Til Death Do Us Part

Most of us have heard of a husband and wife dying within weeks or months of each other—sometimes just days. There is apparently some real science behind the phenomenon of long-time spouses dying close in time. In the Jacob Goldsmith family, it happened twice within just a few years to two different couples.

By 1930, as seen in my earlier post, Emma Goldsmith Cohlman was the only surviving child of Jacob and Fannie Goldsmith. On the 1930 census she was living in Philadelphia, claiming to be a 68 year old widow though she was in fact 79 and divorced. There were also ten grandchildren of Jacob and Fannie living in 1930. That would not be the case ten years later.

Caroline Goldsmith and Nathan Rice’s daughter Rena Rice and her husband Edwin Sternfels were still living in New York City in 1930 where Edwin was still in advertising. 1 Rena’s brother Sidney and his wife Martha Sondheim were still living in Philadelphia, and Sidney was also in the advertising business.2 The youngest child of Caroline Goldsmith and Nathan Rice, their daughter Jessica Rice, and her husband Philip Sondheim were still living in Brookline where Philip practiced law.3 Jessica and Philip’s daughter Ruth and her husband Adrian Kramer and daughter Natalie were living in Boston, and Adrian was an equipment salesman.4

Huldah’s children were also well-settled in 1930. Her two sons, Herbert and Arthur Raphael, were living in the same household in Philadelphia, along with Arthur’s wife Josephine and ten year old son Ross.  Arthur was now an insurance salesman and Herbert a commercial salesman. 5 Their younger sister Adelaide and her husband Harry W. Hahn and their two sons were living in Washington, DC, where Harry continued to work in the family shoe business.6

As I wrote earlier, Philip Goldsmith’s three sons were all living in Philadelphia in 1930; Byron and Jerome were married, and Herbert continued to live with his mother Nellie’s siblings. As for Harry Goldsmith’s biological son Stanton Loeb Dreifus, he was living in Queens, New York, with his wife and son and was an iron and steel broker, like his step or adoptive father Emanuel Dreifus.

Thus, as of 1930, all looked fairly calm for the grandchildren of Jacob and Fannie Goldsmith. But within ten years, the family would suffer one heartache after another with just a few occasions for celebration.

Although Harry and Adelaide (Raphael) Hahn’s two sons were married in the 1930s, both weddings were overshadowed by deaths in the family. On January 22, 1934, their older son, Harry W. Hahn, Jr., married Elizabeth Hofheimer in Norfolk, Virginia. 7 Elizabeth was the daughter of J.Caesar Hofheimer and Bessie Hirschler of Norfolk.8 The bride and groom were both 24 years old.

The Washington Star provided this description of the wedding:

Washington DC Evening Star, January 28, 1934, p. 3

The youthful bride, who was given away by her brother, Mr. Edward Hofheimer, looked lovely in her wedding gown of aqua marine crepe, trimmed in Summer ermine. She carried a bouquet of lilies of the valley, a white bible that was used by the bridegroom’s mother and a duchess lace handkerchief that was carried by the bride’s mother. A family dinner followed the ceremony and at 7:30 o’clock in the evening Mr. and Mrs. Hahn left by boat for New York and sailed on Wednesday, January 24, for Bermuda to spent two weeks. On their return they will visit the bridegroom’s parents at their home…for a few days before going to their future home in Baltimore, where they have taken an apartment in Ingraham Hall.

The bridegroom had for his best man his brother, Mr. Arthur Hahn, who is a senior at Yale College. The bridegroom is a graduate of Yale, the class of ’31. ….

Imagine Jacob and Fannie’s pride if they’d lived to see two great-grandsons at Yale. In four generations the family had gone from new immigrants to Ivy League graduates.

But that pride and the joy of the newlywedded couple were soon eclipsed by sadness. Less than a year after the wedding, Harry W. Hahn, Sr., Adelaide’s husband, died “after a long illness” at age 54 on December 8, 1934. He would have turned 55 nine days later. His obituary reported that he had gone to Phillips Exeter Academy, spent a year at Harvard, and graduated from Georgetown University Law School before going into the shoe business established by his father and uncles. He was also active in many civic, business, and charitable organizations.

“H.W. Hahn Dies; Headed Shoe Firm,” Washington (DC) Evening Star, December 8, 1834, p.2.

Baltimore Sun, December 9, 1934, p. 7.

A few months later the family gathered again to celebrate a wedding, this time for Arthur Hahn, Adelaide and the late Harry Sr.’s younger son. On June 20, 1935, Arthur married Maxine Goodkind in Chicago.9  She was the daughter of Abraham Goodkind and Harriet Steele. She and Arthur were only 21 years old when they married.  This wedding did not receive the big write-up in the newspaper that Harry Jr.’s wedding had received eighteen months earlier and was presumably a less elaborate affair, given the recent death of Arthur’s father. The paper did report that they were married at the bride’s home in Chicago and would be returning to Washington where they would live with Arthur’s mother, Adelaide. The paper also reported that Arthur’s mother, his brother Harry Jr., and Harry’s wife Elizabeth also came to Chicago for the wedding.

Washington DC Evening Star, June 23, 1935, p. 4

Once again, the joy of the newlyweds was crushed by another death. On September 30, 1935, just three months after Arthur and Maxine’s wedding, Adelaide Raphael Hahn died from a sudden heart attack after being involved in a three-car accident in Riverdale, Maryland.10 According to the report in the Washington Evening Star, “[a]fter the accident Mrs. Hahn alighted from her car and talked to the police and the drivers of the other machines. Suddenly she collapsed and fell to the ground. She died shortly after Dr. Martin Keane arrived.”

The article also reported that Adelaide’s new daughter-in-law Maxine was in the car with her at the time as was her “colored maid,” Florence Walker, who suffered a possible fractured pelvis. Maxine and the other two drivers were unharmed. It still floors me every time the blatant racism of those times raises its ugly head. Why comment at all on the race of the maid? No mention was made of anyone else’s race. It is so apparent that those who were not white were considered “the other” and that it was considered totally acceptable for the press to make that distinction.

According to the same article, an autopsy was performed and confirmed that Adelaide had died from a heart attack, not from injuries sustained in the accident itself. The paper also reported that Adelaide had been suffering from a heart condition before the accident, according to her personal physician.

Washington DC Evening Star, October 1, 1935, p. 2.

In the space of less than two years, Arthur Hahn and Harry Hahn, Jr. had both experienced the joys of getting married and the heartbreaks of losing both of their parents.

The tragedies suffered by the extended family did not stop there.  Three members of the family died in December, 1936. First, on December 5, 1936, Martha Sondheim Rice, the wife of Sidney Rice, died from lung cancer at age 65; her brother Philip was the informant.

Martha Sondheim Rice death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 108501-111500
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

Then four days later on December 9, 1936, Martha’s husband Sidney Rice died at age 63 from a cerebral thrombosis. Once again, Philip Sondheim was the informant. Remember that Philip was not only Martha’s brother, but was also married to Sidney’s sister Jessica. That is, within four days Philip and Jessica each lost a sibling, and those siblings themselves had been husband and wife. Sidney and Martha were truly a couple who were together not only in life but in death.

Sidney Rice death certificate Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 108501-111500 Description Certificate Number Range: 108501-111500 Source Information Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

Six days after Sidney Rice died, the last remaining child of Jacob and Fannie Goldsmith, Emma Goldsmith Cohlman, died of an acute intestinal obstruction at age 85 on December 15, 1936. Her nephew Arthur Raphael, Huldah Goldsmith’s son, was the informant on her death certificate. Another nephew, Philip Goldsmith’s son Byron Goldsmith, was the doctor signing the death certificate.

Emma Goldsmith Cohlman death certificate
Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 105501-108500
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966

In less than a month, the family had suffered three losses.

There was, however, one happier occasion during 1936. Huldah Goldsmith Raphael’s older son J. Herbert Raphael married Matilda Wishoff, the daughter of two Russian immigrants, Hyman Wishoff and Rebecca Cohen. Matilda was born in Philadephia on September 20, 1909, not long after her parents and older siblings had immigrated; her father was a barber.  When they married, Matilda was 27, Herbert was 54.11

There was one final loss in the 1930s when Harry Goldsmith’s biological son Stanton Loeb Dreifus died on July 11, 1938. He was 53 years old. I don’t know how much, if any, contact he had had with Harry or Harry’s family after his mother remarried in 1901, but as he was my biological relative, I wanted to mark his passing as well. He was survived by his wife and one son. Another son had died as a toddler in 1915.12

By 1940, the family must have felt quite devastated by all these losses. But life did go on for those who remained—the seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren of Jacob and Fannie Goldsmith  who were still living.  They will be discussed in my next and final post on the descendants of Jacob and Fannie Goldsmith.

 

 

 


  1. Edwin and Rena Sternfels, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1577; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 1014; FHL microfilm: 2341312,
    Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  2. Sidney and Martha Rice, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2102; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0572; FHL microfilm: 2341836, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  3. Philip and Jessica Sondheim, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Brookline, Norfolk, Massachusetts; Roll: 933; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0023; FHL microfilm: 2340668, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  4. Ruth and Adrian Kramer, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts; Roll: 949; Page: 1A;Enumeration District: 0328; FHL microfilm: 2340684, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  5. Raphael family, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 2136; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 1075; FHL microfilm: 2341870, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  6. Adelaide and Harry W. Hahn, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: 304; Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 0377; FHL microfilm: 2340039, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  7. Marriage record of Harry W. Hahn, Jr., and Elizabeth Hofheimer, Ancestry.com. Virginia, Select Marriages, 1785-1940, Original data: Virginia, Marriages, 1785-1940. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013. 
  8. Elizabeth Hofheimer birth record, Ancestry.com. Virginia, Birth Records, 1912-2014, Delayed Birth Records, 1854-1911 Original data: Virginia, Births, 1864–2014. Virginia Department of Health, Richmond, Virginia. 
  9. Marriage record of Harry Hahn and Maxine Goodkind, Ancestry.com. Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960, Original data: Cook County Clerk, comp. Cook County Clerk Genealogy Records. Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago, IL: Cook County Clerk, 2008. 
  10.  District of Columbia Deaths, 1874-1961,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X2K4-884 : accessed 26 February 2018), Adelaide R Hahn, 30 Sep 1935, Riverdale, Prince George’s, Maryland, United States; citing reference ID , District Records Center, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 2,116,849. 
  11.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 
  12.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current, Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi. 

32 thoughts on “Til Death Do Us Part

  1. Amy,

    I have a pair of great-great grandparents who died 9 days apart and a pair of 3rd-great-grandparents who died 14 days apart. It’s possible that they caught the same fatal illness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have seen it numerous times. Sometimes it is the same illness—TB or Spanish flu—but as in the two cases in the post, sometimes the deaths are entirely unrelated medically. Some studies show that the stress of losing a spouse causes health issues to arise—heart, blood pressure, strokes, etc.

      Like

  2. Amy, every time I read one of your posts I’m amazed at the detail and your ability to keep the facts in some logical order.
    love to your and Harvey

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Couples who lived together for a very long time develop a bond that is broken when one of the two partners passes away. I believe that the surviving spouse experiences in the loss of the life-long partner an emptiness that he or she cannot bear. It is a psychological death that precedes physical death only a few days or weeks.
    As to racism in the 1930’s we need to be aware of the cultural context of a given time period. It is the INTENT of the wording that makes it racist. America’s best selling novel ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ made a huge impact on the anti-slavery movement in the States, which was the intent of the novel. Yet, many words used in it are being criticized today for its racial connotations. Some have gone so far as to suggest to republish the book with an acceptable set of vocabulary. That in my opinion is a too narrow view. I hope, Amy, that you do not mind me voicing my opinion in this sensitive social issue.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I always welcome opinions from my readers! My point is that it shows how racist the society was, not the newspaper alone. It was just accepted that a person of a non-majority race had to be singled out as different instead of either identifying everyone by race (which would be awful) or just identifying people without mentioning their race, as papers do now except where race is relevant to the story.

      And yes, it is heartbreaking for their families, but understandable why a couple who have lived together and loved each other for many years would become fragile after the death of a partner.

      Liked by 3 people

      • I would argue that the context we need to keep in mind is that racism and white supremacy were so deeply ingrained in society that even the language of an objectively well-intentioned book like Uncle Tom’s Cabin is steeped in otherizing racial terminology. Plenty of abolitionists were white supremacists (usually of the “soft” paternalistic variety) despite their laudable opposition to chattel slavery, and we today would do well to remember that–or learn it in the first place.

        Society’s definitely better today in terms of how we talk about people (by comparison, anyway), but unfortunately we’ve cleaned up our language far better than we’ve cleaned up our actual behavior.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I agree—and that, as I responded to the earlier comment, was my view—not that the paper was racist, but that society had normalized racism to such an extent that it didn’t occur to a newspaper that what they were doing was wrong.

        And yes, language is better, but only the start. We have come a long way, but not far enough.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep. I think a lot of people want to respond to points about “soft” racism by pointing out how [whatever] wasn’t “hard” racism, but that’s like saying an apple isn’t an orange. Duh. But they’re both fruits that grow on trees.

        Our potential continuing progress is so very hampered by the widespread belief that racism/white supremacy is only a “real” problem when it’s proudly wearing a pointy white hat. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, we only have to look at ourselves more honestly to know how deeply ingrained certain prejudices and stereotypes are. I am hoping that my grandchildren’s generation are growing up in an era where diversity in our culture and in their lives will help to eradicate all those long-buried prejudices. That’s my hope, though I remain unsure of how realistic it is.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Another amazing post full of fabulous detail…I am just blown away by the recorded newspaper articles/history your able to find on your family. I can’t find a line and I have been looking all week with some of the hints you shared on what you use. Poor Mrs Hahn ~ imagine who her son and new daughter in law felt. I am wondering about all the sadness though; then compared to the sadness in our times. Is it really any different? oops, I am getting to philosophical. I’ll stick with “her wedding gown of aqua marine crepe, trimmed in Summer ermine and she carried a bouquet of lilies of the valley, a white bible that was used by the bridegroom’s mother and a duchess lace handkerchief” Great detail Amy, always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I wish I could help you find newspaper articles, but to make you feel better, I have found it often more difficult to find articles for NYC relatives than for those who lived almost anywhere else. Too many people in NYC to report weddings and social news for ordinary people, I suppose. Have you tried the Fulton History site? It’s not easy to use, but they do have Brooklyn newspapers.

      Thanks as always, Sharon, for your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

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