Isaac Joseph, who would go on to found Joseph & Feiss, one of the largest of Cleveland’s many garment businesses, arrived in Cleveland on December 16, 1872. This is the city he found:
The winter of 1872 to 1873 was the coldest on record…and when I landed in Cleveland and was driven in a hack up Superior Street I thought I had arrived at the North Pole, for the city was buried in snow. It was about 8:00 p.m., and the stores all along the street were still lighted up for business but all the show windows were frosted from top to bottom and it was impossible to determine the kind of business carried within…At the time of my arrival in Cleveland the city sprawled out in three directions over a very large area and had a population of a little over 100,000. Its principal streets were laid out on a very generous plan, many of them unpaved. There were only a few prominent buildings, there were of a nondescript style of architecture. Those in the business district were of brick three or four stories in height and generally in a ramshackle condition. The streets, however, were liberally planted with trees which somewhat softened the ugliness of the structures. The business activities of Cleveland were confined to two streets: the wholesale portion on Water Street (now West 9th) and the prominent retail stores were located on Superior west of the Square. There were also a few small shops on Ontario Street and surrounding the Square itself.
Cleveland sprawling on both sides of the Cuyahoga River was like a very large overgrown village and only in the Spring was it transformed into a beautiful spot because of its wide streets and wealth of fine shade trees which entitled it to its popular name “The Forest City.” In winter, however, it was wind-swept, gray and dreary. On moonlight nights even the street lamps were not lighted and as the moon does not always shine according to schedule the city was often plunged into absolute darkness. No attempt was made to remove the snow from the streets in any part of the city nor the slush and mud that came with the occasional thaws.
Here’s a much more idealized view of Superior Avenue from 1872:
Joseph & Feiss would go on to employ many Clevelanders, and the garment trades were one of the first businesses to employ women. Most were immigrants from Eastern Europe. Here’s what the factory looked like in 1907:
The factories are gone. But it’s still cold.