The Nusbaum and Dreyfuss Families Settle into America: 1850-1860

Market Square, Harrisburg in 1860

Market Square, Harrisburg in 1860

As I wrote in my last post about the Nusbaums, the 1850s were for the most part a decade of growth for the Nusbaum and Dreyfuss families although there were two tragedies during that decade.  I have already written about the tragic death of Maxwell Nusbaum in the 1851 Great Fire in San Francisco.  Maxwell died trying to protect the property of another merchant, and his death left his wife Mathilde Dreyfuss Nusbaum with two very young children, Flora and Albert.  Mathilde remarried a few years later, marrying Moses Pollock, with whom she had two more children in 1856 and 1859, Emanuel and Miriam.  Moses was employed as a merchant in Harrisburg, according to the 1860 census.  Since Mathilde was my three-times great-grandmother Jeanette’s sister, her children with Maxwell were cousins both maternally and paternally.

Because the Nusbaum and Dreyfuss families were so entwined, it seems appropriate to discuss them together rather than as two separate lines in my family.  Why return to Harrisburg (and Peoria) twice? (Nothing against those two cities; it just seems to make sense to discuss the two families together.)

In the 1850s a number of the Nusbaum/Dreyfuss siblings were living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  In 1860, Mathilde Nusbaum (sister of Maxwell, John, Leopold and Ernst) and her husband Isaac Dinkelspiel were still living in Harrisburg with their three children, now all adolescents: Paulina (19), Adolph (17), and Sophie (12).  Isaac was working as an “agent,” which I assume means he was an agent in the Nusbaum merchant business.  His son Adolph was working as a clerk, again presumably for the Nusbaum family business.

Mathilde Nusbaum Dinkelspiel’s brother Leopold Nusbaum had also moved to Harrisburg during the 1850s, leaving Blythe, Pennsylvania where he had been a butcher.  Perhaps they moved in the aftermath of his family’s personal tragedy.  Their son Adolph, born in 1848, died on June 6, 1852.  He was only four years old.  He died from acute gastritis.  The death certificate says it was “accompanied by” a word I cannot decipher.  Can anyone read it?  He was buried at Mikveh Israel cemetery in Philadelphia.  I found it interesting that the family, though living in Harrisburg, buried their child in Philadelphia.  Perhaps the Jewish cemetery in Harrisburg had not yet opened.[1]

UPDATE:  My medical consultant says that the other cause of death is cerebritis, meaning a brain infection or abscess.

Death certificate of Adolph Nusbaum, son of Leopold and Rosa Nusbaum

Death certificate of Adolph Nusbaum, son of Leopold and Rosa Nusbaum

Leopold and his wife Rosa had a second child, Francis, who was born in 1850.  Although Francis is listed as a boy on both the 1850 census and the 1860 census, by 1870 she is identified as female and is so thereafter.[2] Her name, however, is almost always spelled as Francis, and I suppose that must have confused the first two census takers as ordinarily Francis is a boy’s name and Frances is the way it is spelled for a girl.  At any rate, it is pretty clear that Francis was a girl even in 1850 and 1860.

Leopold seems to have given up on being a butcher when he moved to Harrisburg.  According to the 1860 census, he, like his brothers John and Ernest, was now a merchant.  Also listed as living with Leopold, Rosa, and Francis on the 1860 census was “A. Dinkelspiel,” presumably Adolph Dinkelspiel, Leopold’s nephew, Mathilde’s son.  Since Adolph was also listed in his parents’ household, my guess is that he may have been living with Leopold and working as a clerk in his store, but that his parents had also counted him as part of their household.

Leopold and Rosa Nusbaum and family 1860 census

Leopold and Rosa Nusbaum and family 1860 census

In addition to the two Nusbaum siblings Leopold and Mathilde (Dinkelspiel), Harrisburg was also the home of Caroline Dreyfuss Wiler for some part of the 1850s.  Caroline, the sister of Jeanette Dreyfuss Nusbaum and Mathilde Dreyfuss Nusbaum Pollock, was married to Moses Wiler.  They had four children, Eliza (1842), Simon (1843), Fanny (1846), and Clara (1849). Simon was born in Philadelphia, and Clara was born in Gettysburg (nothing more specific than Pennsylvania is given for Eliza or Fanny), so Caroline and Moses must have been moving around quite a bit within Pennsylvania during the 1840s.  I assume he was a peddler and thus the family kept moving until he could open a more permanent business.

Although they are listed as living in Harrisburg in 1850, by 1860 they were living in Philadelphia with their four children, at that point three teenagers and one eleven year old.  Moses was working as a merchant, apparently doing quite well.  He had $8000 worth of real estate and $22,000 worth of personal assets; they also had a 27 year old servant living with them.

Moses and Caroline Dreyfuss WIler and family 1860 census

Moses and Caroline Dreyfuss WIler and family 1860 census

John Nusbaum, my three-times great-grandfather, had also moved to Philadelphia by 1860.  In fact, their fifth child, Miriam, was born in Philadelphia on October 30, 1858, so the family must have relocated from Harrisburg by that time.  According to the 1859 Philadelphia directory, John Nusbaum and his family were living at 433 Vine Street, and his place of business was located nearby at 132 North Third Street in Philadelphia.

John and Ernst Nusbaum in the 1859 Philadelphia direcotry

John and Ernst Nusbaum in the 1859 Philadelphia direcotry

John and Jeanette and all five of their children were living, like the Wilers, in the 12th Ward of Philadelphia.[3]  John was occupied as a merchant and had $6000 in real estate and $20,000 in personal property, so like his brother-in-law Moses Wiler, he was doing quite well.  In fact, the Nusbaums had two servants living with them at that time.  My great-great-grandmother Frances, the future wife of Bernard Seligman, was fourteen years old in 1860, and her brothers were 12, 17, and 18, plus there was two year old Miriam, so it must have been quite a handful for those two servants—four adolescents and a toddler.[4]

John Nusbaum and family 1860 census

John and Jeanette Dreyfuss Nusbaum and family 1860 census


John and Jeanette not only had Jeanette’s sister Caroline and her family living nearby, they also had John’s brother Ernst and his family living about a mile away.  According to the 1859 Philadelphia directory (see above), Ernst Nusbaum was living at 521 Buttonwood and working at 55 North Third Street, down the block from his brother John.  Ernst had been living in Philadelphia since at least 1851 since his first child Arthur was born on December 31 of that year.  In 1852, he and his wife Clarissa Arnold and their infant son were living at 191 North 10th Street, and Ernst was working as a merchant at 70 ½ North Third Street.  By 1854 they had moved to Buttonwood Street, and in the 1859 directory Ernst is listed as a clothier doing business with Simon W. Arnold (Clarissa’s brother) and Jacob Nirdlinger.

Ernst Nusbaum 1859 Philadelphia directory

Ernst Nusbaum 1859 Philadelphia directory

On the 1860 census, Ernst’s occupation is listed as “M’s Tailor,” or what I assume is men’s tailor.  Was that his role in the clothing business with his brother-in-law Simon?  Or was it more that they were selling men’s clothing?  Ernst had $20,000 in personal assets and two servants living in the home in addition to his wife Clara and their five children: Arthur (1851), Myer (1852), Fanny (1856), Edgar (1858), and Henrietta (1860 and just two months old at the time of the census).  Unlike his brother John, Ernst had a household of young children in 1860, five children under ten years old.

Ernst and Clarissa Arnold Nusbaum 1860 census

Ernst and Clarissa Arnold Nusbaum 1860 census

Thus, whether in Harrisburg or Philadelphia, the Dreyfuss sisters and their husbands and the Nusbaum siblings and their spouses were all adjusting to life in America, and their families were growing.  Although they suffered two very tragic losses early in the decade of the 1850s, by 1860 it appears that all were doing well.

The next decade would bring changes as the next generation entered adulthood and the country faced the Civil War.

[1] I am awaiting a book on the Jewish history of Harrisburg and should know more once it arrives.

[2] Thus, my reference to two sons in my prior post was mistaken.

[3] The Nusbaum businesses were located about a mile north of where my Cohen relatives were operating their pawnshop business during this same time period.  It would be interesting to know how often their paths crossed even before Flora Cohen married Jacob Weil in 1908.

[4] The ten year gap between Julius and Miriam makes me wonder whether there weren’t other children born during that time who did not survive.

4 thoughts on “The Nusbaum and Dreyfuss Families Settle into America: 1850-1860

  1. Pingback: Children Losing Parents: The Family of Leopold Nusbaum « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  2. Pingback: Final Chapter: The Dreyfuss Family in America « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  3. Pingback: Ernst Nusbaum and Family in the 1880s: Years of Growth and Movement « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  4. Pingback: How Eugene Goldsmith Met May Jacobs | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.