As we move forward from 1870, the grandchildren of Hart and Rachel Cohen were becoming adults and forming businesses and families of their own. The generation of Hart and Rachel’s children—Elizabeth, Lewis, Moses, Jacob and Jonas—was growing older and passing on the legacy of the family to this next generation. Today’s post will focus on those five children, my great-great grandfather and his siblings. Subsequent posts will focus on the grandchildren and their families, in particular my great-grandfather Emanuel and his family.
In 1871, Elizabeth was still working as a clothier, according to the Philadelphia city directory. Lewis continued to work as a pawnbroker and Jonas a clothing salesman through the 1870s, according to the city directories. In 1880, the three siblings were still living with each other at 713 May Street, a location north and west of the neighborhood where the family had long lived near 136 South Street.
In 1870, their brother Jacob continued to live at 136 South Street with his wife Sarah and eleven of his thirteen children, ages five through twenty-one. He also continued to work as a pawnbroker, and his sons Isaac and Reuben were also working in the business in 1870. By 1880 much would have changed. Most importantly, Jacob’s wife, my great-great grandmother Sarah, died on November 19, 1879, of erysipelas, a bacterial infection similar to cellulitis. She, like her father-in-law Hart, was buried in Mikveh Israel cemetery. She was 53 years old, had moved from London to Philadelphia with her husband and first child, and had then given birth to twelve more children, some of whom were still young teenagers when she died.
On the 1880 census, Jacob was a widower, still working as a pawnbroker, and living with five of his children, ages 14 through 23. All but one of them, Lizzie who was 19, was working either as a salesperson or a clerk in a store, presumably their father’s store. The eight other children were married and out of the house, some of them also working as pawnbrokers. His son-in-law Ansel Hamberg, Fannie’s husband, was also working as a pawnbroker, again presumably still in business with Jacob. Jacob’s business was still supporting many people. Obviously, with all those children working in the store, it must have been quite an establishment.
In the decade that followed that census, all of Hart and Rachel’s children passed away, except for Jonas, the youngest, who died in 1893. First, Elizabeth died on June 28, 1883, of what looks like “atrophy muscular,” which I assume, from reading online, was some form of a motor neuron disease. She was about 65 years old. She was buried in Mikveh Israel cemetery, like her father and her sister-in-law, Sarah.
Less than a year later, on March 6, 1884, her brother Lewis died of an abscess of the lung. His age was given as 68 on his death certificate, and he also was buried at Mikveh Israel cemetery.
On April 21, 1888, my great-great-grandfather Jacob died as well, also in his sixties. He, too, was buried at Mikveh Israel, with his wife Sarah, his father and his siblings. According to his death certificate, he died from “uremia from Bright’s disease of the kidneys (probably auto ? kidneys).” (If someone can decipher the word after “probably,” please comment below.) Bright’s disease was defined in Wikipedia as follows: “Bright’s disease is a historical classification of kidney diseases that would be described in modern medicine as acute or chronic nephritis. The term is no longer used, as diseases are now classified according to their more fully understood causes.”
The last of Jacob and Sarah’s children, the youngest, Jonas, died on January 23, 1893, and was also buried at Mikveh Israel. He also was in his early 60s when he died. His cause of death was given as pneumonia.
So all five of Jacob and Sarah’s children died before reaching seventy years of age, whereas their father lived to be 88. (Their brother Moses had died before reaching forty; although I’ve yet to locate a death certificate for Moses, according to the 1860 census taken just months before he died, he was “insane from intemperance.”) They all died from different causes—atrophy muscular, a lung abscess, kidney disease, and pneumonia. Their mother died from a bacterial infection. I would think most of these would be treatable today and that, given better medical treatment, they all could have lived a long life like Hart Levy Cohen had. Looking at how young they all were when they died makes me realize just how remarkable it was for Hart to live to be almost 90 years old back in the 19th century. And how lucky we all are to live in the 21st century.