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Film Chronicles the End of an Era for a New York Matzo Factory

When Jewish families and friends gather at Passover tables next week, the ubiquitous accompaniment to their meal—appetizer, side dish, edible history lesson—will be matzo. The crispy cracker, often little more than flour and water, is meant to resemble the flat bread baked by ancient Jews in a hurry while escaping slavery from Egypt. The basic recipe has remained remarkably consistent over the years, as have many of the traditions surrounding it.

Case in point: the Streit’s matzo factory on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, which churned out a large chunk of the nation's “bread of affliction” for the better part of a century. But as CityLab reports, while little changed inside the five-floor factory on Rivington Street, outside the neighborhood changed from immigrant haven to well-heeled late-night destination—not such a great place for a noisy factory and its delivery trucks. Last year, the factory was finally sold—for $31 million.

Just in time for Passover, filmmaker Michael Levine has released a documentary about the factory’s story: Streit’s: Matzo and the American Dream. (“Leavened with history!” says the Wall Street Journal.) The film tells the tale of the factory from its opening in 1925 through its final days, using archival imagery and interviews with staff, plus plenty of hands-on matzo-making shots. The film opens in New York on April 20, followed by a release in other cities, and is accompanied by an exhibit at the Art on A gallery featuring historical Streit’s photos and machinery. You can watch a trailer for it above.

Fortunately, families who love Streit’s need not worry about their matzo supplies—the factory is reopening in Rockland County later this year, according to CityLab. 

[h/t CityLab]

Header image via Jonathunder via Wikipedia // GNU Free Documentation License

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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