Yehuda Labe Balterinsky (c.1838-c.1920) was a kosher butcher and a miller in the Vilna Governorate, in present-day Lithuania. He had 12 children through two marriages. With his first wife, Blumah Balterinsky, he had four children, Chaya Tzyril, Reuven, Moshe Aaron and Elya Baer. After Blumah died from complications with childbirth, Balterinsky married her relative Sara Dubinsky. Togther, they had eight children, Zalman, Henoch, Benjamin, Schule Rochel, Rebecca, Judaska, Tzurel and Avraham.
Reuven “Reuben” Balter (1873-1946) immigrated to the United States in 1891 and settled in the Hill District. He eventually moved from the Hill District to Stratford Avenue in the East End and later to Squirrel Hill. Early directories list Balter as a “huckster,” or a peddler. By 1910, he owned a butcher shop at 1805 Center Avenue. According to family legend, Balter went into the paper business after coming into a surplus of butcher paper, which he and his son sold on the side to local merchants. When the profits from selling paper surpassed those from selling meat, Reuben Balter started the Balter Paper Company. Through these two businesses, Balter was able to bring over many of his siblings and cousins, all of whom worked for him for various lengths of time. His father, however, refused to immigrate to America, according to his family, because he considered the country to be trayfn, or “not kosher.” After Yehuda Labe Balterinsky died, his second wife, Sara Balterinsky, immigrated to the United States.
In 1895, Reuben Balter married Ida Rudkosky (1874-1926). They had two children, Morris and Cecile.
In August 1928, on his birthday, Morris Balter (1896-1971) started the Morris Paper Company. He initially operated as a sole proprietor until 1941, when he brought his son on as a partner. They formally incorporated the company in 1948. The business began by distributing packaging materials for retail stores and industrial plants and gradually expanded over the years, opening a branch in Johnstown, Pa., in 1937; founding the Morris Electric Supply Company in 1945 and Morris Cellulose Fabricators in 1955; and acquiring the J.C. Kaplan Company in 1953 and the Interstate Cordage and Paper Company in 1966.
During World War II, Morris Balter was a member of the National Office of Price Administration.
On Thanksgiving Day, 1919, Morris Balter married Beatrice “Bobby” Stone (1889-1994) of Chicago. Beatrice Stone had graduated from the Chicago Normal School of Physical Education and attended the University of California at Berkeley. While passing through Pittsburgh after a vacation in Atlantic City with her mother and the opera singer Rosa Raisa, Stone met Balter. After they married and settled in Pittsburgh, Bobby Balter became active in many communal organizations in the city, including the Rodef Shalom Sisterhood and the National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section.
Morris and Bobby Balter had one son, James.
James Balter (1922-1993) attended Shady Side Academy and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. After serving in the U.S. Army during World War II, he joined the family business. By the time James Balter took over as president of the company, in 1971, the Morris Paper Company headquarters on 21st Street in the Strip District was the largest independent paper warehouse and distribution center between Chicago and New York, with a 160,000 square foot warehouse where 10 railroad cars and 14 trucks could load at the same time. In 1975, the company purchased and remodeled its Strip District headquarters, a former Kroger warehouse. The Hammermill Paper Company acquired Morris Paper Company in 1977. The building has since been demolished.
After James Balter retired in 1986, he continued working in the field as a consultant while devoting much of his time to volunteering. He was a life trustee of the American Jewish Committee and a board member of the Jewish National Fund, and was involved in the Emma Kaufmann Camp, the Greater Pittsburgh Guild for the Blind, the Health and Welfare Association of Allegheny County, Mayview State Hospital, United Mental Health Services of Allegheny County and the Urban League of Pittsburgh.
James Balter married Frances Sunstein in 1948. They had four children, Katherine, Julia, Constance and Daniel.