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Berkeley County, West Virginia Biography of Noah KIRSON

         Noah KIRSON was born in Kovno, Russia, in 1848, and emigrated to America directly to Martinsburg, West Virginia, in 1885. He raised enough money ($25.00) to outfit a pack, which was in the form of a large chocolate drop strapped to his back and weighed, when full, about 100 pounds. Pack peddlers usually carried needles, combs, knives, shoestrings, handkerchiefs, etc. and sometimes dry goods and would range the country, making periodic visits to every family in the neighborhood. Pack peddlers were known before the Revolutionary War days since they are portrayed on many old novels, such as Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle,” and were also known to have been favorite disguises for spies during those times.

         When the pack peddler became a nuisance, the West Virginia Legislature passed a law in 1886 that required a peddler to purchase a license of $100 per year to carry a pack. This law put a stop to that business since a pack peddler could hardly afford to purchase such a license to conduct his business. Noah Kirson, after remaining two years in this country, went back to Russia and brought his wife back and went into the second-hand furniture store business on West Race Street, near Queen, in Martinsburg. After running that business for a few years, he sold and then opened a clothing store on Queen Street in the Wilan building.

         He had several sons and daughter: Mary (Mrs. Theodore Birnbeck) ran the Kirson Women’s Store on North Queen Street; Wolf Kirson ran the Kirson Men’s Store on North Queen Street and was president of the Jewish Synagogue on East Liberty Street, which was the original United Brethren Church of Martinsburg; and Dan Kirson and Max Kirson ran clothing stores in Hagerstown, Maryland.

    Submitted by Marilyn Gouge and extracted from History of Berkeley County, West Virginia, 1928

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