Mi Yodeya is a question and answer site for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I want to know what kind of kippah would be worn by an "average" Jew in Manhattan in 1860. This is for an historical impression.

In "real life," I am Conservative, but I know the movement did not exist yet. As far as I know, Reform Jews (brand new at the time) did not wear kippot. I'd prefer to wear one since I do in real life. So I guess my historical impression must be Orthodox, but not Hasidic.

Can anyone point me in the right direction?

share|improve this question
slightly related: judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/17811/… – Menachem Aug 8 '12 at 1:39
Jordan, welcome to Mi Yodeya! I'm always glad to see friends joining the community, so a special welcome from me, and thanks for bringing your question here. I hope we can find you an answer. Also, if you register your account, you will have access to more of the site's features. – Seth J Aug 8 '12 at 1:42
I second SethJ's welcome, and am commenting to note: If by chance you live in New York yourself, and you don't get a satisfying answer here, I recommend you try the Mid-Manhattan Library. Its Picture Collection (and the collection's librarians) may well be able to help you. If you're not in New York, perhaps they'll help via phone or e-mail. Worth a try in my opinion. Contact information. – msh210 Aug 8 '12 at 6:27
up vote 0 down vote accepted

I managed to do some original research of my own. My conclusion is that most Jews in America in the 1860's did not wear a religious head covering of any kind. Most of the photos I found showed bare heads, even among Orthodox rabbis. This is true for most of Europe during the same period. The Hasidic and Haredi movements were still very young and didn't have much impact in the US yet. The great Russian Jewish immigration also happened much later, so most of the Jewish immigrants in America were European, not Russian.

If a Jew in America did wear a head covering in the 1860's, it most likely would have been an Eastern European style black velvet kippah, or a Russian style fur cap.

Here's the article I wrote: http://koplowicz.com/node/803

share|improve this answer
Thank you for updating with what you learned! – Monica Cellio Aug 23 '12 at 21:09
This rabbi is surely wearing a kipah, but you said he isn't. Also, a few of the others were ambiguous about whether they had one on, but you seemed to say that they didn't – b a Aug 23 '12 at 21:18
You also wrote that the Rogatchover didn't wear a kippa, directly below a picture where he clearly is. Additionally, the Malbi"m's picture is rather ambiguous, so I'm not sure how you came to the conclusion that he didn't. – HodofHod Aug 23 '12 at 23:05
@Jordan, I hate to hate on your original research, and I think it's fascinating, but... first, the Rogatchover is clearly wearing a Kippah. As is, IMO, the Malbim. In terms of the chaplaincy, remember that the military has strict laws about dress. (cont...) – Seth J Aug 24 '12 at 0:37
(...cont) You've also drawn the conclusion that they didn't wear a religious head covering of any kind based on the fact that a majority of the rabbis whose pictures you found are wearing hats or turbans instead of what would be recognized today as a skullcap. Surely this is an error in presentation, not research. In those cases, it is overwhelmingly apparent that those are religious head coverings. Interesting research topic, though, and I hope you continue it! – Seth J Aug 24 '12 at 0:37

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.