Perhaps you recall the front cover of the recital program I found in the midst of Agnes Tully Stevens’ personal papers. It was for the “Farewell Recital” of child violinist, Donna Grescoe.
In the fine print below her name, there was a mention of one detail: Donna Grescoe was winner of the Morris B. Sachs Amateur Hour. The date given for her victory was December 4, 1938.
While I am not a Chicago native, I did suspect that there might be something of interest to that designation. And there was. Morris B. Sachs, much like Donna’s family, was an immigrant from Eastern Europe. Arriving at the age of thirteen and finding himself unfit to take a factory job, he used his ingenuity to build a dry goods business. Morris Sachs’ success as a businessman is commemorated by the flatiron building in Chicago that still bears his name. (A nice history of the Sachs building is incorporated into a two-part blog post on Peopling Places here and here.) He also experienced some success in politics.
Alongside his business success, he took on the new venture of broadcasting a program featuring amateur performers in the Chicago area. By the late 1930s, the Sachs radio program began its decades-long run, eventually taking the opportunity in the 1950s to switch to the medium of television.
Mr. Sachs evidently was a successful person who believed in giving back to the community. And of all who benefitted from his largesse, Donna Grescoe may be counted as one of these.