Harry Spiro Papers
Scope and Content Note
This collection contains correspondence, photos, newspapers and clippings, manuscripts, and financial records documenting the life of Harry Spiro following his immigration from the shtetl of Butrimantz in Lithuania; first to Havana, Cuba and then to the United States. Included in the collection are materials relating to his family, including his older brother Abraham Spiro, his wife Caroline, their children Lionel and Leah, and Yiddish correspondence with family who remained in Lithuania. The collection documents a lifetime of Zionist activism and includes issues of Oyfgang, a Yiddish newspaper that Harry worked for while living in Cuba, articles published for the Fall River (Massachusetts) Herald and Fall River Zionist Record, and correspondence with prominent Hebrew language revivalist Abraham Katsh. Tax and financial records document Best Lumber, a building supply company founded by Harry Spiro in 1935. This collection also includes historical and genealogical research performed by Harry’s niece Olga Zabludoff, as well as some translations and photocopied records she used in work.
- undated, 1905-1982
- Spiro, Harry (Person)
Language of Materials
The collection is in English, Yiddish, and Hebrew.
Conditions Governing Access
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Harry Spiro was born on September 15, 1905 in Butrimantz, Lithuania, where his family operated a tavern and social club. Seeking to escape conscription into the Lithuanian army and pursue higher education, Harry Spiro attempted to immigrate to the United States in 1923. He was encouraged by his half-brother Abraham Spiro, a director of the New York Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, but was unable to obtain a United States visa due to immigration quotas and ended up in Havana, Cuba. Harry wrote of his challenges in Havana: he was short of money, far from family, and struggling to learn English and Spanish simultaneously while remaining uncertain whether he would ever be allowed entry to the United States. Seeking another destination, Harry corresponded with relatives who had immigrated to Argentina, Palestine, and South Africa. Despite his difficulties in Havana, Harry became involved with local Jewish life, writing for the Yiddish language newspaper Oyfgang (Oifgang), and spending time with friends, including the Yiddish language poet Eliezer Aronowsky. While in Havana, Harry was employed by the Jewish Committee for Cuba as a secretary and librarian. He earned a high school equivalent degree from Candler College and in 1927 was able to immigrate to New York, where he attended City College and Columbia University while living at the John D. Rockefeller International House.
Harry continued his Zionist advocacy in New York through membership in Avukah (the American Student Zionist Association) and writing op-ed pieces for various newspapers. After his graduation Harry joined relatives in Fall River, Massachusetts, and in 1933, married Caroline Schapiro. A loan of capital from Abraham allowed Harry to start his business, Best Lumber, a lumber and building supply company, in 1935. Best Lumber was a small company, where the number of staff never exceeded four people, and was liquidated in 1970. In Fall River Harry and his wife, Caroline, raised two children, Lionel and Leah, while remaining active in political, philanthropic, and community life. During these years Harry was especially involved with the Fall River District of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), ultimately serving as President of the organization. After retiring from Best Lumber in 1970 Harry traveled frequently, visiting Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Israel. Harry died in 1982; Caroline in 2002.
- Materials from the collection.
- Born in Butrimantz, Lithuania.
- Arrives in Havana, Cuba.
- Arrives in New York City.
- Attends Columbia University while living at the International House of New York.
- Married to Caroline Schapiro in Fall River Massachusetts.
- Founds Best Lumber with a loan from Abraham Spiro.
- Elected Chairman of the Education Committee, Fall River District of the Zionist Organization of America.
- Elected President of the Fall River District of the Zionist Organization of America.
- Fire at Best Lumber.
- Retires from Best Lumber; the company is liquidated.
- Death of Harry Spiro in Fall River, Massachusetts.
- Death of Caroline Spiro.
2.75 linear feet (2 document boxes, 1 oversized box)
This collection contains correspondence, photos, newspapers and clippings, manuscripts, and financial records documenting the life of Harry Spiro following his immigration from the shtetl of Butrimantz in Lithuania, first to Havana, Cuba and then to the United States. Included in the collection are materials relating to his family, his Zionist activism both in Cuba and in the United States, and his building supply business, Best Lumber.
Located in Boston, Mass.
Donated by Lionel Spiro in November 2014.
Processed by Zack Shovein and Kora Welsh, 2015
- Aronowski, Eliezer
- Avukah, American Student Zionist Federation
- Clippings (information artifacts)
- Fall River (Mass.)
- Financial records
- Genealogies (histories)
- Havana (Cuba)
- Katsh, Abraham Isaac, 1908-
- Manuscripts (documents)
- Shapiro, Tzvi, -1982
- Spiro, Abraham
- Spiro, Caroline
- Yiddish newspapers
- Zabludoff, Olga
- Zionism in the press
- Zionist Organization of America
- Guide to the Harry Spiro Papers, P-1005
- Processed by Zack Shovein and Kora Welsh
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script