In August, I received a wonderful collection of photographs from my cousin Marilyn, the great-granddaughter of Henry Goldsmith and the granddaughter of Helen Goldsmith; I’ve written about Henry and about Helen in several places, including here, here, here, and here. Marilyn and I are both the four-times great-granddaughters of Fradchen Schoenthal. We are also both descendants of Jacob Falke Goldschmidt, the father of my three-times great-grandfather, Seligmann Goldschmidt and Marilyn’s great-great-grandfather Simon Goldsmith.
The next set of posts will feature the photographs Marilyn sent, most of which are of her grandmother Helen and some of Helen’s siblings and of Helen’s sons Edgar and Malcolm and their children. Some of these photographs were labeled, some were not. And even where labeled, sometimes those labels left more questions. All of these photographs are posted courtesy of my cousin Marilyn.
For example, this photograph, which is the oldest photograph in the collection.
On the reverse of this photograph was the following label:
But the more I studied this photograph, the more I became convinced that that label was incorrect. The photograph was taken in Philadelphia by a photographer named Brooks located at 600 or 724 Arch Street. I searched Philadelphia directories on Ancestry and was able to find a photographer named Thomas Brooks located at 630 Arch Street in several directories from the 1870s.1 Portrait photography as an art and business did not really even start until the 1850s.
Simon Goldsmith was born in 1795 and came to the US in 1845 when he was already fifty years old. By the 1870s, he was in his seventies. The man in the photograph does not look like he is in his fifties, let alone his seventies. His skin is smooth with no wrinkles or age lines. He appears to be at most in his forties, but probably even younger.
So who is that man? My first guess, given the source of the photograph and the collection in which it appears, was that it was Henry Goldsmith, Simon’s son. Henry was born in 1847, and in the 1870s when Thomas Brooks was operating a photography business on Arch Street in Philadelphia, Henry would have been somewhere between 23 and 33, and the man in that photograph could be in that age range.
Henry, however, was living in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1870s, not in Philadelphia. In fact, Henry never lived in Philadelphia. I thought perhaps when he married Sarah Jaffa in 1871, they married in Philadelphia, but the 1870 census shows Sarah living with her brother Samuel Jaffa in Pittsburgh,2 so she wasn’t in Philadelphia either.
Moreover, I am quite certain that it was Henry’s daughter Helen who wrote the words on the back of this photograph. There are several other photographs labeled in the same handwriting in the collection that are quite obviously labeled by Helen. For example, look at these two examples:
If Helen labeled the photograph of the man she assumed was her grandfather Simon, wouldn’t she have known if it were instead a photograph of her father Henry? I’d think so. So the more I study these photographs, the more I doubt this was a photograph of either Simon Goldsmith or his son Henry.
So who was he? I see a slight resemblance to Sol Jaffa, Helen’s uncle, as seen in this photograph to be analyzed in a later post. But wouldn’t Helen have known that it was Sol when she labeled the photograph? He and Helen are holding hands in this photograph, so she obviously knew him well. Did her uncle look so much different as an older man that she couldn’t see the resemblance?
The mystery lingers…
More of the collection from Marilyn to come.
- E.g., Gopsill´s Philadelphia Business Directory, 1870, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1874, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 ↩
- Sarah Jaffa, 1870 US census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 2, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1295; Page: 441A; Family History Library Film: 552794, Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census ↩