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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BERNSTEIN, HARRY - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

BERNSTEIN, HARRY (1856-1920), known as "Czar" Bernstein, was an entrepreneur and Republican political ward boss who could, according to contemporary accounts, deliver the votes he promised from his ward to a man. Born in Poland to Berman and Rosa Bernstein, he was brought to Cleveland in 1868, and educated in the public schools. During his career, Bernstein owned theaters, a restaurant, a saloon, a pool hall, and a hotel; established a neighborhood bank; and operated a junk business. He established the People's and less successful Perry Theaters in the 1890s to present Yiddish entertainment in the heavily East European Jewish Woodland neighborhood. His Perry Bank, which later merged with the Cleveland Trust Co., was established specifically to serve the immigrant neighborhood.

Bernstein's businesses, and providing favors for needy immigrants in the 16th (later 12th) ward, provided the base for his political power. Beginning ca. 1888 as an operative for the Hanna machine, he became one of Cleveland's most effective ward bosses, although his influence was confined to the immigrant district. In the 1890s, Bernstein groomed a young protege, MAURICE MASCHKE†, who within a decade became a leader of the county's Republican party. In 1903, Bernstein was elected to the city council, the only time he held elective office. Although he supported Mayor TOM L. JOHNSON†, Bernstein did not curry favor with the reformers. With the ascendancy of the Progressives and the beginning of a population shift in his ward, Bernstein lost much of his influence during the first decade of the 20th century.

Bernstein married Sarah Trilling on 21 Oct. 1888. They had five children: Alex, Hyman T., Charles, Fannie, and Rose. He died in Cleveland.

Last Modified: 14 Jul 1997 01:36:48 PM

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