Benjamin Feldman Papers

Collection ID: 
Acc. 828
Date: 
1938-1998
Footage: 
4 linear feet
Collecting Area: 

 

Biographical Note
 

The Benjamin Feldman Series offers a wealth of materials reflecting the organizing activities of a dedicated community activist. The files of the Consumer Group Series provide an almost encylopaedic inventory of the many neighborhood and regional groups active in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley from the 1930's until the late 1970's. Researchers may find interesting the Correspondence Series, PA Department of Public Assistance, which documents Mr. Feldman's vigorous defense against accusations of being a member of the Communist Party.

Benjamin Feldman was born in Philadelphia, PA on December 17, 1907. He graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia in 1927 (145th Class) and from Temple University in 1930 with a degree in Pharmacy.

After graduation, Mr. Feldman worked as a Pharmacist up until the time of the Depression. Unable to find employment as a Pharmacist, he then worked as a Caseworker for the Department of Public Assistance for the State of Pennsylvania. In the late 1940's, Mr. Feldman owned and operated his own drug store, Modern Drug Store at 5th and Spencer Streets in the Olney section of Philadelphia, until he retired in 1959

Throughout his life, Mr. Feldman was a community activist, dedicated to supporting cooperative and consumer movements, beginning in the 1930's, when he opened a grocery co-op in his home.

 His commitment to co-operatives never wavered, even in the face of personal hardship. In 1941, as a public assistance case worker for the state of Pennsylvania, Mr. Feldman helped to organize a Credit Union for the benefit of his fellow workers at the Philadelphia County Board of Assistance. It was at that time also, that he reported to his supervisors that a fellow worker was embezzling State funds. This person in turn accused Mr. Feldman of being a Communist, his "proof" being that he was organizing a Credit Union--which was a communist front. As a result of this accusation, Mr. Feldman was suspended from his job.

Although he succeeded in his appeal for an immediate hearing and reinstatement, he resigned from his post, convinced that this assault on his character would unfavorably impact his relations with fellow workers. In correspondence later in his life, Mr. Feldman often referred to this still painful memory.

Mr. Feldman either belonged to or was associated with over twenty cooperative or consumer groups. He was one of the early members of the food co-operative, Weavers Way. In 1976 he founded and was elected Treasurer of the Delaware Valley Coalition for Consumer Education and Cooperation. This group published a newsletter Viewpoints, which offered reports on government actions' (federal and state) impacting consumers as well as information on seminars/workshops held by area cooperative and consumer groups. Mr. Feldman held various offices in the Philadelphia Consumer Services Cooperative, Inc. Up until the time of his death in 1998, he was still an active member of the Institute for Cooperative Housing.

Mr. Vincent Pieri writing about Mr. Feldman, in the co-operative newsletter, Weavers Way, described Ben Feldman as "Mr. Co-op Philadelphia." In his article, Mr. Pieri quotes an oft-stated belief of Ben Feldman: "Co-ops are and must be about more than cheap cheese." Mr. Feldman, who belonged to or assisted in the workings of a vast number of co-operatives and consumers groups, dedicated his life to making this belief a reality.


Collection Overview

The Benjamin Feldman Papers, 1938-1993, document the nearly fifty years involvement of Mr. Feldman in various cooperative and neighborhood organizations. His interests spanned the gamut of consumer, safety, and general societal concerns. There is almost no information in the collection regarding his early life prior to his employment by the State of Pennsylvania as a Caseworker for the Department of Public Assistance in the 1930’s. This collection had no original order (save for that within individual folders), and has been reconstructed as close to what might have been intended as possible. The Collection includes correspondence, pamphlets, brochures, for-profit and non-profit publications, and promotional material. The material is arranged both alphabetically and chronologically. Series IV, V, VII, VIII, IX, and X are arranged alphabetically, with Series I, II, III, VI, XI, and XII arranged Chronologically. The collection is in twelve Series, with the bulk of the material falling into either Consumer Groups, or Consumer Education. All of the material, including most publications, is in relatively good condition, save for some dog-earing of corners and slight folding damage.

The correspondence includes letters of general interest, mainly to co-ops or members of the Press. Personal correspondence has been included in this series, and is labeled as such. Such items of correspondence as relates to group or institution are grouped with the relevant organization. Of some interest are the items of correspondence to and from the State of Pennsylvania, 1938-47, that relate to Feldman’s fight to clear his name and record from taint of Communist involvement. Also of note is an item of correspondence (1963) to the local chapter of the NAACP, care of Cecil B. Moore.

The Collection also contains a significant amount of material relating to organization of co-ops and community interest groups. Many of the folders relating to Consumer Groups also contain the Minutes and Proceedings of the relative groups. Mr. Feldman was a firm believer in recycling of material, which is reflected in a great many individual items in the collection which often consists of pieces of boxes, old used letterheads, envelopes, and previously utilized correspondence—all serving as note paper.

Many of the groups are listed in Correspondence according to their name and are linked with others in the Collection. Mr. Feldman, often as a part of his own activities, kept in contact with other groups involved in his areas of interests. In some of the publications, and in the individual folders within the Consumer Group Series, are listings of other co-ops and like-minded groups. Many of these organizations worked in loose cooperation with each other, and may be seen in much of the related material.
 

Organization and Arrangement
 

  1. Correspondence
  2. Finances
  3. Presentations
  4. Consumer Groups
  5. Group Law
  6. Philadelphia Consumer Services Cooperative, Inc.
  7. Weaver’s Way Cooperative Association
  8. Consumer Education
  9. Government Agencies
  10. Organizations
  11. Publications
  12. Miscellaneous

Series I: Correspondence. This series includes personal correspondences from 1938-[1993]. It documents chronologically Mr. Feldman’s personal communications with the Department of Public Assistance, Jerry Voorhis, Claude Lewis, Larry W. Post, Cecil B. Moore. Also correspondences with various organizations, such as, The Cooperative League of the USA, Morningstar Heights Consumers Cooperative, Inc., Consumer’s Legal Services, WCAU, and various Congresspersons.

Series II: Finances. Personal financial statements from 1959-1985, including the sale of Mr. Feldman’s Modern Drug Store, the start-up budget for the River Park Co-Op Apartments. Arranged chronologically.

Series III: Presentations. Personal public speaking speeches from 1963-1974, on topics of how to manage one’s personal finances, how poverty can demoralize, and how to join cooperative groups.

Series IV: Consumer Groups. This series includes materials on information, correspondences, brochures, and pamphlets on various consumer advocate and cooperative groups, arranged alphabetically, from 1962-1993. It documents every aspect of Mr. Feldman’s participation in consumer advocacy groups including sub-series of: American Society for Testing Materials, Consumer Cooperative Alliance, Consumer Council of Greater Philadelphia, Delaware Valley Coalition for Consumer Education and Cooperation, Delaware Valley Council for the Protection of Consumers, Institute for Cooperative Housing, Inc., Mid-Eastern Cooperatives, Inc., and the Strawberry Mansion Cooperative Association.

Series V: Group Law. Includes detailed information on this legal service group from 1967-1980, arranged alphabetically. Includes sub-series of: committee meetings, insurance, service plans, leaflets, news-clippings, publicity and workshops.

Series VI: Philadelphia Consumer Services Cooperative, Inc. This series includes all the organizational papers from this group’s inception, it spans the years 1944-1991, and is arranged alphabetically. It includes: financial statements, minutes, membership information, applications, organizational material, brochures and news-clippings.

Series VII: Weaver’s Way Cooperative Association. Organizational material on the beginnings of this cooperative group that still thrives in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Arranged alphabetically this series spans the years 1974-1979. It includes financial statements and reports, committee meetings, publications and by-laws.

Series VIII: Consumer Education. Arranged alphabetically, this series includes general information pamphlets on thirty-nine various topics of interest to consumers. Some topics of particular note and volume include: money management, real estate, small claims court, wills, grant-writing, credit unions, medications, and consumer rights. The material covers the time span of 1964-1992.

Series IX: Government Agencies. A brief series of correspondences and news-clippings on the following agencies: HUD, PA Office of Consumer Advocacy, and the Philadelphia Housing Authority. Arranged alphabetically. Date range: 1977-98.

Series X: Organizations. This series covers organizational information, brochures, pamphlets, meeting information on the Wharton Center-Settlement House, and the Philadelphia Council for Neighborhood Organizations. Date span: 1947-1976.

Series XI: Publications. This series contains publications of journals, newsmagazines, pamphlets, news-clippings, guides, newsletters, and annual reports. These publications cover the time period of 1964-92 and are arranged chronologically.

Series XII: Miscellaneous. A brief series that includes various personal information, address books, a Drexel University blue book, brochures, and general cash receipts. Date range: 1968-1991.

For photographs see the Miscellaneous Photograph Collection (PC-49), BOX 11.


INVENTORY


SERIES I: CORRESPONDENCE

BOX 1

1 Personal Correspondence, PA Department of Public Assistance 1938-1947
2 NAACP, Cecil B. Moore 1963
3 Cooperative League of the USA 1965-1967
4 Morningstar Heights Consumers Cooperative, Inc. 1966
5 Personal Correspondence, Jerry Voorhis 1967
6 Consumer’s Group Legal Services, Inc. 1972-1974
7 WCAU 1973-1975
8 Municipal Employees Legal Services 1974
9 Congressmen 1974-1981
10 Personal Correspondence-Subpoenas 1982
11 Personal Correspondence-Claude Lewis 1990
12 Personal Correspondence-National Cooperative Business Association 1990
13 Personal Correspondence-[Larry W. Post] [1993]

SERIES II: FINANCES

14 Personal, Modern Drug Store 1959-1962
(Note: Personal Correspondence, 1943)
15 Personal, River Park Co-Op Apartments 1963-1972
16 Personal, Haband Company, invoice 1985

SERIES III: PRESENTATIONS

17 Money Management 1963-1974
18 Poverty 1966
19 Joining Co-Ops ND

SERIES IV: CONSUMER GROUPS

20 American Society for Testing and Materials 1978-1987
21 C. C. A. 1970-1971
22 Citizens Committee on Public Education in Philadelphia 1962-1965
23 City of Philadelphia Co-Op Committee 1985
24 Community Accountants ND 25 Consumer Cooperative Alliance 1966-1982
26 Consumer Council of Greater Philadelphia 1977
27 Consumer Council of Greater Philadelphia—Energy 1971-1977
28 Cooperative Alumni Association, Inc.- Co-Op Alumni News 1991
29 Delaware Valley Coalition for Consumer Education and Cooperation 1979-1984
30 Delaware Valley Coalition for Consumer Education and Cooperation—Housing 1983
31 Delaware Valley Consumer Sounding Board 1981-1982
32 Delaware Valley Council for the Protection of Consumers 1965-1967
33 General Co-Ops 1993
34 Greater Philadelphia Group Health Plan—Organizing Committee 1970
35 Housing Council of the Delaware Valley 1965
36 Institute for Cooperative Housing, Inc. 1963-1993
37 Institute for Cooperative Housing, Inc.--Board of Directors List 1986-1993
38 Institute for Cooperative Housing, Inc--By Laws 1993
39 Institute for Cooperative Housing, Inc.--Financial Committee Report 1989
40 Institute for Cooperative Housing, Inc.--Financial Statement 1971-1990
41 Institute for Cooperative Housing, Inc.--Fund-Raising 1986-1988
42 Mid-Eastern Cooperatives, Inc. 1964-1966
43 National Association of Housing Cooperatives 1991
44 North City Congress 1964
45 Organizational Material—Miscellaneous 1978-1990
46 Ruth L. Bennett Tenant Council—Grant Application 1988-1991
47 Strawberry Mansion Cooperative Association, Inc. 1967-1969
48 Strawberry Mansion Council of Block Organizations—Citizenship Committee 1964

SERIES V: GROUP LAW

BOX 2

1 Committee Minutes 1973-1975
2 Feasibility Study 1973
3 Forms 1975
4 Group Legal Insurance 1967-1980
5 Group Legal Service Plan 1973-1975
6 Group Legal Service Plan-Various Publications 1973-1974
7 Group Legal Service Plan-Various Publications 1973-1974
8 Leaflets 1970-1975
9 Legal Service Plan 1971-1975
10 Legislation 1973
11 News clippings 1972-1975
12 PA Insurance Department 1968-1975
13 Publicity 1974-1976
14 Retainer Agreements 1974-1975
15 Second National Consumer Conference on Legal Services 1973-1976
16 Workshops 1974-1975

SERIES VI: PHILADELPHIA CONSUMER SERVICES COOPERATIVE, INC.

BOX 2

17 Phildelphia Consumer Services Cooperative, Inc. 1944-1975
18 Philadelphia Consumer Services Cooperative, Inc 1963-1977
19 Bank Statements 1970-1976
20 Finances 1967-1968
21 Financial Statements 1975
22 Financial Statements 1976-1977
23 Legal Services Plan 1976
24 Minutes 1973-1975
25 Organizational Materials 1967-1991 (Note: Contains Significant Amount of Printed Publications)
26 Philadelphia Bar Association 1974-1975
27 Receipts 1975

SERIES VII: WEAVER'S WAY COOPERATIVE ASSOCIATION

BOX 3

1 Financial organization 1974-1979
2 Financial statements 1975-1976
3 Financial report 1975-1978
4 Planning Committee Meetings 1976
5 Publications 1976-1977
6 Credit Union Meeting 1977
7 Education Committee Meeting 1979
8 By-laws ND

SERIES VIII: CONSUMER EDUCATION

9 Appliances 1971-1972
10 Car Rental 1993
11 Cleaning Products 1969-1971
12 Consumer Rights 1971-1979
13 Cosmetics ND
14 Credit ND
15 Credit Unions 1977-1978
16 Direct Selling 1977
17 Economics for Children 1971-1972
18 Energy 1980 19 59th Street Legal Clinic ND
20 Food 1967-1977
21 Furniture ND
22 Gardening 1975-1987
23 General Co-Op Information ND 24 Grant Writing 1991-1992
25 Health ND
26 Insurance 1974
27 Labels 1978
28 LaSalle Non-Profit Management Development Center 1993
29 Leases 1976-1977
30 Legal Services 1977
31 Legal Services—Divorce 1974-1976
32 Medical Issues (news clippings) 1976
33 Medications 1965-1978
34 Metric System 1977
35 Money Management 1964-1977
36 Money Management 1967-1976
37 Money Management 1970-1972
38 Nursing Homes 1975
39 Nutrition Labeling ND
40 Occupational Licensing 1978
41 Political Petition ND
42 Real Estate 1966-1975
43 Real Estate 1975-1976
44 Retirement 1976
45 Senior Legal Services ND
46 Small Claims Court 1971-1974
47 Telephone Service ND
48 Utility Costs 1966
49 Unit Pricing ND
50 Warranty Rights 1976
51 Wills 1969-1974

SERIES IX: GOVERNMENT AGENCIES

52 Housing and Urban Development—Co-Ops ND
53PA Office of Consumer Advocate 1977
54 PA Office of Consumer Advocate 1977-1978
55 Philadelphia Housing Authority—Philadelphia Inquirer 1998

SERIES X: ORGANIZATIONS

BOX 4

1 Philadelphia Council of Neighborhood Organizations 1976
2 Wharton Centre—Settlement House 1947-1967

SERIES XI: PUBLICATIONS

3 Newsweek-Responsibility Series 1964
4 Consumer Government Publications 1964-1980
5 Map of Harrisburg, PA 1972-1973
6 Massachusetts Law Quarterly 1973
7 Philadelphia Consumer Services Guide 1973
8 Directories 1973-1976
9 American Bar Foundation 1975-1976
10 American Bar Foundation Research Journal 1976
11 Miscellaneous 1976-1994
12 Philadelphia Bulletin-Common Sense 1977
13 Office of Consumer Advocate 1978
14 Raisin Consciousness 1981
15 Co-Op Development Report 1982
16 National Cooperative Business Association 1989-1990
17 The Philadelphia Foundation 1991-1993
18 William Penn Foundation 1992
19 National Consumer Center for Legal Services ND

SERIES XII: MISCELLANEOUS

20 General 1968-1993
21 Personal 1969-1993
22 Groups 1976-1991
23 Brochures ND