Confirmation, Easter Sunday 1931

The Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church confirmation class of 1931 gathers at Reissert’s Studio.

Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church‘s confirmation class of 1931 sat for a portrait at Reissert’s Studio, 321 N. Gay Street, Baltimore, to memorialize the Easter Sunday affirmation of their faith and full membership in the community of the church.

The serious expressions of these 13-year-old children reflect the solemnity of the sacrament of first communion.  They had completed months of study with the pastor in order to understand the meaning of what they were undertaking. They had stood in front of the whole congregation in suits and ties, heels and hose, and affirmed their Christian faith by reciting, with the congregation, the Apostles’ Creed.

Their group portrait was meant to help them remember the day they had moved from child to adult in the church.  The studio where they gathered, with its conventional painted background  and faux marble floor, was owned and operated by Max J. Reissert (b. abt. 1867), like many of his customers, a German immigrant.

Memory fades; we know only a few of the names. Pastor Paul C. Burgdorf (1884-1948) presides; immediately to his right is his daughter, Beatrice Hermance Burgdorf.  Beside Beatrice is Mary Ripley Boyer (b. abt. 1918, Md); third from the right is Julia Charlotte Koppelman.

Extreme left, first row is Doris Irene Weger. Leonard Arthur Malwitz (1917-2011) stands in the second row, second from the left.

The area around their church, located at Belair Road and Moravia Avenue in northeast Baltimore, consisted of newly-built working class neighborhoods that still had  a scattering of small truck farms and dairies. The church mainly served the descendants of the many German immigrants who had come to grow vegetables and fruit outside Baltimore in the 19th century.

Mary Boyer’s father was an apparel salesman. The Boyers lived at 3508 Belair Avenue (aka Belair Road), less than a mile to the southwest of the church, on the other side of lovely Herring Run Park, one of Baltimore’s many strip parks created around the numerous streams that tumble to the Chesapeake Bay.

Doris Weger (b. abt. 1918, Md.)  lived on Kenwood Avenue; her father, Harry Weger, was foreman in a upholstery shop. The Malwitz boys, Leonard and Earl, lived around the corner from the church, on St. Thomas Avenue; their father Edward, a recent German immigrant like Reissert, worked as a lithographer. Earl became part of the Schwarz-Koppelman clan when he married Gloria Jean Schwarz (1924-1998).

In those days, the modest two-story, two-bay brick row homes in the streets around the 1875 church buildings were new and clean.  Many were built by the E.J. Gallagher Realty Company, and are marked by his distinctive innovations: deep porches, small lawns and fieldstone accents instead of marble, and basements (Holcomb, The City as Suburb: A History of Northeast Baltimore Since 1660, p. 185 ff).

Clutching their confirmation certificates, every white-clad girl, ankles demurely crossed, sports the fashionable “bob” haircut that swept the nation after World War I. The perfect waves were achieved using the curling iron invented by Marcel in 1872.

The neighborhood has changed; hard times haunt the houses there now. Hair styles have changed many times since those days when the “bob” was a symbol of modernity. Some of the boys and girls lost their faith with adulthood; some deepened their commitment. But the park is still green, the church founded in 1842 endures, and Herring Run still burbles toward the bay.

Note: If you would like to know more about how Baltimoreans are working to preserve the area’s many streams, or “runs,” visit Blue Water Baltimore. To learn more about the Lutheran Church and its beliefs, visit The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Eric L. Holcomb’s The City as Suburb: A History of Northeast Baltimore Since 1660 was published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in 2005.

Update 5 March 2017: In going through the records of Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church, I came upon the  list of 32 names of the boys and girls who were confirmed on Easter Sunday 1931. However, there are 33 young men and women pictured, so something is off. At any rate, here is the list, transcribed as best as I could. The online images of the church’s register include sponsors (often the parents) and dates of birth:

Genevieve Grace Beck

Mary Ripley Boyer

Beatrice Hermance Burgdorf

Doris Elizabeth Coleman

William H. Collings

Johanna Dorothea Cook

Dorothy Minnie Fischer

Luther Richard Fischer

Dorothy Louise Gerkens

Carl Arthur Gerkins/Gerkens

Herman William Greensfelder

William Henry Greensfelder

Cynthia Virginia Hobbs

Arthur Richard Hoffield

Margaret Elizabeth Kahler

Gordon William Kelley or Keeley

Julia Charlotte Koppelman

Leonard Arthur Malwitz

Carl John Matheisz [sp.?]

Henry Frederick Meise

Hilda Anna Margaret Myers

Grace Geneva Quast [sp.?]

Emma May Schneider

Edward Henry Schneider

LeRoy Vernon Schulhause [sp.?]

Howard Walter Schultz

George William Smith

Magdaline Christina Stromer

Bertha Charlotte Ulrich

Elmer John Henry Vogel

Doris Irene Weger

Margaret Edna Wirth


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