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B'nai Spotlight - The Boltansky Family

When Larry Boltansky and Susan Mann (née Boltansky) speak of their grandfather, it's clear what a beloved figure George Boltansky was in his family.  George  arrived in the United States as a young teen. He was born in Russia in June 1900.  He gave the date of his birth as 27 June 1900 on his World War II draft registration card, but elsewhere it appears as 22 June.  Family members say that he came from Odessa. 

George arrived in the United States in Galveston, Texas on 14 April 1914 aboard the Breslau, which left its port in Bremen, Germany about 12 March 1914.  It seems that he got out of Odessa just in time.  The  Ottoman Empire staged a naval attack on Odessa in October 1914 causing heavy damage to the city.

However, the name "George" had not yet come into use for him.  The ship manifest (see below) lists him as Itzik Bolliansky.  Up to this point, the only hint we had of George's parentage was a reference on a B'nai Israel yarhzeit board that identified him as the son of Malkah.  The discovery of the ship manifest not only shed light on the history of the Boltansky name, but on George's parentage.

He was listed as being in the company of Mendel, presumably his father, and two older teens, presumably his siblings. The names appear to be "Edit", age 19, and "Mojsza", age 16. Even though he is only 14 at the time of his immigration, he is listed as a plumber. Mendel's wife, Molke Bolliansky, is listed as still being in Russia. We have not found anything to indicate whether or not she ever joined the family in the United States.  She appears once in a B'nai Israel record where she is listed as Malkah Boltansky, daughter of  Yosef, mother of George. However, we don't know the purpose of the record. It may have been a yahrzeit card that George placed in the synagogue records when he was a member of B'nai Israel.

George's Petition for Naturalization (see below), dated 27 July 1925 in Detroit Michigan, gives his name as Isaac Mayer Boltansky, but also states "(wants "George Boltansky")"  Here we clearly see the evolution of the name, his first identifiable use of the name "George", and that "Boltansky" had by that time replaced "Bolliansky" as the spelling of the family's surname.  Though his parents' names are not listed on his petition, the petition clearly places him on the Breslau and on it's voyage from Bremen Germany arriving in Galveston, Texas on 14 April 1914. There is only one Itzik, or Isaac, Bolliansky, or Boltansky, on the ship manifest.

The family relates that from Galveston, Texas George went to San Francisco, California, where he worked in the fish market, then to Detroit, Michigan, where he worked as a piano mover.  However, his 1925 Petition for Naturalization identifies him as an electrician.  He likely worked in both of these occupations and perhaps others as well.  The reasons for his migration pattern around the United States and his final move to Baltimore are at present unclear.

We know that by 1930 he was in Baltimore because he appears in the 1930 census as a lodger in the rented home of the Attman and Newborn families at 1135 E. Baltimore Street.  He paid $6 a month in rent.  His occupation is listed as “electrician”.  He was 29 years of age at the time of the census. 

Living in that same house was Jean Newborn, the daughter of Molly Newborn. According to Jean’s later Petition for Naturalization, the family name was originally Neugeboren, her given name was originally Chane, and she was born on 12 June 1907 in Galicia, Poland.  From that same document we learn that Jean’s family emigrated from Bremen, Germany aboard the “Rhein”, arriving in Baltimore, Maryland on 22 November 1913.  Chane arrived with her mother, Matilde (later changed to Molly), and her younger brother, Benie. Husband and father Samuel had emigrated prior to them and was now residing at 125 S. High Street, which became the family's first residence in the United States. The ship manifest for the Rhein indicates the location of the family's last place of residence in Galicia as Padwoloegoko.

At the time of the 1930 census Jean was 24 years old and working as a sewing machine operator.  That very year, Jean and George married on the 2nd of November.

Jean gave the date of their marriage on her Petition for Naturalization (see below). Her petition also supports that George entered the U.S. in April 1914 at Galveston, Texas. 

Jean’s petition further informs us that George was naturalized on 18 November 1925 at Detroit, Michigan.  Jean became a naturalized citizen on 8 March 1943.

George and Jean had three children: (left to right below) Shirley, born in 1931; Samuel, born in 1933, and Rosalie, born in 1934.


By the time George registered for the draft in 1942 at the age of 41 he was self-employed as a grocer, living and working at
1152 E Lombard Street, according to his World War II draft card (see below).

But the grocery store would come later. The 1936 Baltimore City Directory lists George as a driver, and he and Jean were living at 1210 E. Baltimore Street.  Larry Boltansky, George’s grandson, relates that once in Baltimore his grandfather first went into the moving business, buying a used truck, and joining the other movers who would congregate near Central Avenue and Baltimore Street to wait for customers. That was how people engaged movers back then. Larry said the business was simply named “George’s Moving”.  George saved money and bought a grocery store a block south on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Lombard Street - for thirteen dollars!. This was where he was at the time of the 1940 census, living above the store.  

 The store sold coddies, loose cigarettes, work gloves, bags of coal, bundles of wood, corn-cob pipes, and Tootsie Pops, along with meats and groceries.  In this picture, circa 1943, (courtesy of Jewish Museum of Maryland) George stands on the left, his twelve year old daughter, Shirley, with him behind the counter. In Gil Sandler’s Jewish Baltimore, the photo appears on p. 190 and the information about the store includes that: “The meat showcase to the left was meter operated; it required seventy-five cents each night to keep the case refrigerated through the night until morning.”

In 1944, George and Jean sold that store and moved to the southeast corner of Central and Lombard, buying a liquor store. The family again lived above the store. The liquor store was primarily a packaged goods liquor shop, but also sold tobacco, which was a significant part of the revenue of the shop. 

The story line shifts now to George and Jean’s son, Samuel, the father of Larry Boltansky, Susan Mann (née Boltansky), and Howard Boltansky.

Samuel looks out at us from his 1951 Baltimore City College photo, the year of his graduation. He married Naomi Smith shortly after graduation and continued working with his father in the liquor store. However, he was looking for his own path in business, and initially found that in selling comic books. He started selling them from the liquor store, then built a route around Baltimore wholesaling to other stores.

The comic book trade was not, however, where his business stayed.  His distribution grew to include more than comics and he became a large distributor and printer.  He bought  the two buildings on Lombard Street next to the liquor store,  then moved his business to East Baltimore Street. The business expanded nationwide and in the 1970s it expanded to include the United Kingdom and Australia.  The business was sold in 2000. 

In the mid-1950s, the entire family left the city and moved to Derby Manor Drive to a block of row houses. George and Jean owned one house. Samuel and Naomi owned a house on side of his parents' home, and Rosalie and her husband, Alvin Tapper, owned a house on the other side of her parents' home.  George and Jean’s granddaughter, Susan, recalls that her grandmother would bang on the wall to get her father, Samuel, up for work.

Susan, relates that after his retirement her grandfather worked in a satellite post office in a bookstore owned by his daughter Shirley on St. Paul Street near Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus on the block where the Eddie's grocery store was once located. 

Susan also leaves us with a fond personal memory of her grandfather.  She says that her grandfather loved hot pepper on his food.  Whenever there was a family dinner, and he spent every Shabbat dinner with Samuel and his family, a container of hot pepper flakes was on the table and immediately George Boltansky sprinkled hot pepper in his soup.  And at the end of any dinner, he looked at his wife, who had prepared the meal, and concluded with “Babe, that was good." 

Mon, December 11 2023 28 Kislev 5784