Edwin M Goldsmith, Inventor

Edwin M. Goldsmith, the second son and third child of Abraham Goldsmith and Cecelia Adler, was born on April 10, 1864. 1 As we have seen, for many years he and his brother Milton worked together in their father’s clothing business in Philadelphia, A. Goldsmith & Sons. But in the 20th century and especially after their father died in 1902, their lives took separate and quite different directions.

Whereas Milton focused on his writing and worked in advertising in New York City, Edwin stayed in Philadelphia and became an inventor. Between 1900 and 1933 he was awarded 23 patents on a wide range of inventions. But like his brother Milton, he relied on a more conventional career for income, in his case working as an executive in a textile company.

As I wrote earlier, Edwin Goldsmith married Sarah Virginia “Jennie” Friedberger in 1891. Edwin and Jennie had their first child, Cecile Adler Goldsmith, on January 28, 1892; she was named for Edwin’s mother. A second child, Henry Friedberger Goldsmith, named for Jennie’s father, was born on September 8, 1893. In 1900 Edwin and Jennie and their children were living in Philadelphia where Edwin continued to be a clothing merchant. Their third and final child, Edwin M. Goldsmith, Jr., was born on March 8, 1902, in Philadelphia.2

Edwin Goldsmith and family, 1900 US census
ear: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 22, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0486
Enumeration District: 0486; Description: Philadelphia City Pa, 22nd Ward, 10th Division, bounded by Hancock, Penn, Germantown Ave, Laurel, Bowman
Source Information
Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census

It was also in this first decade of the 20th century that Edwin began to obtain patents on many of his inventions. Between 1900 and 1906, he was awarded eight patents. One of his first patents was awarded for the design of a pencil, which Edwin described as follows:3

My invention consists of a lead or other pencil formed of a telescopic or collapsible barrel and means for connecting a length or piece of lead or marking material therewith whereby as said lead or material is worn away it may be exposed to present a fresh portion by the reduction in the length of the barrel, said piece having one end movably guided in the tip of the pencil and its other end rigidly held in the opposite end of the barrel whereby it cannot be detached through said tip.

In other words—a retractable pencil!

Among his other early inventions were a method for holding a cylindrical cake of soap to maximize the use of the soap;4 a savings-bank coin-operated clock; 5 a pencil sharpener designed to prevent the breaking of the point of the pencil;6 a device for carrying a pocketbook or purse;7 and the design of memorandum or account or other books that facilitated turning pages to get to a new leaf. 8 Obviously Edwin was interested and skilled in creating a wide array of products.

While working on these inventions, Edwin continued to work as a clothier, as seen in the 1905 Philadelphia city directory.9 But by 1910, he had changed occupations and reported on the 1910 census that he was a manufacturer of braids and lace. In the 1910 and 1911 Philadelphia directories10 (and in many thereafter), he was listed as the secretary-treasurer of Friedberger-Aaron Manufacturing Company, a textile company incorporated by Edwin’s uncle Simon Friedberger and his partner Max Aaron in 1899.11

Edwin Goldsmith and family, 1910 US Census,
Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 22, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1395; Page: 5A; Enumeration District: 0403; FHL microfilm: 1375408
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

From that point on, some of his patented inventions were assigned to Friedberger-Aaron and many related to the display and/or sale of merchandise in their business. For example, in 1916, Edwin received a patent for a ribbon reel, which he described as follows:12

The object of my invention is to provide a reel for ribbons that may be readily manipulated to effect or facilitate the winding upon, or unwinding from, the reel of the ribbon, and to construct the same so inexpensively that it will be practicable to give the same away with the ribbon as an inducement for the latter’s purchase.

Some of his other inventions relating to the business of Friedberger-Aaron included a box for displaying and selling fabric so that the purchaser could see the fabric both before and after purchasing;13 a travel container for toiletries designed to use space efficiently;14 and a holder for containing and displaying silk and other fabrics.15

Beginning in about 1909, Edwin and his family started spending extended periods in the Atlantic City area. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on June 13, 1909, that Edwin Goldsmith and his family were beginning an extended stay at the Hotel Rudolph in Atlantic City, a hotel opened in 1895 and located on the Boardwalk.16

In 1911, Edwin is listed in the Atlantic City directory in its Longport section.17 In 1915 he and his family were listed in the New Jersey census in Longport. The census was dated June 16, 1915, suggesting that Edwin’s family was in Longport for the summer.  Living with them were also a cook and a maid:

Edwin Goldsmith, Sr., and family, 1915 NJ Census
New Jersey State Archive; Trenton, NJ, USA; State Census of New Jersey, 1915; Reference Number: L-13; Film Number: 2
Township: Buena Vista – Weymouth
Ancestry.com. New Jersey, State Census, 1915

But their principal residence remained Philadelphia.  They are listed in several Philadelphia directories during the 1910s.18

Thank you to David Baron and Roger Cibella for sharing this photograph of Edwin Goldsmith and his family. From left to right, Cecile, Henry, Edwin, Jennie, and Edwin, Jr.:


Edwin Goldsmith and family, c. 1910

Edwin and Jennie’s older son Henry graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1914 and then from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1917, according to his obituary. 19 On June 15, 1917, Henry registered for the World War I draft:

Henry F. Goldsmith World War I draft registration
Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907644; Draft Board: 24.  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

At that time Henry was employed by Midvale Steel Company and Worth Business Company as a chemical engineer doing expert work in their munitions departments. He later enlisted in the Navy Reserve Force on April 2, 1918, and was on active duty until March 8, 1919, in the Third Naval District in New York City. He was discharged on September 10, 1921 after an additional eighteen months of inactive duty.20

After the war, life returned to normal for the Goldsmith family. On July 23, 1920, the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger reported that Edwin and his family were “passing the summer at their bungalow, in Longport, N.J.” 21 On the 1920 census, Edwin, Jennie, and their two sons Henry and Edwin, Jr., were listed as living in Philadelphia.  Strangely, Edwin was now listed as a chocolate manufacturer. But that must be an enumerator error, as the 1921 Philadelphia directory continued to list Edwin as the secretary-treasurer of Friedberger-Aaron.

That same directory lists Henry Goldsmith as a manager at G & O Manufacturing, a company that manufactured automobile radiators; the 1920 census listed Henry as a radiator salesman.22 Edwin, Jr. must have still been in school as he is listed without an occupation; he was eighteen in 1920.

Edwin Goldsmith and family 1920 US Census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 28, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1632; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 885. Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

Edwin and Jennie’s daughter Cecile was not living with them in 1920 because she had married Julian Stern Simsohn in 1916.23 Julian was born on January 19, 1890, in Philadelphia, and was the son of Joseph S Simsohn, a physician born in 1852 in either Romania or Germany (the records conflict) who immigrated to the United States in 1873. Julian’s mother Clara Stern was a native Philadelphian. 24 Julian had graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1911 with a degree in chemistry and is listed in their 1917 alumni directory as a consultant on water purification and boiler treatment and an inventor of photographic apparatus. Edwin must have been pleased to have a son-in-law who was also an inventor.25

UPDATE: It turns out that Julian was related by marriage to Cecile. His mother Clara had a brother Sidney who was married to Edwin’s sister Rose.  See more here.

From Julian’s registration for the draft in World War I we can see a clue as to how Cecile met Julian.  It appears that, like Cecile’s brother Henry, Julian was also working as a munitions expert for Midvale Steel Company:

Julian Stern Simsohn World War I draft registration
Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907616; Draft Board: 13.  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Cecile and Julian’s first child was born on November 19, 1917, a daughter named Jean Claire Simsohn. Two years later on December 10, 1918, their son Julian Stern Simsohn, Jr., was born. On the 1920 census they were all living in Philadelphia, and Julian Sr. was working as a chemical engineer.

Julian and Cecile Goldsmith Simsohn, 1920 census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 28, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T625_1632; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 886

Thus, by 1920 Edwin Goldsmith and his family were all doing well in Philadelphia. He had continued his work as an inventor, and he had a son Henry and a son-in-law Julian who were both chemical engineers.  Edwin and Jennie had two young grandchildren.  They all seemed to be living comfortably.

What would the next decade bring them?

To be continued.

  1.  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. Their second child Hilda had died as a child, as discussed here. 
  2. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Roll #: 2288; Volume #: Roll 2288 – Certificates: 301350-301849, 01 Jun 1923-02 Jun 1923. Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925  
  3. E.M. Goldsmith, Lead or other pencil, U.S. Patent 659,026, October 2,1900. 
  4. E.M. Goldsmith, Soap and soap-holder, U.S. Patent 757397, April 12, 1904. 
  5. E. M. Goldsmith, Clock, U.S. Patent 822,598, June 5, 1906. 
  6. E.M. Goldsmith, Pencil-sharpener, U.S. Patent 755,480, March 22, 1904. 
  7. E.M. Goldsmith, Carrying device for pocket-books, etc., U.S. Patent 667,083, January 29, 1901. 
  8. E.M Goldsmith, Memorandum, order, diary, account, sample, or similar book, U.S. Patent 803,480, June 5, 1906. 
  9. 1905 Philadelphia Directory, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. 
  10. 1910 and 1911 Philadelphia directories, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. 
  11. Legal Notices, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 27, 1899, p. 11. 
  12. E.M. Goldsmith, Ribbon Reel, U.S. Patent 1,187,986, June 20 1916. 
  13. E.M. Goldsmith, Combined braid-holder and bodkin-carrier, U.S. Patent 1,054,763, March 4, 1913. 
  14. E.M. Goldsmith, Container for toilet preparations, U.S. Patent 1,289,440, December 31, 1918. 
  15. E.M. Goldsmith, Holder for elastic and similar goods, U.S. Patent 1,183,003, May 16, 1915. 
  16. The Philadelphia Inquirer, June 13, 1909, p. 47. 
  17. Atlantic City, New Jersey, City Directory, 1911, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  18. E.g. Philadelphia city directories, 1911, 1914, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  19. “H.F. Goldsmith, Nylon Executive,” The Phladelphia Inquirer, October 29, 1963, p. 38. 
  20.  Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, 1934–1948. RG 19, Series 19.91. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 
  21. Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger, July 23, 1920, p. 9. 
  22. Philadelphia city directory, 1921, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  23.  Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data:”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. License No. 350555 
  24. E.g.,Julian Simsohn and parents, 1910 US Census, Year: 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1394; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0334; FHL microfilm: 1375407. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census. 
  25. Ancestry.com. U.S., School Catalogs, 1765-1935 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. 

25 thoughts on “Edwin M Goldsmith, Inventor

  1. What a versatile family the Goldsmiths were! Edwin, the inventor, fascinated me with his inventions. They were not all very practical like one of the telescoping pencil. But they all revealed the mind of one with great engineering skills. Looking forward to read the next episode, Amy!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I want to live with my cook and maid in that hotel for an “extended stay”! 🙂 So I guess the career changing didn’t hurt his finances? That is one thing that hasn’t come up for me before in research–dealing with what happens with a second or multiple residence household. That could complicate things in finding someone. If my relatives had another home, it was generally a lake cottage not all that far from home, but there have been some cases where they seemed to be in Michigan, Florida, Michigan, you know.
    Wouldn’t it be fun to be an inventor? I always have ideas I think would sell but lack the engineering knowledge necessary for putting together the sketch and model. To have the ability to put it together like that is wonderful.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t even have the ideas! Every time some new product comes out I wonder why I didn’t think of that! But like Milton, some of us are more word-oriented than thing-oriented. 🙂

      The second home thing hasn’t come up for me before—if someone had one, it didn’t appear on the census as it does here. Lucky Edwin. I don’t know if the money came from his inheritance, his inventions, or his job, but it does appear that they were quite comfortable.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I just typed out a long response and WP “rebooted” on me, the stinkers. And it’s late, and I am hungry for the P.F. Chang’s we picked up for dinner. Yes, Edwin was very lucky. It really gave him the freedom to work on his inventions and business pursuits.

        Liked by 2 people

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  7. I’m also looking forward to part two. I had no idea my great uncle Edwin was an inventor. I’d love to see what you have about his children and grandchildren.

    Liked by 1 person

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