Placement Day 2 – Gerald Abrahams, Aquascutum

During the past few days I’ve continued reading around Jewish immigration to Liverpool, paying particular attention to tailoring. Reading included ‘A Yankee’s View of Liverpool Jewry’ by Gabriel A Sivan (1988) – the text establishes two ‘primary’ communities with the Jewish diaspora in Liverpool, those of Spanish and Portugese descent, and the German Jews.

Sivan discusses key locations within the city, including a synagogue located on Seel Street, and another on Pilgrim Street. According to Sivan, the latter was where the ‘leading merchants’ lived, on a hillside near the Phillharmonic Hall, all overlooking the harbor. The neighborhood was known as “Mount Zion” to locals.

Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation (also known as Princes Road synagogue), former names: Liverpool Hebrew Congregation (until 1840), then also known as Seel Street Synagogue. Image courtesy of Josh Parry, The Liverpool Echo, 05/11/2015

The life of a David Lewis (1823-1825) is discussed. Lewis was ‘the son of a London Jewish merchant, who arrived here as a youth in 1839 to serve his apprenticeship with a tailoring firm’, they ‘opened a men’s and boys’ clothing store on Ranelagh Street.’ His intention was to revolutionise the trade, by improving both the quality and design of goods manufactured in his workshop, in order to bring inexpensive and durable clothing to ‘the masses’. Lewis went on to become senior treasurer of the Liverpool old Hebrew Congregation and is remembered as an ‘early pioneer of the department store ‘anticipating Marks & Spencer through the establishment of his Lewis’s chain in many British cities.’

This information could be useful for a number of reasons, if we discover any Lewis branded clothing in the collection, I will know it is likely the manufacturer is Jewish. Similarly, certain locations mentioned, such as Ranelagh street, have come up on other items already listed. This will be useful when we begin to undertake research.

I have noted down the Liverpool Mercury paper as a potential place for research, and Asa Briggs writing. Another piece of literature I read was The Jewish Immigrant by John Smith (1899). I found this text to be partially problematic, as Smith makes many assumptions and generalisations about Jewish people. He makes these based on his experience of working with Jewish tailors over a 20 year time period. This was a piece of text written in the Victorian era, however, so this attitude was partly to be expected. I did learn some terminologies relating to tailoring. Many of the locations and names were specific to London, so were less helpful for this project.

The second day with the decorative art department was spent recording as many items as possible into the spreadsheet discussed in the last post. I continued to record men’s wear. I discovered a small number of Marks & Spencers items, as well as a couple of ‘Aquascutum’ pieces (see photo below). Aquascutum is the company (brand) name, and was owned by Gerald Abrahams.

Aquascutum owned by Gerald Abrahams.
Gerald Abrahams and his wife, head of Aquascutum Limited, at a dinner at the Savoy Hotel, London, January 16th, 1984. The photograph is courtesy of the International Magazine Services photo archive.

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