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Hanukkah Goes Commercial

Hanukkah Gift

Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels.com.

By the 1890s, in response to the festiveness of the Christmas season, Jewish publishers had begun promoting the Jewish holiday Hanukkah (then commonly referred to as Chanukah) as an occasion for gift-giving among Jews. In 1921, Asher Hamburger, whose popular Hamburger’s Department Store on Broadway in Los Angeles was the largest retail store west of Chicago (later sold to May Company), was believed to be the first to use commercial advertising to promote gift-giving for Hanukkah. At the time, the Jewish community in Los Angeles was rapidly growing, as significant numbers of Jewish immigrants were attracted to the city (the community grew from 17,000 to 43,000, between 1917 and 1923*). Hamburger’s ads offered “Happy Gift Suggestions for Chanukah” and promoted “gifts of apparel,” “gifts for the home,” “remembrances from Toyland for the children,” and “gift boxes of California Fruits and Nuts.”

Hamburgers Department Store, 1908

Postcard of exterior of Hamburger's Department Store, 1908. Los Angeles Almanac Postcard Collection.

Hamburgers Department Store, 1908

Postcard of interior of Hamburger's Department Store, ca. 1908.

Hamburgers Department Store Building, 2018

Former Hamburger's Department Store building, first opened in 1906, at 801 South Broadway. The view is from the corner of Broadway and 8th Street. The store was sold to May Company in 1923. By the 1990s, it housed garment manufacturers. In 2014, the building was sold to a New York-based investment company and is now reported to be the largest ever federal Historic Tax Credit redevelopment project in California. Los Angeles Almanac Photo, 2018.

* East Los Angeles: History of a Barrio by Ricardo Romo. University of Texas Press, 2010.

Also see:
-- Earliest Published Story of Hanukkah in Los Angeles?
-- First Public Hanukkah Menorah on the West Coast
-- History of Hanukkah in Los Angeles, 1890s-1920s, Homestead Blog.