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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Professor Abraham Hochman, devoted advertiser on Yiddish penny songsheets

Professor Abraham Hochman, mind reader, caster of lots, phrenologistOne of the most loyal Yiddish broadside advertisers was Professor Hochman. He was promoting (1) his services as a mind reader, (2) his book about do-it-yourself phrenology, dream reading etc., and (3) his hall at 169 Rivington Street on the lower East Side which he rented out for weddings (and with the rental you got a photo of yourself and your new spouse).

According to Leksikon fun der nayer Yidisher literatur Hochman was born in 1862 and was still living around 1960. He and his parents came over from Russia when he was a child.

According to the 1910 census: I found Abraham Hochman born 1866 (so he'd made himself four years younger), married 23 years to Rosy, both born in Austria, with children Isy and Regina born in Austria and Maxy, Willie, Rubin, and Franky born in New York. They both said they were born in Austria. He immigrated in 1891, she in 1893. His occupation there at 169 Rivington Street: Mind Reader, Own Parlor. By 1925 the family had moved to Richfield Springs, Otsego county, where he was a hotel employee.

Here's my translation of one of his wordy ads (original is at the bottom of this post):

געהײמע קראַפט, אדער, דער שליסעל צו דער נבואה : װאו עס װערט ערקלעהרט װעגען פּראָפעטען, נאַכט װאַנדלער, שלאָף־רעדנער
An explanation of secret strength, or, the key to prophecy

A book will soon be coming out which will arouse great interest in all circles, this is a book about prophets, night wandering, sleep talking, dreams, physionomy, hand reading, face reading, and telepathy. The book will contain a correct and detailed explanation of dream interpretation so that people can interpret a dream themselves, it will deal with the question of prophecy in old and modern times and will give a complete understanding of mind reading, and a lesson on how people can cast lots for themselves, the book will be published in three languages: Yiddish, German, and English.

It will be published on fine paper with a fine cover, it will have more than 88 pages
[not true]. It's sufficient to say that this book is created and distributed by the world renowned thought reader Professor Hochman from 169 Rivington Street, he who has so many years of experience along these lines, and one can understand how important this book will be, it's copyrighted in Washington, and it will come out at the end of this month. One can receive it from all booksellers and in all book stores, price 25 cents.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I found that Eddy Portnoy wrote a great article for Tablet Magazine about Hochman, it's called In the Palm of His Hand.

Professor Hochman picture of headAlso thanks to the wonders of the internet, I was able to buy The Key ... to Prophecy by Prof. Abraham Hochman copyright 1909 on eBay! The picture of Hochman above, and this skull, are from the book. If you want a larger version of either picture, write to me.

If you look carefully you'll see Hochman credits the picture here to Holmes W. Merton.  And again thanks to the wonders of the internet, it turns out that Descriptive mentality from the head, face and hand by Holmes Whittier Merton 1899 is online, you can download it for free, there are lots of pictures, it's pretty great.

Here is the ad as it appears in the American Yiddish Penny Songs collection, click for a larger view:

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Blogger Phil B said...

Hi Jane,
Phil here- wondering is Isy (his child) might be Israel J Hochman, klezmer bandleader? I haven't lined up the dates so I may be way off. Read about Abe in Portnoy's wonderful new book, "Bad Rabbi" which I'm enjoying.

January 14, 2018 at 8:10 AM  
Blogger melinama said...

Phil, I was in communication with the Professor's granddaughter and she DID NOT KNOW about his colorful life. I see he had a son "Isy" so, maybe!

January 14, 2018 at 8:31 AM  
Blogger Phil B said...

Thanks Jane (for this and ALL you do for Yiddish history)!

January 14, 2018 at 5:53 PM  

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