Benjamin Levaco was a Russian-born Jew
who moved to China with his family in 1915 at the age of four. He grew up in Harbin and
Tientsin, and after graduating high school began working for a sausage casing company in
the 1930s. After World War II, he opened his own casing company with plants in Shanghai,
Hangchow, Tientsin and Peking. He fled China with his wife in 1950, immigrating to New
York City. He retired in the Los Angeles area, and traveled to China multiple times in
the 1990s before his passing in 1998. The collection contains items from Levaco's
life in China, as well as items related to his continued interest in the Old China Hands
experience during his retirement.
Benjamin (Ben) Levaco was born to Michael and Rachel Levaco in Kainsk, Siberia in 1911.
His family moved to Harbin in 1915 to escape the rising Bolshevik forces in Russia,
where his father ran a variety of businesses. In 1918, the family moved again to
Yokohama, Japan, where Levaco attended Saint Joseph's College. The family lived in
Japan until 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake hit and destroyed most of the city of
Yokohama. The Levaco's were left without a home, business, or liquid assets as all
records of their bank accounts were lost to the destruction of the earthquake. The
family then moved to Tientsin, China, where Michael Levaco was able to establish a
haberdashery. Benjamin attended the British Grammar School in Tientsin, graduated in
1927, and found employment in an American firm dealing in natural sausage casings, the
Oppenheimer Casing Company.
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