I have already told the story of Gustave and Gussie’s son David who died shortly after his first birthday. I’ve also talked about the records that indicate that Gustave and Gussie suffered the loss of many infants—perhaps as many as nine babies who did not survive. But I have not yet told the story of their son Harry Rosenzweig.
Harry was born in July 1897, two years after Jacob and a year before Joseph. He appeared on the census reports with the family in 1900, 1905, and 1910, but then he disappeared from the records. He is not on the 1915 census or any later census report. Since he would have been eighteen in 1915, I thought perhaps he was serving in the military like his brothers Abraham and Jack, but I could not find any military record or draft registration with his name. Where could he have been?
Fearing the worst, I checked the death index for NYC and sadly saw that indeed a Harry Rosenzweig had died on July 9, 1913. He would only have been sixteen years old—could this be the same Harry? If so, why did he die so young? I sent for the death certificate, which I received the other day.
As you can see, it is in fact the death certificate for Harry, the son of Gustave Rosenzweig and Gussie Sachs. His cause of death is given as drowning.
I then searched for and found this brief news article from the Brooklyn Standard Union of July 8, 1913, p. 6, which explains some of the circumstances surrounding Harry’s death.
Can you imagine what his father must have felt, going to the police station and seeing his son’s clothing? Why was Harry off by himself, swimming alone and away from the others in his gray flannel bathing suit? The article almost seems to imply that there was something suspicious about his behavior. Was his drowning other than accidental? The police obviously did locate his body the next day, as indicated on the death certificate, but the rest of the story remains a mystery.
The other question that lingers for me is whether or not Harry’s death occurred before or after Gustave and Gussie had separated. By the time of the 1915 census, Gussie and Gustave were apparently separated, as Gustave is not listed as living at 1914 Pacific Street with Gussie, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Lizzie and Ray. I have yet to find Gustave anywhere on the 1915 census. I searched the address given in the news report on Harry’s drowning in 1913, 1166 Nostrand Avenue, and Gustave is not listed as living at that address in 1915. In 1910 the family was living at 677 Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn and in 1905 they were living on Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Had they moved to Nostrand Avenue between 1910 and 1913 and then moved again between 1913 and 1915 to Pacific Street? Or had Gustave already left the home by 1913 and thus was living by himself on Nostrand Avenue? Where was he then in 1915? I will have to keep searching. By 1920 he seemed to be living in upper Manhattan as a boarder, and by 1920 he was remarried.
If Harry died before Gustave and Gussie separated, one has to wonder whether his death precipitated the end of their marriage. And if he died after they separated, one has to wonder whether the end of their marriage was in any way a factor in his swimming alone, away from everyone else on the beach.
Of course, his death could have been an accident, or he might have been swimming alone for any number of possible reasons. Whichever version of the story is true, the death of Harry Rosenzweig as a young teenager must have been a terrible tragedy for his family, a family which had already suffered the deaths of so many of their children.
Which makes it even more remarkable that at least some of his surviving siblings grew up to be such loving, warm and fun-loving adults, as my post tomorrow will discuss.