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  • Paper bag from Victor Freed Ltd, 20th century

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Description

A white paper bag with a red pinstripe design. The paper bag advertises ‘Victor Freed Ltd, Aberdare, Cardiff, Mountain Ash… Radio & Television Specialists.’ The bag also provides addresses for the different Victor Freed department stores, for example, the Pianoforte and Furniture Department was located at 1 Cardiff Street, Aberdare, whilst the Television Department was located at 59 Oxford Street, Mountain Ash. The bag also has a symbol for ‘His Master’s Voice’, the British record label created by The Gramophone Co. Ltd in 1901. It is possible that this object was purchased from 1954 onwards, as it reads ‘established for 50 years’ and Victor Freed Ltd began trading in 1904. Similarly, Victor Freed had expanded his stores to 6-7 Duke Street, Cardiff, by the 1950s which also confirms that is product was purchased during this period. The bag is relatively small; thus, it is difficult to say which particular product it would have been purchased with. By the early 1900s, the product paper bags, made using wood pulp, quickly replaced the cloth bag. The creation of the paper bag allowed for ease of shopping, the protection of merchandise and a means of marketing for the business and this object is a great example of this.

Victor Freed was a prominent member of the Jewish community in Aberdare. Born in Russia in 1883, he opened his first shop in Mountain Ash in 1904. By the 1930s he had opened multiple shops in Aberdare and by the 1950s had also started trading in Cardiff.

The shops sold house furnishings, musical instruments and electrical goods, with many stores specialising in one type of product. The entire family became involved in the Victor Freed business, including his two daughters, Edna and Beatrice, who worked as shop assistants at the radio department.

In 1941, he was elected as President of Aberdare Rotarian Club, after being a member for 8 years, and was recognised for his public services in the valley. His son, Aubrey, became President in 1968.
Victor was known for his philanthropic works, helping to furnish the 1960s council houses in Aberdare and in 1958 funded an entire ward in the new Penylan Home for the Aged Jews of Cardiff.

He was heavily involved with the synagogue in Aberdare, filling a variety of roles including being its last ever secretary.

Victor died in 1966, aged 83.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Cynon Valley had a small Jewish community, consisting of some fifty families throughout the towns of Abercynon, Penrhiwceiber, Mountain Ash, Aberaman and Aberdare. Most of Jewish families came to Aberdare from Eastern Europe, mainly Russia. The earliest record of Jewish presence and activity in the Cynon Valley dates to 1858-9. The name of Harris Freedman and the partnership of Lyons and Hyman are listed as trading as pawnbrokers and general dealers in Aberdare.

Initially the Jewish community worshipped in individuals' homes or business premises but in 1887 David Hart allowed the use of his premises at 19a Seymour Street, Aberdare, as a permanent Synagogue. The Aberdare Hebrew congregation was at its largest, with around 90 members, from the 1910s to the 1930s. However, the community declined and services had virtually ceased by 1957, when the congregation was down to 35. In 1966 it was reported that services were no longer held there. The building, now a private residence again, received a blue commemorative plaque in 2015.

Depository: Cynon Valley Museum: ACVMS 1998 549

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