Final Chapter: The Dreyfuss Family in America

My three-times great-grandmother Jeanette Dreyfuss Nusbaum and her two sisters, Mathilde Dreyfuss Nusbaum Pollock and Caroline Dreyfuss Wiler, came to America and along with their husbands they settled in Pennsylvania where their husbands started as peddlers and then became merchants.  Two of the sisters married Nusbaum brothers: my three-times great grandfather John Nusbaum and his brother Maxwell Nusbaum.  They all had several children.  They all suffered financial hardship, untimely deaths of family members, and in some cases, terrible tragedies.  Today there are no living descendants of Mathilde Dreyfuss.   Jeanette Dreyfuss and John Nusbaum have a number of living descendants, myself included, of course.

As for the family of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler, I have written about the lives of their daughter Fanny Wiler and her children and of their son Simon Wiler.  Of their daughter Eliza’s five children, Flora and Nellie were the only ones still alive in 1920, and the only grandchild alive was Flora’s son Lester Strouse.  In 1920, Lester was 32 and working in advertising, living at home with his mother Flora.  In 1928, Lester married Mabel Schoultz; he was forty, and she was 37.  Mabel was born in Pennsylvania, and her parents were born in Sweden.  In 1930, she and Lester were living in the Plaza Hall apartments in Philadelphia.  Lester was still in the advertising business, a field in which he remained for his career.

Lester’s mother Flora was living as a boarder in 1930 at 1712 Mt. Vernon Street in Philadelphia; she listed her marital status as widowed.  In 1940 she was living as a boarder at 2008 Spring Garden Street; her son Lester and his wife Mabel were living in Cheltenham, a suburban community thirteen miles north of Philadelphia.


In August, 1941, Nellie Simon Loux, died at 66 of breast cancer, and her nephew Lester paid the bill for her funeral.  A year later Flora Simon Strouse Heulings, Lester’s mother and Nellie’s sister, died in November 1942 from chronic myocarditis. She was 76 years old.  Flora had been residing at the Majestic Hotel before becoming a patient at the Bella Vista Sanitarium in Springfield, Pennsylvania, where she died.  Nellie and Flora were buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery with their parents and siblings.

Flora’s death certificate is yet another example of how unreliable these documents can be.  It says her father’s name was Simon Weiler, when in fact her father was Leman Simon.  Wiler was her mother Eliza’s maiden name.  Apparently whoever filled this out conflated the two surnames.  The certificate also represents that Flora was widowed, which she was when her first husband Nathan Strouse died.  But the husband listed here, Albert C. Heulings, was alive and well and living in Chicago with his second wife.  As the 1920 census had indicated, Flora was divorced, not a widow. Although the 1930 census said she was a widow and the 1940 listed her as single, the 1920 is likely the most accurate.  It’s not surprising that someone grieving would make these mistakes.

Thus, by the end of 1942, all of the children of Eliza and Leman Simon had now passed away.  Their only surviving descendant was their grandson Lester.  That last descendant died on October 14, 1960, from coronary thrombosis; he was 71 years old.  Lester, an advertising salesman all his career, was survived by his wife Mabel.  There were no children, and thus that was the end of the family line for Eliza Wiler and Leman Simon.

That left only the children of Clara Wiler and Daniel Meyers to carry on the line of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler.  As of 1920, Daniel and Clara as well as their children Bertha, Samuel, and Harry were gone.  I also discussed Leon Meyers’ death in my last post.  By 1920, all the other children except for Milton, the youngest, were married and had settled on careers, and many had had children.  In the rest of this post I will review how each of those children fared.

In 1920 Isadore Meyers was a clothing manufacturer, married to Elsie Goodman, with two sons, Robert and David.  I had not had much luck finding Isadore in any city directories until I found a listing that included his company’s name, which was Meyers & Obermayer.  I was able to find the company listed as early as 1911, selling “pantaloons.”  Here is a small classified ad from 1915 that I found in which they were looking to purchase a second hand pressing machine for their trousers business.

Philadelphia Inquirer  January 31, 1915 p. 11

Philadelphia Inquirer January 31, 1915 p. 11

The last listing I could find for Meyers & Obermayer in Philadelphia was in 1925.  There are also listings for a clothing manufacturer called Obermyer & Myers in Norristown during the 1910s and 1920s, but I don’t know whether that is just a coincidence or the same business.

In 1930 Isadore, Elsie and their sons were living at 1228 65th Avenue, and Isadore was still a clothing manufacturer.  I was unable to find any records for the family between 1930 and 1940, but the 1940 census finds Isadore, Elsie and David still living at 1228 65th Avenue.   Their older son Robert must have been living elsewhere.

By 1950, Isadore’s business was known as Meyers and Sons, as listed in the 1950 Philadelphia phonebook.  Isadore died on November 1, 1960, from heart disease.  He was 81 years old.  His wife Elsie died fourteen years later on December 23, 1974.  She was 92 years old.  They are buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery.

Isadore Meyers death cert Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Max, the next son, was a mechanical engineer working at Newton Machine Tool Works and married to Henrietta Klopfer.  They had a son Donald, born in 1918, and a daughter Dorothy born in 1923.  Almost every year, Max, Henrietta, and their children took a cruise together.  On December 1, 1939, just a few months after their last cruise, Max died from prostate cancer.  He was only 58 years old.  His widow Henrietta lived until April 1977; they are both buried at Mt. Sinai. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

In 1920, Benjamin and Leona (Faulcher) Meyers were living in Collingswood, New Jersey, with Leona’s parents, and Benjamin was working as an optometrist.  Benjamin and Leona had two children in the 1920s, Margaret born in 1924, and Clara, named for his mother, born in 1926.  In 1930, the family was back in Philadelphia at 6418 North 16th Street, and Benjamin was now working as a manager in a cotton yarns business, presumably that of his younger brother Clarence, discussed in my last post and below.  The family was still living at that address in 1940 (Margaret was now listed as Rosebud), and Benjamin’s occupation was now reported to be a superintendent in a factory, again his brother Clarence’s yarn business.  He and Leona were now in their fifties and their daughters were teenagers.  His 1942 World War II draft registration confirmed that Benjamin was working with his brother Clarence.

The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 212

The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II draft cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Pennsylvania; State Headquarters: Pennsylvania; Microfilm Series: M1951; Microfilm Roll: 212


Benjamin and Leona moved to Camden, New Jersey, the following year.  He died on October 21, 1956, from heart disease.  He was 73 years old.  He and Leona were then living in Audobon, New Jersey, and his occupation was reported to be a superintendent for Clarence L. Meyers & Company.  Leona died less than three years later on April 3, 1959, also of heart disease.  She was 73.

Clarence, the cotton yarns manufacturer, had been in that business since 1910, originally operating as the Elm Converting Company.  In 1920, he and his wife Estelle were living at 2251 North Park Avenue with their one year old daughter, Nancy.  Clarence and Estelle apparently loved to travel.  From as early as 1924 and all through the 1930s and 1940s, the family traveled to many places, according to the numerous ship manifests I located.  His business was seemingly quite successful as at least two of his brothers, Benjamin and Milton, as well as at least one of his nephews were also at one time or another working in the business.

In 1940 Clarence, Estelle, and Nancy were living at 707 Medary Avenue, along with Estelle’s mother, a butler, and a servant.  They were still living there in 1942 when Clarence registered for the draft and also in 1950, according to the 1950 Philadelphia phonebook.

Sadly, on February 5, 1951, Clarence lost his wife Estelle to cancer.  She was sixty years old.  Clarence continued to travel after Estelle died, including a cruise around the world in 1953 and trips to Argentina and to Italy in 1954 and 1955. Clarence died in April, 1961, in Dade County, Florida.  He was 75 years old.  He and Estelle are buried in Mt. Sinai cemetery, as is their daughter Nancy, who died just three years after her father Clarence.

The next brother was Franklin, an optometrist, who in 1920 was living with his wife Mae in Pottstown, Pennsylvania, where he had been since about 1914.  Franklin and Mae had a daughter Carolyn born in 1922.  Franklin and Mae remained in Pottstown throughout the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, and Franklin had an optometry practice there throughout all those years.


Franklin died on January 23, 1956, and I was able to find this detailed obituary published in the Pottsdown Mercury, the local newspaper, on January 24, 1956, pp. 1, 5:

Part_1_of_obit ff meyers-page-001

obit part 2

Like so many of his siblings, he died from heart related issues.  He was 68.  Despite living in Pottstown for over 40 years, he was buried back in Philadelphia at Mt. Sinai.  His widow Mae died twenty years later in Pottstown, and she also was buried at Mt. Sinai.

Miriam Meyers Strauss was married to Abram Strauss, a doctor, and living with him at 1836 North 17th Street in 1920. From a decision of the Pennsylvania Workmen’s Compensation Board in 1921, I was able to learn that Abram was a dermatologist.    He and Miriam had two sons, Daniel and Richard.  By 1930, they had moved to the suburb of Cheltenham, where they were also living in 1940.

After that I have no records for them until Miriam’s death on July 26, 1975.  I do not have her death certificate because the death is too recent, and I cannot locate an obituary, but I know that she is buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery with her with her parents and her siblings, but not with Abram.  I cannot find any record for Abram after his 1942 draft registration.

Miriam’s younger sister Charlotte was married to J. Albert Field, and in 1920, they were living at 1905 Diamond Street with her brothers Leon and Milton.  In 1930, they were still living at 1905 Diamond Street, but without any other family members or boarders.  Albert was still a department store manager.  Charlotte and Albert took a cruise together to Bermuda in 1931.  In 1940 they had moved to the Oak Lane Tower apartments.  Albert was continuing to work as a department store manager.

Charlotte died on October 8, 1940, just a few months after the 1940 census.  Although I have her burial records at Mt. Sinai, as with her sister Miriam, I cannot find a death certificate so I do not know her cause of death.  Also like Miriam, Charlotte was buried with her parents and siblings and not her husband.  However, Albert listed Charlotte’s brother Clarence as the person who would always know his address on his World War II registration in 1942.  It appears that Albert did remarry sometime after Charlotte died as his marital status at the time was married, and the name of his wife on his death certificate in 1958 was Frances.  Charlotte and Albert had not had any children.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

Finally, we come to Milton, the baby of the family. In 1920, he was living with Charlotte, Albert, and Leon at 1905 Diamond Street, and he was working at Clarence’s yarn factory.  Milton married Beatrice Kaufmann sometime between 1920 and 1923 because their son James was born in 1924.  Beatrice was born in Baltimore, Maryland, the daughter of a merchant.  In 1926 their second son Gordon was born.  On the 1930 census, they owned a house worth $35,000 in Cheltenham/Elkins Park.  Milton listed his occupation as a manufacturer of cotton yarns, still in business with his brother Clarence.  They were living in the same house in 1940 (now given a value of only $20,000 after ten years of the Depression), and Milton’s occupation remained the same.  Milton’s World War II draft registration is also consistent with these facts.

Throughout these years and the 1950s, Milton and Beatrice traveled frequently, taking trips to Cuba, England, and Argentina, for example.  Milton died May 8, 1975. He was living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at the time and was 79 years old.  He was buried in Mt. Sinai cemetery.  His widow Beatrice died in 1996 at age 93.  Her obituary fills in some of the details of her life:

Beatrice Kaufmann Meyers, 93, died Tuesday of cancer at her home in Jenkintown. Mrs. Meyers, who was a graduate of Beechwood Finishing School (now Beaver College), was the widow of Milton Meyers, owner of Clarence L. Meyers & Co., textile manufacturers.  She was a driver for the American Women’s Volunteer Services during World War II, and was active in the Orphan’s Guardian Program, which was similar to Big Brothers/Big Sisters.  She was a member of Philmont Country Club for more than 70 years, and of Rodeph Shalom Congregation.

(The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 20, 1996, p. B04)      Interestingly, Beatrice was not buried at Mt. Sinai with her husband but at Shalom Memorial Park in Lower Moreland, Pennsylvania.

And that brings me to the end of the story of Caroline Dreyfuss and Moses Wiler, their children, and their grandchildren.    Of course, there are other descendants, many of whom are still living.  Looking back on this line of my family, I see a family that truly suffered greatly.  Deaths from tuberculosis, a child killed by matches, financial crises, many adults who did not live to see their grandchildren.  But I also see a resilient family.  The children of Clara Wiler and Daniel Meyers in particular were able to overcome their father’s business problems and create their own businesses that were quite successful, allowing them to travel and provide homes and continuity for their children.

It’s another example of the much sought after American dream.  In seventy years the family started by two people born in Germany who came to the United States in the mid-19th century with little more than their diligence and persistence had grown to include a number of successful descendants: a clothing manufacturer, a cotton yarn manufacturer, several optometrists, and a mechanical engineer.  They overcame incredible tragedies and losses, but they nevertheless thrived in this country that had attracted their grandparents for just those opportunities for success.  So although this particular chapter has at times been very sad and upsetting, in the end it is an uplifting chapter.





8 thoughts on “Final Chapter: The Dreyfuss Family in America

    • LOL! Yes, me too! Later they called it a trousers store….much less interesting.

      When I find a family line that ends with no descendants, I do feel that I’ve rescued that family from obscurity. Maybe it will just be me and my limited readers who will see those names, but at least there is a record that tells their story.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Frederick! I am proud of all they did to overcome so much and to survive and thrive. People had so much more to contend with back then. I can’t imagine coping with a tiny fraction of what they all endured.


  1. Pingback: The First Chapter: The Dreyfuss Family « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  2. Can you help me with a genealogy problem? My mother-in-law’s obituary says that she attended Beechwood Finishing School near Philadelphia. The only hit I get on google or bing is your blog, but a seach of same does not lead to more information. Do you know where the school was located? When was it in operation? My mother-in-law Gail Caroline (Walker) Shearer, was from Fannetsburg, a tiny farming community in central PA, with no known connection with anyone in Philadelphia. Thanks, Carolyn

    Liked by 1 person

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