If you peel back the layers of wallpaper in any older New York City apartment, you’re bound to find something intriguing—even if it’s only more ugly wallpaper. A decade ago, though, renovations at 97 Orchard Street on the Lower East Side led to something more mysterious—an advertisement for a “palmist and mind reader,” Professor Dora Meltzer. Charging 15 cents–and up!–(about $4 today), “Professor” Meltzer could not only guess your name and age, but also give you advice.
Who would need the “Professor’s” guidance? Everyone, really. Someone with old-world clout who had been in the U.S. a few years was an obvious go-to for newly-arrive immigrants. But fortune-tellers also served the powerful: Abraham Hochman, who specialized in finding missing husbands, also gave Timothy Sullivan, a Tammany Hall operative, some good advice at the racetrack. (Hochman later sold haggadahs with advertisements for his services.)
December 28, 2015