Baltimore Bargain House


One of the largest businesses on the West Side in the early twentieth century the Baltimore Bargain House -- a mail-order wholesale business that employed over a thousand people and earned profits in the millions that grew to become the fourth largest wholesalers in the county. Driven by the devotion of Jewish Lithuanian immigrant Jacob Epstein, the Baltimore Bargain House became a hub for Southern Jewish merchants and a local business community. When firm's grand showroom at West Baltimore and North Liberty Streets opened in 1911, a crowd of 500 local businessmen, the Mayor of Baltimore, and the Governor of Maryland all attended the dedication.

After spending years himself as an itinerant peddler, traveling throughout Western Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania, Jacob Epstein first opened a small wholesale store in Baltimore in 1881. Epstein focused his attention on the American South, working specifically with Jewish peddlers and merchants. In the early 1900s, Epstein treated hundreds of merchants to annual visits to Baltimore to restock and view new merchandise. Arriving from North Carolina, Tennessee, and across the South, these merchants helped grow a successful and extensive business in Baltimore. Between 1881 and 1929 the Baltimore Bargain House was one of the most significant businesses in Baltimore, with gross sales over $34 million in 1921 alone, comparable to over $410 million today.

To operate the Baltimore Bargain House, Epstein also built a local community of employees, which included over 1,600 people. The workforce was relatively diverse, comprising of immigrants from various countries as well as industry experts from across the nation. Many workers remained employed at the Baltimore Bargain House for decades. Although remarkable for his considerable business acumen and the success of the Baltimore Bargain House, the business' founder, Jacob Epstein was also well known for his extensive charitable donations to local Jewish groups and to institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Photos Show

Baltimore Street looking west, ca 1914

Postcard view of Baltimore Street from McLane Place looking west published byI. and M. Ottenheimer, Baltimore, ca. 1914. The Baltimore Bargain House is visible on the right side of the image.

Image courtesy the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Maryland's State Library Resource Center, mdpc045_001. All Rights reserved. Used with permission. Unauthorized reproduction or use prohibited.

Baltimore Street at Liberty Street, 1960

Photograph of the demolition on Liberty Street at Baltimore Street for the Baltimore Civic Center (First Mariner Arena), June 10, 1960. The Baltimore Bargain House is visible in the background.

Image courtesy the BG&E Collection, Baltimore Museum of Industry, BGE.35331B.

Cornice Detail, Nancy S. Grasmick Building

Photograph by Kurt Waters, 2012. Image courtesy Baltimore Heritage.

Detail, Nancy S. Grasmick Building

Photograph by Kurt Waters, 2012. Image courtesy Baltimore Heritage.

Nancy S. Grasmick Building

Photograph by Kurt Waters, 2012. Image courtesy Baltimore Heritage.


Cite this Page

Johanna Schein, “Baltimore Bargain House,” Explore Baltimore Heritage, accessed August 20, 2014, http:/​/​explore.​baltimoreheritage.​org/​items/​show/​94.​
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