dress).

However, many of her subjects were keen to celebrate her sixty years on the throne and to show their loyalty and patriotism, especially when it could also promote their business prospects.

Alf Cooke of Leeds was a chromolithograph printer who had great ambitions, used the latest printing technology and styled himself "Art Colour Printer to the Queen".  In 1897 he produced a colourful catalogue, titled "The Album of Colour Printing" showcasing the firm's work and also illustrating the new state-of-the-art printworks he had built at Crown Point in 1894.



Alf Cooke Ltd., printworks, Crown Point, Leeds
The company showed it's patriotic business sense again in 1953 for the Coronation of the present Queen, producing among other things a Coronation souvenir set of playing cards.
Sadly the company no longer exists and the building at Crown Point ceased to be used for printing in 2005.  However it is currently being rennovated and restored to its former glory.

Coronation Playing Cards, printed by Alf Cooke Ltd., Leeds in 1953
There are two copies of the portrait of Queen Victoria.  One is displayed at Abbey House Museum, and the other is currently on display at Lotherton Hall in the exhibition "The Victorian Look Book"

Kitty Ross, Curator of Leeds History