In November 1876, Louis Fleischmann opened his Vienna Bakery at newly posh Broadway and Tenth Street (below, between Grace Church and the A.T. Stewart department store, in a NYPL 1891 photo).
The plan was to introduce New Yorkers to breads and sweet treats made with his family’s packaged yeast—a novelty at the time.
“The idea of its establishment came to Mr. Fleischmann when he noticed a crowd of hungry tramps standing over the grating at the bakery at Tenth Street and Broadway, scenting the hot loaves that were being turned out in the basement,” wrote The New York Times in Fleischmann’s 1904 obituary.
“Mr. Fleischmann offered to feed one of the men, and soon a line formed. It was then that he determined to give bread to every hungry man who would come for it.
“The breadline grew until at night as many as 500 loaves were handed out to the men. . . . In winter coffee was given with the bread, and when the philanthropist saw a man in line hurry off to his home with his loaf instead of eating it himself, he had the man followed and aided the family.”
After Fleischmann’s death, the breadline persisted—among many other breadlines that had popped up in the city.
[Above photo, Fleischmann's breadline in 1913]