Select Berger Miscellany

Here are some Berger stories and accounts over the years:

Bergers in America by Country of Origin

Per cent

Jean Berger, Boston Huguenot

Jean Berger was a Huguenot painter/stainer in Boston in the early 1700’s.  His design book and a few court cases involving him represent most of what is known about his life and work.

Written in both English and French, a sketchy family register at the back of his book records the birth of Berger’s wife Rachel on October 16, 1686 and the death of his father-in-law on June 29, 1730.  It also reveals that Berger had at least four children and was a member of Boston’s sizable Huguenot community.

His approximate working dates can be extrapolated from the date 1718 on the front of his book, Berger’s last known court appearance in 1732, and Rachel’s appearance in court as a widow in 1736.  Court records also indicate that Berger rented a house on the northwest corner of Pond and Short streets from Mary White

Berger Cookies

Berger cookies are a kind of cookie made and distributed by DeBaufre Bakeries today. They are topped with a thick layer of chocolate fudge that derives from a German recipe and are a cultural icon of Baltimore.  The Berger cookie recipe was brought to America from Germany by George and Henry Berger in 1835.  

Henry owned a bakery in East Baltimore which was later run by his son Henry.  While the younger Henry took over his father's bakery, his two brothers, George and Otto, opened their own bakeries.  Around 1900 Otto died.  Then George and Henry combined the bakeries to create 'Bergers.' 

As technology grew so did the bakery. Eventually Henry died, leaving George as the sole proprietor of the bakery.  When George retired he sold the bakery and the recipe to Charles E. Russell.  DeBaufre Bakeries purchased Berger's from the Russell family in 1969. 

The Berger cookie is well known for its thick chocolate frosting layered on top of a shortbread cookie. The recipe has won several awards around the Baltimore area including the 2011 Best of Baltimore Award and the Best Cookie award in 2011.  

Sam Berger, World Heavyweight Boxing Champion

Like Mohammed Ali, Sam Berger was a heavyweight boxing champion.  Born in Chicago in 1884 to Polish immigrant parents, he moved with them when he was twelve to San Francisco where he took up boxing.  In 1901 he won the Pacific middleweight amateur crown and he won the heavyweight version in 1902.  Berger won virtually all of his amateur bouts by KO. 

Two years later he took part in the 1904 Summer Olympics held in St. Louis, Missouri.  It was the first time boxing was featured in the modern Olympics.  Only American boxers participated in the competition and Berger proved superior in the heavyweight division.  Weighing in at 182 pounds, the 6'2" boxer earned the gold medal. 

Afterwards Sam Berger became a professional boxer.  But unlike Mohammed Ali his promising professional career didn't last long.  On Halloween Day 1906 he was walloped by Al Kaufmann. The scheduled 20 round fight was stopped in the tenth when Berger's seconds threw up the sponge.  That loss ended Sam Berger's career as a boxer. 

He remained close to boxing, however, and was forever a fan.  He was a promoter for a good number of years, an official referee on occasion, and sparring partner for boxers such as Jim Jeffries.  He also ran a clothing store in San Francisco. 

Sam Berger died in 1925 at the young age of 41.   He was elected to the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 1985.

Stanley and John Berger and Their Different War Experiences

Stanley Berger, the son of a Hungarian émigré merchant from Trieste "who sometimes had quite a lot of money and sometimes had none," had wanted to be an Anglican priest before 1914.  But four cataclysmic years as an infantry officer on the Western Front where he was awarded the Military Cross, left him without faith or politics.

"He was a brave soldier but it indelibly marked him and for a while he was totally lost," recalled his son John.  He wrote as follows about his father’s experiences in a poem:

"It seems now that I was so near to that war.
I was born of a look of the dead,
Swaddled in mustard gas,
And fed in a dugout."

After the war Stanley remained in the army for a further four years until 1922, organising war graves for the British dead.  He then worked quietly in London at
the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants.

Son John had his own but different war experiences in the Second World War.  He was drafted into the army in 1944, where he was immediately considered officer material because of his schooling.  He refused the commission, to the considerable chagrin of his superiors, and for his sins was dispatched to Ballykelly barracks in Northern Ireland.

“I lived among these raw recruits,” he said almost wistfully, “and it was the first time I really met working-class contemporaries.  I used to write letters for them, to their parents and occasionally their girlfriends. It was the first time I wrote publicly in a way and though it was a pretty awful year, I can see now that it was a very, very formative experience for me.”

John Berger achieved fame as an art critic in 1972 when his book Ways of Seeing was published

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