My Three-Times-Great Uncle Abraham Goldsmith: A Bursting Bubble

The second of my Goldschmidt three-times-great-uncles to arrive from Germany to Philadelphia was Abraham, Jacob’s younger brother. He was born on March 13, 1832, in Oberlistingen and came to the US on August 21, 1850, listing his occupation as a merchant. He was eighteen years old.

Birth record of Abraham Goldschmidt
Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 668)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 4

Abraham Goldschmidt passenger manifest 1850
Year: 1850; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 091; Line: 1; List Number: 951

According to his obituary in The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent,1 Abraham first settled in Waynesburg and then Chester, Pennsylvania, before coming to Philadelphia in 1855. It’s interesting that he went first to Waynesburg, which is 25 miles from Washington, Pennsylvania, where his cousin Jacob Goldsmith was then living, rather than to Philadelphia, where his brother Jacob Goldsmith was living. My guess is that he was making a living as a peddler. But by 1855, he had moved to his brother’s city.

As I wrote about here, on January 17, 1858, Abraham married Cecelia Adler in Philadelphia.  Cecelia was the daughter of Samuel Adler and Sarah Kargau, and she was born on November 26, 1838, in Würzberg, Germany. She and her parents had immigrated to the US by 1850 and settled in Philadelphia where her father was a merchant.

Marriage record of Abraham Goldschmidt and Cecelia Adler
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 792
Organization Name: Congregation Rodeph Shalom
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013

By 1860, Abraham had Americanized his surname to Goldsmith, and he and Cecelia were living in Philadelphia, where Abraham was a clothing merchant with $15,000 worth of personal property. According to an inflation calculator, that would be worth almost $428,000 in today’s money.

Abraham and Cecelia (Adler) Goldsmith 1860 census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1163; Page: 914; Family History Library Film: 805163

Abraham and Cecelia had six children between 1861 and 1870, all born in Philadelphia: Milton (May 22,1861),2 Hilda (August 22,1862),3 Edwin (April 10,1864)4, Rose (October 19,1866)5, Emily (April 30,1868)6, and Estelle (January 20, 1870)7.

Here are some photographs of Abraham and Cecelia, courtesy of their descendant Julian Reinheimer:

On the 1870 census, Abraham claimed he had $25,000 worth of real estate and $20,000 worth of personal property. According to this inflation calculator, that would be the equivalent of about $820,000 in today’s money.  That seems incredible, but obviously Abraham was doing quite well in the clothing business. Cecelia’s parents were also living with Abraham and Cecelia and their six children in 1870, as well as three domestic servants.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 35, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1396; Page: 133B; Family History Library Film: 552895

Abraham might have been doing extremely well in his business, but he was not spared heartbreak. On November 8, 1874, Cecelia Adler Goldsmith died from apoplexy or what we would now call a stroke. She was only 35 years old and left behind six children ranging in age from six to thirteen years old. Abraham was left to raise these children on his own—with the help of his in-laws.

Cecilia Adler Goldsmith death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-69HW-K75?cc=1320976&wc=9F52-L29%3A1073307201 : 16 May 2014), 004010206 > image 874 of 1214; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Less than two years later, the family suffered another tragedy. Thirteen-year-old Hilda Goldsmith died from heart disease on June 7, 1876, in Philadelphia.  She would have turned fourteen two months later.

Hilda Goldsmith death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DZMS-RYC?cc=1320976&wc=9F56-929%3A1073334101 : 16 May 2014), 004058576 > image 749 of 1180; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

One year later in 1876, Abraham remarried. His second wife was Frances Spanier.8 I have not found very much about her background, but according to her death certificate9 she was born on September 13, 1855, in Germany, making her more than twenty years younger than Abraham. According to her obituary, she was born in Hanover, Germany, and came to the US as a young girl and lived with relatives in Baltimore. I have been unable to find any record of her living in Baltimore, and the only manifest I found that seemed possibly relevant shows a Franziska Spanier, seventeen years old, who arrived in New York from Germany on May 1, 1876.10

Abraham and Frances were married in 1876, according to Frances’ obituary. Their first child Alfred was born on August 11, 187711, and a second, Bertha, followed on August 17, 1878.12

Frances had taken on quite a bit when she married Abraham. Living with them in 1880 in addition to their own toddlers Alfred and Bertha were Abraham’s five surviving children from his first marriage to Cecelia Adler: Milton (now 19), Edwin (16), Rosa (13), Emily (11), and Estelle (9). Moreover, Abraham’s in-laws from his first marriage, Samuel and Sarah Adler, were also living in the household. Abraham was the only member of the household who was employed; his children were all in school, and his father-in-law was retired. Abraham was supporting all those family members in his work as a clothing merchant. And Frances was taking care of not only her children and her stepchildren but her husband’s former in-laws.  She did have the assistance of two servants living in the home.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1880 US census
Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Page: 60A; Enumeration District: 202
Description
ED: 202; Description: Philadelphia 6th Electoral District 12th Ward
Source Information
Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

To add to their financial and other responsibilities, Abraham and Frances then had two more children: Alice, born on August 29, 1880,13 and Louis, born November 4, 1883.14 (I found it interesting that three of Frances’ four children were born in August.) There were now nine children as well as four adults living in the home. Abraham’s first father-in-law Samuel Adler died on April 28, 1886.15

But Abraham had serious business problems ahead. From the 1860s and throughout the 1870s, Abraham had been in business with his brother Levy, who had arrived in Philadelphia three years after Abraham, but was eight years older. According to the 1881 Philadelphia directory, their business, Goldsmith Brothers, was in liquidation at that time. In 1882 Goldsmith Brothers is listed without any note about liquidation. And in 1883, Abraham and Levy were joined by their brother Meyer in the business.

Goldsmiths in the 1866 Philadelphia directory
Title: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1866
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

Goldsmith Bros 1881 Philadelphia directory
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1881
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

Goldsmith Bros 1883 Philadelphia directory
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1883
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

When Levy died from meningitis on December 29, 1886 at the age of 62,16 Goldsmith Brothers was in serious financial trouble. Two months after Levy’s death, Goldsmith Brothers was forced to make an assignment of its assets to another clothing business. The paper reported that at that time Goldsmith Brothers had assets of almost $70,000 but liabilities of over $142,000. From this report it appears that the creditors of Goldsmith Brothers were prepared to take 33 1/3 cents on the dollar for the money owed to them.

“The Creditors of Goldsmith Brothers,” The Philadelphia Times, February 13, 1887, p. 2.

Three days later there was a detailed update on the appraisal of the assets of the business, showing that Abraham had net assets of $300 and the company itself had net assets of $69,306.73:

“Goldsmith Brothers’ Estate,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, February 16, 1887, p. 2.

And two days after that the creditors agreed to accept 37 ½ cents on the dollar for the money owed to them by Goldsmith Brothers.

“The Goldsmith Failure,” The Philadelphia Times, February 18, 1887, p. 1.

I don’t know what caused the problems in the Goldsmith Brothers business, but there was a nationwide recession from 1882 until 1885 that very well may have contributed to their financial problems.17

Things must have seemed rather dire for Abraham at that point, but he regrouped, and by January 1888, he was in business with his two sons, Milton and Edwin:

The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 3, 1888, p. 2.

The 1888 Philadelphia directory shows that the business was now called A. Goldsmith & Sons, with Abraham’s two oldest sons, Milton and Edwin, working with him. They would both continue to work with Abraham throughout the 1890s.

A. Goldsmith & Sons, 1888 Philadelphia directory, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1888
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

The 1890s also brought some other changes as Abraham’s older children began to marry and have children of their own and Abraham faced some personal challenges.  More on that in my next post.


  1. The Jewish Exponent (Philadelphia), January 24, 1902, p. 3. 
  2.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VB16-KTZ : 8 December 2014), Milton Growsmith, 22 May 1861; citing bk 2 p 168, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,306. 
  3. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBYZ-D6J : 8 December 2014), Goldsmith, 22 Aug 1862; citing bk 4 p 157, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,307. 
  4.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6FXJ-86?cc=1951739&wc=M61X-4PF%3A251391701 : 21 May 2014), 004198957 > image 126 of 604; Department of Records. 
  5. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-6163-K8G?cc=1951739&wc=M61X-46D%3A251391401 : 21 May 2014), 004198958 > image 452 of 560; Department of Records. 
  6. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 121031-124420, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. 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. 
  7.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VB13-5S4 : 8 December 2014), Estelle Goldsmith, 20 Jan 1870; citing bk 1870 p 231, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,31 
  8. The (Philadelphia) Jewish Exponent, January 24, 1908, p. 11. 
  9. Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 006001-010000, Source Information
    Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. 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. 
  10.  Year: 1876; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 403; Line: 10; List Number: 344, Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 
  11. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1MS-C1M : 8 December 2014), Alfred Goldsmith, 11 Aug 1877; citing bk 1877 p 157, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,318 
  12.  Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBT5-5R2 : 8 December 2014), Goldsmith, 16 Aug 1878; citing bk 1878 p 23, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,319. 
  13. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBR5-HSD : 8 December 2014), Goldsmith, 29 Aug 1880; citing bk 1880 p 26, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,320. 
  14. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V1MW-53K : 8 December 2014), Louis Goldsmith, 04 Nov 1882; citing bk 1882 p 134, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,322. 
  15. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Death Certificates Index, 1803-1915 .“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803–1915.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2008, 2010. From originals housed at the Philadelphia City Archives. “Death Records.”. 
  16.  “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6913-HH9?cc=1320976&wc=9FRJ-K68%3A1073335202 : 16 May 2014), 004058561 > image 459 of 1239; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. 
  17. David Glasner, ed., Business Cycles and Depressions: An Encyclopedia (Garland Publishing Inc., 1997), pp. 149-151. 

21 thoughts on “My Three-Times-Great Uncle Abraham Goldsmith: A Bursting Bubble

  1. What an amazing life’s story of Abraham. Can you imagining the home the family might of lived in at the height of their wealth and good fortune? I was so happy to read he was able to regroup and start over with his sons.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Being able to read the signs of the economic environment is an important skill. I once had a neighbour who bought one heavy truck after another during a short boom period here in our province, dreaming about making a ‘killing’ with his fleet with the highways department. When the downturn came and his trucks were idle, he could not make the loan payments and went bankrupt. This must have happened to the Goldsmith merchants of your family, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can’t help but wonder about that 33 1/3 cents on the dollar business. Was it a business bankruptcy? Did they have such a legal thing in those days? I can’t help but wonder what that was like in those days to have creditors accept so much less and then to go on and “grow” another successful business. I know that our legal system today makes that customary. What was it like THEN? Inquiring mind wants to know.
    Also, that heart disease as a child cause of death! I assume that if they knew it was her heart it was a congenital condition, but I do wonder with her and with the “apoplexy” if sometimes there were accidents (so many poisons around, for instance) that were attributed to what were in fact sort of “symptoms.” If that makes any sense.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Hi Amy, it was admirable how Abraham began again with his sons after the recession of 1882-1885. What a great role model not to be defeated by his previous downturn.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Amy, once again you have shared with us your fascinating family history. It is wonderful the family did so well in the clothing business, and good he had sons to help overcome the previous economic downturn. I was struck by the reason for the death of the young girl as heart disease. I wondered too if this was an undiagnosed congenital abnormality. Anyway, once again, this is fascinating. Keep them coming. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Milton Goldsmith: Rabbi and Priest | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  7. Pingback: Edwin M Goldsmith, Inventor | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  8. Pingback: Emily Goldsmith, Author: “She opened her mouth in wisdom and the law of kindness is on her tongue.” | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  9. Pingback: Alfred Goldsmith: Star-Crossed Lover? | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  10. Pingback: Meyer Goldsmith: Another Clothier and More Double Cousins | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  11. Pingback: Levi Goldsmith: The Last Brother to Arrive from Oberlistingen | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

  12. Pingback: How Did I Lose Track of These Photographs? | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.