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Identifier: MC 1414

Drasin Family Papers


  • 1900-1999

Scope and Content Note

The Drasin Family Papers consist of approximately 1.75 cubic feet of material, including 1 manuscript box, 1 phase box, 2 newspaper boxes, and 3 photograph boxes, spanning the period 1900–1999. They comprise the personal records of the Drasin family, documenting the family's history from the early twentieth century until the late twentieth century. They also include records of Jersey Homesteads, Roosevelt, and Jersey Homesteads and Roosevelt residents.

The Drasin Family Papers are composed primarily of textual records such as correspondence, historical documents, and newspaper clippings. Within each series, items are arranged chronologically. CORRESPONDENCE, 1928–1992 (7 folders) describes life in Jersey Homesteads and Tamara's travels around the United States. This series includes official letters from the United States Department of the Interior and the Resettlement Administration pertaining to the creation of Jersey Homesteads as well as the personal letters and papers of the Drasin family. Also included in this series is a children's book from Russia. This series ties into the other series nicely in that it gives the background of Jersey Homesteads and a nice glimpse into the closeness of the Drasin family.

HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS, 1935–1992 (8 folders; 1 photograph box) deals with both the Drasin family materials and the official documents of Jersey Homesteads and Roosevelt. This series includes official letters from the State of New York Department of Labor and Workmen's Compensation Board as well as the Federal Security Agency Social Security Board. Also included are personal papers, a transcription of a radio broadcast, pictures of the Tripod coat factory, and legal documents of Jersey Homesteads. This series offers a more personal look into the Drasin family through their personal papers and other artifacts. Jersey Homesteads too is examined in more depth as the official documents of the community describe exactly the type of settlement that its founders wanted to create and tried to sustain.

. NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, 1936–1999 (7 folders) primarily chronicles Tamara's career, Boris' involvement with the Jersey Homesteads cooperatives, and the Jersey Homesteads community, as documented by various newspaper and magazine articles. This series ties in nicely with the rest because it offers viewpoints from outside of the Jersey Homesteads community. Furthermore, these articles provide an excellent picture and descriptions of the Drasin family and the Jersey Homesteads community.

Other document types included in this collection are photographs and sheet music. PHOTOGRAPHS, 1900s – 1960s? (one newspaper box) when possible, are arranged in groups depending upon the subject matter. Within each group, photographs are arranged chronologically, when possible. This series contains photographs mainly of the Drasin family and their friends. The photographs in this series provide a better understanding of the Drasin family, their relatives, and their friends. SHEET MUSIC, 1927–1943 (one newspaper and two photograph boxes) has been arranged by language and alphabetically as well, with the exception of the Russian and Yiddish sheet music. The sheet music collection was Tamara's personal collection of sheet music from her Broadway and radio performances. This series offers a look into the life and passion of Tamara Drasin.

Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries was given the Drasin Family Papers by the Roosevelt, N.J. historian after the death of Eliezar "Lee" or "Las" Drasin.


1.75 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box, 1 phase box, 2 newspaper boxes, 3 photograph boxes)

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

There are no access restrictions on this collection.

Biographical Sketch

The Drasin family played an integral role in the history of Jersey Homesteads, now Roosevelt, New Jersey. The family consisted of parents Boris and Hinda "Eda" Drasin and children Tamara Drasin, later Tamara Drasin Swann, and Eliezar "Lee" or "Las" Drasin. Their story begins in Ekaterinoslav, Russia on 7 January 1885 when Boris Drasin was born and two years later when Eda was born. Boris Drasin was a skilled tailor in Odessa and then Ekaterinoslav. Eda Drasin was an accomplished singer who gave up her career when her children were born, Tamara in 1909, and Lee in 1913.

When Boris was drafted into the Russian Army in 1914, he fled to America, leaving his wife and children behind in Sorochinsk with Eda's parents. It was here that Tamara learned and loved to sing folk songs. After fleeing to eastern Poland, the family finally made their way to America to join Boris in 1922. From there they moved to the Bronx and finally to Jersey Homesteads. (1)

Originally known as Jersey Homesteads, Roosevelt was one of ninety-nine communities across the country created by the federal government as part of a New Deal initiative. In early 1933, Title II, Section 208, of the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA) created the Division of Subsistence Homesteads, the purpose of which was to decentralize industry from congested cities and enable workers to improve their standards of living through the help of subsistence agriculture. Jersey Homesteads was unique, however, in that it was the only community planned as an agro-industrial cooperative which included a farm, factory, and retail stores, and it was the only one established specifically for urban Jewish garment workers, many of whom were committed socialists. (2)

While in the Bronx, Boris was known as a staunch supporter of the garment workers union. This trend continued in Jersey Homesteads where Boris was the chairman of the Provisional Executive Community in Hightstown (Jersey Homesteads) as well as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Workers' Aim Cooperative Association. In this capacity, Drasin tried to save the cooperative coat factory, Tripod, before it collapsed. After he was unable to save the factory, he tried to bring another company to the town to take its place. He was unsuccessful, and eventually moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he died in September 1983. Eda Drasin supported him throughout all of his endeavors until she died in 1958. (3)

Tamara was an accomplished guitarist, singer, and actress. At age seventeen, Tamara began her career on Broadway. From then on she appeared in the revues Americana, Crazy Quilt, Free For All, Get Out of Town, Leave It to Me!, The New Yorkers, Right This Way, Roberta, Scandals, They All Come to Moscow, and Tide Rising. She was also in the movies Live and Laugh, No, No, Nanette, and Sweet Surrender(4). After her tour in Roberta, Tamara married advertising executive Erwin D. Swann, and took the surname Swann. During her career, she also took time out to entertain the troops during World War II. It was on a flight to Europe for a U.S.O. show that Tamara was killed when her plane crashed in Portugal in February 1943. In 1952, the Borough Council changed the name of the southern portion of Cooperative Circle to Tamara Drive. (5)

After graduating from high school, Lee Drasin went to Cornell University. Upon graduation, he returned to Jersey Homesteads, where in 1938–1939 he was in charge of crop harvesting for the town's cooperative farm. Later on he was one of three of the W.P.A. Recreation Directors in town, even buying the first piano for the local school. Lee Drasin tried to keep the memory of his family and the early Jersey Homesteads community alive by documenting their history through photographs and video footage. In 1983, his video footage was included in the documentary, Roosevelt, N.J.: Visions of Utopia. He died on 4 September 1999.(6)


(1) "When a Lovely Flame Dies" Roosevelt Borough Bulletin (December 1992), 5. (2) "History of Roosevelt, New Jersey" Available from Rutgers University Libraries. Accessed 19 November 2004. (3) U.S. Social Security Death Index. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Accessed 17 November 2004. (4) "Tamara Credits on Broadway." Internet Broadway Database Accessed 17 November 2004. (5) Warren, 5. Roosevelt Borough Bulletin (6) U.S. Social Security Death Index The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints Accessed 17 November 2004.

Arrangement Note

The Drasin Family Papers came to Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries in no known particular order with the exception of the scrapbook, which was arranged for the most part chronologically by the creator. Much of the personal correspondence of Tamara and Boris Drasin was mixed in with the rest of the collection; however, it seems to be arranged chronologically by the creator as well. When possible, the correspondence was kept in chronological order except when other correspondence needed to be added to the collection. The Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries processor artificially assembled the rest of the collection.

Related Collections

See also Roosevelt (N.J.) Collection, 1934–1994 and the Borough of Roosevelt Historical Collection, 1933–1996, available at Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

In the Roosevelt (N.J.) Collection, 1934–1994, Boris Drasin features prominently in the joint cooperative governing body minutes. The Borough of Roosevelt Historical Collection contains the Boris Drasin Papers series, 1933–1940, which discusses Drasin's work with the Homesteads' cooperatives. Also, Tamara Drasin is profiled in the Biographical Files, 1972 – 1992 , in this collection.


From Rutgers University Libraries From IMDB From U.S. Social Security Death Index From U.S. Social Security Death Index From Peter Warren
Guide to the Drasin Family Papers
Edited Full Draft
Kristy Buchalla
December 2004
Language of description note
Finding aid is written in English.