Elkton, Maryland, The Wedding Capital of the East

As seen in my last post, in 1920 Edwin M. Goldsmith, Sr., was the secretary-treasurer of his uncle’s textile company, Friedberger-Aaron, and also the owner of thirteen US patents. He and his wife Jennie and their two sons, Henry and Edwin, Jr., were living together in Philadelphia. They also maintained a residence in Longport, New Jersey, near Atlantic City. Their daughter Cecile and her husband Julian Stern Simsohn and their two children were also living in Philadelphia, and Julian was working as a chemical engineer. Cecile and Julian had a third child, a daughter named Marjorie Goldsmith Simsohn, born on August 12, 1921, in Philadelphia.1

Edwin continued to be a successful inventor during the 1920s. He added six more patents to his portfolio between 1921 and 1930. His first was for the design for a stuffed doll encased in a removable cover so that it could be washed:2

In addition to patenting several inventions relating to the packaging, display, and sale of the textile fabrics made by Friedberger-Aaron where Edwin continued to work as secretary-treasurer, he also developed an invention for a hair curler “which may be operated to receive, confine and release the hair with the greatest possible facility”3  and a product that combined soap and towel into one article.4 The latter was described by Edwin as follows:

… a sheet of readily destructible material, such as paper tissue, of a size and having absorptive qualities enabling it to be used as a towel, the sheet being folded into flat form, and means connected to the sheet and forming a closed container or receptacle containing a quantity of soap, preferably in powder form.

During the 1920s, Edwin also held elective offices in Longport, New Jersey, where his second home was located:

Asbury Park Press, May 9, 1928, p. 2.

Edwin and Jennie’s son-in-law Julian Simsohn was very active as a chemical engineer in Philadelphia during the 1920s, as seen in numerous ads for his services in not just the Philadelphia newspapers but also papers in Chicago, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and  during those years. Here are two, one from the Philadelphia Evening Ledger and one I particularly liked which appeared in the Indianapolis Star:

Philadelphia Evening Ledger, September 20, 1928, p. 13.

Indianapolis Star, November 30, 1930, p. 25.

Here is a close up of the section in the cigar featuring Julian Simsohn:


Edwin and Jennie’s older son Henry, also a chemical engineer, had been working for a radiator manufacturer in 1920, and he continued to be listed with that company, G & O Mfg., in the 1921 and 1922 Philadelphia directories.5

I knew from the 1930 census that Henry married sometime before 1930, but I could not locate any record or other information about when he’d married until I found this list in the August 16, 1925 Philadelphia Inquirer of marriage licenses issued in one day in Elkton, Maryland:

“Elkton Marriages,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, August 16, 1925, p. 8.

Notice that it includes Henry F. Goldsmith and Ida P. Stryker of Longport, New Jersey, the town where Edwin’s family spent their summers. But why were so many people getting marriage licenses in one day from Elkton, Maryland? What was going on?

Well, according to this article by Marshall S. Berdan from the February 13, 2002 edition of the Washington Post, from about 1913 until 1938, Elkton, Maryland was a destination for those wishing to marry quickly. As the article explains:

It all started in 1913 when Delaware passed mandatory matrimonial waiting and public notification laws. Meanwhile Maryland — the “Free State” — imposed neither waiting period nor residency requirement. Those Delaware moralists should have just put up a sign reading “This Way to Elkton.”

As the most northeasterly county seat in Maryland, Elkton became the roadside chapel of choice for those who chose to marry in haste from throughout the Northeast. From just over 100 marriages per year at the turn of the century, tiny Elkton was soon cranking out well over 10,000 newlyweds a year — the vast majority from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — during the 1920s and ’30s. It became known as “America’s Gretna Green.”

This blog also sheds light on why Elkton became a wedding destination.

But why would Henry Goldsmith and Ida Stryker have been in such a rush to marry and in a place like Elkton?

Well, I have two theories.  First, Ida Stryker was born in Philadelphia on February 26, 1908.6 She was only seventeen in August 1925; Henry, who was born in 1893, was 32, almost twice her age. I can’t imagine that her parents would have been happy to see their teenage daughter marry a man in his thirties.

Second, Ida was not Jewish.  Her parents, George Holmes Stryker and Ella Williams, were Episcopalian.7  Perhaps her parents or Henry’s parents did not approve of the interfaith marriage. But Henry and Ida did marry, and in fact they stayed married until Henry’s death in 1963.  Ida, who lived to be 96, never remarried.

In 1930, Henry and Ida were living in Philadelphia, and Henry was working as an executive in a textile company—and I believe that company was Friedberger-Aaron. It is unnamed on the census,8 and the page where the Goldsmiths are listed in the 1930 Philadelphia directory on Ancestry is barely legible, but on the page with Goldsmiths listed, I can see two entries with Friedberger-Aaron after the names, so I assume those are the listings for Edwin and Henry Goldsmith.9 Perhaps that meant that at least Henry’s family was on good terms with Henry and Ida. Henry and Ida had one child together, a son Thomas Holmes Goldsmith, born in 1931.

Henry’s sister Cecile and her husband Julian Simsohn continued to live in Philadelphia with their three children in 1930, and Julian continued to work as an engineer.10

Edwin and Jennie’s youngest child, Edwin M. Goldsmith, Jr., was just coming of age in the 1920s.  He had graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia and then graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1923 with a degree in industrial engineering. 11 On the 1930 census he was living with his parents Edwin, Sr., and Jennie, in Longport, New Jersey,  and according to the census record, he was a radio salesman. His father continued to list textile manufacturing as his occupation.12

The 1920s were thus a good decade for the family of Edwin and Jennie Goldsmith. Their children were grown, and Edwin continued to find success with his inventions. The 1930s brought some changes to the family of Edwin Goldsmith, some happy, some sad.


  1.  Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007. SSN 169164752 
  2. E.M. Goldsmith, Doll, U.S. Patent No. 1,370,107, March 1, 1921. 
  3. E.M. Goldsmith, Hair Curler, U.S. Patent No. 1,493,195, May 6, 1924. 
  4. E.M. Goldsmith, Individual Washing and Drying Toilet Article, U.S. Patent No. 1,608,934, November 30, 1926 
  5.  Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1921, 1922. Source Information
    Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  6.  Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Birth Certificates, 1906-1910 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Birth certificates, 1906–1910. Series 11.89 (50 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Certificate No. 30149 
  7. Marriage record of George Stryker and Ella Williams, November 19, 1903, Philadelphia, PA.  Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Reel: 343. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Historical Society of Pennsylvania. 
  8. Henry and Ida Goldsmith, 1930 US census, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 1029.
    Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  9. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1930. Source Information
    Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  10. Cecile and Julian Simsohn, 1930 US Census, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 12A;Enumeration District: 1030. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  11.  Philadelphia Inquirer, obituary for EDWIN GOLDSMITH, RETIRED ENGINEER, (https://www.genealogybank.com/doc/obituaries/obit/0FBAE6E80E61F93B-0FBAE6E80E61F93B : accessed 25 March 2018). 
  12. Edwin Goldsmith, Sr., and family, 1930 US Census, Longport, Atlantic, New Jersey; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0056. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 

35 thoughts on “Elkton, Maryland, The Wedding Capital of the East

  1. Your theory about Henry Goldsmith and Ida Stryker and their hasty wedding reminded me of my wife’s mother who encountered opposition from her catholic family regarding the interfaith marriage. There was no place in Germany in the 1920’s, where assembly line weddings were being performed. So my wife’s mother and her beloved (most likely Jewish) resorted to the only method that would bring about approval of their union. They decided to have a baby. Their plan ended in disaster when the beloved partner had a fatal accident. Fortunately my wife’s mother found an honourable man, who married her and adopted the child as his own.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That story is so heartbreaking. And all the craziness about parents opposing marriages is, as you know. Stay tuned—in a couple of weeks I will be posting about another star-crossed couple.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Finally I can post here. As I mentioned earlier, that doll idea really grabbed me. Knowing how dirty a favorite toy can get and that a lot of dolls can’t be washed, I thought this was a great idea–especially maybe for sick children. Edwin sure had a nice diversity of ideas :). As far as Ida Stryker goes, do you know if she was related to the Strykers that began the company that makes hospital beds and so on? I don’t know how common the surname is, but I had never heard it before except in context with the company (which is based in Kalamazoo).

    Liked by 2 people

    • I hadn’t thought of the sick child angle, but yes, that would make sense. Do you remember throwing stuffed animals in the laundry and how they never quite seemed the same again?

      I don’t know whether it’s the same family as I didn’t explore too much into those Strykers. I figured they didn’t like my poor cousin much so they didn’t deserve my attention. 🙂 But I will check.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If it’s the same family they have changed . . . A LOT. Yes, the stuffed animals get all bunched up, especially the cheaper ones. When my daughter got (whisper: a horrific head lice case) we had three big garbage bags full of stuff animals that had to be stored for six months because they couldn’t be washed. Thanks for the reminder . . . .

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, been there, done that. The whole fifth grade had it when our younger daughter was in fifth grade. She got it twice. We finally had to cut off her long hair to a pixie cut because combing through her hair was such a nightmare. Thanks for reminding me!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Just awful, isn’t it? My daughter had some mutant strain. By the time we found it, there were lice the size of my THUMBNAIL jumping out of her hair!!! The pediatrician had me use some horrible poison that is only supposed to be on for 5 minutes and leave it for two hours. I had to keep my hands on her head, and my nails got fungus inside them :). POOR KID. We made her live on a blanket in the middle of the family room and not move from it. Finally, we figured out that the dogs were operating as moving blankets and I had to board them for two weeks to get rid of the lice. She picked up that strain at camp in the fair new Jersey haha. Around that time one of the national magazines like National Geographic or Time ran an article about this mutant strain.

        Liked by 1 person

      • One of our grandchildren had to be asleep while his love was washed. If his mother tried to put it into the laundry while he was awake, he almost passed out in a puddle of tears. He knew what the word drowning meant and thought his bear was drowning.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Amy, Isn’t it a sign of the times how much we have changed in our knowledge of tobacco and tobacco related products? Julian did a good job for the Dutch Masters company and the fact was a cigar was such a pleasure many men enjoyed. I’d almost forgotten that when babies were born in the 1950s it was customary in some places for the men to give out cigars to other men they knew as a token of sharing the happy occasion.

    I have read many, many vintage magazines such as “True Romance”, “True Story”, and the like. During the 1920s and 1930s many stories featured accounts of couples falling madly in love and after a short courtship they eloped. Henry and Ida were very much a part of that trend but I am so happy as I read on that the marriage was a lasted.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I always am a bit bemused by all ads where tobacco companies touted the health advantages of smoking—using doctors as their spokespeople. And it makes me wonder about the things we still do that people think are either healthful or at least non-harmful. Like vaping—at first it was supposedly to be a risk-free alternative to smoking tobacco. Now…they are finding otherwise.

      As for eloping–today kids seem to wait forever. They live together, buy homes together, even have kids together before they decide to get married. (In the name of full disclosure, my husband and I lived together before we married 40+ years ago, but we were already engaged!)

      Liked by 2 people

  4. What an interesting bunch of inventors from whom you hail. I like the idea of a washable doll cover back then, long before the plastics of today. And, plastics, like cigarettes and cigars, have been shown to be not-so-healthy after all. I, too, wonder what else we are currently exposed to that they will later say is toxic. I had a plastic doll in the early 60s, probably one of the first made of the rubbery but washable substance, that I took a blue crayon to (and for which I received full punishment). I wonder if your ancestor’s idea of the washable outer covering lead to the plastic materials later? Great post, Amy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. P.S. My great grandmother married her husband when she was 17 and eight months pregnant. He was 12 years her senior, not that much older; yet, I don’t think it was too uncommon for women to marry that young (regardless of pregnancy status). I see “Spinster” status written on marriage licenses for women in their 20s. Maybe fathers wanted their daughters “taken care of” and might have been in a hurry to have them married off?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The Legacy of Edwin Goldsmith: Inventiveness and Creativity | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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