A Pawn Shop and a Fat Men’s Store in 1937

This photo was taken on February 4, 1937 by widely-admired photographer Berenice Abbott. She spent much of the 1930s documenting the rapidly-changing face of New York City. Ordinarily a photo of a seemingly generic storefront wouldn’t have caught my eye. But I absolutely love the fact that the “Stuyvesant Curiosity Shop” at 48 Third Avenue has its selection of “shotguns and rifles” on proud display outside on the sidewalk.

And my other favorite little days-gone-by detail? “Sig Klein Fat Men’s Shop” – so much for political correctness. Some light digging reveals Klein’s to be somewhat of a legend among plus-sized clothing stores, with its portly mascot in a form-fitting bodysuit and the slogan “If everyone was fat, there would be no war.” Klein’s opened in the 1880s when this area of the East Village was filled with German men who, through their love of beer, were growing larger and larger. It managed to stay in business at least until the late 1960s, and today it is little more than a memory. A comical memory at that.

Pawn Shop 1936 Berenice Abbott NYPL

Further details on the history of Klein’s Fat Men’s Shop can be found at the wonderful blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. (He also has a great piece discussing the Stuyvesant Curiosity Shop.)

Photo credit goes to Berenice Abbott (1898-1991) whose photo collection is available in the NY Public Library’s Digital Archive. Photo ID 482686.

About keithyorkcity

Name: Keith Age: 20-something Location: New York Passion: History You'll find a million blogs like mine, but mine is better.
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