Eugene and Maurice Goldsmith: Together at Home and at Work

In 1910 the two surviving sons of Meyer and Helena Goldsmith were living with their parents in New York City.  Eugene Goldsmith, 51, was in the import business, and his brother Maurice, 46, was working in a department store. They were both single and had lived together with their parents Helena (Hohenfels) and Meyer Goldsmith all their lives, first in Philadelphia and then in New York City. But with their mother’s death in 1910 and then their father’s in 1911, their lives changed.

Eugene and Maurice Goldsmith (possibly). Courtesy of the family.

Meyer Goldsmith 1910 US census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1028; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0739; FHL microfilm: 1375041
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

In 1913, Eugene married May Jacobs in Philadelphia.1 He was 54, she was 41. May was the daughter of Michael Jacobs and Alice Arnold, both of whom were born in Pennsylvania.2 May’s father died when she was just a young child, and she and her three sisters were all living together with their mother in Philadelphia in 1910.3 I’d love to know how May connected with Eugene, who had by that time been living in New York City for over twenty years.

In 1915 Eugene and May were living at 817 West End Avenue in New York City; Eugene was still in the import business, and May was doing housework. They were still living at 817 West End Avenue in 1920, and Eugene’s import business was now identified as umbrellas. They also had a servant living with them.

Eugene Goldsmith 1915 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 18; Assembly District: 17; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 28, Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1915

As for Maurice, the 1915 New York State census lists him (now as Murry Goldsmith) in his own household at 256 West 97th Street in New York City, working as a clothing salesman.4  Despite finding him listed in both the 1920 and 1922 New York City directories and having addresses from both years, I was unable to find Maurice/Murry/Murray on the 1920 US census. But the 1920 directory revealed important information about both Murray and Eugene.5

I learned that by 1920 Eugene and Maurice were involved in a new business together. Eugene is listed as the president of a firm called Goldsmith-Dannenberg in the 1920 New York City directory, and Murray is listed as its treasurer. Barnard Dannenberg was the secretary, and their business was described as infants’ wear.

New York, New York, City Directory, 1920 (under Goldsmith)
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

New York Times, August 9, 1922, p.12

Unfortunately, this business soon ran into legal problems with a company that failed to take delivery and pay for a large order of goods from Goldsmith-Dannenberg.6 According to the complaint filed by their lawyer, Leo Levy (Eugene and Murray’s brother-in-law), on December 26, 1919, Berg Bros., Inc., contracted with Goldsmith-Dannenberg for the purchase of 373 dozen specially made hand-knit caps for infants for a total price of $5051.25, to be delivered in several separate installments over a several month period. Berg Bros. accepted the first installment, which was very small compared to the overall order (nine dozen caps), but refused to accept the last two installments of 182 dozen caps each. The purchaser had paid Goldsmith-Dannenberg only $141.25 of the $5051.25 purchase price.  Goldsmith-Dannenberg asserted that since the goods were specially made for this purchaser, they could not be resold and that therefore the company was entitled to the complete purchase price as damages.

In its answer, Berg Bros. denied the allegations in the complaint and also asserted two defenses: first, that the contract was not in writing and thus was unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds because it was for more than $50 worth of goods, and second, that the employee who entered into the contract with Goldsmith-Dannenberg did not have the authority to do so. The defendant also claimed that the goods were “standard” goods that could be easily resold by the plaintiff in order to mitigate its damages.

I was disappointed that I could not find out how the case was resolved—whether by a court or by a settlement between the parties. The only decision I could locate relating to the case was not on the merits of the underlying claim but rather on a procedural question involving the plaintiff’s request to take a deposition of some of the defendant’s employees.7 But given that the last advertisements and directory listings for Goldsmith-Dannenberg are dated 1922, it appears that the company did not recover from this litigation or otherwise ran into business trouble and went out of business.

In 1925, Eugene listed himself both in the New York State census and in the New York City directory as once again in his own umbrella importing business (I don’t know whether he had ever left this business even when involved in the baby clothes business).8 He and May were living at 500 West End Avenue. As for Maurice/Murray, the 1925 New York City directory lists him at 248 West 105th Street and as “treasurer,” but there is no indication as to where he was serving as treasurer. 9 Perhaps his brother’s umbrella company? Unfortunately I couldn’t find Murray on the 1925 New York State census, which might have provided more details.

The 1930 US census found Eugene and May still living at 500 West End Avenue and Eugene still in the umbrella importing business.10 Murray was still at 248 West 105th Street, where the 1930 census shows that he was one of a number of people boarding in the household of Joseph Mantzer. His occupation was given as salesman for an umbrella company, obviously that owned by Eugene.11

Maurice/Murray Goldsmith died at age seventy on April 21, 1933;12 his death notice in the New York Times stated that he died after a “short illness.” He was described as the “beloved son of the late Meyer and Helena Goldsmith and dear brother of Eugene J. Goldsmith, Rose G. Morgenstern and Florence G. Levy.” There was also a death notice posted by his Elks Lodge.

New York Times, April 23, 1933, p. 28.

In 1940, Eugene and May were living at 277 West End Avenue, and Eugene no longer was working.13 He died six years later on April 27, 1946. 14 He was 86 years old. His wife May died the following year on October 11, 1947.  She was 75.15 A family member shared with me that May had beautiful porcelain and lace dolls which she allowed this family member to play with when she was a young child.

Neither Eugene nor Maurice had any direct descendants and were survived by one of their sisters, Florence, and by their nieces and nephew. In so many ways, their stories are stories of the American dream—two sons of immigrant parents who created their own business, used the legal system to try and find justice, lost their business but started all over again, just as their father Meyer had after losing his business in Philadelphia and moving to New York City.

 

 

 

 

 


  1.  Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Marriage License Number: 294169. 
  2. Michael Jacobs death certificate, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VK8M-GJF : 8 March 2018), Michael Jacobs, 07 Jan 1880; citing v A p 15, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,003,706. Alice Jacobs and family 1880 census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Page: 105B; Enumeration District: 205. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census. Jay Jacobs death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 087501-090500. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. 
  3. Alice Jacobs and daughters, 1880 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 15, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1391; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0232; FHL microfilm: 1375404. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  4. Murry Goldsmith, 1915 New York State census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 12; Assembly District: 17; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 12. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1915 
  5. New York, New York, City Directory, 1920, 1922. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  6. The legal papers connected with this case can be found here. They were filed in connection with an appeal with the New York Appellate Division of an order dated December 28, 1920, from the New York Supreme Court for the County of New York, Index No. 24707. 
  7. Goldsmith-Dannenberg v. Berg Bros., Inc., 196 A.D. 930 *; 1921 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6091 **; 187 N.Y.S. 935 (1921). 
  8. Eugene Goldsmith, 1925 New York State census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 52; Assembly District: 09; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 5. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925. New York, New York, City Directory, 1925. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  9.  New York, New York, City Directory, 1925. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  10. Eugene and May Goldsmith, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 25A; Enumeration District: 0431. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  11. Murry Goldsmith, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0489. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  12.  Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948. Certificate 9791. 
  13. Eugene and May Goldsmith, 1940 US Census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02637; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 31-587A. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  14. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WY9-ZN3 : 10 February 2018), Eugene J Goldsmith, 27 Apr 1946; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,132,945. 
  15. New York Department of Health; Albany, NY; NY State Death Index; Certificate Number: 62459. Ancestry.com. New York, Death Index, 1880-1956 

16 thoughts on “Eugene and Maurice Goldsmith: Together at Home and at Work

  1. To conclude a major business transaction on the basis of a handshake instead of a written contract was a fatal mistake for the business of Eugene and Maurice Goldsmith. Fortunately, both were resilient enough to carry on with their lives. Again what difference it makes when you can show some old photographs, Amy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Centuries ago, Sharon! Back in 1677 England passed a statute that required certain contracts to be in writing in order to be legally enforceable—e.g., contracts over a certain amount, contracts for over a year, and so on. Similar laws are also part of the law in every state in the US. But that doesn’t mean people can’t live up to an oral agreement—they just can’t go to court to enforce it, if it falls into one of the categories that the statute requires to be in writing.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I did look for some background on Dannenberg, but found nothing to explain how they connected. There were Dannenbergs also in Philadelphia, so maybe that was how they found each other.

      Like

  2. I’m intrigued as to how May and Eugene met, she was a more mature bride for that period.
    There has to be a lot of trust in a business handshake without a written contract, nevertheless
    they had the optimism to strive ahead and succeed.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The most likely reason that they met was that some elderly relative of one or the other spoke to the lady’s mother and said – look here’s a single man who needs woman to look after him. Do you think your daughter would be interested, and then after a conversation or two, invited them both to tea. It happened all the time, and my rather outspoken great-uncle Rudolf Moos has described the process in his memoirs. Single women had a hard time, and men got kudos and support by getting married, so often romance wasn’t the main consideration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Eva, for your thoughts. I don’t think so in this case as both Eugene and May’s parents had all passed away by the time they married. But you never do know.

      Like

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