The Surviving Children of Reuben and Sallie Cohen, Part I: Minnie, Rae, Reuben, Jr., Lewis and Violet Mae

As I wrote last week, Reuben and Sallie Cohen had seventeen children, but ten of them predeceased their parents. Eight of the children died before they were four years old of various illnesses or, in the case of one child, as a result of a horrific accident.  Two of the children survived to adulthood, but then succumbed to illnesses in the early years of their adult lives.

That meant that Reuben and Sallie had only seven of their seventeen children alive when they died.  All but one of those children lived relatively full lives, living at least into their sixties if not beyond.  I will try and capture those lives, going in birth order.

The fourth child born after Sallie R., Jacob, and Hart, all of whom had died before their parents, was Minnie.  Minnie was born on September 25, 1882, and lived with her family in Philadelphia and Cape May.  On August 5, 1900, the Philadelphia Inquirer made this comment about Minnie in an article about summer visitors to Cape May:  “Miss Minnie Cohen is one of the prettiest girls at the resort.  Her bathing costume is always the picture of neatness.”  (“Cape May’s August Days,” Sunday, August 5, 1900, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: 143   Issue: 36)

It was not until eighteen years later when she was almost 36 that Minnie married Harry Frechie in February, 1918.  The Philadelphia Inquirer had this to say about her wedding:

Minnie wedding

(“Matrimony Notice,” Friday, February 15, 1918, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: 178   Issue: 46   Page: 10)  Mrs. S. Rosenblatt was her sister Rae, discussed below.  Violet Mae was her youngest sister, also discussed below.

Minnie and Harry were married for many years, but did not have any children. Like his father-in-law and many other family members, Harry was a pawnbroker. They appear to have traveled quite a bit, including a Caribbean cruise in 1939.  I have not yet been able to find a death record for Harry, but the 1950 Philadelphia city directory has a listing for Mrs. Harry Frechie alone, suggesting that Harry may have died sometime between the 1940 census and 1950. I also could not find a World War II draft registration for Harry, which could suggest he died before 1942.

UPDATE: With the release of the Pennsylvania death certificates through 1944, I am now able to update this post and the information regarding Harry Frechie.  Harry did die before 1942; he died on September 27, 1940.  No cause of death was given as there was a pending coroner’s inquest.  I will have to see if I can learn more about that.

Harry Frechie death certificate 1940

Harry Frechie death certificate 1940

At any rate, Minnie appears to have lived a life without much controversy as I cannot find any newspaper references to either Harry or Minnie aside from the wedding notice.  Minnie died in Philadelphia in 1977 when she was 95 years old.

Minnie’s sister and matron of honor, Rae, was the next child who survived.  She was born in 1886.  Rae married Samuel Rosenblatt in 1910.[1]  Sam was in the business of dress manufacturing according to the 1920 census, more specifically children’s dresses according to both the 1930 and 1940 census reports. They had one son, Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr., born in 1913, who died in July, 1933.  I have not found anything yet to explain why Samuel, Jr., died at such a young age.  The Philadelphia death certificates through 1944 are supposed to be online soon, so I am hoping to find out eventually what happened to Rae and Samuel’s only child.  Rae died in 1959 at age 73.  Her husband Samuel died in 1973.

UPDATE:  As noted above, I now have access to the Pennsylvania death certificates through 1944, including that of Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr.  Sadly, Samuel died from leukemia.

Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr. death certificate 1933

Samuel Rosenblatt, Jr. death certificate 1933


The next child of Sallie and Reuben Cohen to survive his parents was Reuben Cohen, Jr., born November 5, 1888.  Although at age 21 he was working as a clerk in a loan office according to the 1910 census, he appears not to have stayed in the pawnbroker business for his entire career.  In 1914, he married Leona Mayer, and according to the 1915 Philadelphia directory, he was a notary public by occupation at that time.  I don’t know how that would be a full time occupation, so perhaps he was still working in the “loan office” at that time as well.  In fact, on his World War I draft registration he listed his employer as his father, Reuben Cohen, Sr., so he must have still been working the pawnshop at that time.  In 1920, his occupation on the census is described as manager of a brokerage house, presumably a pawn brokerage, not a stock brokerage.  But in 1930 Reuben’s occupation was listed as a textile designer, and then in 1940 he is described as a salesman in textile manufacturing.  On his 1942 World War II draft registration, he listed his employment as “own business.”  Thus, it appears that Reuben, Jr., went out on his own and left the Cohen family pawnbroker business.

Reuben, Jr., and Leona had one child, Elinor Cohen, born in April, 1915, who married Melvin Beard.  I am now trying to contact their descendants.  Reuben Cohen, Jr. died January 28, 1958, when he was 69 years old.  His wife Leona died in 1970 at age 78.  Their daughter Elinor died thirteen years ago in 2001.

Reuben Jr.’s younger brother Arthur was the next sibling to survive their parents, but I am going to defer telling his story until I get a little more information from one of his descendants.

Of the seven surviving children, the one I have had the hardest time tracking is Lewis Cohen, who was born in September, 1892, the thirteenth child of Reuben and Sallie.  According to his World War I draft registration in 1917, he suffered from “nervous trouble.”

Lewis Cohen World War I draft registration

Lewis Cohen World War I draft registration


He was working as a real estate broker, and I was able to find a number of his real estate broker’s advertisements in the Philadelphia Inquirer as well as a news story about a large real estate transaction he brokered for a client in 1922.  On the 1920 census he was still living at his parents’ home at age 28, and as far as I can tell, he never married or had children.

It’s very odd, but I cannot find Lewis on either the 1930 census or the 1940 census, and at first I thought that perhaps he had died.  Then I found his 1942 World War II registration, in which he described himself as self-employed.  He was then living at the Roosevelt Hotel in Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, and his emergency contact person was a woman named Hilda Eskin, also at that location.

Lewis Cohen World War II draft registration

Lewis Cohen World War II draft registration

Where was he between 1920 and 1942?    I just cannot seem to find him. Is there any significance to the scar on his left wrist? To the fact that he was cross-eyed?  And who was Hilda Eskin? The only Hilda Eskin I could find in 1940 in Philadelphia was a divorced 45 year old woman, living with her parents; she owned a millinery shop.  She and her parents were living in 1940 at 329 South 63rd Street, about four miles west and across the Schuylkill River from the Roosevelt Hotel.  Since Hilda was not an employee of the hotel in 1940 and owned her own business, my hunch is that she was Lewis’ girlfriend in 1942, living with him at the Roosevelt Hotel.  I could not find Lewis living at that address in 1940.  I did find one Lewis Cohen as a prisoner at the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia whose age, birth place, and parents’ birth places all fit my Lewis Cohen, but then there were many Lewis Cohens living in Philadelphia who could have been the one in prison.  Maybe I can find something more about the person in prison?

The only other records I found for Lewis related to his death in November, 1964.  He is buried at Beverly National Cemetery in Burlington, NJ, as a veteran who served in the US Navy during World War I. So despite whatever the reference to “nervous trouble” meant on his draft registration for that war, he did serve in the Navy and was buried as a veteran of that war.  I will continue to look to see if I can fill the gaps in Lewis’ life and military service.

The youngest daughter of Sallie and Reuben Cohen was Violet Mae.  She was born May 7, 1895, and was living at home until 1921 when she married Abram E. Stern, who was born and lived in Washinton, DC.  Violet and Abram lived in Washington, DC, where Abram worked in the store fixture manufacturing business. They had two children in the years after they first married.  By 1940, they had divorced, and Abram was remarried.  Violet Mae died in December, 1974, in Silver Spring, MD, at the age of 79.  I am hoping I can track down her descendants and learn more about her.

Simon, the youngest child of Sallie and Reuben Cohen, did not live as long a life as the other six siblings who survived their parents. His story is another I will tell in a subsequent post once I get more information from one of Reuben’s descendants.

These five children of Reuben and Sallie Cohen all lived relatively long lives for those times and, in the case of Minnie, a very long life.    They all also lived lives that were, at least as far as I can tell, relatively trauma and drama free.  Yes, Violet was divorced, Rae lost her son when he was only 20, and certainly Lewis, Reuben, Jr., and Minnie must have also had some difficult times in their lives.  But given the family tragedies their parents endured, losing so many children, it is somewhat remarkable that these five led fairly quiet and, at least outwardly, regular lives.  But who knows what happened beneath the cold hard facts of census reports and city directories? Certainly losing ten siblings must have had some impact on these people.  Did Minnie not have children for fear of losing them as her parents had? Is that also why Rae and Reuben, Jr., each had just one child?  Did Lewis suffer from “nervous trouble” as a result of experiencing so many deaths?  I don’t know, but I have to believe that growing up as they did, seeing death occur over and over again, had to have affected all of them.



[1] There was also an entry on the Philadelphia marriage index for a Rae W. Cohen who married Isador Landau in 1913, but since I cannot find any other evidence of Mr. Landau and since Rae and Samuel Rosenblatt were together on the 1920, 1930, and 1940 census reports, I have to assume this was an error in indexing.

12 thoughts on “The Surviving Children of Reuben and Sallie Cohen, Part I: Minnie, Rae, Reuben, Jr., Lewis and Violet Mae

  1. 17 children is a lot, and such a shame that so many of them died young. I often wonder how our ancestors managed and dealt with death, I don’t we would be able to cope today if we lost so many children. You have done well with researching the lives of their surviving children.


  2. That is such a shame about the children, Amy. All of your wonderful research here, and I keep thinking about the bridal party dresses. Minnie sounds like quite the fashion plate, so I imagine it must have been gorgeous, but I wish I could see it because I don’t know what “chiffon velvet” is and I don’t know the shades of pink, green, and blue that they all went together!


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