My Uncle, The Criminal? If The Shoe Fits….

Before I turn to my three-times great-uncle Meyer and his family, I want to write about another uncle—my four-times great-uncle Simon Goldchmidt, brother of my three-times great-grandfather Seligmann Goldschmidt.

Back in January, I wrote about Simon Goldschmidt, including the fact that he had been in legal trouble in Germany before immigrating to the US. David Baron had located a record that indicated that in 1826 Simon was charged with burglary and attempted robbery. (HStAM Fonds 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No G 40.) I then wrote in that post:

I requested a copy of the file from the Marburg archives and learned that the file covers Simon’s appeal of a ten year sentence for his criminal activity. The listing online indicates that the date of appellate decision was December 24, 1830.

The contact person at the Marburg archives did not reveal the outcome of the appeal, so I am now hoping to find someone who might be able to go to Marburg and provide me with a summary (in English) of the judgment. (I could order a copy, but it would be costly and in German. My German has improved, but 130 pages of a legal decision would be too great a challenge!)

Well, with the help of three wonderful women in Germany, I’ve been able to obtain a copy of the report, have it transcribed, and then have it translated.  First, Floriane Pfeiffer-Ditschler from the German Genealogy group on Facebook volunteered to go to the archives in Marburg and scan the entire 130 pages of the documents in the file.1 She sent it to me as a PDF, and it’s too long to post on the blog, but I will post just a few pages in this post so that you can see how difficult it is to read. If you’re interested in seeing the entire document, let me know.

Cover page of file, HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Neither Floriane nor I could decipher the text, so I turned to my friend Julia Drinnenberg, who had been one of my wonderful guides during my visit to Germany last year. Julia also found the handwriting difficult to read, so she recruited her friend Gabriele Hafermaas to help. Gabriele transcribed the text, which Julia then translated it into English. I cannot tell you how grateful I am to these three women for their help.  It took many, many hours of work for them to produce a document that I can read.

The file contained three documents: the original trial court opinion finding Simon guilty, Simon’s application for appellate review, and the appellate court’s opinion. Because the documents are quite lengthy and at times repetitive, I thought it best to write up a summary.

The alleged crime took place on the night of May 16, 1826. The trial, however, did not take place until four years later.  Perhaps Simon was too poor to hire a lawyer and thus may have been put in jail without trial until the case was heard.  At this time we do not have any information to explain the long delay between the crime and the trial.

The trial court reached its decision on May 14, 1830.

Simon Goldschmidt, first page of trial court opinion
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

According to the trial court’s opinion, on the evening of May 16, 1826, someone broke into the home of eighty-year-old Georg Wolf, a resident of Oberlistingen.  There was a hole in the wall of his home and a ladder lying on the ground in front of his sitting room. The court found that someone used violent force to break into the sitting room, using the ladder to push the door open and even breaking an iron bar that served as a lock on that door. There was a struggle between Wolf and the burglar, during which Wolf claimed he had bitten the hands of the assailant and scratched and pinched his face and neck.

When neighbors heard Wolf’s cries for help, the assailant ran away.  According to Wolf and several witnesses, a pair of shoes was left behind, which Wolf claimed had belonged to the assailant. Wolf described the assailant as a small and flexible man with frizzy hair, wearing a long black cape and speaking with a Yiddish accent.

Based on this description, Simon Goldschmidt, a 32-year-old tailor, was thought to be the assailant, and local authorities went the next morning to his home to investigate. Witnesses testified that Simon had injuries on his face and hands that were consistent with Wolf’s testimony and that he fit the physical description provided by Wolf. Simon denied the charges and claimed that he had injured himself when he fell on a stack of logs in the corridor while going to the toilet in the middle of the night.

The trial court did not find Simon’s assertion that his injuries came from such a fall credible for several reasons.  The court did not find it believable that Simon had used the toilet in the corridor because he had a “night stool” in his room for bathroom use. Simon claimed he could not use the night stool because Jewish law prohibited sharing of the night stool while his wife was menstruating, but the court cited the testimony of a rabbi stating that there was no such prohibition under Jewish law. There also was no evidence that Simon’s wife was in fact menstruating at the time of the crime. Furthermore, the court found that Simon’s injuries were not consistent with falling on logs, citing the testimony of a doctor that Simon appeared to have bite marks on his hands and bruising on his face.

In addition, in a page torn from Cinderella or the OJ Simpson trial, the trial court found that the shoes left behind by the assailant fit Simon as well as his wife. A shoemaker testified that he had made the shoes for Simon’s wife and repaired them. He was able to identify them by the way the heels were worn down on one side. Simon denied that the shoes were his or his wife’s, saying that her shoes had been stolen. The trial court did not find this assertion credible because the theft of the shoes had never been reported to the police.

Cinderella
By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The fact that Simon was wearing dirty socks covered with thick straw and half-dry black mud when the authorities came to investigate was also relied on by the trial court in its analysis. Simon claimed his socks were dirty from walking inside his house and from walking outside to his well. The trial court was not persuaded, finding evidence that Simon was ordinarily a tidy man, that his floors did not have dirt like that found on his socks, and that the walkway to the well had a stone path. Witnesses also testified that the dirty socks were like those of someone who walked through the village without shoes.

There was also some discussion in the trial court opinion about the fact that Simon had plans to go to the estate of the aristocratic von Malsburg family the morning of the investigation.  Julia and I were not sure what this all meant, but as best I can tell, Simon was wearing boots when the authorities arrived and claimed it was because he was planning to go to the Malsburg estate. The court seems to have concluded that this was not the case, but that Simon had put on boots to hide his dirty socks, which were only revealed when the investigator asked him to remove his boots.

Based on its evaluation of the evidence, the trial court concluded that Simon was guilty of attempted theft with burglary and attempted robbery with murder and sentenced him to ten years in prison with his legs shackled. The court considered as an aggravating factor in determining its sentence that Simon had not voluntarily called off his attempted crime, but only left because he was afraid of being caught when Wolf called for help.

End of trial court opinoin
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Although the court observed that the usual penalty for a crime of this nature would be twelve to fifteen years in prison, it noted that the case had been delayed for two years due to an overload of pending cases and therefore reduced the usual penalty and sentenced Simon to ten years in prison. The court’s mention of a two-year delay is confusing. If the crime was in 1826 and the trial decision in 1830, had Simon been free on bail for two years and in prison only for two of the four years? Why would he have been incarcerated for only two of the four years between the crime and the trial? It’s not clear.

On July 22, 1830, Simon appealed the trial court’s verdict, making many of the same arguments that he made at trial, but with some additional details. For one thing, he claimed that he had not reported the theft of his wife’s shoes because of their low value. As to the fact that he was wearing boots the morning after the crime, he asserted that it was insulting to claim that a tailor would not ordinarily be wearing shoes.

Simon Goldschmidt’s application for appearl, first page
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

With respect to his dirty socks, Simon asserted that the stones on the walkway to the well were quite distant from each other and that the humid weather had made the ground very muddy. And as for his claim that he injured himself from a fall when he went to the toilet in the corridor, he asserted that he left the bedroom because he did not want to make a stench inside and that he believed, even if incorrectly, that under Jewish law he and his wife could not share a night stool while she was menstruating.

Simon also pointed out that Wolf had not specifically identified him, but had only given a general description of the person who attacked him. In addition, Simon asserted his overall good reputation as a factor mitigating against his guilt.

The appellate court issued its decision on December 24, 1830. Its opinion is far more detailed and thorough than the trial court opinion and raises some additional issues. For example, the appellate court pointed out that Simon had been having financial problems and thus had a motive for stealing from Wolf. The court also mentioned that Simon knew that Wolf had money because he and his brothers had at one time borrowed money from Wolf.

Appellate decision, first page
HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

Simon’s response was that his financial problems were only temporary and that everyone in the village knew that Wolf had money and might have stolen from him. Simon also argued that since Wolf had loaned money to him and his brothers, it would not make sense for him to steal from him. The court concluded that the evidence of Simon’s financial problems supported the trial court’s guilty verdict, although only circumstantially.

(If I were representing Simon, I might also have argued that since Wolf knew Simon, he should have been able to identify him as the assailant rather than merely providing a general description.)

The appellate court also considered Wolf’s description of his assailant and whether it clearly identified Simon. Despite some inconsistencies in the evidence regarding the description of the assailant’s “singing voice” and hair, the court found that this evidence nevertheless pointed towards Simon’s guilt.

With respect to the fact that Simon was wearing boots when the authorities came to investigate early on the morning after the crime, the court found that it was not Simon’s usual practice to wear boots and that his story that he was planning to walk to the Malsburg estate was not supported by any witnesses. But the court considered this only relevant to the claim that Simon was trying to hide the dirt on his socks.

The evidence that the appellate court seemed to consider most persuasive of Simon’s guilt was the evidence relating to the shoes left at Wolf’s house and the dirt on Simon’s socks. In the court’s weighing of the evidence, it concluded that the shoes belonged to Simon and his wife and that he got his socks dirty when he ran home through the town without his shoes.

The appellate court also considered very persuasive the evidence of Simon’s injuries and concluded that Simon’s story about falling on logs was not credible. In response to the assertion that Simon did not use the night stool because his wife was menstruating, the prosecution argued that Simon’s wife could not have been menstruating because she was breastfeeding [presumably Jakob, their first child born in 1825]. I was impressed by the court’s response to this assertion—that women can menstruate even while breastfeeding—because that is a fact that I would not have thought was commonly known in 1830.

But the court nevertheless found that it was not likely that Simon’s injuries were sustained in a fall, given the doctor’s testimony that there were bite marks and the fact that the injuries were in multiple locations on Simon’s body, not on one side as one would expect from a fall. Also, Simon couldn’t give a convincing description of the fall and refused to show his injuries. Thus, the court dismissed Simon’s assertion that he was injured in a fall.

After weighing all the evidence, the appellate court thus upheld the verdict. However, it reduced the sentence from ten years to four years because Wolf’s injuries were not dangerous or life-threatening and because Simon had not used any lethal weapons.  It thus reduced the original charges against Simon to attempted robbery. The court also observed that the delay in trial was not Simon’s fault and took that into consideration in reducing his sentence. Simon was released from prison after the appellate court’s decision.

Last page of appellate decision, HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40

As noted in my earlier post, Simon’s first wife Eveline died in 1840, and in 1844 my four-times great-uncle Simon Goldschmidt married Fradchen Schoenthal, the sister of my great-great-grandfather Levi Schoenthal and thus my three-times great-aunt. Fradchen and Simon left for the United States not long after. Simon was the second member of the Goldschmidt family to immigrate to the US, following his oldest son Jakob, and Fradchen was the first Schoenthal to immigrate.

Passenger manifest for Simon Goldschmidt, Fradchen Schoenthal and Eva
Ancestry.com. Baltimore, Passenger Lists, 1820-1964. Original data: Selected Passenger and Crew Lists and Manifests. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

I can’t help but wonder whether their decision to leave Germany was in some part motivated by a desire to leave behind Simon’s criminal past and start over in a new country. If so, well, then I have to say that I am awfully glad that Simon was convicted of this crime because in many ways it was that event that led ultimately to the emigration of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein (Simon’s niece) and my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal (Fradchen’s nephew), who later married Eva Goldschmidt’s daughter, Hilda Katzenstein.

Thus, in some ways Simon’s crime may have led to the merging of three of my paternal family lines—Goldschmidt, Schoenthal, and Katzenstein—in America.  How very strange.

 

.

 

 

 


  1.  HStAM 261 Kriminalakten 1822-1836 No. G 40. 

Kissing Cousins….

Remember how at the end of my last post I alluded to the 1920 and 1923 passports of Alice and Louis Goldsmith and how they helped me solve a different mystery? Well, this is it.

When I was researching Bertha Goldsmith Weinhandler/Wayne prior to delving into the research of her younger siblings, Alice and Louis, I discovered a marriage record for her in 1923.  According to the New York, New York, Marriage License Index database on Ancestry.com, Bertha Wayne married a man named Frederick Newman on May 21, 1923.1

I was surprised because after all, in 1920 she was still married to and living with Sampson Wayne.2  I thought perhaps Sampson had died, but I found him on the 1930 census in New York, which listed his marital status as divorced.

Sampson Wayne 1930 US Census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 27A; Enumeration District: 0488
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census

When had Bertha divorced Sampson? How had she married someone else so quickly?  Sampson died in 1931,3 but I could not find an obituary or any other news article or record that explained what had happened to him or his marriage to Bertha. And who was Frederick Newman, her new husband? I was mystified, but continued on with my research of Alice and Louis.

Then, when I could not find either Alice or Louis Goldsmith on the 1920 census, I looked more closely at their passport applications from 1920 and 1923, as noted in my last post. On Alice’s 1920 application, I saw that in addition to having her sister Bertha attest to her birth date on her passport application, there was a witness statement from Frederick Newman, who attested that he had known Alice for ten years.

Alice Goldsmith 1920 passport application, Volume: Roll 1270 – Certificates: 57750-58125, 23 Jun 1920-24 Jun 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

So Bertha’s second husband Frederick Newman had known Alice Goldsmith since 1910? When Alice was still living in Philadelphia? How could that be? Bertha was married to Sampson at that time. I wondered: Had Frederick Newman been an old friend who knew Alice? Had Alice introduced Bertha to Frederick?

It’s even weirder than that.

I started digging around to find out when Bertha and Sampson’s marriage had ended, and I located a passport application for Bertha Wayne in 1921 when she was still married to Sampson Wayne.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1643; Volume #: Roll 1643 – Certificates: 47626-47999, 06 Jun 1921-06 Jun 1921.  Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

Then I saw a notice of Bertha and Sampson’s divorce decree in the Reno Evening Gazette of July 11, 1922. That meant Bertha married Frederick in May, 1923, less than a year after she divorced Sampson.

Reno Gazette. July 11, 1922, p. 8

Then, as I examined Bertha’s 1921 passport application more carefully, I noticed that the passport application was supported by two affidavits from none other than Frederick Newman, her future husband. First, an affidavit of identification:

I was taken aback when I realized that the second affidavit was a “Form of Affidavit for a Relative.” A relative?

 

The second affidavit signed by Frederick Newman stated that he was a cousin of Sampson Wayne, Bertha’s husband, and that “my mother was his mother’s sister.”

I went back to research Sampson and Frederick and discovered that Sampson’s mother Hattie Loewenthal was indeed the sister of Pauline Loewenthal, Frederick Newman’s mother.4

So Frederick Newman was Sampson Wayne’s first cousin, and he married Bertha less than a year after she divorced his cousin Sampson. I can only imagine what this did to the families of Frederick and Sampson.

A year after Bertha’s second marriage, her sister Alice Goldsmith married for the first time. She married Louis Margulies, who was born on December 29, 1881, in Iasi, Romania.4 Louis, the son of Sol and Pearl Margulies, had immigrated to the US with his parents on October 10, 1884, where they settled in New York City.5 In 1920, Louis was living with his siblings in New York City and working as a woolens salesman.6

Louis Margulies married Alice Goldsmith on June 11, 1924, in Manhattan.7 He was 42, she was 43 when they married. For the first time since 1900, Alice then appeared on a census in 1925. On the 1925 New York State census, she and her husband Louis were living at 535 West 113th Street. Louis had changed careers sometime between 1920 and 1925 and was now working in real estate.

Louis and Alice Margulies, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 44; Assembly District: 11; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 20 Description District: A·D· 11 E·D· 44 Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925

Bertha and her second husband Frederick also appeared on the 1925 New York State census. They were living at 309 West 99th Street, not too far from Alice. Bertha’s two teenaged children from her first marriage, Arthur and Frances, were living with them. Frederick was practicing medicine.8

Louis Goldsmith, who like his sister Alice had not appeared on a census since 1900, also does not appear on the 1925 New York census, but he seemed to be traveling very often, so that may explain his continuing ability to elude the census enumerator. But the census enumerator finally caught up with him in 1930 when he was living in the Plaza Hotel in New York City and working as an advertising executive.9 Louis was obviously quite successful in his career, living in a hotel and traveling very often. He was apparently known in the advertising field as a leader who “helped convert men to wear light summer clothing” and for promoting something called Palm Beach cloth,10 a “lightweight summer fabric of cotton warp and mohair filling.”

Alice and her husband Louis Margulies also appear on the 1930 US census; they were living at 300 Riverside Drive in 1930, and Louis continued to work in the real estate business.11

Although both Louis Goldsmith and Alice Goldsmith appeared on the 1930 census, this time their sister Bertha seems to have missed being counted. However, I did find Bertha and Frederick on a ship manifest for a trip from Southampton, England, to New York on October 11, 1930, which gave their address as 171 West 71st Street in New York City. (Reverse-searching did not find them at that address on the 1930 census.)12

Miraculously, all three Goldsmith siblings are recorded on the 1940 census. Bertha and Frederick Newman were now living on 57 East 88th Street in New York, and Frederick continued to practice medicine. Bertha’s two children had both married and moved on to their own households.13 Alice and Louis Margulies were living at 104 Park Avenue in New York; Louis was still engaged in the real estate business.14 And Louis Goldsmith, the youngest child of Abraham Goldsmith, was living at 21 West 58th Street, still working in the advertising field.15

By 1940, Bertha, Alice, and Louis had already lost two of their half-sisters: Emily (1917) and Rose (1931). Between 1940 and 1957, they would lose three more siblings: Edwin (1944), their full brother Alfred (1947), and Milton (1957).  I wonder how close Louis and Milton were, both advertising men living in New York City all those years, but 21 years apart in age.

Louis was the first of the three youngest siblings to die, and he passed away on July 28, 1958, just ten months after his older brother Milton; he was 75 years old. According to his obituary he died from a heart attack in front of his home at 21 West 58th Street.16

Louis Goldsmith’s death must have been particularly heartbreaking for his sister Alice, who had lost her husband Louis Margulies just three weeks earlier on July 8, 1958.17 Alice herself survived her brother and husband by less than seven months; she died on January 6, 1959. She was 78 years old.18

Neither Louis Goldsmith nor Alice Goldsmith had had children; they were survived by only their two remaining siblings, their sisters Bertha and Estelle. Bertha died on May 25, 1963, when she was 84. I could not find any information about when her husband Frederick Newman died, but since her death notice referred to him as “the late Dr. Frederick J. Newman,” he must have predeceased her.

When Bertha died, the only child of Abraham Goldsmith still living was his daughter Estelle from his first marriage, and as we saw, she died five years after Bertha on May 9, 1968, at age 98.

Thus ends the story of my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith and his ten children. What an incredibly interesting bunch they have been to research. Abraham came as a teenager to Philadelphia from Oberlistingen, Germany, became a successful businessman, lost one wife at a very young age and one daughter as a child, but raised nine other children, five from his first wife Cecelia and four with his second wife Frances. All nine lived interesting lives, some in Philadelphia, some in New York City. Some were talented with words, others with business, others with inventions. It was truly a pleasure to learn about them and to honor their memories.

Now I will move on to the next Goldschmidt sibling to come to America, Meyer.

 

 

 

 


  1. New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Volume Number: 6, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995 
  2. Bertha and Sampson Wayne, 1920 US Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 11, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1204; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 810. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  3. Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948. Original data: Index to New York City Deaths 1862-1948. 
  4. Louis Margulies, World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147. Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 
  5.  National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; ARC Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21. Ancestry.com. New York, State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1940  
  6. Louis Margulies, 1920 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 23, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1226; Page: 14B; Enumeration District: 1489. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  7.  New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Volume Number: 7. Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995 
  8. Bertha and Frederick Newman, 1925 NYS Census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 35; Assembly District: 09; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 21. Source Information
    Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925 
  9. Louis Goldsmith, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0566. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  10. “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. 
  11. Louis and Alice Margulies, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0486. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  12. Frederick and Bertha Newman (and Frances Wayne) on 1930 ship manifest,Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4848; Line: 1; Page Number: 15, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  13. Bertha and Frederick Newman, 1940 US Census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02655; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 31-1327.
    Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  14. Alice and Louis Margulies, 1940 US Census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02655; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 31-1337. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  15. Louis Goldsmith, 1940 US Census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02656; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 31-1382. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  16. “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. 
  17. Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Death Index, 1949-1965 
  18. Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Death Index, 1949-1965 

Bertha, Alice and Louis: Eluding the Census

The three youngest children of my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith and his second wife Frances Spanier were Bertha, Alice, and Louis. I was going to write a separate post for each of them, but as their stories started to unfold, I realized that their lives were so intertwined that it made more sense to combine their three stories into two posts.  These three siblings were all close in age, and all three ended up in New York City, as had their oldest (half) brother Milton and older (full) brother Alfred.

Bertha was born on August 16, 1878,1 Alice on August 29, 1880,2 and Louis on November 4, 1882, all in Philadelphia.3 In 1900, they were all still living with their parents and older half-sister Estelle in Philadelphia.  Bertha was working as a “saleslady,” Alice as a milliner, and Louis was still in school. Their father Abraham died two years later on January 27, 1902, as we have seen.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1900 census
Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

In 1906, Bertha married Sampson Herbert Weinhandler, the son of Solomon Weinhandler and Hattie Loewenthal.4

Marriage license of Bertha Goldsmith and Sampson Weinhandler, FamilySearch database of Philadelphia marriage licenses

Sampson was born in New York on April 17, 1873,5 and grew up in New York City where his father, a Russian born immigrant, was the owner of a millinery store. Sampson’s mother Hattie was an immigrant from Germany.6  In 1905, Sampson was boarding in the household of others and was a practicing lawyer. He had graduated from City College of New York in 1893 and had received a law degree from Columbia University in 1896.7 A year after marrying Sampson, Bertha gave birth to their first child, Arthur, on May 22, 1907.8

Alfred, Bertha, Alice, and Louis Goldsmith lost their mother Frances the following year. She died on January 18, 1908, from a cerebral hemorrhage and apoplexy, i.e., a stroke.  She was only 52 years old.

Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 006001-010000
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

The 1910 census found Bertha and Sampson Weinhandler living at 531 West 112th Street in Manhattan with their son Arthur. Sampson was practicing law.9 On July 3, 1911, Bertha and Sampson’s second child was born; she was named Frances, presumably for Bertha’s recently deceased mother.10

Meanwhile, Bertha’s two younger siblings Alice and Louis were probably still in Philadelphia although I cannot find either Alice or Louis on the 1910 US census.  As we will see, these siblings had a way of eluding the census. There are three men named Louis Goldsmith in the 1911 Philadelphia directory, but I’ve no idea which one is my Louis or if any of them are. 11 According to his obituary, Louis was still in Philadelphia during this time period, working as sales and advertising director for the Snellenburg Clothing Company. 12

In February, 1914, Louis traveled from Naples, Italy, to New York, and listed his address as 1934 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia (an address I could not locate on the 1910 census);13 according to a passport application he filed in 1920, Louis spent several months living in France and Italy in 1913.14  In 1914 he founded his own advertising agency in Philadelphia, L.S. Goldsmith Advertising Agency.15

Louis Goldsmith 1920 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

 

For Alice, I have no records at all between 1900 and 1914. In August of 1914, she traveled to Europe to join her brother Louis, according to the passenger manifest, so Louis must have returned to Europe, but I cannot find him on a passenger manifest later that year.16 I have no address or occupation for Alice from 1900 until 1918 (see below).

Meanwhile, Bertha, apparently more census-compliant than her younger siblings (perhaps because Sampson was a lawyer), showed up on the 1915 New York State census.  She and her family were now living at 235 West 103rd Street in New York City, and Sampson continued to practice law.17

Louis moved to New York City in 1915, according to his obituary. 18 His draft registration for World War I dated September 12, 1918, states that he was then living at 140 West 69th Street in New York City and working in his own advertising business. He listed his sister Alice Goldsmith as his contact person and gave her address as 2131 Green Street, Philadelphia. I could not find Alice living at that address on the 1910 census, but her sister Emily and her family were living there, so perhaps Alice had moved in at some point after 1910. But by 1920, neither Alice nor Emily’s family (Emily having passed away in 1917) was living at that address.

Louis Goldsmith, World War I draft registration
Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1766147; Draft Board: 124
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

By 1920, Bertha’s husband Sampson Weinhandler had changed his name to Sampson Wayne, presumably to make it look either less Jewish or less German or perhaps both. In 1920 he and his family (also using the surname Wayne) were living at 235 West 103rd in Manhattan, and he was still practicing law.19

Once again, I had trouble finding either Alice or Louis on the 1920 census. But both applied for passports that year, and both listed their residential address as 140 West 69th Street, New York, New York, on their applications, which was the same address that Louis had listed as his address on his 1918 draft registration.20 (See Louis’ application above.) Alice was a witness for Louis on his application as to his birth (giving her address as 140 West 69th Street), and Bertha was a witness for Alice on her application as to her birth.

Louis Goldsmith, 1920 passport photo, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925.

 

Alice Goldsmith passport application and photo,
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1270; Volume #: Roll 1270 – Certificates: 57750-58125, 23 Jun 1920-24 Jun 1920
Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

Both Alice and Louis also applied for passports again in 1923. Again, both gave 140 West 69th Street as their residential address. Both indicated that they were planning to visit several countries in Europe, staying for many months.21

So I had an address for both Alice and Louis to use to find them on the 1920 census, and I turned to stevemorse.org to do a reverse census lookup.  But I had no luck. I found 140 West 69th Street on the 1920 census, but neither Louis nor Alice was listed as residing there. Nor can I find them elsewhere on the 1920 census.

Those passport applications thus did not help me find Alice or Louis on the 1920 census. But they did help me figure out something else. That is a story for my next post.

 


  1.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBT5-5R2 : 8 December 2014), Goldsmith, 16 Aug 1878; citing bk 1878 p 23, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,319. 
  2. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBR5-HSD : 8 December 2014), Goldsmith, 29 Aug 1880; citing bk 1880 p 26, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,320. 
  3. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1MW-53K : 8 December 2014), Louis Goldsmith, 04 Nov 1882; citing bk 1882 p 134, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,322. 
  4. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
  5.  Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1766376; Draft Board: 134; Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 
  6. Weinhandler family, 1880 US Census, 1880; Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; Roll: 873; Page: 228A; Enumeration District: 148; Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census. Weinhandler family, 1910 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1027; Page: 20B; Enumeration District: 0726; FHL microfilm: 1375040. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census. Also, Ancestry.com. New York City, Compiled Marriage Index, 1600s-1800s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Original data: Genealogical Research Library, comp. New York City, Marriages, 1600s-1800s. 
  7. Media posted on Ancestry Family Tree (“Our Harris Family Tree”); New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 19 E.D. 23; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 28.
    Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1905. 
  8. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. 
  9. Bertha and Sampson Weinhandler, 1910 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1027; Page: 22B; Enumeration District: 0726; FHL microfilm: 1375040. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  10.  Number: 090-32-7264; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: 1957-1958. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  11. 1911 Philadelphia City Directory, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  12.   “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. Another twist in my family tree: The Snellenburg Clothing Company was owned by the family of Caroline Snellenburg, who was married to my great-great-uncle Joseph Cohen. 
  13. Year: 1914; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2266; Line: 6; Page Number: 23. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  14.  National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 
  15. “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. 
  16.  Year: 1914; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 2364; Line: 1; Page Number: 145; Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  17. Weinhandler family, 1915 NYS Census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 03; Assembly District: 19; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 06. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1915 
  18.   “Louis S. Goldsmith, Advertising Man, 75,” The New York Times, August 1, 1958. 
  19.   Wayne family, 1920 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 11, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1204; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 810.
    Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  20. Louis Goldsmith 1920 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 1313; Volume #: Roll 1313 – Certificates: 73626-73999, 29 Jul 1920-29 Jul 1920. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925. 
  21. Alice Goldsmith 1923 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2273; Volume #: Roll 2273 – Certificates: 293850-294349, 23 May 1923-23 May 1923. Louis Goldsmith 1923 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2185; Volume #: Roll 2185 – Certificates: 250726-251099, 21 Feb 1923-23 Feb 1923. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 

Interview on Pioneer Valley Radio

I was recently interviewed by Bernadette Duncan on Pioneer Valley Radio about my novel Pacific Street and about genealogy research in general. I hope you find it interesting.

You can find it here.

pacific street

You can buy my book here.

At the Sign of the Sparrow: The Legacy of Alfred Goldsmith

As I noted at the end of my last post, Joseph J. Felcone, the author of The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006), helped me learn more about my cousin Alfred Goldsmith and his famous bookstore, At the Sign of the Sparrow. He also gave me permission to use some of the images from his book.  I am deeply grateful to Mr. Felcone for his generosity and all his help. With his permission, I can share this wonderful self-portrait that my cousin Alfred drew as his response to an invitation to dinner with the Old Book Table, the antiquarian book club to which he belonged:

Courtesy of Joseph J. Felcone, The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006), p. 5.

From Mr. Felcone, I also learned about three other sources with information about Alfred Goldsmith, including accounts from two men who knew him personally, Walter Goldwater, a fellow bookseller,  and Edward Naumberg, Jr., a patron of the arts and book collector. The third source is a book published in 2003 by Marvin Mondlin and Roy Meader entitled Book Row: An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade (Carroll & Graf Publishers, New York, 2003).1

Although I still don’t have a photograph that I can post of Alfred’s store, the descriptions I found create a vivid picture. The New York Times provided this description in its obituary of Alfred:2

With its entrance a few steps below street level, the shop reflected the intimacy of its owner; it was small, laden with all kinds of books and enmeshed with cobwebs. A mecca for theatrical personalities, the shop specialized in books on the stage, pictures of famous actors and old programs.

Mondlin and Meader describe the store in similar terms in Book Row:3

The entrance to the small, quaint (as some said) shop at 42 Lexington Avenue required walking down steps from street level.….Inside, the shop presented a diverse congregation of books, rather jumbled, and a hint of age, cobwebs, benign neglect, and intimate charm. The faux Gothic ambiance fit the proprietor, who typically stood waiting, book in hand, smiling in welcome.

Edward Naumburg, Jr., who knew Alfred well, provided these details:4

Outside was a wobbly bookstand offering 10-cent and 25-cent bargains. The shop was dimly lighted, warmed by a gas stove, lined of course with bookshelves, and divided by a flimsy partition beyond which was the inner sanctum where rarities were kept.  The average customer was not invited to enter.

The store was allegedly the setting of two mystery books: Christopher Morley’s The Haunted Bookshop5 and Carolyn Wells’ Murder in the Bookshop. Carolyn Wells, as previously noted, was Alfred’s collaborator on works about Walt Whitman, and according to Naumburg, Alfred told him that Wells did in fact visualize his store as the setting for her novel.6 Perhaps then the illustration from the cover of her book conveys some sense of the appearance of the exterior of Alfred’s store.

Naumberg’s essay includes two photographs of Alfred inside the store, but I’ve been unable to find someone who can give me permission to use them; however, if you go to the link for his article here, you can see them.

I also found this old photograph of Lexington Avenue looking north from 24th Street, so although Alfred’s store is not in this photograph, it does depict the neighborhood where he worked and lived.

Irma and Paul Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, The New York Public Library. “Manhattan: Lexington Avenue – 24th Street (East)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1931. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-4410-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

But what happened inside the store is more important than its appearance. Naumburg said it “was often the scene of quite wonderful arguments and discussions.” 7 Mondlin and Meader noted that “Customers, scouts, collectors, bibliographers, writers, and librarians … made the Sparrow a friendly hangout at the outer border of Book Row.”8   In addition, they observed that “[h]is shop became a theatrical oasis specializing in stage books and ephemera. Broadway enthusiasts and personalities browsed at the Sign of the Sparrow for books, theater programs, and pictures of actors.”9 Serious historians, book collectors, and theater fans all shopped together in the little store.

What I most enjoyed learning from these sources were the insights into Alfred’s personality. Walter Goldwater described him this way:10

Goldsmith never sat down; he always stood behind his little counter and made cute remarks to people who came in, usually the kind of things where you’d have to say, “When you say that, smile.” He always did smile, so nobody took it quite to heart….He said it in such a sweet way that nobody could really believe that he really meant those terrible things that he said.

Naumburg shared this humorous story, which exemplifies Goldwater’s comment:11

One of my favorite stories concerns the time a rather shabby man entered the shop and said, “Mr. Goldsmith, you are the Whitman expert.  I have here Whitman’s eyeglasses and his cane which I’m sure you’d like to buy.” Alfred didn’t reply.  He took a scissors from his desk drawer, reached down and clipped a few hairs from his pet dog, Chris, who was lying at his feet, handed them to the man, and said, “And here are clippings from Walt’s beard. They’ll go well with the eyeglasses.”

Walt Whitman, 1872.
By Photographer: G. Frank E. Pearsall (1860-1899) (NYPL Digital Gallery) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mondlin and Meader wrote that “his knowledge, amiability, probity, humor, and punctilio made him such a congenial square shooter that he elevated the hospitality tone of Book Row all by himself.” 12

The one characteristic that all the sources commented on was Alfred’s lack of entrepreneurial drive. Mondin and Meader said that he was “more interested in having a leisurely talk about books than a chance for monetary gain.”13 Goldwater commented:14

Most of us knew that, at some price or another, Goldsmith would buy a book. How in the world he could do it, since it didn’t seem to us he ever sold anything and he certainly was very cheap in price, we never could understand. But he always would buy a book at some price or other. If we were broke during those early thirties, we would go to Goldsmith and be able to get fifty cents or a dollar, because he would buy.

Goldwater said that Alfred was known for coining the statement that “the book business is a very pleasant way of making a very little money.”15 Mondlin and Meader quote book collector John T. Winterich, who wrote this about Alfred:16

How Alfred Goldsmith contrived to convert the mutually effacing principles of buying high and selling low into anything resembling the profit motive is beyond my economic comprehension.  But I am sure he had a good time in the process….And although he lived by selling books, he was about the poorest—or possibly the best—bookseller of my acquaintance. He never talked up a book.  He never priced up a book.

His financial burdens were amusingly depicted in this cartoon he drew:

Courtesy of Joseph J. Felcone, from The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006), p. 5.

In addition to his book collecting and selling activities, Alfred was active in the Old Book Table from its earliest days in the 1930s. His financial challenges were described in his tongue-in-cheek comments and in a cartoon he drew in March 1933, humorously depicting his intended means of raising three dollars, the charge for attending the monthly club dinner:16

Today I made a neat little barrow holding a small oil stove and a tin tray and tomorrow I start out at 7 A.M. selling hot hamburger sandwiches at 5 cents each. If I do not make three dollars at this, I will pawn a first edition of Leaves of Grass to make up the difference….

Joseph J. Felcone, The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006), p. 7

According to Naumburg, in addition to his drawings, Alfred was also known for the short poems he often read at the Old Book Table meetings.17

Here is the one photograph I have of Alfred that I can share on this page, thanks to the generosity of Joseph Felcone. Alfred is standing, fourth from our right.

Alfred F. Goldsmith (fourth from right) and other members of the Old Book Table. Courtesy of Joseph J. Felcone, from The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006), p. 15.

Alfred’s wife Ray joined him in his work in the Sparrow; the 1940 US census lists her occupation as “saleswoman, bookstore.” (Alfred himself was identified as “storekeeper, bookstore.”)18 Goldwater and Naumburg had conflicting views on her role in the store and her personality. Goldwater’s assessment was rather harsh: “His wife was an Englishwoman who was Cerberus sitting at the door, hating everybody who came in and trying to keep them for fear they might bother her husband.”19

Naumburg was much kinder in his view of Ray:20

Alfred’s wife, Ray, was almost always present.  She was British with a charming London accent and a shrewd, intuitive sense for sizing up browsers. On first acquaintance she seemed a bit aloof; later one found her warm and understanding. Ray was a splendid cook, and her own collection of cookbooks was an appropriate hobby for the wife of an antiquarian bookseller.

Alfred Francis Goldsmith died on July 28, 1947.21 Goldwater recalled seeing him “grimacing in pain” from what Alfred believed was sciatica, but what was in fact cancer. 22 According to Alfred’s obituary in The New York Times, the day after he died was “the first time since it was opened [that] At the Sign of the Sparrow was closed to its frequenters.”23

Mondlin and Meader wrote that after Alfred’s death, his widow Ray asked a friend, Frederick Lightfoot, if he wanted to take over the store, but Lightfoot declined because he did not think it would be financially viable. Ray kept the store open for a few months, “But without Alfred Goldsmith, the spirit of the store was gone.” The store closed, and the inventory was sold to Swann Auction Galleries.24 According to Walter Goldwater, that inventory proved to be less valuable than expected, as Alfred did not in fact own as many valuable books as had been assumed.25

Alfred was only 66 when he died and was survived by his wife Ray and four of his siblings: his younger siblings Bertha, Alice, and Louis, and his oldest (half) brother, Milton Goldsmith. He certainly lived an interesting life and made his mark on the book world. He is another Goldsmith I wish I could invite to dinner.  Not only would I enjoy his humor and his intelligence, I would love to hear the stories he had about his family and his life.

Thank you again to Joe Felcone for his invaluable assistance and generosity.

 

 


  1. “Book Row” refers to section of New York City on and near Fourth Avenue south of Fourteenth Street which was once the location of numerous stores selling secondhand and rare books. Although Alfred’s store, which was located about ten blocks north of Fourteenth Street, was outside the section known as Book Row, his role as a bookseller was so well-known and so well-regarded that he and his store are included in Mondlin and Meader’s book.  Mondlin and Meader’s book will be referred to hereinafter as Mondlin and Meader. 
  2. “A.F. Goldsmith, 66, Book Dealer, Dies,” The New York Times, July 30, 1947, p. 17. 
  3. Mondlin and Meader, p. 52. 
  4.  Edward J. Naumburg, Jr., “My Favorite Bookseller,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, Volume 48, No. 2, Winter 1987, p. 183. Hereinafter referred to as Naumburg. 
  5. Ralph Dumain, The Autodidact Project: “New York City Bookshops in the 1930s and 1940s: The Recollections of Walter Goldwater,” (audiotape interview with Walter Goldwater by unnamed interviewer), p. 144,  found at http://www.autodidactproject.org/other/goldwat1.html  Hereinafter referred to as Goldwater, p. 144. 
  6. Naumburg, p, 181. 
  7. Naumburg, p, 186. 
  8. Mondlin and Meader, p. 51. 
  9. Mondlin and Meader, p. 54. 
  10. Goldwater, p. 144. 
  11. Naumburg, p. 185. 
  12. Mondlin and Meader, p. 50 
  13. Mondlin and Meader, p. 51 
  14. Goldwater, p. 144. 
  15. Goldwater, p. 144. 
  16. Joseph J. Felcone, The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006), p. 7. 
  17. Naumburg, p.187. 
  18. Alfred and Ray Goldsmith, 1940 US Census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02649; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 31-1066. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  19. Goldwater, p. 144. 
  20. Naumburg, p. 183. 
  21.  New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WPP-8JB : 10 February 2018), Alfred Goldsmith, 28 Jul 1947; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,133,778. 
  22. Goldwater, p. 144 
  23.  “A.F. Goldsmith, 66, Book Dealer, Dies,” The New York Times, July 30, 1947, p. 17. 
  24. Mondlin and Meader, p.55-56. 
  25. Goldwater, p. 144. 

Alfred Goldsmith, Book Lover

As seen in my last post, Alfred Goldsmith’s ill-fated 1905 marriage to Beatrice Miller ended in divorce in 1913, and I was unable to find anything about the eight years in between. But what happened to Alfred after 1913?

The first record I have for Alfred after his 1913 divorce was a record of his second marriage on July 24, 1918, to Ray Solomons in Troy, New York.1 Ray was the daughter of Myer Solomons and Caroline Weinberg. Myer was originally from Warsaw, Poland, and Caroline from Austria. They had both immigrated to England, where Ray was born in 1891. The family immigrated to the US in 1910 when Ray was nineteen. On the 1915 New York State census, her father listed his occupation as a dyer; later records show he was in the fur business. Ray was employed as a bookkeeper in 1915. She was living with her family in the Bronx. 2

Solomons family 1915 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 06; Assembly District: 34; City: New York; County: Bronx; Page: 34
Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1915

So why did Ray and Alfred marry in Troy, New York, a city about 150 miles north of New York City? At first I worried that this was another elopement, and perhaps it was. But happily for Ray and Alfred, this marriage lasted. Ray was 27 when they married, Alfred was forty. They stayed together until Alfred’s death. It does not appear that they ever had children.

Like his half-siblings Milton and Emily, Alfred loved books. He had a life-long interest in literature and in particular authors: Lewis Carroll, Edgar Allen Poe, and especially Walt Whitman. According to his obituary in The New York Times, Alfred “was only twelve when he became captivated by Whitman’s poetry and started to collect rare Whitman editions.” 3 That interest in Whitman stayed with him throughout adulthood.

When Alfred registered for the draft on September 12, 1918, six months after their wedding, he and Ray were living at 2593 Eighth Avenue in New York City, and his occupation was “bookseller” at 42 Lexington Avenue. That would remain his place of business for the rest of his life. Alfred’s bookstore, known as At the Sign of the Sparrow, became very well-known, as we will see.

Alfred Goldsmith, World War I draft registration,
Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786673; Draft Board: 140
Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

In 1920, Alfred and Ray were living at 304 Second Avenue in New York City, and Alfred listed his occupation on the census as “Books” in his own business.4 The 1922 New York directory also has his occupation simply as “books,” and the 1925 New York State census lists his occupation as “bookseller.”5

In 1922, Alfred and Carolyn Wells, the author of over 170 books for adults and children, collaborated on The Concise Bibliography of the Works of Walt Whitman (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1922), which was “affectionately dedicated to Ray S. Goldsmith.” The book is, as the title indicates, a bibliography of all the books written by Walt Whitman and all the books written about Walt Whitman. It was for many years considered one of the authoritative works of scholarship about Whitman.6

Alfred Goldsmith and Carolyn Wells also collaborated on another project, editing a collection of Whitman’s essays entitled Rivulets of Prose (Greenberg, Publishers, Inc., 1928). That also was dedicated to Alfred’s wife Ray: “With Affection to Ray S. Goldsmith for Her Sympathetic Assistance.” It is evident from the foreword to this collection that Alfred and his co-editor had quite a scholarly approach to Whitman and his work.

In addition, Alfred organized a major exhibit at the New York Public Library about Walt Whitman in 1925. He collected from many private collectors Whitman’s manuscripts and books and other materials and prepared them for the exhibit. According to the November 8, 1925 Brooklyn Daily Eagle (p. 11), interest in “Whitmanania” was so intense that the price of these materials had risen sharply and were mostly in the hands of private collectors; the purpose of the exhibit was thus to give the public a chance to see these materials.

Alfred was very active in book auctions, buying and selling first and other editions of books on his own behalf and for collectors. The Harrisburg Telegraph reported this amusing story about Alfred’s experiences at one book auction:7

It will cost you money if you arrange signals with a bookseller at an auction and then forget those signals. The idea is Alfred F. Goldsmith’s, a bookseller, and it grew out of this incident.

At one of the numerous book auctions (New York has dozens of them each month) a wealthy collector authorized Goldsmith to purchase a certain volume for him. “I’ll pay as much as $125,” he instructed the seller, who was to do the bidding for him.

“But,” explained Goldsmith, “It would be a crime to let the purchase fall through if it could be effected for a few extra dollars.”

“Then,” said the client, “keep bidding until I stop you.  I’ll be there watching the sale.  When you see me remove my glasses, drop out; that will be the signal.”

Thus agreed, both arrived at the auction. But Goldsmith soon found himself several rows removed from his client and unable to keep in oral connection. It didn’t take the book long to climb. In a trice, it was up to $125, the agreed sum. Goldsmith dropped out, for just at that moment his client casually removed his glasses.

The bidding soared. Soon it had reached $325, and Goldsmith, glancing toward his client, saw that gentleman nod and refit his glasses. Just as he launched a bid, however, off came the glasses. Then the client hastily put them on again.  Reassured, Goldsmith then began to bid in earnest, finally winning for $375.

“Congratulations,” called Goldsmith to his client, “you got it.”

“Got what?” asked the client, not comprehending.

“Why, the book,” said Goldsmith.

“Didn’t I tell you,” gasped the fellow—“to stop at $125?” Goldsmith then reminded him of the signal by glasses.

“You know,” he said sheepishly, “I’d forgotten all about that.” Then he wrote out his check for $375 and went out to his limousine, smiling at himself.

A newspapers.com search turned up numerous articles about Alfred’s success at book auctions. For example, in March 1936, Alfred bid successfully for a rare book written by Lewis Carroll, one of his other favorite authors. The Central New Jersey Home News wrote:8

The magic name of Lewis Carroll, author of “Alice in Wonderland,” made book collectors bid frantically for a little known, privately printed book at a sale here. When the hammer banged, its price was announced at $310. The purchaser was Alfred F. Goldsmith, Carroll expert.

According to one inflation calculator, $310 in 1936 would be worth about $5,500 today.

The Reading (Pennsylvania) Times reported on Alfred’s acquisition and sale of a rare book of Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry, Tamerlane and Other Poems, in April 1938; it described the book as “the scarcest and most valuable book of poetry ever published in America.” Poe, as noted above, was another of Alfred’s favorite authors.

Reading PA Times, April 18, 1938, p. 19

These are just two of the many articles I found reporting on Alfred’s purchases of rare books at auctions.

But Alfred was probably best known for his bookstore, At the Sign of the Sparrow, which was a well-known landmark in New York City. In my search to find a photograph of the store, I landed on the website of The Old Book Table, “a social club composed of antiquarian booksellers and those engaged in professions related to antiquarian bookselling.” According to the website, it is the oldest such club in the world, founded in 1931 in New York City.

Alfred was one of the early members of the club, and the history page on the club’s website had both a photograph of Alfred and one of his drawings. The history page was excerpted from a book by Joseph J. Felcone: The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006).  Through the magic of the Internet I was able to contact Mr. Felcone and, with his help, learn a great deal more about my cousin Alfred. That merits a whole separate post.

 

 

 


  1. Rensselaer County, New York, Marriage Index, 1908-1935,  Volume 2, Number 9954. 
  2. The National Archives; Kew, Surrey, England; Class: HO 334; Piece: 25; Ancestry.com. UK, Naturalisation Certificates and Declarations, 1870-1916. Passenger manifest, Year: 1910; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1583; Line: 4; Page Number: 60. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. 
  3.  “A.F. Goldsmith, 66, Book Dealer, Dies,” The New York Times, July 30, 1947, p. 17. 
  4. Alfred F. and Ray Goldsmith, 1920 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 12, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1206; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 854. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  5. New York, New York City Directories 1922, 1925, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  6. Edward J. Naumburg, Jr., “My Favorite Bookseller,” Princeton University Library Chronicle, Volume 48, No. 2, Winter 1987, p. 185. 
  7. George Tucker, ” ‘Round About New York,” Harrisburg Telegraph, April 9, 1935, p. 8. 
  8. “Poem by Carroll Boosts Price of Book to $310,” Central New Jersey Home News, March 27, 1936, p. 27. 

Alfred Goldsmith: Star-Crossed Lover?

Before my break, I wrote about the six children that my three-times great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith had with his first wife, Cecelia Adler, before she died from a stroke at age 35 in 1874: Milton, Hilda, Edwin, Rose, Emily, and Estelle. Two years after Cecelia’s death, Abraham married Frances Spanier, with whom he had another four children: Alfred (1877), Bertha (1878), Alice (1880), and Louis (1882). The age span from Abraham’s oldest child Milton, born in 1861, to his youngest child Louis was 21 years. The next set of posts will focus on the four children of Abraham and Frances. This first post tells the sad story of Alfred’s first marriage.

Abraham and Frances’ first child, Alfred Francis Goldsmith, was born on August 11, 1877, in Philadelphia.1 According to his obituary, he attended the University of Pennsylvania.2 In 1900, he was living with his parents in Philadelphia and working as a salesman.3

Five years later he married Beatrice R. Miller, who was also a Philadelphia native, born there to William Miller and Fannie Stein on March 29, 1882. Her parents were born in Pennsylvania, and her father was in the clothing business. 4 Alfred and Beatrice obtained their marriage license in Delaware on September 16, 1905, and Alfred’s occupation on the marriage register was listed as “wholesale.”5

Ancestry.com. Delaware, Marriage Records, 1806-1933

 

I then had trouble locating Alfred and Beatrice together on any subsequent record. I found an Alfred F. Goldsmith listed in the 1906 Camden, New Jersey, directory, but no occupation was given. Then in 1908, Alfred F. Goldsmith is listed in the Philadelphia directory, residing at 1437 Edgewood; again, no occupation was given. In 1911 there is an Alfred F. Goldsmith listed as a jeweler, living at 1521 N. 28th Street in Philadelphia. Despite having these two Philadelphia addresses, I could not find Alfred on the 1910 census. The first address was not on the census records at all, and the second did not have anyone named Goldsmith listed at that address. Alfred was not listed in the Philadelphia or Camden directories for 1907, 1909, or 1910.6

I was more than a bit perplexed, so I turned to newspapers.com to search for more information about Alfred and Beatrice, and what I found was a story of star-crossed lovers—or so it would appear.  Judge for yourself:

Wilmington, Delaware Evening Journal, November 22, 1905 p. 1

 

Love’s Sweet Dream Ended

Young Philadelphia Couple Married Here Recently

Now Wife Wants Divorce

Was A Romantic Elopement

 

Divorce is the sequel of the romantic elopement of Miss Beatrice R. Miller and Alfred F. Goldsmith of Philadelphia, to this city about nine weeks ago, when they were quietly wedded by the Rev. W.N. Sherwood at the residence of the Rev. G.L. Wolfe. After the couple were married they made the officiating minister promise them he would not divulge their marriage, and he refused at the time to talk about the elopement.

Coerced Into Marriage

In her petition for a divorce Mrs. Goldsmith alleges that she was coerced and intimidated into marrying her husband. She is 23 years of age and a daughter of William Miller, one of the lessees of the Girard Avenue and Forepaugh Theatres, and resides with her parents at No. 1712 North Eighteenth street, in Philadelphia.

Goldsmith is a tobacco and cigar dealer and resides at No. 3326 North Fifteenth street. He denies his wife’s allegations and contends that parental influence is keeping her from him. The full nature of her charges have not been disclosed.

The young couple’s elopement to Wilmington followed an alleged secret engagement of three years, during which time Goldsmith was not allowed to call at the Miller home. They corresponded regularly, however, and frequently met at the homes of mutual friends. In the meantime Miss Miller became engaged to another suitor, a friend of her father, but meeting Goldsmith at a friend’s house on September 16, they came to this city that afternoon, and were married by the Rev. Sherwood. They returned to Philadelphia immediately after the ceremony had been performed, and then went to Haddonfield, N.J., where they remained until the following Tuesday. They then went to the Miller home, but Goldsmith said he was ordered out by Mr. Miller, although the bride was permitted to remain. He has since had a short interview with his bride, but she would not leave her home and accompany him.

What do you think? Was Beatrice coerced into marrying Alfred, or were her parents just opposed to the marriage and determined to end it?

Here’s my read of the situation, taking into consideration that I am a romantic and also that Alfred was my cousin, so I might be somewhat biased. I think Beatrice was intimidated by her parents into ending the marriage. After all, she was not a child; she was 23, not a particularly young age for women to marry at that time. They had been engaged for three years before the elopement. Obviously Alfred waited patiently and was not rushing her into marriage. And she continued to see him even after her parents had prohibited him from coming to their house. On September 16, she crossed a state line with him to get secretly married. There does not appear to be any claim that he forcibly took her to Wilmington, Delaware. After all, she agreed to meet him at a friend’s house, presumably for that purpose.

Of course, I don’t have all the facts, but that is my take on this story. And I can’t help but wonder why Beatrice’s parents were so vehemently opposed to her relationship with Alfred. This was not a case of an interfaith marriage; the Millers were Jewish as were the Goldsmiths. Alfred certainly came from a well-established family; his father had been a successful business owner in Philadelphia. So what was the problem? Did Beatrice’s family not approve of his livelihood?

I wondered whether the Millers were just overprotective and did not want their daughter leaving home at age 23. But their second daughter, Fay, was a year younger than Beatrice and married when she was 23 in 1906.7 Somehow that marriage survived—although I did notice that Fay and her husband moved to New York not too long after getting married.

I am also amazed that a personal story like this made the front page of the Wilmington newspaper in 1905. We complain today about our lack of privacy, but at least we can control some of what appears about us on social media. What was newsworthy about this sad story of a broken marriage? Sure, it’s a juicy story for selling newspapers, but these were private citizens, not celebrities or public figures.

What is even more peculiar about this story is that Beatrice and Alfred were not in fact divorced for another eight years. In June 1913, the Philadelphia newspapers ran this legal notice over the course of several weeks:

The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 6, 1913, p. 13.

 

And then finally on December 16, 1913, their divorce was finalized.8 What was going on in those eight years? Had Beatrice ultimately defied her parents and stayed with Alfred? Or had her parents eventually relented and allowed her to reunite with her husband? Or had there just been a very long separation?

I can’t find either Alfred or Beatrice on the 1910 census or in any directories between 1905 and 1913 aside from those mentioned above (where Alfred is not listed with Beatrice, though that itself is not necessarily an indication that she was not living with him). They are not listed living with their parents or siblings either. They do not appear in any other newspaper articles that I can find. Had they run off and changed their names? Had they left the country? I don’t know, and I don’t know where else to look for clues. If you have any suggestions, please let me know.

Beatrice did eventually remarry, though not for quite a long time. I could not find her on the 1920 census, but in 1922 she was listed as Beatrice Miller in the Ocean City, New Jersey directory.9 By April 23, 1923, she was married to Harry F. Stanton, according to this ship manifest:

Beatrice Miller Stanton ship manifest

Ship manifest for Beatrice and Harry Stanton, lines 23 and 24, Year: 1923; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3276; Line: 1; Page Number: 29 Source Information Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Harry had also been listed in the 1922 Ocean City, New Jersey directory.10 In 1910, he’d been living in Ocean City, working in the real estate business,11 and I located numerous real estate advertisements under Harry F. Stanton’s name in the Philadelphia newspapers. Harry was fourteen years older than Beatrice and had been married before; he does not appear to have been Jewish.  I wonder if Beatrice’s family was happier with this match. If Beatrice married Harry in about 1922-1923, she was about 40 and he was about 54 at the time. They remained married until Harry’s death in 1945.12

And what happened to Alfred after the divorce from Beatrice in 1913? His story will continue in my next post.

 

 

 


  1.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1MS-C1M : 10 March 2018), Alfred Goldsmith, 11 Aug 1877; citing bk 1877 p 157, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,318. 
  2. “A.F. Goldsmith, 66, Book Dealer, Dies,” The New York Times, July 30, 1947, p. 17. 
  3. Goldsmith family, 1940 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208. Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. 
  4.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. SSN 198367783. 
  5.  Ancestry.com. Delaware, Marriage Records, 1806-1933; Collection and Roll: Register of Marriages – 3. 
  6. Philadelphia City Directories, 1907-1911; Camden City Directory, 1906; Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  7. Marriage of Fay Miller and Irving Wolf, 1906, Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951; Marriage License Number: 205685. 
  8. Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16, 1913, p. 11. 
  9. Ocean City, New Jersey City Directory, 1922, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  10. Ocean City, New Jersey City Directory, 1922, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  11. Harry Stanton, 1910 US Census, Census Place: Ocean City Ward 2, Cape May, New Jersey; Roll: T624_870; Page: 17A; Enumeration District: 0093; FHL microfilm: 1374883.  Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  12. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 054601-057000. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate Number: 56258. 

Back from the Pacific Northwest

I am back—after eleven days in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest.  First, I spent four days in Seattle with my dear friends from college.  About ten years ago we decided that we would schedule a reunion every other year some place in the country—either where one of us lives or on neutral grounds.  We have been to Chicago, Boston, Boulder, and now Seattle. I’d never been to Seattle before, and in between lots and lots of talking, somehow we managed to see the sights.

Then Harvey flew out and together we saw a bit more of Seattle and then drove north to Vancouver for a few days. Both Seattle and Vancouver are such beautiful cities with water and mountains everywhere, and both cities take advantage of their natural beauty with long walks along the water. Vancouver has a bike path that circles almost the entire city and a huge park that we biked around. And we walked and walked everywhere, never moving our car in either city, except to arrive and to leave.

Seattle skyline

Seattle harbor at sunset

Snoqualmie Falls

Vancouver

Vancouver

Friends on the bike path

Vancouver skyline

Totem poles in Stanley Park, Vancouver

Returning from Vancouver we spent two days on Orcas Island off the coast of Washington.  It was like stepping back into a past world.  Although there are modern amenities and a small town with some shops and restaurants, for the most part the land feels pristine, almost the way it might have looked a hundred years ago. We hiked a little, drove up Mt Constitution, ate wonderful meals overlooking the water, and enjoyed the slower pace after visiting two major cities.

Orcas Island (view from our inn)

View from the summit of Mt Constitution, Orcas Island

Hiking to Obstruction Pass

View in Eastsound, Orcas Island

And now we are home, dealing with dirty laundry, jet lag, and a return to “reality.” This trip had no genealogical purpose—just valuable time with friends and with each other and a chance to see places we’d never seen before.  I will return to regularly scheduled programming next week and meanwhile will also try and catch up with all the blogs I follow and have missed in the last two weeks or so.

Estelle Goldsmith: Woman of the World

The last child born to Abraham Goldsmith and his first wife Cecelia Adler before Cecelia’s untimely death in 1874 was their daughter Estelle. Estelle was born on January 20, 1870, in Philadelphia,1 and was only four when her mother died. Estelle was born in time to be listed on the 1870 census with her parents, her five older siblings, and her maternal grandparents, Samuel and Sarah Adler. (Her name is misspelled here as Estella.)

Abraham Goldsmith and Family 1870 census

And in 1880 she is listed with her father, her stepmother Frances Spanier, her four surviving full siblings (Milton, Edwin, Rose, and Emily) and her two younger half-siblings, Alfred and Bertha.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1880 US census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Page: 60A; Enumeration District: 202
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

Estelle graduated from the Philadelphia Normal School in 1890.  On January 27, 1895, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Estelle had been selected to become the eighth grade teacher at the Madison School in Philadelphia. She remained there for 25 years.2

The Philadelphia newspapers, the social media of that era, published a number of articles in the 1890s in which Estelle is mentioned as one of many attending various social and cultural events in Philadelphia. The papers also reported on Estelle’s travels. In 1896, the Philadelphia Times reported that she and three other women were traveling to New England together,3 and in 1897, she traveled to Europe with one of those same three, Julia Friedberger, who was her brother Edwin’s sister-in-law.

The Philadelphia Times, June 27, p. 26.

The 1900 census reported that Estelle, who was working as a school teacher, continued to live in Philadelphia with her father, stepmother, and her four younger half-siblings, Alfred, Bertha, Alice, and Louis. Her older siblings were by that time all married.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1900 census
Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208
Description
Enumeration District: 0208; Description: Philadelphia City Pa, 12th Ward, 6th Division, bounded by Green, Chat ham, Buttonwood, 5th, Noble, 6th,
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Estelle is not listed in the Philadelphia directories between 1900 and 1910, but the Philadelphia newspapers reported some of her activities, including her attendance at various social events and her trip in 1906 to visit her brother Milton in New York City.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 22, 1906, p. 44.

In 1910, her parents now both deceased, Estelle was living with her older sister Rose and Rose’s husband Sidney Stern and their three sons. Estelle continued to be employed as a public school teacher. In June 1913, she traveled on a steamer to Plymouth, England, Cherbourg, France, and Bremen, Germany, with many others from Philadelphia.4 I wonder whether in her travels she visited Oberlistingen and the Goldschmidts who still lived there.

Estelle Goldsmith living with Sidney and Rose Goldsmith Stern and family, 1910 US census
Philadelphia Ward 47, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1413; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 1193; FHL microfilm: 1375426
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

In February 1920 she and three other women traveled to Puerto Rico. One of those women, Carrie Teller Kuhn, was connected to Estelle in two different ways. First, she was the step-aunt of Gladys Fliegelman, the young woman who would marry Estelle’s nephew, Allan Goldsmith Stern, in 1929. Second, in 1930, Carrie Teller Kuhn was a lodger in the household of Sidney Goldsmith Rice, who was Estelle’s first cousin, once removed. Sidney was the grandson of Jacob Goldsmith, who was the brother of Estelle’s father Abraham.

Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, February 7, 1920, p. 9.

In 1920, Estelle was still living with her sister Rose Goldsmith Stern and her family, but Estelle had changed careers.  She was now the director of a girl’s camp, which, according to her obituary, was Camp Woodmere for Girls in Paradox, New York, a camp that Estelle had co-founded in 1916.5

Estelle continued to travel in the 1920s.  In 1922 she traveled to China and Japan for several months with Carrie Teller Kuhn, as reported in the Philadelphia Evening Ledger on December 4, 1922. Here is her passport photograph from her passport application before that trip:

Estelle Goldsmith, 1922 passport application, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2040; Volume #: Roll 2040 – Certificates: 196350-196725, 23 Jun 1922-23 Jun 1922. Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925

And in 1925 she and Carrie again traveled together, this time to Le Havre, France; in 1928, they traveled to Naples, Italy.6

In 1930, Estelle continued to live with her sister Rose and brother-in-law Sidney Stern; now her occupation was recorded as director of a hosiery mill.  I was surprised by this change in career, given that Estelle was now sixty years old. Perhaps she was working for Thomas Holmes Manufacturing, the company founded by her nephew Henry Friedberger Goldsmith. Or perhaps this is a mistake and she was still the camp director, as her obituary seems to suggest.7

By 1940, Estelle’s situation had changed.  Her sister Rose Goldsmith Stern had died in 1931, and her sister-in-law Jennie, wife of Estelle’s brother Edwin, had died in 1933. In 1940, Estelle, her brother Edwin, and her brother-in-law Sidney Stern were all living at the Majestic Hotel in Philadelphia.

Estelle Goldsmith, Edwin Goldsmith, and Sidney Stern, 1940 US Census, Majestic Hotel, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03698; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 51-384. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census

In March 1944, Estelle and her brother Edwin were among 400 hundred residents evacuated from the Majestic when a six-alarm fire broke out in the upper levels of the hotel.8 Edwin died just seven months later. (Sidney had died in 1942.) At that point Estelle had outlived four of her siblings: Hilda (who had died as a child), Emily (1917), Rose (1931), and Edwin (1944).

In fact, Estelle outlived all nine of her siblings, including her four younger half-siblings. She died on May 7, 1968, at age 98.9 According to her obituary she was at that time the oldest member of her synagogue, Keneseth Israel of Elkins Park, an honorary vice-president of the Friends of the Deaf, and a member of the Council of Jewish Women.10

Estelle had lived a long life and a full life, a life that was not typical of women of her times. She had not married or had children, but instead had had two careers. She had been a teacher for 25 years, then a camp director for another 25 years.  She had traveled all over the world. She had lived from shortly after the Civil War, through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, two World Wars, and the upheaval and many social changes of the 1960s.

Wouldn’t it be interesting to sit down with Estelle and ask her about her life and her observations over nearly a century of living? What questions would you ask her?


I will be taking a short break from blogging over the next two weeks. When I return, I will be writing about Abraham Goldsmith’s four children with his second wife, Frances Spanier.  See you then!

 


  1.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VB13-5S4 : 9 March 2018), Estelle Goldsmith, 20 Jan 1870; citing bk 1870 p 231, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,312. 
  2. The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 27, 1895, p. 3; “Estelle Goldsmith Dies; Ex-Teacher, 98,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 1968, p. 31. 
  3. The Philadelphia Times, July 19, 1896, p. 27. 
  4. The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 21, 1913, p. 3. 
  5. Estelle Goldsmith, 1920 Census,  Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 47, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1646; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1791. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census.  “Estelle Goldsmith Dies; Ex-Teacher, 98,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 1968, p. 31.  
  6.  Year: 1925; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 3591; Line: 30; Page Number: 7; Year: 1928; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4398; Line: 24; Page Number: 48. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  7. Estelle Goldsmith, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0397. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  8. “Majestic Hotel Swept by Six-Alarm Fire,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 3, 1944, p. 1. 9. 
  9.  Number: 183-36-9987; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: 1962.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. 
  10.  “Estelle Goldsmith Dies; Ex-Teacher, 98,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, May 9, 1968, p. 31.  

Emily Goldsmith, Author: “She opened her mouth in wisdom and the law of kindness is on her tongue.”

Emily Goldsmith was the fourth child of Abraham Goldsmith and Cecelia Adler to live to adulthood. She was born in Philadelphia on April 30, 1868.1  Her mother died on November 8, 1874, when Emily was only six years old.

On January 28, 1892, Emily married Felix Napoleon Gerson, the son of Aron Gerson and Eva Goldsmith—who was not related to my Goldsmith family, as I wrote about here. According to his entry in Who’s Who in Pennsylvania, Felix went to Philadelphia public schools and then studied civil engineering; in the 1880s he served in the department of the Chief Clerk, Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company, and then in 1891 he changed careers and became the managing editor of Chicago Israelite.  In 1892, Felix became the managing editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent.

Emily and Felix’s first child Cecelia was born on October 27, 1892.2  She must have been named for her grandmother, Emily’s mother Cecelia Adler Goldsmith. A second daughter, Dorothy, was born on June 2, 1897.3

I was delighted to discover that Emily, like her older brother Milton, was an author of children’s stories, books, and plays. Beginning in the 1890s, Emily contributed children’s stories regularly to the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent where her husband Felix was the managing editor. I counted over twenty stories written by Emily that were published between 1895 and 1899.

For example, on April 17, 1896, (p. 5), the Jewish Exponent published Emily’s story, “Joseph’s Toy Theater,” about a little boy who received a toy theater as a gift and refuses to share it with his sister. When the puppets in the theater come to life at night, he hears them criticizing his selfishness and threatening to punish him. He then goes to his sister’s room and gives her one of the puppets from the theater. (The illustration below is by Alice B. Ewing and appeared when this story was republished in The Picture Screen, as discussed below.)

On October 9, 1896, (p. 5) the Jewish Exponent published “Helping Mother,” another of Emily’s short stories, this one about a little girl who helped her mother by playing on her own while her mother worked.

These and the other stories written by Emily Goldsmith Gerson and published in the Jewish Exponent are quite short and usually have some lesson teaching children about good behavior. In addition to her stories, Emily also wrote plays for children to perform for the Jewish holidays such as Purim and Hanukkah.4

In 1900, Emily, Felix, and their daughters were living in Philadelphia., and Felix was working as an editor. Emily did not report an occupation, but she continued to contribute her stories during the next decade.

Emily and Felix Gerson and family 1900 US Census
Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 4; Enumeration District: 0433
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

Emily not only continued to write short stories for the Jewish Exponent; she also published books and plays for children. Her earliest published book was The Picture Screen, published by George W. Jacoby & Co. in 1904. According to this brief description in the list of suggested Christmas books in Book News, the book is a “unique juvenile consisting of stories told about the pictures on a big picture screen. A little girl’s mother tells her and her brother the tales while the little girl lies helpless with a sprained ankle.”5

The book reached an audience far beyond Philadelphia, as seen in this review that appeared in the Buffalo Enquirer on July 9, 1904 (p. 2):

Buffalo Enquirer, July 9, 1904, p. 2.

I obtained a copy of the book, and it is as described in the reviews. Some of the stories the mother tells the children are stories Emily had previously published, including the one about Joseph and the toy theater that I described above. They all teach the children something about being a good person. The book was dedicated to Emily’s daughters, Cecelia and Dorothy.

Then in 1906, Emily published A Modern Esther and Other Stories for Jewish Children (Julius H. Greenstone, Philadelphia, 1906), another collection of short stories and two short plays; she dedicated the book to her father Abraham, who had died just a few years before. The title story is about a girl born somewhere in a shtetl in Europe, the daughter of the rabbi, who bravely goes to the local governor to stop the anti-Semitic attacks on her family and community. Many of the stories have a religious theme; for example, one is about a little girl discovering faith in God, and several are about God saving families from poverty or from illness. Often the stories are connected to a Jewish holiday. You can find this collection of Emily’s works online here.

The reviewer for the New York Times wrote that “the author’s object is not so much fiction as the encouragement of piety and the teaching of the simpler lessons of the faith to which she belongs, to show how pleasant and profitable it is—in the end—to do those things which are commanded, how faith and honest and kindness win their sure reward, and how wickedness is punished…..Naturally the stories are of extreme artlessness—-but all of us in our time have read stories of like artlessness not without eager ears and open eyes.”6

Emily also published several of her holiday plays for children, including Ten Years After, A Purim Play (1909), A Delayed Birthday, a play for Hanukkah published by Bloch Publishing Company in 1910, and The Purim Basket, another Purim play published by Bloch Publishing Company in 1914.

Emily’s daughter Dorothy seems to have enjoyed theater also. In March 1914, when she was sixteen, she appeared on stage in a production put on by the French department of Girls High School in Philadelphia.7 That is Dorothy on the far left.

Emily’s career as a children’s author was, however, cut short. She died from pancreatic and liver cancer on November 28, 1917.  She was only 49 years old and was survived by her husband Felix and her two daughters. She was also survived by her eight of her nine siblings, the other surviving children of Abraham Goldsmith.

Emily Goldsmith Gerson death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 121031-124420
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

But Emily was not forgotten. A camp for underprivileged Jewish girls was established in her memory, known as the Emily G. Gerson Farm.8  In 1920, her synagogue, Keneseth Israel in Philadlephia, dedicated a stained-glass window in her memory. In reporting on the dedication, the Dallas Jewish Monitor stated that Emily had been the first president of the Keneseth Israel Sisterhood and was “deeply interested in all things appertaining to the good and welfare of the Temple.”9

Stained glass window dedicated in memory of Emily Goldsmith Gerson in 1920 by Keneseth Israel Congregation as depicted in The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 5, 2004, p. C04

The window still exists and was depicted in the Philadelphia Inquirer on December 5, 2004, when it was being being exhibited at Congregation Keneseth Israel’s Judaica museum in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania.   The caption under the photograph of the window stated that it was presented with the inscription from Proverbs 31:26: “She opened her mouth in wisdom and the law of kindness is on her tongue.”10

The 1920 census reported that Emily’s widower Felix continued to work as a newspaper editor. Her daughters were also working. Cecelia, now 27, was a secretary in a doctor’s office, and Dorothy, 22, was a public school teacher.11

Later that year Cecelia married Malvin Herman Reinheimer in Philadelphia.12 Malvin was the son of Samuel Reinheimer and Julia Lebach and was born in Cameron, West Virginia, on January 26, 1891. His father was in the wholesale clothing business. Malvin graduated from Swarthmore College in 1912 where Cecelia had also been a student; perhaps she met him there. Malvin then graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law in 1915 and was practicing law in 1920 and living in Philadelphia with his father and sisters. He had served stateside in the US military during World War I.13

On November 29, 1921, Cecelia and Malvin had their first child, a daughter they named Emily Gerson Reinheimer in memory of Cecelia’s mother Emily Goldsmith Gerson.14   A second child was born a few years later.

Meanwhile, Dorothy revealed that she had some of her mother’s writing talents when she won a prize for best limerick in 1921:

“Clever Line for ‘Movie’ Lim’rick,” Philadelphia Evening Ledger, January 13, 1921, p. 1.

The 1930 census record for Felix and Dorothy is a complete mystery. First, it has Dorothy listed as Felix’s wife and says Felix was 38 when in fact Felix was 68.  It says Felix was 31 when they first married, and Dorothy was 26. Then it says Felix was a salesman in a dress shop, and it has no occupation listed for Dorothy.  There were also four men lodging with them. How much of this can I trust? Is this a different Dorothy and Felix Gerson? Not likely—they were still living at 3415 Race Street, the same place they were living in 1920.

Felix Gerson and Dorothy Gerson 1930 census, image modified
Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 27A; Enumeration District: 0397
Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census

There is no indication from any other records that Felix had left his newspaper career or that Dorothy had stopped working. In fact, the 1930 Philadelphia city directory lists Dorothy as an advertising manager for Oppeheim Collins & Company and Felix as the president-manager of the Jewish Exponent.15 That 1930 census record indicated that Dorothy was the person providing the information to the enumerator—would she have lied about her relationship with her father, his age, and their occupations? Or was the enumerator just sloppy? I don’t know.

Fortunately, there was no confusion in the 1930 census record for Cecelia Gerson and her husband Malvin Reinheimer and their children. They were all living in Philadelphia where Malvin continued to practice law.16

After almost twenty years of being a widower, Felix remarried at age 73.  On August 31, 1936, he married Emma Brylawski, who was also an editor and journalist at the Jewish Exponent.17

Not long afterwards, in about May, 1937, Felix’s daughter Dorothy Gerson moved to Middletown, Connecticut, where she was working as an advertising manager for Wrubel’s Department Store, according to the Jewish Exponent of February 25, 1938.

The 1940 census records for Felix and his daughters show that Felix and his second wife Emma were living in Philadelphia without any listed occupation,18 that Dorothy was an advertising manager living in Middletown, Connecticut,19 and that Cecelia and her family were living in Philadelphia where Malvin was still working as an attorney.20

Cecelia lost her husband Malvin to renal failure and other illnesses on October 24, 1944; he was only 54 years old.21 Then she and her sister Dorothy lost their father Felix a year later on December 31, 1945; Felix was 83 years old.22 Eleven years later on August 12, 1956, Cecelia died at age 63 from lung cancer. She was survived by her two children and by her sister, Dorothy.23 Dorothy died at age 80 in January 1978.24

Emily Goldsmith Gerson’s story is in many ways such a sad one. She lost her mother Cecelia Adler Goldsmith when she was only six years old. She named her first child Cecelia in memory of her mother. Then she herself died young, ending a promising career as a children’s writer and leaving behind her own daughters. Cecelia, the daughter named for Emily’s mother, then later named her first child for her own mother, Emily. The family’s alternating naming pattern reveals Emily’s sad story. But she left behind her works and her descendants, and I hope that by telling her story I have honored her memory.

 

 


  1. Emily Goldsmith Gerson, death certificate. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 121031-124420.
    Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate Number: 124162. 
  2.  Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 
  3.  Number: 161-05-1973; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: Before 1951. Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  4. The Jewish Exponent, March 4, 1898, p. 8 (Purim play). The Jewish Exponent, December 8, 1899 p. 9 (Hanukkah play). 
  5. Book News (1905, Philadelphia), p. 361. 
  6. “For Jewish Children,” The New York Times, March 31, 1906, p. 21. 
  7. “High School Girls Give Merry Play,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 14, 1914, p.2. 
  8. “Emily G. Gerson Farm Dedicated,” The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, June 27, 1919, p. 2. 
  9. “Unveil Tribute to First President,” Dallas Jewish Monitor, June 25, 1920, p. 5. 
  10. “Hebrew Bible in Glass and Light,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 5, 2004, p. C04. 
  11. Felix Gersons and daughters, 1920 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 24, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1627; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 688.
    Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  12. Cecelia Gerson and Malvin Reinheimer marriage, Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Original data: “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Marriage License Number: 432189. 
  13.  Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948; Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 091401-093950; Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Ancestry.com. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935 (Swarthmore, 1912; University of Pennsylvania, 1915). 
  14. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007. SSN: 180129263 
  15. Philadelphia City Directory, 1930, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  16. Malvin Reinheimer and family, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 1029. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  17.  Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937. Certificate Number: 24190. 
  18. Felix and Emma Gerson, 1940 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03692; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 51-158. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  19. Dorothy Gerson, 1940 US Census, Census Place: Middletown, Middlesex, Connecticut; Roll: m-t0627-00512; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 4-23. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  20. Malvin and Cecelia Reinheimer, 1940 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: m-t0627-03754; Page: 1B; Enumeration District: 51-2169. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  21. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 091401-093950. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate Number: 93778. 
  22.  Pennsylvania. Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 108301-110850. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate Number: 110070. 
  23. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 074701-077400. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Certificate Number: 75270 
  24. Number: 161-05-1973; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: Before 1951. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014