Passover advertisements featured in the Jewish News over the years.
Passover advertisements featured in the Jewish News over the years. (William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History)

The William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History holds many interesting advertisements for brands of Passover foods.

Passover begins this Friday. Have you finished your shopping for the holiday? 

I thought I might help and explore Passover shopping in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History for a few suggestions. I found plenty of Passover ideas.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
Alene and Graham Landau Archivist Chair

One of the early ads for Passover was in the March 13, 1931, issue of the Jewish Chronicle. Robinson Furniture suggested that you “Refurnish Your Home in Time for Passover.” Moreover, the store was offering a $245 “Suite in Antique Velvet and imported Linen Frieze” for a mere $98 (about $1,800 today). However, I’m not sure I can afford new furniture every Passover!

Of course, the highpoint of the holiday is the seder, the gala family meal and the reading of the Haggadah. In this regard, especially from the 1930s-1990s, the Archive holds many interesting advertisements for brands of Passover foods. Many of these also appear in ads for local markets such as the Dexter-Davison, Chatham, Farmer Jack, Food Fair, Great Scot and Kroger or, more recently, Busch’s, the Grove and Nino Salvaggio.

Many advertisements are for coffee for Passover. Once it was determined that coffee beans were not legumes, then the ads flowed. Joseph Jacobs, a former advertising manager of the Forverts, or the Yiddish Forward, formed an ad agency in 1919 and was the driving force in 1923 behind making coffee OK for Passover. His inspiration? He wanted Maxwell House Coffee to place ads in Forverts. Once the bean vs. legume issue was settled by a group of rabbis, Maxwell House not only advertised in Forverts but published in 1932 a Haggadah and included it with coffee purchased for Passover. The Maxwell House Haggadah is one of most popular in American history.

The JN supported this revelation and published hundreds of ads for coffee. Along with Maxwell House, there are ads for Borden’s, Sanka, Maxim and Yuban coffees, to name a few.

From 1931
William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History

Matzah is another primary Passover food with lots of ads in the Archive. Manischewitz is one of the oldest food advertisers in the Archive, especially for matzah. Goodman’s “Matzos” — with “improved square, tea and egg varieties” — was the chief advertising rival to Manischewitz. That “matzah battle” ended when Manischewitz acquired Goodman’s. I also found ads for Horowitz-Margareten “Passover Matzohs.” All the ads promoted “Passover Goodness” (I suppose one would not want “mediocreness” for Passover).

By the way, in the 1970s, Arnold Margolis of Margolis Household Furniture would give you five pounds of matzah if he could not beat your best deal (Aug. 19, 1977, JN).

If you or your bubbie did not make homemade gefilte fish, no worries. The Chronicle and JN have lots of ads for prepared Rokeach, Manischewitz (“The Lightest of Them All”) and Mother’s (“Ready to Serve Old Fashioned”) Gefilte Fish.

Of course, I do not have room to fully discuss other Passover food topics. In the Archive, you can also find ads for hundreds of restaurants and delis featuring Passover menus such as Star Deli, Steve’s Deli, Stage Deli and Pickles & Rye. Or to make it easy, caterers such as Quality Kosher and Bloom’s.

The JN also attempted to help its readers navigate Passover food. For one example, in the March 22, 1974, issue, a convenient checklist of kosher foods was published.

Have a happy — and tasty — Passover. Chag Pesach Sameach!  

Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.

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