Guide to the Harry Spiro Papers
undated, 1905-1982

P-1005

Processed by Zack Shovein and Kora Welsh

American Jewish Historical Society, New England Archives

99-101 Newbury St.

Boston, Massachusetts

Phone: (617) 226-1245

Email: reference@ajhsboston.org

URL: http://www.ajhsboston.org

© 2018, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Electronic finding aid was encoded in EAD by Lindsay Sprechman in July 2015. Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Spiro, Harry
Title: Harry Spiro Papers
Dates:undated, 1905-1982
Abstract: This collection contains correspondence, photos, newspapers and clippings, manuscripts, and financial records documenting the life of Harry Spiro following his immigration from the shtetl of Butrimantz in Lithuania, first to Havana, Cuba and then to the United States. Included in the collection are materials relating to his family, his Zionist activism both in Cuba and in the United States, and his building supply business, Best Lumber.
Languages: The collection is in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.
Quantity: 2.75 linear feet (2 document boxes, 1 oversized box)
Identification: P-1005
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS Boston, MA
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Biographical Note
Spiro Image

Front and last pages of the July 8, 1924 Cuban-Yiddish newspaper Oifgang.

Harry Spiro was born on September 15, 1905 in Butrimantz, Lithuania, where his family operated a tavern and social club. Seeking to escape conscription into the Lithuanian army and pursue higher education, Harry Spiro attempted to immigrate to the United States in 1923. He was encouraged by his half-brother Abraham Spiro, a director of the New York Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, but was unable to obtain a United States visa due to immigration quotas and ended up in Havana, Cuba. Harry wrote of his challenges in Havana: he was short of money, far from family, and struggling to learn English and Spanish simultaneously while remaining uncertain whether he would ever be allowed entry to the United States. Seeking another destination, Harry corresponded with relatives who had immigrated to Argentina, Palestine, and South Africa. Despite his difficulties in Havana, Harry became involved with local Jewish life, writing for the Yiddish language newspaper Oyfgang(Oifgang), and spending time with friends, including the Yiddish language poet Eliezer Aronowsky. While in Havana, Harry was employed by the Jewish Committee for Cuba as a secretary and librarian. He earned a high school equivalent degree from Candler College and in 1927 was able to immigrate to New York, where he attended City College and Columbia University while living at the John D. Rockefeller International House.

Harry continued his Zionist advocacy in New York through membership in Avukah (the American Student Zionist Association) and writing op-ed pieces for various newspapers. After his graduation Harry joined relatives in Fall River, Massachusetts, and in 1933, married Caroline Schapiro. A loan of capital from Abraham allowed Harry to start his business, Best Lumber, a lumber and building supply company, in 1935. Best Lumber was a small company, where the number of staff never exceeded four people, and was liquidated in 1970. In Fall River Harry and his wife, Caroline, raised two children, Lionel and Leah, while remaining active in political, philanthropic, and community life. During these years Harry was especially involved with the Fall River District of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), ultimately serving as President of the organization. After retiring from Best Lumber in 1970 Harry traveled frequently, visiting Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Israel. Harry died in 1982; Caroline in 2002.

References

Materials from the collection.

Chronology of Harry Spiro

1905 Born in Butrimantz, Lithuania.
1923 Arrives in Havana, Cuba.
1928 Arrives in New York City.
1928-1932 Attends Columbia University while living at the International House of New York.
1933 Married to Caroline Schapiro in Fall River Massachusetts.
1935 Founds Best Lumber with a loan from Abraham Spiro.
1950 Elected Chairman of the Education Committee, Fall River District of the Zionist Organization of America.
1953 Elected President of the Fall River District of the Zionist Organization of America.
1967 Fire at Best Lumber.
1970 Retires from Best Lumber; the company is liquidated.
1982 Death of Harry Spiro in Fall River, Massachusetts.
2002 Death of Caroline Spiro.
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Scope and Content Note

This collection contains correspondence, photos, newspapers and clippings, manuscripts, and financial records documenting the life of Harry Spiro following his immigration from the shtetl of Butrimantz in Lithuania; first to Havana, Cuba and then to the United States. Included in the collection are materials relating to his family, including his older brother Abraham Spiro, his wife Caroline, their children Lionel and Leah, and Yiddish correspondence with family who remained in Lithuania. The collection documents a lifetime of Zionist activism and includes issues of Oyfgang, a Yiddish newspaper that Harry worked for while living in Cuba, articles published for the Fall River (Massachusetts) Herald and Fall River Zionist Record, and correspondence with prominent Hebrew language revivalist Abraham Katsh. Tax and financial records document Best Lumber, a building supply company founded by Harry Spiro in 1935. This collection also includes historical and genealogical research performed by Harry’s niece Olga Zabludoff, as well as some translations and photocopied records she used in work.

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Arrangement

This collection is arranged into six series:

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Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011
email: reference@ajhs.org

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Related Material

Lionel Spiro Papers, unprocessed

Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Boston, Massachusetts Records

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Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); Harry Spiro Papers; P-1005; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

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Acquisition Information

Donated by Lionel Spiro in November 2014.

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Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

Click the box in the request column to learn more about viewing materials at the New England Archives of AJHS.

 

Series I: Best Lumber,  1935-1985

In English.
Box 1, Folders 1-3.
Arrangement:

Alphabetical.

Scope and Content:

This series includes balance sheets, accounting statements, tax returns, and miscellaneous financial records documenting Best Lumber, the lumber and building supply company founded by Harry Spiro in 1935.

BoxFolderTitleDateRequest
1 1 Financial Statements 1935-1970 request_box
1 2 Insurance 1960, 1967 request_box
1 3 Property at 794 North Main Street 1936-1942, 1970 request_box
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Series II: Correspondence, undated, 1905-1982, 1995-2003

In English and Yiddish.
Box 1, Folders 4-25.
Arrangement:

Alphabetical.

Scope and Content:

This series includes English and Yiddish correspondence. It contains correspondence between Harry and family in Lithuania, with his brother Abraham, and to family in the United States and Israel. Included also in this series are Olga Zabludoff’s translations of the Yiddish letters and her correspondence with Lionel Spiro.

BoxFolderTitleDateRequest
1 4 Condolences (Spiro, Caroline) 2002 request_box
1 5 Condolences (Spiro, Harry) 1982 request_box
1 6 Condolences (Spiro, Harry) 1982 request_box
1 7 Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society undated, 1927 request_box
1 8 Invitations 1931-1933, 1973, 1981 request_box
1 9 Katsh, Abraham undated, 1961-1968 request_box
1 10 Postcards undated request_box
1 11 Spiro, Abe—letters sent 1938, 1943 request_box
1 12 Spiro, Caroline—letters received 1932, 1948 request_box
1 13 Spiro Family Letters from Israel undated, 1979-1981 request_box
1 14 Spiro Family Letters (translated) published in A Thousand Threads 1905 1924-1925 request_box
1 15 Spiro Family Letters (translated) published in A Thousand Threads 1925-1928, 1933 request_box
1 16 Spiro Family Letters (translated) published in A Thousand Threads 1935-1940, 1946-1951 request_box
1 17 Spiro, Harry 1927-1974 request_box
1 18 Spiro, Harry (floppy disks) 1905-1951 request_box
1 19 Spiro, Harry and Abe Spiro undated, 1925-1926, 1937-1939 request_box
1 20 Spiro, Harry and Caroline undated, 1945-1981 request_box
1 21 Spiro letters from Home and Relatives 1924 request_box
1 22 Spiro, Lionel 1995, 1999 request_box
1 23 Yiddish Letters undated, 1920s-1970s request_box
1 24 Yiddish Letters undated, 1920s-1970s request_box
1 25 Zublodoff, Olga to Lionel Spiro 1999, 2003 request_box
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Series III: Family Papers, undated, 1860, 1922-2003

In English and Yiddish.
Box 1, Folders 26-29; Box 2, Folders 1-21.
Arrangement:

Alphabetical.

Scope and Content:

This series contains a variety of miscellaneous materials including Caroline Spiro’s papers, a family Bible brought from Lithuania, wills and trust documents, books written by Olga Zabludoff, signed copies of works by Eliezer Aronowsky, and some photocopies of maps and immigration documents.

BoxFolderTitleDateRequest
1 26 Aronowsky, Eliezer—Poems 1954 request_box
1 27 Aronowsky, Eliezer—Poems 1932, 1950 request_box
1 28 A Thousand Threads Book by Zabludoff, Olga, Miriam Beckerman and Lily Poritz Miller 2005 request_box
1 29 Bible 1860 request_box
BoxFolderTitleDateRequest
2 1 Candler College 1925 request_box
2 2 Citizenship Confirmation (Spiro, Abe) 1922 request_box
2 3 Death of Caroline Spiro 2002 request_box
2 4 Death of Harry Spiro 1982 request_box
2 5 Financial Statements 1967-1979 request_box
2 6 Financial Statements—Tallies undated, 1967-1975 request_box
2 7 Harry Spiro Estate and Trust 1967, 1982-1986 request_box
2 8 If I Forget Thee… (book) Testimony by Riva Lozansky and other witnesses 1998-1999 request_box
2 9 International House 1932, 1959 request_box
2 10 Miscellaneous undated, 1923-1947, 1990 request_box
2 11 Miscellaneous Yiddish Writings undated request_box
2 12 News clippings undated request_box
2 13 Speeches undated, 1951-1970s request_box
2 14 Spiro, Caroline undated, 1925-1935, 1985-2002 request_box
2 15 Spiro, Caroline—Recipes undated request_box
2 16 Passport (Spiro, Harry) 1971 request_box
2 17 Will (Spiro, Fannie) 1946 request_box
2 18 Will (Spiro, Harry) 1980 request_box
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Series IV: Photographs, undated, 1923-1981

In English and Yiddish.
Box 2, Folders 22-25.
Arrangement:

Alphabetical.

Scope and Content:

This series contains photographs of Harry and Caroline Spiro as well as their immediate and extended family. The series includes photos from Harry’s time in Cuba with the Oyfgang staff as well as photos of Harry’s youth in Lithuania and Caroline’s extended family that remained behind.

BoxFolderTitleDateRequest
2 22 Family Snapshots undated, 1927-1994 request_box
2 23 Havana, Cuba 1923-1927 request_box
2 24 Weddings undated request_box
2 25 Portraits and Lithuania undated, 1927-1981 request_box
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Series V: Zionism, undated, 1910-1986

In English. Hebrew, and Yiddish.
Box 2, Folders 26-32.
Arrangement:

Alphabetical.

Scope and Content:

This series documents Harry Spiro’s Zionist advocacy and publishing. It includes his correspondence with Avukah and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), texts of speeches Harry made, and copies of articles published in New England newspapers.

BoxFolderTitleDateRequest
2 26 Avukah (American Student Zionist Federation) 1930-1933 request_box
2 27 Jewish Committee for Cuba undated, 1924-1926 request_box
2 28 Jewish Committee for Cuba undated, 1925 request_box
2 29 Publications 1927, 1935 request_box
2 30 United Jewish Appeal 1970 request_box
2 31 Writings and Speeches undated, 1933-1934, 1974 request_box
2 32 ZOA—Fall River, Mass. Branch 1934-1981 request_box
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Series VI: Oversized, undated, 1910-1982

In English. Hebrew, and Yiddish.
Box 3OS, Folders 1-8.
Arrangement:

Alphabetical.

Scope and Content:

This series includes copies of the Yiddish newspaper Oyfgang published in Cuba and other Yiddish newspapers, a customs declaration from Cuba, and oversized photographs.

BoxFolderTitleDateRequest
3 1 Certificate—Caroline Spiro Woman of Valor undated request_box
3 2 Customs Declaration—Cuba 1923 request_box
3 3 Miscellaneous Photocopies of Photographs, Genealogical Reference Materials undated, 1985 request_box
3 4 Newspaper Ad—Herman Schlevin and Massachusetts General Hospital 1986 request_box
3 5 Newspaper Excerpts—“La Palabras Israelita” 1933-1934, 1954 request_box
3 6 Newspapers—The Jewish American Women’s Magazine 1927 request_box
3 7 Newspapers—Oyfgang 1927-1928 request_box
3 8 Photographs undated, 1910 request_box
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