Lena Goldschmidt Basch, Wife, Mother, and Businesswoman: 1880-1890

With my last Goldsmith post, I finished the saga of Jacob Goldsmith and his fourteen children. Now I will turn to Jacob’s sister, Lena Goldschmidt Basch and her story.

We’ve already seen that Lena, who was born to my 4-times great-uncle Simon Goldschmidt and his first wife Eveline Katzenstein in Oberlistingen on April 17, 1828, immigrated to the US in the 1850s and married Gustavus Basch in 1856. They first lived in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, then in Pittsburgh, and finally by 1878 had relocated to Columbus, Ohio, where they remained for the rest of their lives.

Lena and Gustavus had six children: Frank (1857), Jacob (1858), Hinda (1860), Joel (1863), Ella (1865), and Joseph (1867). According to the 1880 census, all of them except Jacob were then living with their parents in Columbus. Gustavus and his oldest son Frank were working in a vinegar factory; Lena and the other children were all at home. Jacob was living and working as a clerk for a hotel in Hamilton, Ohio, which is about a hundred miles southwest of Columbus.1

Gustavus Basch and family, 1880 US census, Census Place: Columbus, Franklin, Ohio; Roll: 1016; Page: 201D; Enumeration District: 029, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

The Columbus directories in the 1880s, however, had me confused. The 1880 directory listed Gustavus as the agent for “L. Basch Vinegar Works” and residing at 308 e Friend; there were also separate listings for Frank and Joel residing at the same address and identified as “vinegar makers.” The 1881 directory did not list Gustavus at all, but listed Frank and Jacob and “L.Basch” as working for L. Basch & Sons in the rags, iron, and metal business. Those three were all still residing at 308 e Friend. Joel now was listed as a clerk for J. Goodman and residing at 268 e Friend. In 1882, Gustavus reappeared and is listed along with Frank and Jacob as working for L. Basch & Sons and now all residing at 153 e Sixth; there is also a listing for the mysterious L. Basch, also working for L.Basch & Sons and living at 152 e Sixth.2

1881 Columbus directory

1882 Columbus directory

So who was L.Basch? At first I thought it might be Gustavus’ father, whose name was Louis. But there is no listing in the 1880 census or any other census for an L. Basch who could have been Gustavus’ father. I don’t think he ever left Germany. Had Gustavus named the business in honor or memory of his father?

Or could the L stand for Lena? That certainly would have been unusual—to have a business named for a mother and her sons, especially since Gustavus was still alive and well.

The 1884 directory seemed to answer that question:

Columbus, Ohio, City Directory, 1884
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

So “L. Basch” was Lena! How interesting that she was the one for whom this business was named, not her husband. In fact, in 1884, Gustavus isn’t even listed with the L. Basch & Sons business; Lena must have been the one in charge.

In 1886, Gustavus is back in the listings as G. Basch, junk dealer, and now the family is residing at 335 E. Rich.  Frank and Jacob were now working at L. Basch & Sons; Joel was working as a cutter, and Joseph was a salesman.

Columbus, Ohio, City Directory, 1886
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

By 1888, things had changed a bit:

Columbus, Ohio, City Directory, 1888
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

Now Gustavus was associated with Levy Mendel & Co, as was “L[ena] Basch;” Frank and Jacob were still in the L.Basch & Sons junk business, and Joseph continued to work as a salesman. They all, as well as Hinda, were living at 407 E. Rich. Only Joel and Ella were not listed. Where were they?

Ella, the fifth of Gustavus and Lena’s six children, was the first to get married. She married Isadore Shatz on April 11, 1888, in Columbus. He was thirty, she was 22. Isadore was born on December 25, 1857, in Austria- Hungary,3 and immigrated to the US when he was six in 1863 with his parents David and Fannie Shatz.4 They settled in Cincinnati where David Shatz was working as a stone cutter in 1870.5 In 1880, Isadore was working as a clerk and living with his family in Cincinnati.6 The 1886 Cincinnati directory lists Isadore as a salesman, his father David as a foreman cutter.7

Ella Basch and Isadore Shatz, Ancestry.com. Ohio, County Marriage Records, 1774-1993

As for Joel, I could not find him in the Columbus directories after 1886, so I turned to the newspaper databases to see if I could locate him. From this ad in The Lima News of June 29, 1888 (p.4), I knew that Joel had moved to Lima, Ohio, where he was an “artist tailor” making men’s suits for $20. Twenty dollars—imagine that! Lima is approximately 90 miles from Columbus.

In fact, Joel had been in Lima for a while because this article from the January 17, 1888, Lima News (p. 4) revealed that Joel had suffered $2500 worth of smoke and water damage due to a fire at his store in Lima. Fortunately his losses were covered by insurance:

By 1889 Joel had apparently left Lima and was working in Findlay, Ohio, which is 34 miles from Lima and 92 miles from his family in Columbus. This article reports that one of Joel’s employees had embezzled $230 from Joel.

“John Werst Arrested, Pays and Is Let Off,” Lima (OH) News, August 15, 1889, p. 4

Was all this just bad luck, or was something else going on? I ask because of the next article from the February 6, 1890 Lima News (p. 4). Apparently Joel was a bit of a gambler, and after losing a considerable amount of money, his family shut down his Findlay store:

Given that ending to his Findlay business, I wondered whether the fire and reported embezzlement were also schemes engineered by Joel to cover gambling debts.

Looking at Gustavus’ work record beginning in 1860 raises some questions about his business acumen as well. In 1860, he was a clothing merchant in Connellsville. In 1870, he was working for H. Bier & Company, a brass foundry in Pittsburgh. In 1880, he was in Columbus working for a vinegar company. In the 1880s he worked for some of the time in L. Basch & Sons, a junk dealership run by his wife Lena, and then for Levy Mendel & Company, a cigar company.  There are some directories where he had no occupation listed. That is quite a list of businesses over a thirty year period with no real consistency in the industries in which he worked—clothing to brass to vinegar to junk to cigars. The fact that he also moved with his family several times also creates a sense of instability.

But once the family settled in Columbus in the 1880s, for the most part they stayed put. Maybe Gustavus was a renaissance business man, using his skills in numerous varied enterprises, and not a flighty man who couldn’t find his niche. It’s hard to know.

UPDATE on Rebecca Goldsmith Levy: I was able to obtain a copy of her death certificate from Colorado. Please see this post for more information.




  1. Jacob Basch, 1880 US census, Census Place: Hamilton, Butler, Ohio; Roll: 997; Page: 409B; Enumeration District: 036, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  2.  Columbus, Ohio, City Directory, 1880, 1881, 1882, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  3. Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GPFX-SYCQ?cc=1307272&wc=MD9F-XTL%3A287601901%2C294657901 : 21 May 2014), 1915 > 57771-60750 > image 2547 of 3300. 
  4. Shatz, 1900 US census, Census Place: Findlay Ward 4, Hancock, Ohio; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0061; FHL microfilm: 1241283, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  5. Shatz, 1870 US census, Census Place: Cincinnati Ward 1, Hamilton, Ohio; Roll: M593_1209; Page: 99A; Family History Library Film: 552708, Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census 
  6. Shatz, 1880 US census, Census Place: Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio; Roll: 1028; Page: 15B; Enumeration District: 166, Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  7. Cincinnati, Ohio, City Directory, 1886, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 

19 thoughts on “Lena Goldschmidt Basch, Wife, Mother, and Businesswoman: 1880-1890

  1. Very sad to see about the gambling. Most people have no idea of the destructiveness of gambling on the lives of many people. I love that Lena owned a business and didn’t wholly disguise her name in the name of the business!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Very Interesting with the business listed under Lena – couple that with Gustavus’s business track record, she/they could have been protecting what they knew could have been lost – just a thought. Sounds like she may have been the brains behind the brawn. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You pulled me into the story with the directory listings and the discovery that Lena was behind the company name. Gustavus may have realized she was a good businesswoman and chose to not play a permanent part in the business. As for Joel, the fire being intentional was my first thought as only the stock was insured but I hate to jump to conclusions.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very interesting post. A website I use had this to say about those $20 suits.

    “What cost $20.00 in 1888 would cost $564.30 in 2018.
    Also, if you were to buy exactly the same products in 2018 and 1888,
    they would cost you $20.00 and $0.72 respectively”

    It puts the value of that $20 in a different light.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Gustavus and Lena Goldsmith Basch 1890-1900: Who Was Louis Basch? | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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