Rich and Co.

Brilliance of the Jewish Department Store – In Turn of the Century Vienna

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“It was thanks to a series of egalitarian and emancipating reforms in the 19th century that Vienna’s Jews fell into department store ownership. In particular, deregulation of the professions in the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1859 ended Jews’ exclusion from certain trades. Jewish families ascended from the schmatta trade to own and run destination department stores—names like Gerngross, Zwieback, and Jacob Rothberger that are engraved in gold font into the wall of the exhibit like a memorial, were analogous in their centrality in retail culture to present-day giants like Saks, Neiman Marcus, or Bergdorf Goodman. These families were often not of Vienna. Just as the department store model came from Paris, Jews who set up shop in Vienna were from elsewhere. Most arrived from other parts of the empire, in particular Hungary, but also Bohemia, Moravia, and Galicia. Some families came from Germany. The story of the Viennese department store is a story of migration, and as when wealthy Jewish families bought land on the Ringstrasse and constructed magnificent cafes, salons, and apartment buildings, the department store was a way for Jews to become Viennese.”

“Moving between posters for architect Victor Gruen’s visionary plans for the redevelopment of Vienna, to a 1920s movie reel made by Norwegian tourists about a visit to Gerngross, the compelling argument “Kauft bei Juden!” makes is that the department store was A contribution OF Viennese Jews to European modernity. It created a new class of professions that became subject to working-time regulations. Gerngross created sports clubs for its employees, while Rothberger was known for its good pay and welfare benefits. Although department stores would perpetuate a certain ideal of womanhood, they can also be viewed as a haven for working class women, both as employees and consumers. The standardization of styles and sizes made clothing more accessible.”


Written by Rich and Co.

May 18, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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