Researching Yiddish penny songs (tenement song broadsides of theater and variety show songs, 1895-1925)
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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dos lid fun Yarmulovski (about the crash of the S. Jarmulowsky bank on the Lower East Side in 1914)

It took a while to find the historic figures of this song. Yarmulovski the elder is Alexander (Sender) Jarmulowsky. Ordained as a rabbi, he married the daughter of a wealthy merchant and established a shipping firm in Germany, then emigrated in the early 1870s to New York City, where he founded the S. Jarmulowsky bank on the Lower East Side.

He was known as the "East Side J.P. Morgan" and his bank was the area's first skyscraper. He died, however, within weeks of the building's completion. His sons inherited it, made bad investments, and a few years later went bust.

Most of its depositors were poor and counted on being able to withdraw their savings to send to European relatives when World War I was beginning. In August 1914 5,000 depositors gathered in front of the skyscraper and demanded their savings. They then paraded to City Hall, where some were clubbed and arrested (see New York Times article from August 30, 1914 at the bottom of this post). The bank was closed in 1917 and many of the depositors were left with nothing.

Here's our recording of the song Max Zavodnik wrote about their misery:

The song's full title is Dos lid fun Yarmolovski, Max Kobre un Mandel di 3 bankirer un zeyere korbones. (The Song about Jarmulowsky, Max Kobre and Mandel, the Three Bankers, and Their Victims.) These culprits were Sender's two sons, Meyer and Louis Jarmulowsky, Max Kobre, and Adolf Mandel. The final words of the song ring true today:

When someone dares steal even just a bit of bread
He's severely punished
When someone flays the skin from thousands of people
He's called a wise man

This text is written to the melody of a song called Troymende shlefer, also the underlying melody for the workers' song Vos vet zayn der sof?. I still had the bass accompaniment from that recording that song, so here it is again, and thanks again to Jim Baird the bassist!

Transliteration and translation after the jump.

A blik ven ikh gib nor af dem groysn brokh geyendik durkh "Ist Brodvey"
Yedn in hartsn git es a shtokh es iz dort a himel geshrey
A hoykhe gebayde, zet men dort shteyn, a keyver fun oreme geld
Es gist zikh dort trern a troyer geveyn. Eyn umglik, di bank hot gefelt.

Got shoykhayn bimroymim, vi kenstu zen dem tsar
Fun kranke almones yesoymim vos hobn gefinstert derfar

Es shteyn fil mentshn biz shpet yede nakht un kukn di khurve dort on
Di bank Yarmulovskis iz tsugemakht mit a summe fun tsvey dray milion
Oreme arbeter hobn geshklaft, geklibn a sent tsu a sent
Yetst ligt dort bagrobn zeyer gantse kraft, geblibn mit leydike hent

Es kumen in masn fartsveyflte dort un redn fun zeyer umglik
Fun esn un trinken hot men geshaport un konen nisht krign tsurik
A kripl vos ken nit fardinen aleyn zayn lebn iz finster un shvarts
Zayn sent men zol shnaydn volt blut fun im geyn. Merder vu iz ayer harts?

Eyn oreme kale vos hot keynem nit elnt azoy vi a shteyn
Fun spenden a peni hot zi zikh gehit, zi darf shoyn bald heyratn geyn
Zi geyt mit ir bikhl nokh ire far sent vos zi hot fardint baym mashin
Zi kumt un zi treft di fil leydike vent men lozt nit tsu keynem ahin.

Yarmulovski, Max Kobre un Mandel di dray zey zaynen gevezn bagloybt
Gazlonim un dokh geyen zey arum fray a velt hobn zey baroybt
Ven eyner zol vagn nor ganvenen a broyt
Bashtrofn volt men dokh im shver
Fun toyzende mentshn men shindt op di hoyt
zogt men a khokhem iz er

When I take a look at the great catastrophe striking at East Broadway
It hurts every heart
There is an outcry in heaven
One sees a tall building standing there
A tomb made of poor people's money
Tears pour, there is a sad lamenting
A tragedy, the bank failed

God in heaven! How can you look at this sorrow?
At the sick widows and orphans who've been destroyed this way?

Many people stand there until late at night and look at the ruins
The Jarmulowsky bank is closed with a sum of two or three million
Poor workers slaved, gathering one penny after another
Now their whole strength lies buried there, they are left with empty hands.

The desperate come in masses there and talk about their calamity
They'd economized on eating and drinking and can't get it back
A cripple who cannot earn money himself, his life is darkened
If one steals his penny, blood will flow from him
Murderer, where is your heart?

From a poor bride who has nobody, who is lonely as a stone
She held back from spending a penny, she was supposed to get married soon
She goes with her bankbook to withdraw the pennies she earned by the sewing machine
She comes and finds the completely empty walls, nobody can get in.

Jarmulowsky, Max Kobre and Madel, the three. They were trusted
Robbers and yet they go around free, they robbed a whole world
When someone dares steal even just a bit of bread
He's severely punished
When someone flays the skin from thousands of people
He's called a wiseman

For sheet music and/or performances contact me:

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