Sam Lazarowitz

Samuel Lazarowitz sells copies of the Lancaster New Era in Penn Square on a rainy market day in November 1942. Marjory Collins snapped this picture as part of a federal photography project.

If you've been following along with LNP's 225th anniversary celebrations - or even if you just have an interest in local history - you've likely seen the above photo before. 

Taken in a bygone era, it shows a grinning man selling newspapers on a rainy day in Penn Square, the cupola of Central Market and the facade of the Griest Building looming behind him.

That man's name, as many Lancastrians of a certain age will recall, was Samuel Lazarowitz. And the photo, taken by Marjory Collins in November 1942, has become rather famous.

Periodically, the picture shows up in a TV documentary, as it did in March 1982, just months before Sam died. In 2002, Michael Lesy included it among 410 photos in the W.W. Norton & Co. book, "Long Time Coming: A Photographic Portrait of America.'' The next year, Allen Cohen and Ronald Filippelli selected the photo as one of 150 pictures in the Penn State University Press book, "Times of Sorrow & Hope: Documenting Everyday Life in Pennsylvania During the Depression and World War II.'' 

There are two stories here: one about Lazarowitz and the other about the photograph and the project that created the photograph.

When Collins took this photo, Lazarowitz had been selling papers in Penn Square since 1910. At age 40, he already was as much a Penn Square fixture as the Soldiers and Sailors monument and the Watt & Shand department store.

Longevity of service alone did not distinguish Lazarowitz from other downtown peddlers. He genuinely liked people, and when he wasn't hollering "Hi-yah, pay-per!'' he was discussing politics or philosophy with passersby. He knew Lancaster's mayors and other leaders as well as he knew his own neighbors, and if anyone ran short of trolley or carfare home, he paid out of his own pocket.

"My dad knew everybody in town and everybody knew my dad,'' said Robert Lazar, Sam's son, when interviewed for the Lancaster New Era in 2003. "Everyone respected my father and mother (Stella Miller Lazarowitz). They were very, very giving. They did things without being publicized.''

Lazarowitz originally sold papers and magazines from a cart at the base of the monument. When the trolley system died and cars moved by on all sides, he moved to a corner of the square and operated a news stand until 1958, when a new one-way traffic pattern ended his ability to sell to everyone from one location.

Then he opened a luncheonette and news stand at South Duke and Vine streets. Later he ran a grocery store at 201 Church St. He was 80 years old and had worked most of the days of his life when he died in August 1982.

The picture Marjory Collins shot of Lazarowitz 40 years earlier apparently will live on forever. 

Lazarowitz is grinning generously in the rain, holding a couple of dozen New Eras under his left arm and displaying one in his right hand with a headline reading "AEF (American Expeditionary Force) HEADING TOWARD ROMMEL.'' Someone behind him holds an umbrella, but Lazarowitz's mop of unruly hair is bare.

"He wore no hat -- no matter the weather -- and he never wore gloves,'' his son said. "His hands became so chapped they broke open.''

Lazarowitz was not the only Lancastrian Collins photographed that day or that month. In fact, she snapped scores of pictures in Lancaster County, including an extensive series of pictures in Lititz that "Times of Sorrow & Hope'' calls "probably the most comprehensive look at the effects of the war on small-town America.''

Collins was one of dozens of photographers who worked for the U.S. Farm Security Administration and the Office of War Administration between 1935 and 1946. They did not limit their subjects to scenes of farms and wartime America. They were assigned to capture the spirit of the entire nation. They photographed everything.

The 164,000 black and white pictures by Collins and Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn and other well-known photographers represent the largest documentary photography project in history. It is difficult to imagine that it ever will be equaled in scope.

Lancaster is well represented. Of the 150 pictures in "Times of Sorrow & Hope,'' 25 were shot in Lancaster County, many by Collins, who concentrated on Lancaster, Lititz and Manheim. Amish and Mennonites are the subjects of about half of the 25 photos.

All 25 are interesting pictures, but the most memorable subject, perhaps, is Sam Lazarowitz with his big grin, reflecting a bigger heart, selling papers in the rain.