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Dateline: The Knish War of 1916

When I write a book, I like to think about what was happening in the bigger world outside of the story. Working on the Knish War on Rivington Street, I thought of movie celebrities of the time — and the politics of the day. In 1916, the United States had not yet entered WWI, although many volunteers, American nurses and soldiers who signed on early. The Lower East Side was teeming with immigrants trying to make a living, and it would take another four years for the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote.

Max Green and Morris London (AKA Mr. Tisch of Tisch's Knishes) had signs in their knishery windows and according to The Mediator newspaper, Max had "a two-story sign done in Yiddish by Rosenthal, the well-known black-and-red artist of Norfolk Street." Although there were plenty of celebrity endorsements by then, Max and Morris couldn't afford Caruso or Chaplin. Someone asked me recently if they were real signs. Not really. I made those posters up, but there were not enough pages to include them in the book. Jon Davis, the illustrator, brought humor, life and many of the posters to the lively city scenes. And who knows? Maybe one day we'll turn this book into a film and have suffragettes on the march.

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