Motsoes in the Colonies

by R.S.

I am pretty much in awe of the National Library of Australia digitising their newspaper collection. It is such an amazing resource for researchers who understand the drudgery spending days/weeks/months sifting through microfilm or boundup old papers for the possibility an article that may not even exist.

So, being Pesach, I thought I’d share a couple of articles I found on family here in Melbourne in the 1860s. Here’s an ad for matzos in January 1861 (The Argus)

MOTSOES, superior to any ever offered in the colony. 8d, per 1b, PA Woolf, 78 Gertrude St.

Just when you thought superior colonial motsoes were exciting, there is this (March 1861, The Argus):

NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC – As some evil-disposed persons are giving out that it is not my intention of baking motsoes this year, I wish the public to be aware of such designing persons, whose sole object is their own private ends, that they may make the public pay their own extortionate demands. This is to give notice that I do intend and am BAKING MOTSOES at the present time, and the price is 8d. per 1b. delivered in Melbourne, and 7 1/2d. to anyone fetching the same.
PA WOLFF, Gertrude street, Collingwood.
N.B. The finest assortment of sweet cakes ever made in the colonies.

By September 1864 the evil-disposed extortionists and probable inferior matsoes-makers must’ve done their bit because Phillip’s name pops up again in the Insolvency Court and the family becomes the only Jews in the village at Bonnie Doon.

It is documents like these and the possibilities for interpretation which make my imagination run a bit wild. I feel like these are really rich documents, certainly some of the richest I have in my tiny collection.

I have never seen “motsoes” written like this before. I assume it is just a very Anglo rendering (they were not Yiddish speaking), but if anyone could shed any particular light on this spelling and what it might mean, I’d be much obliged.