A peddler calling “Junk man! Any rags, any bones, any bottles today?” The clatter of cans pouring into a baler. The grinding of a building-sized car shredder. The whistle of a cargo ship carrying obsolete computers to sorting facilities around the globe.
These are the sounds of scrap recycling: an industry that turns waste into raw materials, has given millions of people a livelihood and a community, and has propelled American industry and innovation for centuries.
For over 200 years, discarded metals, rags, paper, and animal hides have provided economic opportunities for immigrants and native-born Americans who collected, stored, brokered, and sold them – scrappers. The work was grueling, scrappers were stigmatized, and the industry was criticized as a source of social and environmental ills. Still, generations of individuals and families gravitated toward the work—including many Jewish scrappers, who made up seventy to ninety percent of the industry for at least half of the 20th century.
Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling was created by the Jewish Museum of Maryland and is accompanied by a Wisconsin-focused section curated by Jewish Museum Milwaukee.
Presenting Sponsor: Alter Trading Corporation
Magnate: Brico Fund Mellowes Family and Charter Manufacturing Company Wisconsin Humanities*
Entrepreneur: Anonymous Fund of the Milwaukee Jewish Community Foundation Suzy B. Ettinger Fund of the Milwaukee Jewish Community Foundation Frieda and William Hunt Memorial Trust Jason & Susan Pelz, Mara & Gary Lappin, Danny & Shara Pelz, and David & Allie Pelz
Groundbreaker: WE Energies Foundation Lawrence and Lisa Katz Jeff Schuster and Marcia Schuster
Trader: Harry Pelman in Memory of Pete and Luba Pelman Sam and Jen Essak
Dealer: Susan Callen Richard Chudnow and Jennifer Rupp ComedySportz Milwaukee Max and Anneliese Dickman Cindy and Mark Levy Karen Schapiro and Douglas Frazer in honor of Maurice Mixer
Media Sponsor: Wisconsin Public Radio 90.7 | The Ideas Network
*Funded in part by a grant from Wisconsin Humanities, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Wisconsin Humanities strengthens the roots of community life through educational and cultural programs that inspire civic participation and individual imagination.