Mysterious box contains Ulman Theater family photographs

Ulman Main

Asked about the Ulman family, historian and collector George Chevallier pulled out a tiny box filled with about a dozen small tintype photographs, extraordinary images of an earlier time.  He said the photographs were of the Ulmans but he could not recall where he had gotten them.

Three listed names.  One noted on the back “Caroline Long Ulman (Mrs. Simon Ulman) and daughter Sarah Ulman.”  Another said “Charles L. Ulman and David Ulman.”  And a third noted only “Cousin Charles.” The rest so far are a mystery.

The two Ulman brothers, Simon (1842-1904) and Isaac (1850-1923), came to Salisbury in 1868 and hit the ground running creating businesses and buying property all over town, investing in Salisbury.

They arrived from Myersdale, Pa., and set up their liquor business on Market Street, then called Dock Street. The business included a restaurant or lunch counter. The location is now a municipal parking lot.

The brothers married sisters Caroline and Lena Long also from Pennsylvania and the two families shared a large home on Church Street. The parents on both sides were from Germany.

During the first years in town the brothers lived in a boarding house. By 1880 they had both married and were raising families. Isaac was the proprietor of the Salisbury Hotel on Division Street across from the courthouse. Simon ran the liquor store.

The 1886 fire destroyed those two businesses along with the rest of downtown but the brothers soon bounced back, opening the Ulman Opera House on Main Street soon after the fire, a theater providing much needed entertainment.

Ulman 2

The Opera House brought to town everything from plays, musicals, operas, minstrel shows, even burlesque.  The theatre occupied the upstairs. The liquor business moved in to the first floor along with a novelty store. The theatre was used for public meetings, graduations, even a holiday dance.

But the Ulman entrepreneurial spirit did not end there. The family had a furniture store, a brewery on Railroad Avenue, two ice houses along Humphreys Lake, a billing business, and later a movie theater when the Opera House burned.

They accumulated an impressive amount of property. They owned the land later occupied by the Wicomico High School, East Salisbury School and other areas around the lake. And the family built houses at what was known as Ulman Row on East William Street. Descendants of the brothers operated the New Theatre and the Boulevard Theatre.

The Ulmans were among the earliest Jewish families to make their home in Salisbury. They became active in supporting their community. Simon was on the relief committee following the fire. And he was remembered for delivering provisions to the poor during severe winters.

Ulman 1

Some of the photos were likely of Isaac’s son Charles and David. The names of the others shown on those tiny tintypes, perhaps of other family members or friends, are for now lost to obscurity.

Hopefully George does not lose that tiny box, as someone may be able to identify the images. I am grateful for having seen them, those amazing miniature glimpses into Salisbury’s history.

Linda Duyer lives in Salisbury and is writing a book about the community’s history. Contact her at 

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