Updated: 19 September 2023
Few companies in South Africa’s meat industry have a 120-year history. As such, their history touches on the invention of the Russian sausage (Origins of the South African Sausage, Called a Russian) as they came to South Africa as Lithuanian refugees.
The signature on Jerome Gluckman’s email alerted me to their rich history.
Jerome wrote to me about it. “On the photo are Morris (Maurice)and Nathan Gluckman. Morris is my great-grandfather (Gerry Gluckman is my grandfather. He had two sons: David, my dad, and Geoffrey). Gluckman Brothers were the name of the company at the time. Originally immigrated from Lithuania in the late 1800s. They were livestock and orange farmers (I believe near Zebeldelia estate) who moved to Johannesburg in the early 1900s to focus on their livestock auctioneering business.”
I invited Heather MacAlister, a full-time researcher, to join me in uncovering more details about this remarkable family. I discovered the story of two remarkable brothers who moved to South Africa in the late 1800s to establish one of Africa’s most remarkable corporate dynasties. It is the story of Maurice (Morris) and Nathan Gluckman.
From Lithuania to South Africa
Heather MacAlister writes, “Nathan and Morris Gluckman must be brothers. They are the only two Gluckmans from Papile in Lithuania, also known as Popielany. I have found the headstone for Nathan, who died in 1942.”
The dates given at various places of the birth of the Gluckman brothers differ. One set of records says that Nathan Gluckman was born in 1867 and passed away on 28 Oct 1942 (75y 3m 28d) in Johannesburg. His brother, Maurice David Gluckman, was born seven years later in 1873 in Papilė, Lithuania. He married Rachel Kurschner from Yolocke, Lithuania, and passed away on 25 Feb 1942 (68y 7m 26d) in Johannesburg. (Correspondence with Heather MacAlister; Story Report Maurice David Gluckman)
Nathan became naturalised in South Africa on 13 March 1902. He is listed as living in Colesburg. His place of birth is listed as Popielany, which is Lithuania. He was 23 years old. His occupation is listed as a speculator. He resided in the Cape Colony for four years by 1902, meaning he arrived in SA in 1898. His brother, Maurice, came to South Africa three years earlier. There is a record of a Mr Gluckman who arrived on 25 May 1893 as a miner in Warwick Castle would have been Maurice.
Maurice David Gluckman became naturalised in South Africa as part of the British Empire on 5 December 1902 in Steynsburg. This establishes that by 1902, Maurice was still living in Steynsburg. In his application, he stated that he resided in the colony since 21 December 1895. The application was filed in 1902. He lists his occupation as a livestock dealer. He was 28 years old.
Summary of Siblings
From the records cited above, we can create the following list of the Gluckman Siblings who migrated from Lithuania to South Africa. Notice the slightly different birth years compared to the information cited earlier.
|Maurice David||1902||28||Steynsburg||Live Stock Dealer||1874|
Several Glickmans migrated from Russia to South Africa, but these are the only two Gluckmans we could locate who came from Lithuania. In 1902, Maurice was 28, and Nathan was 23. They formed the Gluckman Brothers.
Settling in Steynsberg, Eastern Cape
Both brothers, early after arriving, moved to Steynsburg in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. Records indicate that Maurice was a Mason. He was a member of the Perseverance Masonic Lodge in Molteno. An entry of his membership in 1905 lists his occupation as a prospector. “The list of other lodge members was a broad spectrum of individuals such as bank managers, farmers, veterinarian surgeons, doctors, clerks, station masters, engine drivers, contractors, millers, tailors, merchants, hotel keepers and a chemist.” (Heather MacAlister; Story Report Maurice David Gluckman)
Elona Steinfeld, Research Co-ordinator from the South African Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth, introduced me to the researcher, Heather MacAlister. Based on existing records of the brothers in Steynsburg, she used MacAlister’s research, which concluded that Nathan had been in Steynsberg since 1904 and was later joined by Maurice in 1910 and updated it as follows.
|STEYNSBURG||Gluckman||Nathan||Resident||1904||Speculator||Brother of Maurice David. Partner in Gluckman Bros. [Dennis Edwards, 1904] [email@example.com]|
|STEYNSBURG||Gluckman||Maurice David||Resident||1910||Livestock dealer||Brother of Nathan. Partner in Gluckman Bros. Worked with Mr Ruttenberg. [Dennis Edwards, 1910] [firstname.lastname@example.org]|
From the description provided by Dennis Edwards, it seems as if the brother possibly founded the company Gluckman Brothers in Steynsburg. Later evidence uncovered of Nathan trading under his own name in Johannesburg, at least initially, may argue against such a conclusion. More work in this regard needs to be done.
Further biographical information about Nathan comes to us from shipping logs. On 26th June 1931, Maurice sailed from Southampton to New York aboard the Berengia and visited his brother in America A. I. Gluckman. He has $1500 and is 5ft 8 inches, with brown hair, eyes, and a sallow complexion. His son, G. N. Gluckman, is listed as a relative in South Africa. He is a widow, and his place of birth is given as Kovno, Lithuania, and his last known address is Johannesburg, South Africa. His occupation is given as farmer, and he is 62 years old. With him is his daughter Miriam, aged 27 years old. (Referenced Entry, Person Rachel; Heather MacAlister; Story Report Maurice David Gluckman)
We have then two cities where Maurice David was presumably born. Papile and Kovno.
- Papile: Papile is situated in northern Lithuania, near the border with Latvia. Papile is known for its historical significance and cultural heritage.
- Kovno (Kaunas): Kovno is an older name for Kaunas, the second-largest city in Lithuania. Kaunas is located in the central part of the country, along the banks of the Nemunas River.
From Steynsburg to Zebediela and Booysens, Johannesburg
We know Nathan originally did not live in Steynsburg but in Colesburg in 1902, close to Steynsburg, and Maurice was in Steynsburg in 1910. The earliest reference we found for Nathan Gluckman in Johannesburg is a Rand Daily Mail advertisement from 24 June 1909, where the address is listed as 21 and 22 Primrose Building, probably in Booysens, Johannesburg. In those days, cattle were still bought directly from the farmers at the cattle market in what is today called Booysens in the Old Coal Yard. From Fraser Street in Booysend to what is today, Brixton is not even 1,3km. Here, he is listed as a Livestock Dealer and Auctioneer, trading under his name as N. Gluckman.
A family story has it that the brothers lived in Zebediela, south of Polokwane, for a brief time. If so, Nathan moved there between 1904 and established a business in Johannesburg by 1909. It seems then that by this time, his brother had not joined the business in Johannesburg. By 1912, the brothers were trading under Gluckman Bros, from where Nathan traded in 1909. Sometime after this, they relocated to the newly developing area of Newtown, close to the Johannesburg City Abattoir.
We have evidence, then, that Gluckman Bros existed by 1912.
Interestingly, this advertisement’s address is the same as that of Nathan Gluckman from 24 June 1909, cited earlier. The name changed from N. Gluckman to Gluckman Bros, and the singular changed to the plural, “Livestock Dealer”, changed to “salesmen”. We can narrow the creation of Gluckman Bros to sometime between 1909 and 1912.
Further evidence from the document to the left from the Gluckman website shows the business existed by 1912 as Gluckman Bros. There is a reference to Gluckman Bros from an article in the Rand Daily Mail dated 3 May 1913. (Rand Daily Mail, May 3, 1913, p5)
The Government Gazette, 1928 reports on their incorporation. This report further proves they existed in this form, as Gluckman Bros before incorporation. It reads, “Notice is hereby given that the business of cattle speculators and auctioneers carried on by MAURICE DAVID GLUCKMAN under the style or firm of GLUCKMAN BROS., at 56 Pim Street, Stand No. 139, Newtown, Johannesburg, has been transferred, together with all assets and liabilities, to GLUCKMAN BROTHERS (PROPRIETARY), LIMITED, as and from the 1st day of September 1928. Dated at Johannesburg, this 1st day of September, 1928, GLUCKMANN & SLOOT, Attorneys, 52-54 Sacke’s Buildings, Johannesburg.“
The Gazette lists the incorporation and location at the 56 Pim Street Offices. The complete Gazette is in the reference section. They appear in a “List of Companies Registered, August 1928.”
Don’t skim over the entry in the Government Gazette and fail to notice the £ 10,000 share capital. £10,000 in 1928 is equivalent in purchasing power to about £803,750.85 today (2023), an increase of £793,750.85 over 95 years calculated based on British inflation figures. The pound had an average inflation rate of 4.73% per year between 1928 and today, producing a cumulative price increase of 7,937.51%. At today’s exchange rate to ZAR, it represents R18,884,063.93. These were not mediocre businessmen! Compare their share capital to the next entry, a public company with a share capital of £74,000.
The following advertisement appeared in the year of their incorporation. Gluckman Bros is described as Auctioneers and Livestock salesmen at 56 Pim Street, Newtown, Johannesburg. The advertisement reports on the auctioning of oxen, sheep, lamb, trek oxen and donkeys. Prices from the Johannesburg Cattle Market are also listed for the previous week.
The family reports that they lived for a time in Zebediela. At least, Nathan probably came from there since we know his brother was living in Steynsberg, Eastern Cape still in 1910. Nathan was already in Booysens by 1909. It seems therefore more likely that Nathan lived in Zebediela and from there moved to Johannesburg where his brother joined him sometime before 1912, presumably from Steynsburg.
An exciting listing in the same gazette is Zebediela Hoofstad Stores, which occupies space on Commissioner Street. The note from Jerome said that they set up initially in Zebediela. This area is located 64km South of Polokwane, close to Mokopane. A small but thriving Jewish community existed where orange farming is big business today. I contacted families from around the world whose relatives were also in the orange farming business to learn more about the establishment of the community and their origins. I am particularly interested in learning about the link between Lithuania and the Zebediela community.
At least one Gluckman may have had another business in Johannesburg before 1928. A notice from the same Gazette reads, “Notice is hereby given that the general dealer’s business formerly carried on by the late DAVID GLUCKMANN at No. 1, Paragon Street, Roodepoort, will be transferred to GEORGE THOMAS THORNE on the 1st day of September 1928, from which date he will carry on business for his own account and benefit under the style of G. T. THORNE. Dated at Johannesburg, this 18th day of August 1928.—Hannah Greenberg, attorney for the parties, 39-40 Locarno House, Loveday Street, Johannesburg.” (Government Gazette, 1928) In 1928, Nathan would have been 49 and Maurice, 54. Could this have been their dad?
The Braamfontein Cattle Auctions and the Old Brixton Abattoir to the New Pim Street Abattoir
In those days, cattle were bought directly from farmers at the market at the old Coal Yard in Braamfontein. It was close to this market, possibly as little as 1.4km away, that Nathan Gluckman set up his cattle trading business where his brother, Maurice, joined him by 1912, and they traded as Gluckman Bros.
The new Municipal Abattoir and Cattle Market was located on Pim Street. This is the same street where Gluckman Bros took their new corporate residence. Below are images of the new cattle market from 1910.
Gluckman Bros set their business up in Newtown, Johannesburg. The image on the right provides a good view of Newtown with the Gluckman Bro’s corporate address at 56 Pim Street, Newtown, Johannesburg (now 56 Gwigwi Mrwebi St). Newtown was, of course, at this time the centre of the universe as far as life on the Rand was concerned.
We know a lot about the history of Newtown in 1912 due to the work done by Marc Latilla. I quote from Marc’s website, which I reference below. This allows us to contextualize the Gluckman operation in Newtown. Their proximity to the Johannesburg Cold Storage and, later, Rand Cold Storage & Supply Company Limited was a significant factor in their success. For a brief overview of the history of these two firms, which impacted Gluckman Brothers greatly, see Rand Cold Storage & Supply Company Limited (RCS), which I reproduced to form part of this work.
Let’s look at Latilla’s description of RCS and the Newtown area when Gluckman Brothers operated from Newtown.
Rand Cold Storage
Rand Cold Storage and Supply Co. Limited was formed in 1904 as a subsidiary of the Imperial Cold Storage ad Supply Co. which was founded in Cape Town in 1830. Prior to this, in 1896, RCS built a cold storage plant on the north-western corner of the Railway Goods Sheds at Kazerne on the eastern border of Brickfields. It was one of the few structures that survived the Brickfields demolition, bubonic plague burn, the establishment and reconfiguring of Newtown, and the establishment of the market.
Imperial Cold Storage was one of the objectors of the 1902 Insanitary scheme. The stands are listed as 881/4, 912/23, 984/7a Brickfields. So too were JHB Cold Storage (a company formed in Aug 1899) with stands at 902/9, which appear to be one of the blocks that remained likely due to them not being declared insanitary. According to the report, many stands, mostly dwellings, around the cold storage buildings, were in poor condition and were earmarked for demolition.
Imperial Cold Storage & Supply Co. was set up in 1902 by De Beers and after the war amalgamated with another cold storage company and was later absorbed by another with interests in several other companies, one being JHB Cold Storage mentioned above. It seems there were many amalgamations with smaller firms, but cold storage competition in Johannesburg came in the form of Federal Supply and Cold Storage, which was itself an amalgamation of butchers Piel & Anghern and other small businesses.
RCS’s early days centred around the storage and supply of meat to the railways and the armed forces. After the 2nd Boer War, the business faced many challenges including the Depression and strike of 1907 and the 1913 strike which ended in the looting of the food stores. The cold stores were targeted again during the 1922 strike, but looting was averted by the staff who stacked thousands of coal bags around the premises and protected it with rifles and small arms.https://johannesburg1912.com/2022/09/24/history-of-newtown-pt-2/
Look at the map supplied by Marc on Newtown with Pim Street, the Abattoir and Rand Cold Storage (RCS).
It is informative to see the impressive development of RCS, which would have had a significant impact on the business of Gluckman Bros.
The possible link between Gluckman Bros, RCS and David de Villiers Graaff comes from a photo Dr. Romeo Vecht showed me when I visited him early in 2023 at his London home.
The importance of this photo cannot be overstated. I cannot for one moment imagine that someone with the stature, vision and drive of Vecht would have been involved in RCL (Rand Cold Storage) and the Gluckman Bros’s Cattle Trading operation being within walking distance from RCL’s building in Newtown and that they did not have close contact! The connection through the cattle trade and their shared Jewish faith makes this scenario almost impossible. Vecht was a visionary, a builder of communities and a builder of the cause of Judaism. The Gluckmans were blow-for-blow cut from the same cloth as Vecht, and the fact that they set their business up in Newtown, Johannesburg, within walking distance from RCL means they had a shared spirit!
In Chapter 14.4 of Bacon & the Art of Living, I develop the influence of Vecht through Rand Cold Storage (RCS) with trade between de Beers and Australia and New Zealand. (Chapter 14.04: Aron Vecht: His Curing Method and Businesses). Something to discuss with the Gluckman family will be how old the relationship is with the Australian clients. That Gluckman Brothers were perfectly positioned to exploit the monumental developments around them is undeniable. In Newtown, they found themselves, as it were, in the eye of the development storm that was lashing South African shores at this time and would create a legacy that would exist for generations.
The Final Resting Place of Nathan Gluckman
Heather MacAlister was suggested by the Jewish Country Communities Museum from Sandringham in Johannesburg. I wonder if they know Heather and if they know what a perfect pairing she was with this project. I would start getting emails from her from dawn every day with lists upon lists of information. I could sense the energy and respect with which she approaches her work. Telling the story of others is a sacred privilege, and I can sense in every email that she views it the same.
I want to thank Jerome Gluckman, who brought me this project. It has been an immense privilege to work on this. Having said this, know that the project will never be completed, and we will continue to fill in the blank spaces of history. When Heather found the headstone of Nathan’s grave, she reached out to one of her Jewish friends and asked him to translate the headstone.
The translation of what is written on the tombstone is as follows.
“Our dear father, Reb Nachman, son of Yitzchak, left the world on the 17th of Cheshvan 5703. May his soul be intertwined in the bundle of life.“
Only his father’s first name, Yitzchak, appears. However, as the deceased’s family name is written Gluckman in English, I imagine his father’s family name was the same. His mother’s name does not appear on the epitaph. Although the deceased’s name appears in English on the tombstone as Nathan, his Hebrew is Nachman.
His date of birth does not appear. In the English part, it says that he died at age 72. Calculating from the year he died, he was born in 1870. But no exact date during the year is written. “May his soul be intertwined in the bundle of life” is written on all Jewish tombstones in initials with either periods between or apostrophes to the left of each letter. .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה or ‘ת’נ’צ’ב’ה.
תהא נשמתו צרורה בצרור החיים
Tehay nishmato tzrura bitzror hachayim.
Cheshvan is the second month in the Jewish calendar, starting with the new year, Rosh Hashana ( translation head of the year). The first month is Tishrei, followed by Cheshvan. I checked with Hebcal, and the Jewish and secular dates coincide correctly. (1)
One last thing. On the gravestone on top, there is a Magen David, a Star of David. In the Magen David, there are two letters that every Jewish grave has on it. פ”נ. This is the abbreviation for the words פה נקבר (po nikbar) here is buried.
I am wholly arrested by the courage of the young people who came to our country from Lithuania. To put it in modern vernacular, I am completely blown away by the beauty of the story. There is something so majestic about the entire course of events, and I am privileged to play a small part in telling it.
The Purpose of this Page
Jerome Gluckman permitted me to look into their family’s history. My first step is to gather information. I’ve found, over the years, that a page like this, where friends, family and business associates can comment and contribute anecdotes and photos, is invaluable. First, I want to invite anybody with any contributions to mail me at email@example.com or
For future incorporation and investigation
(1) Heather added the following interesting information related to dates and the Jewish calendar
Just an interesting point to note about the names of some of the months in the English calendar. The Jewish people have two beginnings of the year. Tishrei what we celebrated on Shabbat and Sunday, the New Year. Kings’ reigns were counted by this new year, and Rosh HaShana celebrates the creation of the world. However, the Jewish people have another way of counting the months, a different beginning, from Nissan ( the root of Nissan is Nes, meaning miracles, like the ten plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, etc. ) from when we became a nation, being liberated from slavery in Egypt. In the month of Nissan, when we left Egypt. Interestingly, in the Torah (Bible), when explaining what we have to do (the mitzvot, the commandments) for each festival, we are told when each festival is celebrated. The month given for each festival is counted from Pessach, Nissan when HaShem liberated us from slavery. Therefore, although Rosh HaShana is the beginning of the year, in the Torah, it is not referred to as Rosh HaShana, the beginning of the year. In the seventh month, we will have to take the shofar (the ram’s horn) and sound it throughout the country.
The Jewish months in the Torah do not have names. They are just numbers, enumerated from the month of the liberation of Pessach in the spring. Therefore, Pessach is the first month. Blowing the shofar and the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the festival of Booths, Succot, Simchat Torah are all in the seventh month. And what is interesting is that this seventh month in the secular calendar is called September. In French sept is seven. October, root being oct ( as in octopus having eight tentacles, octav as in music the eight notes) means eight, November, is nine ( in French neuve is 9) and December, root being dec which is 10 ( like the ten commandments which are called the decalogue). Each of these numbers coincides correctly if we are counting from Nissan the month of miracles when the Jewish people became a nation, coming out of slavery in Egypt.
1928 South African Government Gazette
Rand Daily Mail, May 3, 1913, p5
RAND DAILY MAIL, February 3, 1912, p1