Chapter 6 - Solomon as a cabinet maker

by Jason Lever

Posted on Sun, 01 Dec 2013 13:30:08 GMT

The family and a Jewish trade

In the early and mid-Victorian periods, Jews were closely associated with street trades such as selling sponges and spectacles, and as proprietors of “swag-shops”, which sold a wide array of goods including braces, garters, rubies and time-pieces (ref: Mayhew).

Yet Jewish immigrants in the last quarter of the 19th century tended to continue in familiar artisan trades from the “old country”, such as tailoring. Orthodox Jewish observance prevented employment on a Saturday at a time when the six-day working week was the norm. Hence the attraction for many of having a Jewish employer. This was compounded by anti-alien prejudice of mainstay East End industries such as in the docks.

This helps explain the pattern of occupations recorded at the Poor Jews’ Temporary Shelter: 29 per cent made garments, 23 per cent were in trade and commerce, 9 per cent made boots and shoes and 7 per cent described themselves as carpenters (1895-96 to 1907-08). Among the many remaining trades was baking (ref: Gartner).

Many arrived with cabinet-making skills in every field of domestic furniture, from general carpenters to specialist woodturners, carvers and marquetry workers (ref: Black G). Jerry White records that cabinet making was the third highest employment type in the Jewish residential population of the Rothschild Buildings in 1900 (ref: White, 2003).

The growth of a middle class and of more prosperous artisans in the Victorian period created a demand for cheaper furniture. This was the main market for the East End furniture trade, centred on Curtain Road but soon spreading out along Bethnal Green Road and Hackney Road (ref: Kirkham).

While some picked up their first knowledge of timber and tools in cabinet making classes at school, in Solomon’s case his father had been an apprentice to the craftsman who laid a new floor of St. Petersburg Cathedral.

Solomon followed this trade in the specific area of bedroom suites with his father and brother after he left school.

Cabinet-Making bedroom-suites

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Chapter 1 - Introducing Solomon Lever and his l...Chapter 2 - The Jewish East EndChapter 3 - A family history of Solomon LeverChapter 4 - A Jewish East End education for Sol...Chapter 5 - Joining East End cultural and commu...Chapter 6 - Solomon as a cabinet makerChapter 7 – From cabinet maker to trade union g...Chapter 8 – Rise of the London Jewish Bakers UnionChapter 9 – Dealing with the challenges of a de...Chapter 10 – Solomon’s journey to Jewish trade ...Chapter 11 – Interlude of anarchism’s appeal to...Chapter 12 – Solomon Lever finds his home in th...Chapter 13 – The Liberal and Conservative partiesChapter 14 – The Labour Party consolidates its ...Chapter 15 – The appeal of East End councils’ s...Chapter 16 – The rise and fall of communist sup...Chapter 17 – Surging Labourism after the warChapter 18 – The Labour Party’s support for Zio...Chapter 19 – Short-lived Labour-Zionist honeymoonChapter 20 – Solomon Lever’s 1947 broadcast spe...Chapter 21 – Solomon Lever’s 1948 speech from t...Chapter 22 – Solomon Lever’s 1954 speech from t...Chapter 23 – Solomon Lever’s final TUC speech i...Chapter 24 – His Worshipful The Mayor and Mayor...Chapter 25 – Family connections in the Mayor’s ...Chapter 26 – Important social issues raised wit...Chapter 27 – The adbuction of Solomon LeverChapter 28 – Discovery of Solomon’s bodyChapter 29 – InquestChapter 30 – The death of Solomon LeverChapter 31 – Solomon’s funeral and obituaryChapter 32 – The death knell of the London Jewi...Chapter 33 – An appraisalChapter 34 – Bibliography