Wednesday, December 27, 2006

About This Project

My grandfather, Harry Scheurman, kept a diary in 1924 when he was twenty-nine years old. He had been in America for 11 years, but much of his family still lived in the central European, Jewish ghetto of his youth. He was a garment worker, union activist and Zionist fundraiser. He was also unmarried and terribly lonely.

I've always found his diary to be fascinating reading, and I've always wanted to share it with people who might find it interesting. So, each day in 2007 (*2008 update below) I'll transcribe and post each day's corresponding entry, and I'll also annotate with contextual details about his life, historical details about the social, political and cultural subjects in circulation that year, and whatever thoughts and feelings his words bring to mind.

Since I have a day job and don't pretend to be a great researcher, I invite contributions from anyone who's interested in the subjects I'll touch on, including immigrant life in the 1920's, the rise of radio as a social force, the history of the Jewish labor movement, the history of New York-based Zionist organizations (particularly the Order of the Sons of Zion) Jewish ghetto life in Austro-Hungary (especially Snyatyn) New York baseball in the 1920's, Coney Island of the 1920's, Calvin Coolidge and the 1924 Presidential campaign. Feel free to add comments to any post, or if you're interested in getting more involved please write to papasdiary 'at' with the word "Contribution" in the subject line.

Finally, if you're just getting started with Papa's Diary Project, here are a few good subjects to check out:


January 5, 2008 Update: Papa's Letters and more

Now that I've posted every entry from Papa's 1924 diary, I'm going to start posting the letters he wrote to my grandmother (a.k.a. "Nana") during their five-year courtship. My mother had believed these letters lost until I found them in her attic just recently. I think I've got them all, though the ribbon with with Nana tied them together seems to be gone.

As of now I've only read a few of the letters, but it's clear that, not surprisingly, they constitute a different sort of narrative than Papa's diary, less rich in the details of day-to-day life but no less intimate and revealing. I expect to post about one a week throughout 2008, and I'll also be posting updates to my comments on Papa's diary since there's still plenty of research to do. I've gotten great contributions from readers over the last year and hope to get more, so if you see anything you'd like to chime in on (our ever-expanding list of subjects might help you get acquainted with the things we've covered so far) please send me an e-mail or drop a comment on the appropriate post.

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