Gimpel Beynish the Matchmaker
(Gimpl Beynish der Shadkhn)
Yiddish Comics of the early 20th century

Translation and commentary by Jane Peppler
Click here to read about and order the seven Gimpel books I've published.

Comics read right to left. Click on any comic strip for larger view.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

New York City's Chicken Trust in a Yiddish political cartoon by Rollin Kirby, February 16, 1916

I've been self-medicating since the election using photoshop to clean up the 1916 Gimpel Beyish comic strips and also the Warheit's political cartoons. This one, by Rollin Kirby but with Yiddish captions superimposed, has a great back story.

Not all collections are equal.
On the wall: "New Yorker Chicken Trust"
On the paper people have been signing:
"A fund to assassinate Baff"
Bribe collector: Well, Mister Chicken-trustnik, how much will you contribute to getting Baff out of the way?

In 1906 a group of New York City poultry distributors created the Live Poultry Commission Merchants’ Protective Association to fix wholesale prices for kosher poultry and force retailers to buy exclusively from the association. 13 members were convicted of price-fixing in 1911 on the testimony of Bernard (Barnie, Barnet, Baruch) Barnett Baff, a poultry retailer originally from Bialystock. Baff was a whiz in court: when the chicken trust sued him in 1912 he countersued and prevailed. 87 poultry dealers went to jail!

They got back at him, though: they poisoned his horse and chickens, bombed one of his stores and his summer cottage. Finally, in 1914 100 New York poultry dealers convened with the sole purpose of creating a very generous "Kill Barnet Baff" fund. They hired Mafia hit men who, after six unsuccessful attempts, managed to assassinate Baff right in the Washington Market "Chicken City" during business hours.

They were eventually found and put on trial but as is not infrequently the case with Mafia trials, witnesses recanted, others committed perjury, etc. One man claimed he saw Louis Cohen pay for the hit, recanted, then tried to recant his recantation. They all got off, even Louis Cohen (after four execution-date reprieves).

There's a typed manuscript on line called History and developments in the poultry industry, 1902-1935 which describes a later hearing into overcropping. (Just before birds were sold, wholesalers were feeding chickens a bran cut heavily with sand, grit, pebbles, and Portland cement, adding as much as 25% to their weight.) Into the meeting burst Barnet's children, Harry, William, and Miss Baff.
William, having the gun in his hand, had shouted "We are going to kill Louis Cohen; he killed my father"; and then Harry Baff told his brother, "Now we got him, kill him." The twelve men present finally pushed the Baffs out. Further examinations indefinitely postponed.
There is much more to be read about the hijinx of the poultry industry in New York if you're interested. Just google it like I did.

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