Louis Mansbach Schoenthal: The Elusive Showman

The third surviving child of Simon and Rose (Mansbach) Schoenthal was their son Louis.

Louis Mansbach Schoenthal Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Louis Mansbach Schoenthal
Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Louis, born in 1878, was working as a cigar salesman on the 1900 census, living with his parents in Atlantic City.  In 1904, he was working with his younger brothers Maurice, Martin, and Jacob in a cigar, stationery, laundry, sporting goods, and pool hall business in Atlantic City.  I have a hard time imagining how they pulled off so many diverse businesses, but that’s what the 1904 directory reflects:

Atlantic City directory 1904

Atlantic City directory 1904 Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Louis married Mary Pomroy Dumbleton on October 27, 1906, in the First Methodist Episcopal Church in Camden, New Jersey.  Mary, who was fourteen years older than Louis, was a Pennsylvania native whose parents were Andrew J. Pomeroy, a Pennsylvania native and a Civil War veteran who had once worked as a painter, and Adelaide Mann.  Mary’s father had been disabled after the war and was living in a soldier’s home in Wisconsin from 1877 until he died on March 10, 1912.  Her mother, also a Pennsylvania native, died in 1875 when Mary was only eleven years old.  Although her two younger sisters were living with their grandparents in 1880, Mary, who was sixteen, was working in a hosiery mill in Philadelphia, living as a boarder in someone’s household.

Mary married William Dumbleton on December 21, 1882, when she was nineteen.  She was still married to him in 1900, living in Camden, New Jersey, but on December 18, 1900, her husband William died at age 38.

What a sad life Mary had lived to that point.  It sounds like something out of a novel by Charles Dickens.  Her mother died, and her father lived in a soldier’s home in Wisconsin, and Mary ended up boarding with another family, working in a mill.  She married at nineteen, only to become a widow when she was only 36 years old. She and William do not appear to have had any children.

It was six years later that Mary married Louis Schoenthal.

Marriage record of Louis schoenthal and Mary Pomroy Dumbleton Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1093

Marriage record of Louis schoenthal and Mary Pomroy Dumbleton
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 1093

 

In 1908, Louis ran into some trouble when caught gambling:

Louis Schoenthal poker arrest 1908 Atl City

 

Eight policemen early this morning captured ten poker players in a gambling place on Atlantic avenue, near Delaware avenue, conducted, it is alleged, by Louis Schoenthal.  He was held for the grand jury by Justice Williams.  The players were so intent with the cards, a twenty-five cent limit game, that the officers had entered the room before they were seen.  The players were held under nominal bail, as all were well known, although they registered under fictitious names.

If he’d waited another seventy years or so, he’d have been able to play as much poker as he wanted in the casinos that now line the Boardwalk in Atlantic City.   Or maybe even owned a casino.

In 1909, Mary Schoenthal is listed without her husband in the Atlantic City directory for that year.  Where was Louis? By 1910, Louis was far from Atlantic City and was one of the few children of Simon and Rose never to live again in the World’s Playground. Instead, he and Mary moved to California and were living in Los Angeles in 1910. Although the census indexer listed his name as Morris and it certainly looks like it says Morris, I am quite certain that this was Louis and Mary Schoenthal, given the places of birth given for themselves and their parents as well as the occupation given for Louis/Morris.  He was the proprietor of a stationery store, continuing in the business in which he’d been engaged in Atlantic City.

"Morris" and Mary Schoenthal 1910 US census Year: 1910; Census Place: Los Angeles Assembly District 72, Los Angeles, California; Roll: T624_82; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0168; FHL microfilm: 1374095

“Morris” and Mary Schoenthal 1910 US census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Los Angeles Assembly District 72, Los Angeles, California; Roll: T624_82; Page: 6B; Enumeration District: 0168; FHL microfilm: 1374095

What had driven them to California? Was it his arrest for gambling? Or the lure of California itself, which drew so many people in the early 20th century? Had he changed his name to Morris to hide from the Atlantic City police? After all, his poker players had played under fictitious names so this was a practice with which Louis was familiar.  Is that why Mary was listed alone in 1909 in Atlantic City?

Searching for Louis and Mary in the Los Angeles directories proved extremely puzzling. There are no listings for Louis or Mary (or Morris) until 1912, when there is a listing for Mrs. Mary Schoenthal, living at 930 ½ Santee Street. In 1913, Louis finally shows up as Louis Schoenthal, also living at 930 ½ Santee, in the cigar business.  (His cousin Meyer L. Schoenthal is also now appearing in the Los Angeles directory; he was the son of Henry Schoenthal, as discussed here.)

Things got very confusing in 1914.  Now there are listings for Louis N. Schoenthal, Morris L. Schoenthal, and Sidney R. Schoenthal, all residing at 930 ½ Santee.  Morris is listed as the proprietor of Lou’s Place cigars, and both Louis and Sidney were working in that business as well, it would appear.  So who were Morris and Sidney?  Sidney is easy; he was the youngest child of Simon and Rose Schoenthal and the youngest brother of Louis.  But Morris?

My first thought was that Morris was Maurice Schoenthal, another younger brother, but Maurice (as well as the next brother, Martin) are both listed in the Chicago city directory for 1914, Maurice as a credit manager and Martin as a salesman, so Maurice could not have been the “Morris” listed in the Los Angeles directory for that.

In 1915 there is no listing for Louis Schoenthal at all, but there are listings for Meyer L. Schoenthal, Morris Schoenthal, and Sidney Schoenthal (residing at 930 Santee).   I am speculating that Morris was the same person as Louis; his listing is for a cigar, billiards, and barber shop.  Then, in 1916, the Los Angeles city directory has two listings for Louis Schoenthal, one, simply as Lou, who was a barber and cigar salesman, and one listed as Louis M, who was a clerk.  I don’t know whether Louis had two listings and two jobs or whether there happened to be another Louis M. Schoenthal in Los Angeles. Seems unlikely. The 1917 directory also has two Louis Schoenthals, both living on the same street, South Hill, but at different numbers and with different occupations:

1917 directory for Los Angeles

1917 directory for Los Angeles Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

What happened to Morris? (Sidney is gone also.) The 1918 directory has no listings for Morris or for Louis, but does have one for Sidney.  What was going on?

Louis’ World War I draft registration answers this in part:

Louis Schoenthal World War I draft registration Registration State: California; Registration County: San Francisco; Roll: 1544266; Draft Board: 13

Louis Schoenthal World War I draft registration
Registration State: California; Registration County: San Francisco; Roll: 1544266; Draft Board: 13

 

Here Louis is Louis Maurice Schoenthal, not Louis Mansbach Schoenthal, so he does seem to have altered his name a bit.  He is listed as married to Mary D. Schoenthal, residing at 480 Pine Street in San Francisco, working as a self-employed salesman in San Francisco.  So as of 1918, Louis and Mary had left Los Angeles for San Francisco.  On the 1920 census, Louis is listed as Lou living as a lodger in San Francisco, working as a clerk in a dry goods store.  Listed below him is Adel Schoenthal.  Was this Mary? Or a new wife? Mary’s mother was Adelaide, and she had a younger sister by the same name.  Was Mary now using an alias of some sort? Sheesh, these people are confusing!

The 1923 San Francisco directory has a listing for Louie M. Schoenthal, a salesman, at 480 Pine Street. By 1928 he had moved to 1124 O’Farrell Street and was a salesman for the Superfine Candy Company.  In 1929, living at the same address, his occupation was abbreviated as “confr mfr.”  Confectioner manufacturer?

Unfortunately, Louis is not listed in the 1930, 1931, 1932, or the 1933 San Francisco directory, nor can I find him on the 1930 US census.  I have no idea where he might have disappeared to during those years. In 1934, he resurfaces in San Francisco, however, living with Mary at 954 Eddy Street and working as a laborer.  In 1935 he is listed as Louis Schoental, living at 844 California, with no mention of Mary in the listing.  On the 1940 census, Louis was living in a hotel, alone, giving his marital status as single and his work status as retired.  He was 62 years old.  I cannot find any records for Mary after the 1934 directory listing.  I don’t know if they had divorced or she had died between 1934 and 1940.  He did not list himself as either divorced or widowed, so I cannot tell.

When Louis registered for the “old man’s draft” in 1942, he gave his name as Louis Mansbach Schoenthal this time.  He was still living in San Francisco, working at Sammy’s Fur Shop.  He provided Sammy’s name and address as the person who would always know his address.

Louis Schoenthal World War I draft registration World War II Draft Cards (4th Registration) for the State of California; State Headquarters: California; Microfilm Roll: 603155

Louis Schoenthal World War II draft registration
World War II Draft Cards (4th Registration) for the State of California; State Headquarters: California; Microfilm Roll: 603155

 

 

The only other information I found about Louis only added more confusion.  It seems that in the summer of 1946, Louis had a stroke that landed him in the hospital (Laguna Honda) for an extended time.  I only know this because of three mentions of his hospital stay in Billboard under the caption Showfolks of America.  Apparently, Louis became or had been a showfolk or a showman. Billboard, August 24, 1946, p. 73; September 7, 1946, p. 74; September 21, 1946, p. 69 (all found through Google Books).

What, you might ask (as I did), does that mean? I can’t really find a definitive explanation, but from what I did find both in these articles and the sections of Billboard where they appeared (under “Carnivals”) as well as in other sources, I believe that showfolk or showmen were the people who set up booths as vendors at outdoor carnivals or who performed at those outdoor venues.  Maybe when Louis was a candy salesman and/or manufacturer he had been working the carnival trade? Is that why he disappeared between 1929 and 1934—was he traveling with the carnival?  I wish I knew.

English: Cotton candy Ελληνικά: Μαλλί της γριάς

English: Cotton candy Ελληνικά: Μαλλί της γριάς (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to the California Death Index, Louis Schoenthal died on June 26, 1956, in Napa, California.  He was 78 years old.  He died far away from all of his siblings; he was no longer married to Mary Dumbleton, and he had no children.   I wish I could have found out more about Louis.  There are so many questions left unanswered, and given that he has no direct descendants and lived so far from his family, I am not sure I will ever find the answers.

 

 

11 thoughts on “Louis Mansbach Schoenthal: The Elusive Showman

    • When I first saw the reference in the article to Louis being at Laguna Honda, I thought he’d gotten a job at a car dealership. Then I thought, “No…Honda didn’t even exist back then.” I had to google it to figure out it was a hospital and the found two other articles referring more specifically to the reason he was there.

      Thanks as always for your input!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Two Brothers in Chicago: One Stayed, One Left « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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