Edelstadt, David

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EDELSTADT, DAVID (1866–1892), Yiddish poet. Edelstadt was born in Kaluga, the son of a cantonist. After the Kiev pogrom of 1881, he immigrated to the U.S. as part of the agricultural *Am Olam movement but settled in Cincinnati to work in the garment industry, joined the anarchist movement (which at the time wielded great influence among Jewish workers), and became one of the first Jewish socialist poets, initially composing radical poetry in Russian. In 1888 he moved to New York and continued working in sweatshops, writing increasingly in Yiddish. In works such as "In Kamf" ("In Struggle"), "Vakht Uf" ("Awaken"), and "Mayn Tsavoe" ("My Last Will and Testament"), Edelstadt called upon his working-class audience to revolt against the upper classes and seize the means of production. In 1890, he became a regular contributor to and, a year later, editor of the newly founded anarchist weekly Fraye Arbeter Shtime. His lyrics, sung in sweatshops and on picket lines, depict the world's imperfections and the wondrous life to come after a social revolution. After he contracted tuberculosis in 1891, he traveled to Denver to recuperate but died there the following year at the age of 26, becoming a romantic legend to the young Jewish labor movement and a central figure, along with Joseph *Bovshover, Morris *Rosenfeld, and Morris *Vinchevsky, of the *Sweatshop Poets. His collected works were published in London in 1910 and in Moscow in 1935.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1927), 718–21; lnyl, 6 (1965), 554–63; K. Marmor, Dovid Edelstadt (1950), incl. bibl.; B. Bialostotsky (ed.), Dovid Edelstadt Gedenkbukh (1953); N.B. Minkoff, Pioneren fun Yidisher Poezye in Amerika (1956), 89–128; H. Leivick, Eseyen un Redes (1963), 195–207. add. bibliography: S. Liptzin, A History of Yiddish Literature (1972), 94–96; I. Howe, World of Our Fathers (1976), 420; O. Kritz, The Poetics of Anarchy (1997).

[Sol Liptzin /

Marc Miller (2nd ed.)]