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Register of the Papers of



2 ft.

MSS 44


Joseph Paull (1893-1966) was a wholesale butcher, professional strong man, and influential member of the Philadelphia Jewish community.  Although Paull had little formal education, he was a gregarious and dominating personality.  He played an important role in a number of organized civic and charitable groups, and he acted as a broker between the wealthy and influential and individuals in need.

Paull (née Polivoda) was born in Bendin, Russian Poland, and moved to Genf, Switzerland, with his family in 1907.  In 1914 he came to the United States as Swiss representative in the International Motorcycle Races held in New York City.  Stranded in New York by the outbreak of World War I, Paull made his way to Philadelphia and found employment in a slaughterhouse.  At the same time, he participated in a performing troupe as a wrestler and strong man, and in the early 1920s he was instrumental in organizing the Jewish Dramatic Club in Philadelphia.

Paull established his own wholesale meat business, and in 1926 he built a shop at 1131 Callowhill Street in Philadelphia, with an apartment for his family on the two top floors.  In the same year, he entertained prisoners at New Eastern State Penitentiary with his feats of strength.  During his visit to the prison, he learned of the problem of "holdovers," prisoners who met the conditions for parole but could not be released because they lacked guaranteed employment in the community.

Paull quickly developed a parole program which matched prisoners with employers, and he remained active in the programs throughout his life, visiting the prison weekly to interview prisoners and personally supervising parolees.  After establishing the parole program, Paull began holding Friday lunch meetings in his apartment with others interested in rehabilitating prisoners.  Over time, the Friday meetings attracted influential citizens from the community to discuss a wide variety of issues.

Paull's personal involvement in the parole program characterized his approach to all of his many other charitable and community activities.  These included sponsorship of European refugees during and after World War II and chairmanship of the Uptown Home for the Aged from 1950 to 1962.  He was also a member of the Federation of Jewish Agencies, Jewish Family Service, and the Passover League.

Paull died on 4 July 1966.  He was survived by his wife, Anna, and daughter, Etta Paull Aronovitz.


The Joseph Paull Papers were deposited in the Balch Institute Library by Mrs. Etta Paull Aronovitz in three accessions, 1973, 1974, 1982, and were donated by her in 1984.


The Joseph Paull Papers date primarily from 1948 to 1966, although they include a few earlier photographs and leaflets and one 1932 letter.  The papers consist of biographical material, correspondence, miscellaneous newspaper clippings, and awards.  The correspondence, especially the files for New Eastern State Penitentiary and the Uptown Home for Aged, include many letters from individuals seeking Paull's aid.  Approximately 15% of the papers are in Yiddish, the remainder are in English.  The photographs have been separated to Photo Group 129.  Printed materials have also been separated to the library, including Paull's autobiography which is written in Yiddish.

The box list of the register of the papers of Joseph Paull is four pages long.