Was It An Accidental Poisoning?

Myer Nusbaum, my first cousin, four times removed, committed suicide after suffering from influenza from an extended period of time, a not all that rare a consequence of severe cases of the flu, as I’ve learned.  He died in the arms of his fifteen year old son, Jacob Aub Nusbaum.  His wife Rosalie Aub and daughter Corinne also came to identify his body.  What impact could such an experience have on these survivors?

Of course, I cannot know for sure what they felt or how this affected them. I can only report the facts as recorded in documents and let them stand for themselves.  His daughter Corinne became a successful student.  She attended the Philadelphia Normal School, described by the Philadelphia Times as “Philadelphia’s great training school for teachers,” and graduated in 1897 when she was nineteen years old. (The Philadelphia Times, June 30, 1897, p. 4)  She was certified to teach kindergarten.  (The Philadelphia Times, July 1, 1897, p. 5)  On Class Day in June, 1897, she was one of the authors of the class skit entitled “The Utopian Normal School.”  The paper even included a portrait of her as one of the “active participants” in the Class Day exercises.

Corinne Nusbaum

The Philadelphia Times, June 30, 1897, p. 4

 

In 1900, six years after Myer’s death, Rosalie and the two children, now 22 and 21, were living together on Cedar Avenue in Philadelphia with a boarder and a servant, and Jacob (now called Jack) was working as a salesman. Despite her training to become a teacher, Corinne did not have any occupation listed on the 1900 census.

Within a year or so of the census, Corinne married Albert E. Wood.  Albert was born in Boston, the son of Samuel Wood and Emma Shaw, both born in England. Samuel was a salesman, according to the 1880 US census.  Albert was the youngest child, and by 1880, the family had relocated to Camden, New Jersey.  In 1900 Albert was living in Philadelphia with his older brother James and James’ wife Laura.  Albert Wood and Corinne Nusbaum must have married soon thereafter as on December 9, 1901, their son Albert E. Wood, Jr., was born in Philadelphia.  (I cannot locate a marriage record for Corinne and Albert in Philadelphia, so perhaps they were married in New Jersey.)

Albert continued to work as a salesman, and according to the 1901 Philadelphia directory, they were living at 5020 Hazel Avenue.  The 1901 directory also has Corinne’s brother Jacob listed at that address, working as a salesman, so I assume that Corinne’s mother may also have been living with Corinne and Albert and Jacob.

According to the 1910 census, Albert and Corinne and their son were still living at 5020 Hazel Avenue along with Corinne’s mother Rosalie (listed as Rose A. Nusbaum on the census report) and a domestic servant.  Albert’s occupation was reported as a traveling salesman of dyes.  Jacob is not included on that census record.

Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 46, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1413; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1185; FHL microfilm: 1375426

Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 46, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1413; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1185; FHL microfilm: 1375426

I cannot seem to locate Jacob Nusbaum on the 1910 census at all, whether I search for him as Jacob, Jack, or John, a name he seemed to adopt as an adult.  I found one Jacob Nusbaum living in Bradford, Pennsylvania, but he was an oil producer with a wife, and given what I know about Jacob after 1910, that does not seem likely to be the right Jacob Nusbaum.

By 1917, however, Jacob, now using John, was living in Pittsburgh, according to his World War I draft registration.  How can I be certain that this is the right person?  The next of kin listed on his registration is “Roslie A. Nusbaum” of 5020 Hazel Avenue in Philadelphia. Jacob/John was working as a traveling electric salesman for the Incandescent Supply Company.

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Allegheny; Roll: 1908016; Draft Board: 03

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Allegheny; Roll: 1908016; Draft Board: 03

Meanwhile, back in Philadelphia, Albert Wood and his family (as well as Rosalie, apparently) were all still living at 5020 Hazel Avenue, and Albert was a salesman for a chemical company, according to his draft registration.  Since in 1920, his occupation is reported as a dye salesman, I assume that that is what he was also selling in 1917.  The family was still living at 5020 Hazel Avenue in 1920, including Rosalie.

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907958; Draft Board: 49

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907958; Draft Board: 49

I had a hard time locating Jacob/John on the 1920 census, but I believe this entry is his at 3401 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh:

Jacob Nusbaum 1920 census rev p 1

Year: 1920; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 4, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1519; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 373; Image: 895

Year: 1920; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 4, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1519; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 373; Image: 895

There are several errors; it says his parents were born in Ohio, when in fact both were born in Pennsylvania.  It says he was married, but there is no record of that.  So why do I believe this is the right person? The name (albeit badly misspelled), the age (he was actually 40, not 38), and the occupation (traveling salesman).  More importantly, he was a roomer at 3401 Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh; on his 1917 draft registration his address had been 3401 Forbes Avenue.  Forbes Street also appears on the same page as the listings on Fifth Avenue on the census report and is very close by.

Was the census taker confused?  Was Jacob/John confused in 1917? Or did he just happen to move to a new location with the same house number a few blocks away?  It just seems like too much similarity in the address to be coincidental.  So given that the information might have been given by the head of household where Jacob was a roomer, someone who might not have known where his parents were born or exactly how old he was, I am reasonably certain that this is the right John Nusbaum.

Back in Philadelphia, Jacob/John’s sister and her family and his mother continued to live at 5020 Hazel Avenue.  On February 5, 1929, Rosalie Aub Nusbaum died at age 74 from a cerebral hemorrhage.  She had lived 35 years since her husband’s sad death in 1894.  She was buried beside him at Mt. Sinai cemetery.

Description Certificate Number Range : 024001-027000 Source Information Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Description
Certificate Number Range : 024001-027000
Source Information
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Her son Jacob/John died a year later on March 3, 1930, from what was ruled an accidental poisoning after drinking a bichloride solution.  There was no coroner’s inquest on this death, but given the family history, I had some questions.  How does one accidentally drink a poisonous solution?  According to this article from the New England Journal of Medicine published in 1951, mercuric bicholoride was “widely available to the public” in tablet form for use as a disinfectant.  It was ranked sixth on a list of the most common toxic materials ingested at Boston City Hospital between 1934 and 1943, which the authors of the article interpreted as “an indication of its popularity as means of attempting suicide.”

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

The death certificate indicates that the place of death was 5427 Kentucky Avenue in Pittsburgh.  I looked up that address on the 1930 census and found that Hyman and Charlotte Grinberg were living there.  They were a foreign-born retired couple in their sixties; Hyman was Russian, Charlotte was Romanian.  In 1920 they’d been living at the same address with their daughter Pauline, and Hyman had been working as a merchant.  What was Jacob/John Nusbaum doing at their home, and why was he drinking a bicholoride solution? Or had he ingested it days before?  I was surprised not to find any news report or coroner’s inquest about this unfortunate accident.

The residence listed for Jacob/John Nusbaum on the death certificate is Montefiore Hospital in Pittsburgh.  At first I wondered whether he was a residential patient at the hospital.  If so, what was he doing at the home of the Grinbergs when he died? But then I looked at the 1929 Pittsburgh city directory and found a J. A. Nusbaum listed as a salesman for the Incandescent Lighting Company, living at 5427 Kentucky Avenue, the address where he died and where the Grinbergs were listed on the 1930 census.  John/Jacob must have been a boarder in the home of the Grinbergs after their daughter Pauline left home.  So he died at home.  I don’t know why the certificate indicates his home was at the hospital.  Maybe the informant didn’t know where John lived?

Title : Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1929

Title : Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1929

 

The informant on the death certificate was not a family member, but someone named M. Newland residing at 922 Penn Avenue in Pittsburgh.  It was clear that it was not someone who knew him well as neither parent’s name was included on the certificate nor did he know Jacob’s birth date.  He did know that Jacob worked as a salesman and that he was born in Philadelphia.  My initial guess was that Mr. Newland was either a lawyer or perhaps a friend who did not know Jacob very well.  But then I looked for him in the 1929 directory and found that he was the president of the Incandescent Lighting Company, Jacob’s employer.

M Newland Pittsburgh directory 1929 p 844

 

Jacob “John” Nusbaum was buried at Mt. Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia with his parents; he was 51 when died (not “about 45,” as indicated on the death certificate).

His sister Corinne Nusbaum Wood was the only surviving member of the family.  In 1930, she, her husband Albert, and their son Albert, Jr., (now 28) were living at Rittenhouse Plaza on Walnut Street, paying $335 in rent.  Albert, Sr., was still selling dye; Albert, Jr., was working in sales for an oil refinery.

In 1934, Albert, Jr., married Rachel Crownover.  They were both 33 years old.  Rachel was a Pennsylvania native and lived in Huntingdon as a child; her father Edgar Holmes Crownover was a hotelkeeper there.  He died at age 43 in 1907 when Rachel was six; her mother Charlotte stayed in Huntingdon with the children for a number of years, but by 1920 they had relocated to Philadelphia where Rachel was working as a stenographer.  In 1930 Rachel was living with her brother Charles, her mother having died the year before.  Rachel was now working as an auditor for a furnace company.  Four years later she married Albert E. Wood, Jr.

On April 19, 1938, Albert E. Wood, Sr., died from arteriosclerosis.  He was 63 years old.  He was cremated.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Two years later his widow Corinne was still living where they’d been living at the Fairfax Apartments, according to the 1940 census.  Albert, Jr., and Rachel were living at the Embassy Apartments on Walnut Street.  Albert was working as an air conditioning engineer, and Rachel was working as secretary.  They had not had any children.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T627_3692; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 51-149

Year: 1940; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T627_3692; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 51-149

Corinne Nusbaum Wood died on March 15, 1953, from heart disease; she was 74.  Like her husband, she was cremated.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Her son Albert, Jr., died two years later on April 1, 1955, of a heart attack. He was 54 years old. He also was cremated.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1963 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com 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.

His wife Rachel survived him, and since there is no death certificate for her in the Pennsylvania database that runs through 1963, she must have lived at least until 1964 (or moved out of Pennsylvania).  I have yet to find a death record or an obituary for her.

Thus ended another line in the Nusbaum family.   There are no living descendants of Myer and Rosalie Nusbaum and their children.

 

2 thoughts on “Was It An Accidental Poisoning?

  1. Goodness. I would not have thought that the flu would lead to suicide–it seems like one either died (of the flu) or got better. Poor Myer. And I agree, the “accidental” ingestion of poison seems very suspicious. On to happier things, I hope!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I was surprised by that also, but a newly found cousin who works in emergency prevention and studied epidemics sent me a source pointing it out when I posted about Myer’s suicide originally.

      Liked by 1 person

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