• Joanne Oppenheim

When Knishes Were 5 Cents or When a Penny was Worth Something!

In 1916 when the knish war heated up, when Benny and Solly’s fathers were cutting the knish prices one cent at a time, the penny was still worth something. As Ben Franklin put it…“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Or as my Grandpa would say as he put a few pennies in my piggy bank…“A penny here and a penny there…it adds up.”

In 1916:

•A postage stamp was 2 cents

•A loaf of bread was 4 cents

•A can of tuna fish was only 14 cents

•You could go to a baseball game for 15 cents

•A new mop was 25 cents

•Toilet paper 25 cents for 7 rolls

•Movie 25 cents 15 for kids

•A large package of Oatmeal was 8 cents

•Cookies 10 cents a pound

•Children’s flannel pajamas were 37 cents

•The New York Times was five cents, but you could buy the New York Globe for a penny.

You could even buy a new car for $740! The one pictured here was a luxury model (also the only ad I could find). Of course, a car was not something the immigrants on the Lower East Side could buy. They had enough trouble paying for rent in the tenement.

Although the US had not yet entered WWI, the war in Europe was creating inflation. From 1915-1920 prices doubled for rent and food. In 1916 folks were just beginning to feel the surge of prices, especially for immigrants whose wages were low and every penny made a difference.

And how much is a knish in 2017?

It depends:

At the granddaddy of New York Knisheries that opened in 1910 (even before Max Green’s)

•Yonah Schimmel’s Knish Bakery Savory knishes are $3.75, all sweet $4.25

•Zabar’s round baked potato knish $4.50

•Katz’s round baked potato knish $5.45

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