Halpern family

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Halpern family

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The Halpern Family fonds consists of the personal archives of five members of the Halpern family: Simon (1865-1939) and Rosalie (1875-1951) Halpern; their daughter Fanny Halpern (1899-1952), a psychiatrist; their son George Halpern (1902-1989), a businessman and philanthropist; and his wife Ida Halpern (1910-1987), a noted ethnomusicologist.

Simon Halpern was born on June 6, 1865. He was a Surgeon-General in the Austrian Army. He died in 1939. Simon’s wife Rosalie Halpern (nee Salkind) was born on November 19, 1875, in Kremenczuk, Russia. She died in Shanghai, China, on June 26, 1951.

Fanny Gisela Halpern was born August 1, 1899 in Krakow, Poland. After graduating in medicine from the University of Vienna in 1924, she worked in various clinics in that city. Her interest in neurology and psychiatry led her to study with Professor Wagner-Jauregg, who had received the Nobel Prize for developing the malarial treatment of syphilis.

Fanny was invited to China in November 1933 to teach at the Medical College of China in Shanghai. She later taught at Shanghai’s St. John's University and Women's Christian Medical College. In 1935 she organized China's first modern psychiatric hospital, Shanghai Mercy Hospital for Nervous Diseases. She became the hospital's medical director, while at the same time serving as a consultant to several other medical institutions.

Fanny founded the first Committee on Psychiatry in China. She also established a Committee on Mental Hygiene in Shanghai, which became the Mental Hygiene Association of that city. The group consisted mainly of volunteers who worked in mental hygiene and child guidance clinics. She wrote many articles on psychiatry and neurology and presented papers at scientific meetings in Europe and China.

For much of her time in Shanghai, Fanny shared her life and home with her mother, Rosalie, who joined her there after Simon's death in 1939. Shortly after her mother passed away in 1951, Fanny moved to Vancouver to be near her brother, George, and his wife, Ida. Fanny Halpern died on June 26, 1952.

George Robert Halpern was born in Krakow, Poland on May 11, 1902. In 1936 he married Ida (nee Ruhdörfer), who was born on July 17, 1910, in Vienna, Austria, to Heinrich and Sabine Ruhdörfer.

George Halpern had a Ph.D. in chemistry, and as a research chemist, developed a number of pharmaceutical and cosmetic preparations that were manufactured in Vienna and later in Italy (1936-1937) after he established a factory there. Halpern's medicines, with such names as "gelamon" and "jonojod," were advertised for the treatment of various illnesses including asthma, rheumatism, atherosclerosis, and syphilis. Halpern's cosmetic products included skin creams and hair tonics.

Once Ida received her doctorate in music in July 1938, she and George decided to leave Vienna. That October they moved to Shanghai to be with George's sister Fanny. While there, Ida taught music history at the University of Shanghai. George considered opening a pharmaceutical factory in Shanghai as well, but instead in 1939 he and Ida left for Canada.

Arriving in Vancouver in August, the Halperns were initially placed under a deportation order. They succeeded in gaining landed immigrant status through the intervention of R.D. Murray, manager of the Chartered Bank of India, Australia, and China located in Shanghai. Murray offered financial guarantees regarding Halpern's proposed business enterprises.

George hoped to manufacture cosmetics in Vancouver, but was discouraged by George Cunningham, the owner of the city's largest drugstore chain, who told George that his stores only dealt with nationally advertised products. Instead, after inventing chocolate-covered cod-liver oil pills for children, George established his own company, Dr. G. Halpern (Vienna) Laboratories, which manufactured the product for a short time (ca. 1939-1941).

In May 1941 George joined the Canadian Fishing Company as a research chemist. His role was to develop products, such as vitamin oils and poultry feed, that could be manufactured from fish. Halpern also joined a professional association, the Chemical Institute of Canada, and became chairman of its Vancouver section. In 1953, the Canadian Fishing Company’s management curtailed its research activities, and Halpern had to seek other employment. In 1954, he opened his own business, G.R. Chemicals, Ltd., which manufactured "Ply-O-Seal" plastic patching compounds for the plywood industry.

In 1969, George sold the assets of G.R. Chemicals to the H.B. Fuller Company (Canada) Ltd. He then formed a new company, G.R. Chemicals (1969), Ltd., an investment business which owned some property and whose principal income came from interest and rent. This business existed until 1986.

Ida taught music lessons in the Halperns’ home and also lectured in music appreciation and later in ethnomusicology at UBC. In 1947 she began recording the music of First Nations peoples of the Pacific Northwest, being one of the first to study the subject. In 1948 she helped found, and was first president of, the Friends of Chamber Music in Vancouver. Ida wrote numerous articles and a few books on First Nations music, and also published some sound recordings.

Both George and Ida Halpern were noted benefactors to two of British Columbia's universities, the University of Victoria, and Simon Fraser University (SFU). They were convocation founders of SFU in 1965, and their financial support enabled the construction of the George and Ida Halpern Centre at that institution. George was present at the Halpern Centre's official opening on May 24, 1989. As well, the Halperns donated several important paintings to SFU.

Ida was awarded an honourary doctorate from SFU in 1978, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in the same year. She continued to lecture, and to consult on First Nations music for films and other productions. In 1986, the University of Victoria also awarded her an honourary doctorate. Ida died in Vancouver on February 7, 1987.

During his later years, George played a broad role in community activities. He served as President of Brock House, a community centre for senior citizens, which he helped to establish, in 1974, in a local heritage building. He and Ida both served on its board of directors for a number of years. He was also elected a member of the Dunbar-West Point Grey-Southlands Community Resources Board in 1973. The Board promoted the general well being of seniors in the area through such projects as the seniors' housing complex at Fourth Avenue and Wallace Street. George Halpern died in Vancouver on November 28, 1989.

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