Joseph was the first child of Jacob and Sarah Cohen to be born in the US; he was born on November 21, 1848, in Philadelphia, only four months after his parents’ arrival in July, 1848, meaning his mother was five months pregnant when she traveled from England to the US with her husband and toddler daughter, Fanny. Joseph lived with his family at 136 South Street until he married Caroline Snellenburg around 1868.
Caroline was born in Germany around 1849 and emigrated to the United States with her family as a young child in 1857. Although I cannot locate a specific marriage record for Joseph and Caroline, they probably were married sometime in or before 1868 because their first born child, Hart, was born May, 1869. In June, 1870, when the census was taken, Caroline, Joseph and one year old Hart were living at 115 Congress Street in the same ward and district as Joseph’s parents, and Joseph was working as a tailor.
Then, later that year, little Hart was stricken with typhoid fever and died on November 21, 1870, only one and a half at the time. So like his older sister Fanny and her husband Ansel who lost their daughter Rachel to typhoid fever in 1873 before she was two years old, Joseph and his wife Caroline lost a young child to typhoid.
I have speculated before about what these deaths must have done to young parents and whether it made them less able to attach to children or made them treasure each child more. In the case of Joseph and Caroline, it seems they compensated by having another ten children after losing their first born. At least one other child did not survive to adulthood, the last born child, Meyer, who was born in July 1889 and died the next month. By having so many children, Joseph and Caroline were able to ensure that at least some of their children would survive the dangers of life back in the 19th century.
By 1875, Jacob and Caroline had four children, Jacob (1872), Bertha and Isaac (1874) and Nathan (1875) and were living at 221 South 2d Street, where they would live at least until 1886, according to various city directories. This residence was located about half a mile north of where Joseph grew up on South Street and close to the city center of Philadelphia, near Walnut Street.
In 1875 Joseph was listed in the city directory as a clothier, and in 1879 he was in business as Cohen and Brothers with at least his younger brother Reuben and perhaps Hart and Isaac as well. Although there is no description of what trade Cohen and Brothers were engaged in in the 1879 directory, on the 1880 census Joseph’s occupation was described as a dealer in clothing so he was still in the clothing trade.
In 1881, however, the city directory lists his business as being a pawnbroker, like his father and his brothers Isaac and Reuben (Hart was still a clothier), but also as a clothier at his home location. So by 1881, Joseph had followed in his father’s footsteps and was working as a pawnbroker but also selling clothing.
Perhaps Joseph was engaged in two businesses for good reason. By 1881, he and Caroline had five children, Sallie having been born in 1877. By 1884, they had two more, Fannie (1882) and Julia (1884). By 1886, the family had moved, perhaps to accommodate all these new and growing children, to 703 South 12th Street, and Joseph was in business with his younger brother Lewis Cohen and had a store at 701 South 12th Street, right next door to his residence. This was a move closer to Broad Street near South Street, so presumably a good business location. In 1887, Joseph and Caroline had two more children, twins named Morris and Samuel.
The business and the family remained at this location at least through 1889, and then in 1892, Joseph had a store at 1200 South Street and was residing at 710 North 5th Street. This was a move four miles north, and so nearing the turn of the century, Joseph, like his sister Fanny, was living in North Philadelphia, part of the migration of Jews from the southern to the northern parts of the city. Presumably, the business and the family were doing quite well.
Interestingly, in 1900, Joseph and Caroline and the children were living in Cape May, New Jersey, where Joseph was working as a pawnbroker. I assume that he was working to establish a new store in a new territory, perhaps for one of his sons. Or maybe after the death of infant Meyer in August of 1889, they just needed a change of scenery. Although the records conflict, some records indicate that the twins Morris and Samuel were born in Cape May in August, 1887, so it could be that this was a second stay for the family in Cape May.
Although Joseph and Caroline’s oldest son Jacob was already married at this point, he is listed on the census as living in Cape May with his parents in 1900. (He is also listed as living with his wife and child back in Philadelphia, so I assume he was shuttling back and forth.) His occupation was as a jeweler, a business that I know became a part of the Cohen family businesses. His younger brother Isaac was working as a traveling salesman, and Nathan, then 25, was working as a clerk in the pawn store.
By 1903, however, Joseph was back in Philadelphia, working at the store at 1200 South Street, and in 1910 Joseph and Caroline were living with six of their adult children at 1915 Diamond Street, another few miles north and west of where they had lived in 1889.
Joseph was described as the proprietor of a business, but I cannot decipher the script for what type of business. If one of you can, I’d love to know.
Sam and Morris were working in a department store (maybe Ansel’s, maybe their father’s?), and Nathan was working as a loan officer in a bank. Imagine that! A rebel in the family, abandoning the long tradition of being merchants and pawnbrokers.
On October 17, 1918, Joseph and Caroline lost another child, but this time an adult child. Their son Morris, who was only 30 years old, died from pneumonia after having influenza. Morris was married to Helen Goodman and working as a sheet metal worker in the manufacture of automobile radiators, according to his death certificate and 1917 World War I draft registration. He had only completed that draft registration a few months before his death.
In 1920, Joseph and Caroline were living with just two of their adult children, Nathan, now 43 and still working as a loan officer, and Fanny, who was 35 and not employed outside the home. Joseph had no occupation listed on this census, and he and Caroline were now 70 years old. They were living at 1914 Erie Avenue, even further north and west from their prior home on Diamond Street.
Joseph died three years later, on June 10, 1923, from chronic endocarditis, another family member dying from heart disease. The contributing causes were chronic parenchymalious nephritis. According to my medical consultant and brother, this is form of kidney disease.
Caroline died the following year on April 3, 1924. I do not have a death certificate for her, but both she and Joseph were buried in Mt Sinai cemetery. Together they had endured a fair share of heartache, losing at least two children as babies and one as an adult, but they also had enjoyed a fair amount of financial security and the company of many of their children. As with Fanny, Jacob and Sarah would have been pleased to know that their son Joseph had overall lived a good life.