A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from January 29, 2005
Bread Line
The "bread line" was one of New York's first and most famous of charities.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
bread-line (orig. U.S.), (a) a queue of poor people waiting to receive bread or other food given as charity;
1900 Lippincott's Mag. LXV. 3 [Story by A. B. Paine entitled] The *Bread Line. Ibid. 12 That's the bread line. They get a cup of coffee and a loaf of bread every night at twelve o'clock.

26 September 1904, Washington Post, pg. 3:
New York, Sept. 25. - Louis Fleischmann, the millionaire baker and philanthropist, died here early to-day at his home in West Seventy-seventh street, of paralysis.

Mr. Fleischmann was born in 1826 near Olmutz, Moravia. he fought in the war of 1866 against the Prussians, and won distinction in the battle of Sadowa. He remained in the army until 1874, when he resigned to emigrate to America.

He opened a model bakery in New York soon afterward, and at Christmas, in 1876, he established the unique charity known as the "bread line," and ever since has distributed unsold bread nightly to all who have applied. The "bread line" of applicants grew until as many as 500 loaves a night were handed out, and in the winter cups of warm coffee were given with the bread. Mr. Fleischmann also established an employment bureau, went personally among the unfortunates in his "bread line" night after night, and found work for many men.

26 September 1904, Chicago Daily Tribune, pg. 3:
Origin of the Bread Line.
It was ten years ago that Mr. Fleischmann formed the "bread line." Not a few sociologists and professional philanthropists raised their eyes in dismay and called him a "pauperizer of the idle." Mr. Fleischmann said quietly that he didn't mind being called names, and as long as there was flour in a barrel and fire under a kettle any man who was sufficiently sincere in his hunger to wait under the sky in any kind of weather could have a cup of steaming coffee and half a loaf.

2 October 1904, New York Times, pg. 33:

Death of Its Founder Will Not Make Any Break In Its
Usefulness - Some Facts About Its Origin that Are Not
Generally Known - A Man Whose Philanthropy Found
Its Mainspring in a Generous Soul.

"IN ALL the world no charity like this" has been said of the "Bread Line," that pathetic row of the city's unfortunates which can nightly be seen at Tenth Street and Broadway, patiently waiting for its dole of the staff of life handed out to it for years by the most modest of this great city's philanthropists.

Louis Fleischmann, soldier and baker, after a lifetime devoted to good works, died at his home, 4 West Seventy-fourth Street, just as the dawn of last Sunday was breaking, but the "bread line" will go on as long as there is a Fleischmann to administer the fortune left by the philanthropist, or as long as there is a man in this city who will stand for hours that his hunger may be satisfied with half a loaf of bread.
Origin of the "Bread Line."

The idea of the "bread line" came to Mr. Fleischmann in a simple way. When the bakery was first stgarted at Tenth Street and Broadway, a few hungry tramps, attracted by the smell of the hot loaves, hovered about the grating in the pavement. Finally one of the men plucked up courage enough to ask for something to eat. Mr. Fleischmann was there at the time, and he gave the man a loaf of bread and a loaf as well to the hungry men who stood near by. He bade them come again when they were hungry, and the next night they were there. The men told others, and it was taken for granted that the feeding would continue. It did, and has not failed one night since.

The "bread line" grew until at times as many as 500 loaves were distributed each night. Mr. Fleischmann employed a staff of men, headed by "Capt. Henry," to feed the hungry. In the early days Mr. Fleischmann went among the men himself and sought ways to help them with money and advice. Then he added his almost equally famous free labor bureau. He found out what the men could do and sent word to employers to fill their needs at his place. Finally "Capt. Henry" was enabled to hand out jobs as well as bread. Some time ago a large blackboard was placed in the bakery and on it were posted "wants" for employes. Many a good man, forced into the line from sheer necessity, found a good position through this means.

It is the fact that less unworthiness profits by this charity than by any other in the city. The professional "pan-handler" has no place there, and who have become shrewd through their experience, have known of what they call "repeaters," men who come back the second time before the line is exhausted. But let the line be exhausted before the supply of bread is, and one may come back again for a second half loaf.
When the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was first mooted, Mr. Fleischmann got the idea that a Vienna Model Bakery, with specious gardens about it, where bread, cakes, coffee, and chocolate could be served in the Viennese fashion, would be a novelty and probably a success. He obtained the concession, one of the most important granted, and his bread and rolls won the highest awards at the fair. He made large profits, and after the close of the exposition he transferred the business to Tenth Street and Broadway, in this city. The business grew apace, until at this time the manufacturing part of it covers a large area at Eighty-fourth Street and East End Avenue. There are also branches in Philadelphia and in many other cities. All this time the cafe at Broadway and Tenth Street remained a popular resort.
Some years ago Mr. Fleischmann purchased a place at Griffins Corners, in the Catskills, and it soon grew to be a large estate. His brothers and two widowed sisters, Mrs. Josephine Bleier and Mrs. Caroline Edelheim, bought adjoining estates, and the villagers, to show their appreciation of the man who was always at the front of every movement for the town's afvancement, changed the name of the place to Fleischmann's, under which name it is known to-day. When the change was made Mr. Fleischmann protested in vain. He did not crave any public notice, he said.

31 May 1908, New York Times, pg. 8:
The building owned by Grace Church on the northeast corner of Broadway and
Tenth Street, before which for thirty-two years the historic "bread line" has
been nightly formed, will this week be torn down, and thereafter the line
will form in front of a building leased for the purpose a lock further up
Broadway. Mr. OTTO F. FLEISCHMANN, whose beneficence has so long insured a
loaf to the hungry, is still convinced of the efficacy of his plan.

22 October 1933, New York Times, pg. SM20:
Grace Church of today. on Broadway between Tenth and Eleventh Streets, was consecrated on March 7, 1846.
In 1905 the property of the Fleischmann Vienna Bakery Company on the corner of Broadway adjoining the church to the south was purchased to prevent the erection of a tall business building. This firm had leased the five-story building here and for nearly thirty years had carried on a profitable business. Its chief fame, however, was in supporting what was probably the most famous breadline the city ever knew. At the close of business for the day it was the custom of the bakery to distribute the unsold bread and rolls to any one who might come for them; this resulted in what became known as the Vienna Bakery breadline, of which Lawson Purdy of the Charity Organization Society wrote:

"Night after night, in fair weather and foul, a line of men stood patiently on the sidewalk. In prosperous times the line was rather short; when work was scarce the line grew long. These men were waiting for the daily dole of bread given by the Fleischmann Bakery to all who came."

When the bakery was removed a lawn was substituted, "to stand open in perpetuity as a memorial of the completion of Grace Church's centennial of life."
Posted by Barry Popik
Food/Drink • Saturday, January 29, 2005 • Permalink

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