The Fabric of Our Lives:
A History of Philadelphia's South Fourth Street

by Michele Winitsky Palmer

For over a century, fabrics and Fourth Street have been interwoven.  Many of the Jewish immigrants who settled there around the turn of the twentieth century were tailors or seamstresses.  Working long hours in sweatshops, they produced the clothing that made Philadelphia the leading men's apparel manufacturer in the world.

Other Jewish immigrants on Fourth Street included peddlers who hawked dry goods like fabric remnants, sewing supplies, sheets and curtains.  They worked out of pushcarts that lined the streets, or from stands -- tables made of boards and sawhorses -- that leaned against the storefronts.  Eventually, they opened up fabric stores, mainly in the 700 block between Bainbridge and Catherine streets.

Today, the pushcarts are gone, as are many of the old fabric establishments.  Still, a number of them remain, along with a new generation of entrepreneurs, and a new name for the area -- Fabric Row. 

This photo/oral history is a tribute to the generation who started it all, including my father, Louis Winitsky. 

Louis Winitsky

Note: Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from oral histories I conducted from 1997-1998.

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