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Chapter One

The Bialystok Textile
Industry up to 1880

א    A

Bialystok as a business center
Jews, noblemen and burghers

Translated by Dave Horowitz-Larochette


In the 18th century the Jews had already created in Bialystok a center for business. The Branickis, especially the last of them, Jan Klemens Branicki[a], had intentionally pulled Jews to Bialystok in order to widen in their town commerce and crafts. They succeeded therein, that in their town they were able to receive all princely commodities. The Jews had indeed the said role of suppliers of goods executed brilliantly.

The historical events in Lithuania and Poland in the 17th and 18th centuries were not convenient for commerce and industry. The middle class could not stand against the various rights of the nobility, the so-called Szlachta [Polish nobility], that had complete dominion over the land. The noblemen gave themselves entirely to their passions and had only one concern: how to acquire funds, with which to cover their great expenses. They were only concerned with questions of faith and politics, and the concerns of economics and industry never entered their minds.

The ruling class failed to comprehend how to hold the reins of government in their hands. The townspeople, meshchanes [burghers], and the peasants suffered the pains.

Only thanks to one group in Poland and Lithuania, that was not carried with this current, the commerce and crafts in Poland and Lithuania were saved from going under. This group- were the Jews. Jews took all branches of commerce and crafts in their hands, even though the burghers had the so-called Magderburger Rights to their advantage against Jews, who had not these rights.

According to the Magderburger Rights the burghers could push out Jews from all their businesses in the larger and smaller towns, but the

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noblemen supported the Jews, who conducted their businesses, were middlemen and providers of funds. At the end of the 17th century Jews truly surpassed the burghers in all branches of trade, who had for centuries stood financially higher than the Jews.

Besides, even later came the different domestic riots and wars, and the burghers fell completely from their status.

By the way, the same Magderburger Rights even helped to press the burghers, because according to those rights all the power lay completely in the hands of chosen aldermen and the bailiffs (Bürgermeister) [mayors], and they did with the burghers whatever they pleased.

In the 18th century the Magderburger Rights generally lost their strength and the burghers then had little support. The lower the burghers fell from their status, the higher became the standing of the Szlachta, the majority of which supported the Jews. This is especially true in the nobility's towns, as in Bialystok, where the principal opinion had the master, the owner of the town, who gave known rights to his Jewish inhabitants.

But through the general bad situation poverty increased in all Polish and Lithuanian towns. The towns Grodno, Slonim, Brisk and Bialystok still held themselves and did not lose their importance thanks to their good business standing.


The development of Jewish business in the Bialystok region and in Bialystok

The shipping traffic on the rivers financially helped very strongly Grodno, Slonim and Brisk; besides, Brisk was also a good military strategic point, hence in that area were built great forts on the western Russian border, which brought work and profits.

The Jewish population of Bialystok prospered well financially thanks to that, that the Branickis had strived to transform Bialystok into a trading-town, but also after the Branickis the situation did not change. Even under the Prussian rule which sought to persecute the Jews with all means, and also later when Bialystok went over to Russia, - the city from the beginning of the 19th century and until 1860 played the role of a center in foreign manufacture and tea-business.

To Bialystok would come all goods from abroad: manufacture mostly from Leipzig and tea from Königsberg (Ginspring [?]) [Kaliningrad]. The goods would

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arrive through the Prussian borders at Graiewo and Kolno (Wincenta). At Wincenta was a first-rate customs-house.

At the peak of the great import-export business, that reached many millions yearly, stood the great firm in Kolno of Reb Zusman Ya'avetz (the father of the renowned Hebrew author Reb Ze'ev Ya'avetz) and Adele [surname], a son of the [author of] “Afikei Yehuda”, “Mei Naftoach” [rabbinical writings] in Slonim. From Bialystok all the foreign goods would be transported to the whole of Poland, Lithuania and Russia (to Brisk, Shklow, Pinsk, Minsk, Moscow, [St.] Petersburg, Podol and Volyn). The German business report of the year 1789 asserts the fact that on the business of the Polish Jews is dependant the very existence of the Leipzig fair and a part of the local manufactures[1].

Bialystok remained the same central transport point also later, when the railroad was built here. In 1860 Bialystok was connected to the [St.] Petersburg-Warsaw line; in 1872- to the south-west-train; 1895- the Bialystok-Baranowicze line; 1894- the Bialystok-Bialowieza line.

As it seems, the foreign import-business in our locality developed on a very large scale in the time [between] 1795 till 1807- in the twelve years our region was annexed to Prussia. Then all the Prussian borders were open for the import of all foreign goods free of tax. Even afterwards, when the region became part of the Russian empire, the Prussian borders at first remained not too strongly locked by the Russian power, and when later the borders were closed, all the import-businessmen saw it only as a show of force by the opportunistic Russian government. The Polish Jews viewed the Russian government as foreign and oppressive; they were still faithful patriots of the oppressed Polish kingdom, and they did not consider themselves obliged to abide by the laws of Russia. They indeed attempted by all means to be exempt from them, thereby the customs-house directors collaborated with them[2].

Until 1822 there was only a low tariff on Prussian goods entering Russia. Only from 1822 the diplomatic situation permitted Czarism to repeal the low tariff with Prussia. As regards Poland, the suitable moment arrived later.

In the German business-report of 1802 a characteristic fact is mentioned, that Russian-Polish and Brody Jews had requested that year

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(from the Prussian merchants), to be given goods on credit, although during a long period they had never received credit. These were their motives: on the Russian borders the personnel had been changed, so in the time it took until they succeeded in establishing familiarity with the new officials to negotiate with them and convince them to behave with them as their predecessors had, the Russian summer fairs had passed[3]. Nebalsin, a contemporary economist and statistician, later writes, in the '30's, that the strong measures that the Russian and Austrian governments took against contraband, gave a decisive blow to the contraband business. There is information, that in various Lithuanian towns Jews swore an oath among themselves never to take part in the smuggling business again[4].

Between the years 1850-1860 Russia asserted itself strongly in Poland. Then the borders of the Bialystok region were also very strongly locked, and the import-smuggle business ceased completely in one go[5].

Until then Bialystok had been the central point of the highway, from which freight wagons with foreign goods departed daily to all regions- to Grodno on the Bialystok road, to Slonim on the Minsk road, to Brisk on the mail road.

It is difficult to estimate accurately the number of freight wagons in the Grodno governorate during the length of one year [in the times] until 1860. But as was then estimated[6], the number reached 150 thousand, and being as each wagon transported an average load of 30 pood [1 pood= 40 Old Russian pounds, which weigh 16.38 kg. or 36.11 lbs. So each wagon carried on average 1444.4 lbs.], meaning that, in one year nearly 5 million pood of goods were transported [180,550,000 lbs.]. In every shtetl there were to be found various Jewish families, who owned 4 to 8 horses with large, high, wide wagons with booths, covered in linen, to which the animals were attached.

The prices for the transport varied, depending on

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time and circumstances, but generally, until 1860, the price of transport was calculated at 10-15% of the worth of the goods [transported]. The yearly turnover of manufacture, tea and other goods was approximately 225 million rubles. We must take into account that the greater part passed through Bialystok from the nearest large border-points. Apart from that, on the rivers of Grodno governorate, the Neman with its tributaries for the north-eastern side (the districts of Slonim, Volkovysk, Grodno) and the Bug, Narew for the south-western side (the districts of Kobryn, Brisk, Bielsk and Bialystok) there navigated around 3000 ships a year, mostly loaded with grains and other agricultural products. The ships would mostly travel to Königsberg [Kaliningrad], Novogeorgievsk and Danzig [Gdansk]. Apart from that, on the rivers nearly 3000 rafts floated, loaded with timber and also with grains.

In those times in Bialystok the great magnate Yitche [Isaac] Zabludowski struck large business deals. He dealt especially in fine timber, with the oaks from the Bialowieza forests, that he bought and exported abroad.

In the Grodno governorate various fairs were held. In Bialystok there was a fair on the days 24 and 25 of July every year. Between 3000 and 4000 merchants and peasants would attend. At the fair a turnover of between 40 and 80 thousand rubles was made.


The Zelva Fair

The largest fair in the Grodno governorate was held in Zelva. There a world fair was held. The turnover reached in the hundreds of thousands of rubles. The Bialystok manufacturers and fabricants played a large role in it. Malka-Reisel Bloch had a permanent share there. After the great fire in 1862 the Zelva fair gradually went under. To the Zelva fair, by the way, used to come the assemblies of rabbis and community leaders of the “Council of Four Lands”[7].

About Zelva and its fair writes Mr. Johann Ernst Farbi [Fabri][8].

“The shtetl Zelva with the neighbouring district, which belong to the prince Sapieha, is famed already for a number of years on cause of its fair (Messe), that is

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held there yearly during the whole month of August, and is visited by many thousands of Jews and by the same number of Russians and Prussians. A beautiful, massive square of arcades in the middle of the marketplace accommodates 70 comfortable merchants' shops, and in the same space, that is built-in, there are permanent and [also] mobile booths (wooden shops) of all sorts. But besides them there is also the market, that surrounds the said square, partly occupied by many wooden shops, and partly many goods are traded under the open sky. Besides that, not far from the marketplace, there is another square place between the houses and corners, which cannot be seen from the start- sheds and other wooden hiding-places, that hold the most practical Russian fur-wares and also other goods. Every corner of the small shtetl is full of large and small store-houses [with goods] from Europe. In the marketplace there are also a few massive houses, covered with shingles, which during the fair are used for storage. Besides, there are guest-houses and coffee shops where large numbers congregate. During the fair weekly masquerade-balls are held [and] also French and Polish comedies.”

The Zelva fairs flourished in the second half of the 18th century. They then held the second place after the renowned Leipzig fair. They had a special value for the animal trade[9].

The Zelva fair, not far from Bialystok, played a large role in the widening of the Bialystok textile production. The greatest Bialystok fabricants and merchants had shops and storage-rooms at the Zelva fair.

The Zelva fair began to go under since the war of 1812 and afterwards became very impoverished following the Polish uprising in 1830. But the Zelva fair of 1830 could not be compared with the same fair in 1812[10].

From all this we see that Jews in the second half of the 18th century and at the beginning of the 19th developed Bialystok to the level of a large business center for foreign goods. Jews plowed the Bialystok soil for business and industry[11].

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ב    B

The beginning of textile industry in the region of Bialystok

Translated by Dave Horowitz-Larochette


The information we find written by all the historians regarding the development of the textile industry in Bialystok is quite false, in that [they state] the Germans were the first to bring the textile industry to Bialystok. We [will] show subsequently that this happened in the years 1795-1807, when the Germans annexed the Bialystok department.

It is only true that the Prussian government endeavored to introduce into the annexed province- to Christians and to Jews- the craft of weaving linen and spinning flax-wares. In the Premium Plan[12], that was released in the New East Prussia province on June 1,1802 and which was in effect until 1808, it is stated:

“21.) 10 Reichsthaler [German coin] each are to be awarded the six linen weavers who shall produce the greatest quantity of sellable linen per annum, exceeding 10 lengths of linen of 14 Berlin ells [1 ell=2 ft.] each…23.) Those producing the most linen on their own looms are to be rewarded 15 Reichsthaler; [the] 4 peasant-women who built new looms for themselves in each workshop during the next three years and who wove three sections- are to receive 8 Reichsthaler…24.) [The] 5 peasant-maidens who have learnt to weave and have worked in weaving- are to receive 10 Reichsthaler, and also shall be gifted with cloth material and scarves…26.) For spun flax-ware 10 Reichsthaler shall be awarded…27.) [The] 4 male supervisors who have learnt [their profession] in the time of one year- are to receive 10 Reichsthaler; 28.) [The] 6 youthful spinners- 10 Reichsthaler.”
We see from that, that the Prussian government strove at the time to introduce into the region to Christians and Jews the weaving of linen and the hand-spinning of flax, but not cloth-production. It is possible, that from weaving linen later was developed the primitive weaving in Bialystok that was prevalent among Jews already in the '40's. But it was still far [in time] to the complex cloth-production.

Also the information that the Saxons, who had remained in Bialystok from Napoleon's military in 1812, founded in Bialystok the first cloth factories, is false. As we have seen, at that time Bialystok became the center for manufacture and tea-business. The town was yet far from the likes of fabrication. The truth is, that the Jewish and Christian local textile industry in the Bialystok region, in various locations in the nearer and further areas, i.e. in the later Grodno

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governorate, was much older, but the textile industry in Bialystok itself is much younger[13].


In Slonim and in Ruzhany

In the year 1605 there was already in Slonim a weavers' guild, which was founded by Lew Sapieha that was acknowledged by Sigismund II in 1605 and by Jan Sobieski in 1679. The sought-after approval from the highest power shows, that weaving was already widely spread in Slonim and known also in the other neighboring towns, even without guilds.

The first attempt, which was made by the Polish monarchy, to found a textile industry in Poland was made by Antoni Tyzenhauz, starost [governor] of Grodno and podskarbi [treasurer] of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the second half of the 18th century in Horodnica, on the Neman, at Grodno. There he also founded various other prominent factories, with the support of the crown, which produced a great revenue. To this purpose guild-masters were brought from abroad. But after that which Tyzenhauz, through the intrigues by his enemies, fell from his important position, all his factories and projects were destroyed. The foreign masters departed and no trace remained of all his undertakings.

The textile production had much greater luck through private initiative. In Ciechanowice the were already cloth-factories in 1775.

In Ruzhany, Slonim area, Jews established the beginning of the textile industry in those same years. On the founding of Jewish fabrication in Ruzhany it is necessary to note a remarkable historical fact: two Jews, Gershon son of Yaakov Sackheim[14] and his partner Rabbi Ber, founded a large factory for textile-industry in Ruzhany, in the year 1776, in the famous ancient stately palace, in which lived the noble Polish families of the Sapiehas for numerous hundreds

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of years. In the same palace the Sapiehas entertained the Polish kings, there Sigismund the first [Sigismund III, who reigned bet.1587-1632] visited his friend Ivan Sapieha, in 1617. At that palace Wladyslaw, the Polish king's son, stayed for a few days, when on his way with his troops to wage war against Russia. 25 years later, when he was already King of Poland, he again visited Sapieha together with his wife and entourage. During 9 days the palace wine and liquor cellars were open to all drinkers. Sapieha was considered one of the richest men in the whole of Poland, and the Polish kings sought his friendship.

In 1774, at the same palace, Alexander Sapieha, who was chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, received for the last time the Polish king Stanislaw August- with the greatest parade. But only two years later, in 1776, at the time of the turnover in Poland, in the last days of the Polish monarchy, when Sapieha moved to live in Drohiczyn, the aforementioned Jewish factory was already founded at the palace.

In it were produced at the beginning silken materials, taffetas, cloth, coats, satin, tablecloths etc. Later it remained only a cloth and blanket factory. In 1812, when Napoleon passed through Ruzhany, the Saxons robbed from the factory the local goods, and also because of a great loss caused by the factory's representative Mr. Pines, who would sell the goods in Russia, the factory fell steeply from its position, until Leib, son of Noah Pines was made a partner in it, who fled from Volkovysk to Ruzhany in 1812 on account of the French.

Already in 1790, Meir, son of Noah Pines founded a coat factory with 50 workers in Volkovysk. In Volkovysk there existed a textile-industry factory belonging to another Pines even later.

The factory in Ruzhany did well with Leib, son of Noah Pines. He bought the palace from Sapieha. Henceforth, Ruzhany became a textile-point, mainly of the Pines family and all its branches. The factories in Ruzhany were complete, with [areas for] washing, dyeing, spinning, weaving and motor-powered finishing machines. The workers and master-craftsmen were mostly Jews, but there were also Christians from abroad. They all manufactured cheap military blankets and cloth, that were mainly destined for military use. The production continued until the (first world-) war. Afterwards it was completely obliterated and destroyed.

It is worth mentioning, that the Pines [family] had at the same time


founded and maintained a yeshiva in Ruzhany with yeshiva-directors, where youths from the entire governorate studied, because the Pines family was soaked with Torah and Haskala [enlightenment]. The Pines [family] married with the most important aristocratic Jews and from them arose some of the greatest Talmudic scholars and Maskilim [adherents of the Haskala movement]. Thus, in Ruzhany were united Torah and crafts [see Pirkei Avot, Ch.2, mishna 2: “Excellent is the study of the Torah with a worldly occupation etc.”].

Wojciech Puslovski, marshal of Slonim, bought the shtetl Kosowo next to Ruzhany from Sofia Zamojska, and in it founded in 1815 a large cloth-factory, that later passed over to one of the Pines [family], in which the same goods were produced as well.


Senator Orshenovsky's tour

Already in the times of Alexander I the czarist government took the initiative to build its own textile industry in the western region of Russia and to employ the Jewish population in it. The Russian government's intention was to have factories to produce materials for military uniforms and to make blankets for the army. To this purpose a government office was founded under the name “Head Office for Manufacture”, a crown-institution which occupied itself herewith. In 1811 senator Orshenovsky was given the task by the government to visit various governorates able to produce textile manufactured goods. In a rescript[15] to him there is a point regarding Jews. There it is stated:

“During your travels in White Russia [Belarus], you must not let your attention wander from the question: Which are, in your opinion, the best means we must take in order to diffuse cloth-production among the Jews, whether you may find the possibility to mobilize the local power agencies, to be effective on the local Jews, that they should even in small numbers develop at least a beginning of cloth-production, even without a commitment on part of the Jews to provide the cloth for the government? It shall suffice that they occupy themselves with cloth-production only for their own

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profit, we can awaken their desire for this even through promises that certain help will be given them from the crown coffers.”

Senator Orshenovsky made his tour and sent a whole series of reports of his research and his negotiations with Jewish magnates and manufacturers and received promises from seven of them to widen and aggrandize the textile-production and also petitions from Jewish industrialists for [money] advances. The Ruzhany textile industry, which had existed beforehand, henceforward occupied itself solely with the production of military cloth and blankets.


The situation of the textile industry in Grodno governorate in 1815

In 1815 Jews and also some Christians had cloth-factories at diverse locations in the Grodno governorate. At 50 mills peasant-cloth was produced. The official contemporary Russian statistics (according to Bobrovsky) enumerate in 1815 the textile-factories in Grodno governorate, of which only 2 were owned by Christians, as can be seen from the subsequent table:

Names of
Localities Looms Workers Produced
W. Puslovski Chomsk 18 286 23304
Sapieha, rented to
Gershon, son of
Yaakov Sackheim
Ruzhany 12 200 12200
Kauffmann Alby [Alba?] 12 111 8300
Gesler Horodno 3 34 2150
Pines Volkovysk 2 50 3000
Feinsilber Volkovysk 2 63 3000
Levin Izabelin 1 12 4000
Reuben Chaimovich Piesk [Peski] 2 12 2500


According to this table there were in the 8 factories 52 looms and 768 workers. The quantity of produced arshins was 58454; including 12050 arshins of flannel. Each loom produced on average 1124 arshins a year. Apart from that, the factories also produced colored woolen blankets. It is needless to remark that at the time the looms were all hand-operated.

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But the table is false. It is based on that which the manufacturers declared, but to free themselves from taxes, each one reported the bare minimum, a laughable minute part of the material produced. The factory inspectors were usually bought off. They were also quite undeveloped. They were unable to produce by themselves an independent, correct statistic. Therefore, we may assume that of all the Russian statistics, only the names of the manufacturers and the sort goods produced are correct.

Some years before the (first world-) war- I was then by then no longer a manufacturer- a new, young Russian factory inspector visited me, a certain Alexander Mikhailovich Kandratiev, a technical engineer from [St.] Petersburg. He told me that he had been sent up, as a high-ranking technical expert and economist from the Ministry of Trade and Finance, with the assignment of composing a scientific statistic [report] on the Bialystok manufacture, and that he was clueless! The local manufacturers had sent him to me as an educated ex-manufacturer to ask me advice.

After he reassured and convinced me that his purpose was solely scientific and not fiscal, I showed him that the factory-statistics can and must be compiled exclusively independently without any lateral influence. To that purpose, tables must be made of the production rate of all the machines, the prices of all the raw materials worked, it must, for example, be established according to the number of spindles used in spinning the daily amount that may be spun and its worth, according to the quality of the raw product and the quantity of looms, etc., how many lengths they can produce and so on. I made hypothetical tables for him, according to which we may compile a correct statistic for each sort of product manufactured with a precise professional insight into all its factors. He opened his eyes and started working in this manner. He assured me that he would later give me the results of his new statistic for my historical work on the Bialystok textile industry. But he did not keep his word. He only said to me that the revenue in Bialystok amounts to, according to the new calculations, more than 30 million rubles annually, instead of the earlier 7 million. He promised to send me a printed statistic from [St.] Petersburg but just then the (first world-) war broke out. I make these remarks to give understanding as to why the statistics from the Russian inspectors are so shaky and unreliable.

Various noblemen in those times also dedicated themselves at the beginning to establishing the textile industry. They had convenient opportunities for the opening of factories: [their] own timber from their forests, [their] own wool from their sheep as raw material, as well as [their] own cheap labor, the statute-labor peasants. But in the later stages, when they were in need of money, a large part of their factories went over to capital-rich Jewish hands, partly as leases and partly as permanent ownership.

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On the threshold of the second quarter of the 19th century the initiative to build textile factories started to pass from the noblemen to Jewish magnates. The Sapiehas' and Poslawskis' passed on to the Pines [family]. The very same happened in the Kiev governorate. Count Pototzky-Kalinovsky's factory was for a long time rented to the Jews of Berditchev, the Bilisianskys.

ג    C

The textile industry in the Province of Grodno in 1828[16]

Translated by Dave Horowitz-Larochette


In 1828 there were 19 textile factories in the Grodno governorate. 9 of them belonged to estate-owners or were managed by them among their properties and were leased to merchants, almost always Jews. Of these factories two were the most significant, not so much for the quantity produced but for the outstanding quality, to which they were driven by the care of the owners, who managed and equipped their factories with the best machines, tools, materials and fine foreign master-craftsmen. The other cloth-material factories were less important, both given their small production and also since they mainly produced simple cloth and [only] a small part medium and thin [fine].

The production of all 19 factories in 1828 was: cloth-material- 10365 sections, 248400 arshins; coat-material- 28325 arshins, flannel- 1000 arshins. The number of workers in all these factories was 1860 men. The majority of the workers were serfs. But there were also Jews among the workers.


In the city of Grodno and its vicinity

In Grodno itself there was the factory of the Jew Yehoshua Manis, a Grodno resident. The factory was in a rented house, a weaving workshop with 1 loom. The cloth-material was flexed at others' walk-mills. In 1828 the production was: flannel- 4 sections of 30 arshins each, wool socks- 350 pairs. The said produced goods were sold on the premises; the work was done solely by the owner and two apprentices.

In the shtetl Krynki of the Grodno area there was the weaving workshop of the lease-holder Yossel Geles, established in 1827, in a house he owned. 4 looms produced in 1828: simple grey cloth-material- 20 sections of 20 arshins each, dark-green and white coats- 60 units; the number of workers- 5 men, all Jews.

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In the town Volkovysk

In 1825 the merchant of the 2nd guild, Ore [Aaron] Feinsilber established a factory in his own wooden house. In 1828 the factory produced cloth-material of diverse colors- 1810 sections, 36230 arshins, cashmere of diverse colors- 20 sections, 500 arshins. All the goods were sold on the premises. The workers were 250 men, hired freemen, including foreign masters and Jewish undermasters.

In 1827 Yossel Pines established a weaving workshop with 6 looms, in 1828 was produced cloth-material of diverse colors, 300 sections of 28 arshins each; all sold on the premises. Number of workers- 31 men, Jews.

A different factory belonging to Yankel Pines, established in 1827, had a weaving workshop with 6 looms. In 1828 it produced: cloth-material of diverse colors, 300 sections, 7500 arshins, all sold on the premises. Number of workers- 31 men, Jews.

Volkovysk had another factory, of Hirsche Feinsilber, in his own wooden house, established in 1827. It had a weaving workshop with 6 looms. In 1828 it produced: cloth-material of diverse colors, 400 sections of 20 arshins each. All sold on the premises. The number of workers-20 men, Jews.


In Slonim and the Slonim region

Slonim had a large factory belonging to the leader of the Russian secret police, [Count] Nikolay Nikolayevich Novosiltsev. In 1828 his factory produced 960 sections, 28250 arshins, the number of workers- 162 men, all hired freemen.

Abraham Kamenomostsky's factory, in his own walled and wooden building, established at the end of 1826, had eight looms; in 1828 it produced: cloth-material of diverse colors, 190 sections, 4560 arshins, woolen bedspreads- 85 units, all sold on the premises. The number of workers- 35 men, hired freemen. Amongst these were Jews, 20 men.

In Ruzhany there was a factory belonging to the lease-holder Leib Pines. It was in a wooden house, rented from Prince Sapieha, established by the prince in 1791. In the said factory there were: 20 spinning-machines, 20 cloth-cutting machines, 8 wool-combing machines, 1 machine for scraping cloth-material. The factory had a dyeing workshop with 6 boilers; there was not an own walk-mill. The weaving workshop had 27 looms. In 1828 the factory produced: cloth-material of diverse colors of medium quality- 300 sections, 28600 arshins. Of

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the said amount, 20000 arshins were sold in diverse Russian cities. The number of workers was 159. Amongst them were hired by Prince Sapieha, 39 male serfs and 40 women. Apart from that, 80 Jews worked at the factory.

The second factory in Ruzhany belonged to the Jewish lease-holder German [Herman] Sackin (Chaim Sackheim). It too was established in 1791 by the owner, Prince Sapieha. There was a weaving workshop there with 15 looms. In 1828 it produced: cloth-material of diverse colors of medium sort- 1300 sections, 31200 arshins, coat-material- 850 sections of 30 arshins each. All these goods produced were sold in diverse Russian cities. The number of workers was 139 men, freeman-peasants hired by Prince Sapieha.

In the Slonim region there was the factory belonging to the Jewish lease-holder Simcha Yashinovsky, at the Alby folwark [large farm estate], in a house rented from the mayor [marshal] Puslovski. The factory was established in 1813 by Count Zamojski and afterwards it passed to the ownership of K. Puslovski. There was a weaving workshop there with 13 looms. In 1828 it produced cloth-material of the quality required in guards' corps, dark-green, dark and light grey and olive-colored- 790 sections, 18950 arshins, 180 woolen bedspreads of 3 arshins in length. The goods were sold in diverse Russian cities, the number of workers- 146 male peasants, hired by the owner.


In the Pruzhany region

In the shtetl Shershev there was in a wooden building, rented from a local resident, the factory belonging to the merchant of the 1st guild, Shaul Levin. It was established in 1818 with a weaving workshop with 5 looms. In 1828 it produced dark-green, blue and black cloth-material, quality- higher for military cloth- 190 sections, 4750 arshins, coat-material and flannel- 22 sections, 730 arshins, woolen bedspreads of 3 arshins in length- 850 units. The goods were sold in diverse Russian cities, the number of workers was 41, of both sexes, freeman-peasants, and among them there were 21 Jewish men and 12 Jewish women.

In the same shtetl, Yossel Tuchmacher, in a rented house, established in 1828 a weaving workshop with 1 loom. In 1828 it produced dark-green, blue and black cloth-material, quality- higher for military cloth- 8 sections, 184 arshins, coat-material and flannel- 15 sections, 525 arshins, bedspreads 500. The goods- sold in diverse Russian cities. The number of workers

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was 16, among them the lease-holder Yossel Tuchmacher himself who was the master-craftsman. All the workers were Jewish, 8 men and 7 women.


In the Kobryn region

The 2nd most important factory in the Grodno governorate belonged to the marshal Puslovski. The weaving workshop had 54 looms and produced 1649 sections, 41225 arshins. There were around 500 workers.

The Brisk merchant of the 12th guild Leibke Warhaftig established in 1826 a factory in the shtetl Visoky Litovsk, in Prince Sapieha's walled buildings. The factory had: carding machines- 2, combing machines- 5, pre-spin machines- 3, spinning machines- 15, presses- 2, dyeing boilers- 4, for walking [fulling, flexing], a watermill. The combing machines were horse-powered, the weaving workshop [had]- 12 looms. In 1828 the factory produced cloth-material of 1st ,2nd ,3rd and 4th sort- 610 sections, 16570 arshins. The majority of the goods were sold in diverse Russian cities. The amount of men who worked: the factory manager, a foreign mechanic, master-craftsmen- 14, undermasters and apprentices- 12, diverse workmen- 50, in total 77 men. Among them 72 were Jews!


Around Bialystok

The first systematic mechanical cloth factory with all its divisions: washing, dyeing, spinning, weaving and equipment i.e. a complete factory, was founded in 1824 by a Polish estate-owner, the Russian general Leszczynski. He set it up at Mereczowszczyzna, on his estate near Bialystok. A Christian estate-owner from Knyszyn, a shtetl near Bialystok, would bring in 1828 German cloth-makers and cloth-masters, and erect 40 small workshops, in order to process the wool from his sheep. No trace of the factory in Knyszyn later remained. (We find a complete Jewish factory there later, in the '60's- '80's).

Also to the Michalowo Niezbudka colony the owner, Kazimir Michaylow, would then bring a group of 29 German families and settle them on his estate and clear for them a forest for [to build] buildings, and give them various privileges and protection.

In this manner and for this reason- to process the nobleman's wool from his sheep- a textile-factory would be established in Siemiatycze, at that same time. Siemiatycze seemed, because

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of its location on the Bug [river] to be very suitable as a textile-industry center. But in the '60's, when the railroad was built, newer and more convenient ways of transport were found. Because of this, the textile industry in Siemiatycze fell.

Also in Ciechanowice cloth fabrication was built up in the '20's, at first through Germans and later came Jews as well. There was a nest there for the textile-industry until the (first world-) war.

At the time in Slonim, on the Vysochek estate, there were two cloth factories on the river. The factories were founded by the Jewish estate-owner or lease-holder Yosef Vysochek. He was wealthy. But after he became impoverished, his factories went under.

In the Bialystok region there were- in Horodok, Countess Niesiolowska's factory, established in 1828, and in Orle [that] of Countess Grabowska, established in 1827.

But in Bialystok itself and in its neighboring area there were, apart from Leszczynski's factory, no textile-industry factories in the '20's of the 19th century.

From all this we see that in the Grodno governorate there were textile factories already from 1790 up to 1830. There were even complete factories, large, with all modern arrangements, with foreign mechanics and master-craftsmen, with hundreds of workers.

The founders of the factories were the great Polish noblemen and Jews, but the amount of Jews was far greater. The few nobles' factories passed later on to Jewish hands. The nobles' workers were freeman-peasants and also serfs. The vast majority of those who worked for Jews were Jewish. Therefore, it is apparent that textile-fabrication became familiar in the Grodno governorate, and the Bialystok region, on a highly developed level, before the annexation to Prussia and before the French war of 1812.

But in Bialystok itself in 1830 there were only two little factories or workshops, a small weaving workshop[17] and a tiny hat factory. There were

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small weaving workshops, Jewish and Gentile, that produced cheap cotton goods, that were called plotchenke. But about these workshops we only know for sure starting from the '40's.


A view on the general situation

According to one of A.D. Juditzky's[18] tables, it turns out, that in 9 West-Russian governorates where many Jews lived there were in 1828 in total 679 factories, amongst them 124 in Jewish hands, which comes to 18.42%. Four years later, in 1832, there were only 582 factories but the number of Jewish factories reached 149, making the percent of Jewish factories 29.7%.

When we count the Jewish cloth-factories in 1828 we receive the following picture:

In Volyn governorate 40
In Grodno governorate with Bialystok 16
In Mogilev governorate 10
In the other governorates 3 factories and less.
In 1832 there were Jewish cloth-factories:
In Volyn 41
In Grodno governorate with Bialystok 18
In Mogilev governorate 12

ד    D

The reasons for the development of the textile industry in Bialystok

Translated by Dave Horowitz-Larochette


Where from was in the thirties suddenly taken a movement to found near Bialystok and in Bialystok itself complete modern factories of cloth, that fabricated the best, most expensive and finest goods, that were able to compete and did in fact compete with foreign goods?

The said movement did not appear on its own accord. It was proclaimed through the Polish revolution of 1830-1831. The Russian government, after stifling the revolution, as a penalty closed the Russian borders from introducing Polish goods to Russia, mainly from its textile-industry, that was already well-established and widespread in Poland. According to the czarist decree of November 13, 1834 a

[Page 23]

customs duty was imposed on all Polish goods. At that time, in Tiktin, a town near Bialystok, was installed a border guard with a customs-office, in order to halt the transit of Polish goods to China, in which Poland had then a large sales market.

Through this the Polish industry was destroyed, which fell from an annual revenue of around 10 million rubles in 1829 to just 800 thousand in 1840. Foreign workers and manufacturers stopped coming to Poland and many of them even wandered to Russia where they founded large factories, like Wermann & Co. in Livonia [lands on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea, north of Lithuania] and many [others] in the Bialystok region.

Bialystok was the first city on the Russian side of the border with Poland and [also] near the Prussian border. This facilitated and cheapened the costs of bringing machines and goods from abroad. The contractors and workers were in the first half of the 18th [perhaps meant to say 19th] century Germans, also the materials were usually brought from Prussia or Bavaria. The fact that Bialystok was already a business center also facilitated the process of establishing here a textile-industry.

Already in 1832, a German manufacturer, who had wandered from Poland, opened a cloth-factory in Suprasle, by Bialystok, but not a complete factory. The Russian government wished at the time to cut off the Polish textile-manufacture from the Russian market entirely. It strove to establish its own textile-manufacture in Bialystok, on the Polish border. It had contemplated Bialystok from the very beginning of the Russian rule. As we have already mentioned, Polish Jews were not allowed to settle in Bialystok, without a special permit.

The Russian government, to this purpose, invited a German, a native of the then German city Posen, Wilhelm Zachert, a great expert on cloth-manufacture. He had already an established large cloth-factory in Zgierz, near Lodz. Now he was to found in Bialystok a complete modern cloth-factory. He chose Suprasle, near Bialystok, because of its good water. The German indeed founded his factory there with the government's endorsement. That was in 1834. Since in Suprasl he could not find the suitable buildings, he persuaded the government to grant him the use of part of a monastery. He received, by order from the General-Gubernator of Vilnius, 22 rooms for a yearly rent of 450 rubles, which was then decreased to just 300 rubles.

[Page 24]

Also Zachert's master-craftsmen and helpers, whom he brought with him, established complete or partial factories immediately after him: Jansen (previously: Reich)- a large dyeing-plant in 1835; Buchholz- a complete factory in 1837; Aunert- in 1838, later Alt, in 1835- complete factories.

The factories were at first operated manually. Gradually, improvements were introduced. The factories were operated by animals, later by water turbines. The first steam-boilers appeared in 1840. The first steam-powered machine with 40 horse-power belonged to Moes in Choroszcz.

The Suprasl manufacturers produced the finest woolen wares for summer and winter, diverse garnitures and fine, expensive silken goods, which were famous and spread over the whole of Russia. Zachert later received the title of baron from the government for the proceeds he gained for the Russian (i.e. Bialystok) textile-industry.

But the largest and most important cloth-factory was at the time founded in Choroszcz, near Bialystok, in 1840. The founder was the Belgian Christian August Moes, who earlier had been the director at Zachert's factory in Zgierz, Lodz area. He later established there a cloth-factory of his own. But he was also forced to wander from Zgierz because of the devastation suffered by the Polish cloth-manufacture after the Polish revolution. He chose a location for a new factory 2 kilometers from the shtetl Choroszcz, Branicki's hunting-manor, which then belonged to Count Kamar. He leased it from him for 10 years, according to the Russian law, to be able to renew the lease every 10 years without the owner having the right to cancel the lease. In the side-buildings he introduced 16 looms and the cutting-room. The spinning-room was leased in Bialystok, the washing and fulling were [done] at first in Dzikie, a nearby village.

Moes was the first to introduce the mechanical loom in Bialystok. He obtained two mechanical looms from the Saxon loom-factory, that were numbered 2 and 3, meaning they were the very first mechanical looms! In a short time, the factory grew. 2 massive weaving buildings were erected, each with three floors, which held up to 100 looms.

In 1846 Moes proceeded to build a large 3-story house to move and expand there the Bialystok spinning plant. The factory

[Page 25]

received the first 40 horse-power steam-machines, soon also a small worsted-yarn spinning-room was set up. In 1850 the whole factory was destroyed in a great fire, only the steam-machines and a few cutting-machines remained intact. But Christian August Moes did not lose himself. In 3 months' time the steam-machines were working again. The factory, after its renewal, developed more and more. In 1884, under the direction of his eldest son Karl August Moes, the production exceeded the sum of a million rubles for the first time, later on they could reach a turnover of 3 million annually[19].

Moes' goods were the very best, finest and most expensive fabrics for black salon-dresses, garnitures and silken ware. With their quality they surpassed the Suprasle manufactures. Moes' fabric, cheviot cloth and silken ware could compete with the best foreign products.

Had then in Bialystok and the surrounding area, simultaneously with the production of the finest woolen goods, been introduced a cotton-spinning complex with a cotton production, the Bialystok region could have, at the time a customs duty was imposed on the Polish cotton manufacture to Russia, surpass the Lodz region. In the time from 1831 until 1850, when the Russian market was all but closed for Polish goods, Bialystok could have pulled to itself the entire Russian clientele, because the need for cotton products is the first basic necessity of all people and social strata, poor or rich, whilst the woolen goods, the finer sort above all, are only a luxury commodity for the wealthier. But the Russian government did not wish at the time to introduce cotton manufacture in the Bialystok region, it seems so as not to bring damage to and compete with the cotton manufacture in the Moscow-Ivanov region. Private initiative, without the government's help, was still lacking in Bialystok in those days.

Bialystok did not take advantage of the time between 1834 to 1850 to develop the cotton industry. And after 1850 it was too late because in that year the Russian government canceled the tax on Polish

[Page 26]

goods, it was again possible to introduce them into Russia free of tax. The Lodz textile-industry developed tremendously, in all its lines and branches, quickly expanded and flooded the whole of Russia with its products, first with the cheap and later also with the expensive goods. The stream of clients from every corner of Russia became very much larger in the Lodz region. In that same region, and separately in Zgierz and in Tomaszow, they took to producing fine woolen wares. At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th the goods from these aforementioned towns began pushing out the best Suprasle and Bialystok woolen-wares from the Russian market. In that battle the Lodz area triumphed over Bialystok and its region. Neither the local Bialystok competition from the Jewish manufacturers nor the competition from the Lodz region could surpass the fine Moes products. But that which the competition could not swallow up, - the retreating Russian military (during the first world war) burned, devastated and ruined. The Polish government established on that site in Choroszcz a large mental asylum. The said destruction dealt its death-blow to the best Bialystok woolen cloth manufacturer.

As we have seen, the cloth-manufacture did not begin in Bialystok itself, not in the business center, but in the surrounding nearby localities. This was as consequence of various reasons: firstly, over the quality of water, which in the nearby localities, by the Suprasl and the other rivers, was better than in Bialystok, on the filthy Biala, and the quality of water plays a large role in the production of fine cloth for the fulling, washing and mainly for the dyeing. The first manufacturers, great experts, specialists, had therefore avoided Bialystok as a factory-site; secondly, over the labor question: the workmen from the neighboring villages were suitable for factory work, whilst in the city basic products and housing were more expensive, therefore city-based workers demanded higher wages for their labor[20].

[Page 27]

When indeed the cloth-industry started some years later also in Bialystok, it was also given to various reasons, which overcame the first [reasons mentioned]: firstly, Bialystok was the business center; there the capital was available through the Jewish financers as well as all the raw materials and machines coming from abroad through the nearby borders. There were the Jewish transport-offices which delivered the readied goods to Russia. The communication from the neighboring regions to Bialystok was also very deficient, since highways were lacking, and through the primitive tracks goods could not be delivered at certain times of the year.

Consequently, others found it convenient to found their factories in Bialystok [itself].

One of the first factories in Bialystok itself was that of Hermann Kamichau, who bought Malka Reisel's factory premises with the machines. The factories of the Kamichau brothers produced fine woolen women's scarves and mainly expensive woolen shagat [?] blankets which were sold also abroad. With this same production of better shagat blankets Bialystok later distincted itself. This production line passed to Jewish manufacturers which they spread even to the whole far east- in Shanghai and in Harbin.

Manufacturers of medium-range woolen blankets were: August L. Anger, since 1844; Flackert, since 1865; of better silken ware- the spinning plant at Dobrozyniewo. The spinning-master Damtin made it into a paper-factory but it did not succeed. In 1848 the factory passed over to the manufacturer Gerz and afterwards to Rudolph Jacobi, who had previously been the director of Buchholz's factory in Suprasle.

In Dainowe a finishing plant was established in the fifties, for the water of the Biala was suitable there for them, which is clean there (Biala's source is not far from there). From the said buildings developed the then renowned finishing plant of Kramm, on the land of Count Ridiger.

At the start of the '60's Hassbach's factory was established and in Skorup as well, also on Rediger's land where had been founded in the middle of the previous century an industrial undertaking. And afterwards came from it the large factory of Herbst; in the Nowi [Mickiewicza]- the factory of Krause, Richter, Kien, Straubach dyeing plant in Marczuk, Philips factory, Frisch's, Henrik's, Eisenbeck, Wieczorek and some other small German factories and weaving-workshops.

The last great factory , founded by Germans in

[Page 28]

Bialystok was the plush factory of Becker & Co. (1895), which exists to this day (1935-36).

Apart from Bialystok, in the Michalowo Niezbudka German colony, a small shtetl not far from Bialystok, was established a German production of middle-sort and cheap silken wares: K. Moritz, in 1836, Leitloff- in 1852, Julius Peter- in 1858, Julius Knauer- in 1859, Freimark, August Klemm, Peter Otto, Grabber, Redloff, Pitzka, Besler and others. There were Jewish weaving-workshops there as well.


  1. See A. Margulies History of Jews in Russia, 1930, Vol. I, p.239 and on. Return
  2. The same book mentioned above, p.40 Return
  3. The same book mentioned above, p.75 and 240; see also the article by Korobkov in Jewish Antiquities, 1911. Return
  4. Margulies, the same book mentioned above, p.76. Return
  5. From the great import firm Ya'avetz-Adele, Reb Zusman Ya'avetz (Adele had died earlier) moved to Lomza and founded together with the partners Israel-Moshe Nowinsky and Moshe Kalinsky a great sugar factory. Later he moved to Warsaw and there he founded the first great tobacco factory; since the sugar factory burnt down, he founded other large businesses there (see my "Toldos Reb Ze'ev Ya'avetz" HaHed [The Echo, a magazine published in Jerusalem between 1925-1953], Jerusalem, Nissan 5694 [Mar.-Apr. 1934]. Return
  6. А. Бобровский [A. Bobrovsky] Материалы для географии и статистики России [Materials for geography and statistics of Russia] Гродненская губ СПБ [Grodno Province St. Petersburg], 1863. Return
  7. See Simon Dubnow, The State Register, Berlin, 5685 [1925], entry #829: "To rule a [Halachic] ruling on market day at the holy community of Zelva"
    At the Zelva fair the great announcement was made by the great rabbis who congregated there on Elul 1, 5511 [Aug. 22,1751], excommunicating Chassidim and Chassidism. See A. Zweifel on the subject, in his Shalom Le'israel [Peace to Israel]. Return
  8. Das Neue Geographishe Magasin [The New Geographic Magazine], Halle 1785, 1, p.75-76 Return
  9. See Balinski and Lipinski Starożytna Polska [Ancient Poland], Vol.4, p.263, 569. Return
  10. Журнал Министерства внутренних Дел [Journal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs], 1831, XI, p.156. Return
  11. As we have shown from various original sources, there were in 1795 when Bialystok was annexed to Prussia, in the entire Bialystok business-district only 6 Christian merchants to 76 Jewish ones. See Pinkos Bialystok, Vol.1, p.26. Return
  12. See Pinkos Bialystok, Vol.1, p.81 and on. Return
  13. The main source on textile industry in Grodno governorate is A. Bobrovsky's work (see footnote 6). Much important information is given in the article “Состояние фабрик и заводов в Гродненской Губ в 1828 г. [The condition of the factories and plants in the Grodno governorate in 1828] ” Журнал Мануфактуры и Торговли за 1831 г. [Magazine of Manufacture and Trade for 1831] Compare with Margulies, the same book mentioned above, p. 83-280. I've also used the annual reports of the factory inspectors as far back as 1860, as well as memoirs and communications from older residents. Return
  14. A great-grandson of martyrs of Ruzhany. Return
  15. А. Д. Юдицкий [A. D. Juditzky] “Евреи в Текстильной Промышленности XIX в. [Jews in the Textile Industry of the XIX century]” Исторический Сборник Академии Наук ССР [Historical Collection of the Academy of Sciences of the SSR], 1935, IV, p.107-133. A. D. Juditzky sheds light upon the beginning of the textile industry by Jews based on important archival materials. From there it is that I've taken the story of the senator's tour. (The history of the Jewish textile industry in Russia in the first half of the 19th century is detailed in his earlier work: A. Juditzky: Jewish Bourgeoisie and Jewish Proletariat in the First Half of the 19th Century [in Yiddish in the original]. P.119, "Proletar" publishing house, Kiev). Return
  16. Журнал Мануфактуры и Торговли [Magazine of Manufacture and Trade]. Return
  17. Henryk Mosciecki, Bialystok, Zarys Historyczny, Bialystok, 1933C. 146; Relates completely false information that in 1830 Bialystok wove on 184 looms a revenue of 230483 rubles. He bases himself on the "Journal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs", 1837, 1840 and 1841. Even if it is written there, it is false anyway. He later writes himself the fact, that in 1842 there were in Bialystok just two tiny factories- again false information. The author contradicts himself constantly, (see the introduction to Pinkos Bialystok, vol.1, p.3-9). Return
  18. In a work, shown in footnote 15. Return
  19. The German occupation-force at the time of the first world war took an interest in German manufacture in the Bialystok region, and in the German-Jewish Bialystok Newspaper, 1916, #42 (from April 9) it was wished to show that Bialystok, from the beginning on, had the German people to thank for its textile-industry. Therefore, the newspaper did not mention even a single name of the great Jewish manufacturers. . Return
  20. I've brought up in a different place the question: how comes it that textile-manufacture should be established at all in cities without water or with bad water. I've found an explanation, that on the rivers and great water-bodies the local inhabitants followed other pursuits, as timber and grain businesses. They did not seek to found textile-manufacture as in Lodz. Actually, in neighboring Piotrkow there is good water, indeed a Jew opened a textile-factory there, but it did not pay off for him. Also in Grodno, which has good water, it was attempted already back in 1750 to open a textile-factory, but nothing resulted from it either. Return

Translator's Footnotes

  1. See Pinkos Bialystok, Volume I. Return
  2. Rus. cubit, 1 arshin= 71.12 cm. or 2.33 ft. Return

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