In my last post, I wrote about the fact that Daniel Meyers, husband of Clara Wiler, had failed to honor the terms of the will of his mother-in-law Caroline Dreyfuss Wiler when he failed to pay Caroline’s grandchildren the money they had been promised. Why hadn’t Daniel paid? What would have led him to breach his duties as executor and trustee of the estate?
And who was Daniel Meyers? Why was he appointed to be the executor and trustee? Caroline’s husband Moses was still alive when Caroline died as was her son Simon. But Caroline may not have wanted to have her husband or son in charge of the estate in order to have a more “objective” person in charge. I assume that a woman could not be appointed trustee/executor in 1885, but Caroline had two other sons-in-law, Leman Simon and Joseph Levy. So why Daniel? Leman Simon was in Pittsburgh until the mid-1880s; he and Eliza did not move back until around the time or after the time Caroline died, so he was not around. Perhaps Caroline wanted someone closer to home. As for Joseph Levy, by 1878, his wife Fanny had died, and he had remarried, so Caroline might not have thought he was an appropriate choice. Daniel Meyers was in Philadelphia, married to Clara, and in 1885 had a stable business. He must have seemed like the obvious choice.
Daniel Meyers was, like Leman Simon and Joseph Levy, a German Jewish immigrant. He was born in 1846 in Bavaria, and according to his passport application, immigrated in 1864. He and his brother Samuel were in the clothing business together in 1867. By 1872, a year after marrying Clara Wiler, Daniel was listed in the Philadelphia directory doing business under the firm name D. Meyers and Company in business with Isaac Samler. The family was living at 718 Fairmount Avenue throughout the 1870s and in 1880, but in 1881, Daniel’s home address is 960 North 7th Street, just a few blocks away. By 1885 they had moved again to 927 Franklin Street, and then in 1891 to 920 Franklin Street, where they stayed for many years. In 1886, Isaac Samler retired from the business, and Daniel became the sole propietor of the business that carried his name.
Meanwhile, Daniel and Clara had on average a new baby every year and a half between 1872 and 1896. Daniel and Clara had five children by 1880 and eight more between 1880 and 1900, but one was stillborn and one, Bertha, died from heart disease before she was ten years old. Thus, Daniel was supporting eleven children as well as Clara and himself in the 1880s and 1890s. By 1895 the oldest son Leon was working out of house, first as a foreman in 1895 and then as a salesman in 1897, but still living at home. But the other ten children were still at home and not yet working.
Maybe it was all too much of a financial strain for Daniel. This article from The Philadelphia Times of October 31, 1897, reported a large number of judgments executed against D. Meyers & Co., including two very large ones for over $18,000. One of those was in favor of Isaac Samler, Daniel’s former partner. Keep in mind that $18,000 in 1897 would be equivalent to about $500,000 in today’s dollars.
A fellow family historian descended from a relative of Daniel Meyers shared this news story with me that revealed that on November 1, 1897, D. Meyers and Company was forced to close.
The assets of the business were sold at a sheriff’s sale, as this advertisement, also shared by the fellow family historian, in the Philadelphia Inquirer from November 13, 1897, page 16, revealed:
The text says, “We Bought at Sheriff’s Sale an Enormous Stock of Cothing By the failure of D. Meyers & Co., 36 North Third Street, this City, who for a great many years conducted a manufacturing and wholesale clothing business at 36 North Third Street, was recently sold out by the Sheriff.”
There were numerous other attachments brought against Daniel Meyers d/b/a D.Meyers & Co. after the business was closed. I also found the article below indicating that there was a sheriff’s sale of property belonging to Daniel Meyers and D. Meyers and Company in September, 1898, for over $16,000.
Perhaps this explains why Daniel did not distribute the principal of Caroline’s estate to her grandchildren as he was legally obligated to do after Eliza Simon died in 1897. Perhaps that money was gone.
By 1900 six of Daniel and Clara’s sons, Leon, Samuel, Harry, Isadore, Benjamin, and Max, were now working, Samuel as a clothing merchant, Harry as a tailor, Leon, Isadore and Benjamin as salesmen, and Max as a draftsman. Although this might have alleviated the financial burden carried by Daniel to some extent, it appears not to have been sufficient. The other five younger children were all still at home. In April, 1902, a judgment was entered against Daniel and Clara in the amount of $5,678, apparently for defaulting on a mortgage loan with a building and loan association. I can’t help but notice that the amount they owed was almost to the dollar the amount of money that had been the principal in Caroline’s estate. Had they borrowed this amount to satisfy the attachment obtained by the new trustee of Caroline’s estate and then not had sufficient assets to pay back the lender?
Six months after this judgment was entered, Daniel Meyers died on October 14, 1902, from “organic disease of the heart, embolism, paralysis, and general atheromas.” He was sixty years old. I don’t know what if any relationship there was between his financial troubles, the legal problems, and the resulting family problems, on the one hand, and his health on the other, but I tend to think they were not unrelated.