Leo Sigmund: Loss of A Life, Loss of a Business

The extended Sigmund family suffered one more loss between 1910 and 1920 when Leo Sigmund, Ella and Albert’s son, died at age 54 on July 31, 1913. According to his obituary, he had suffered from a nervous condition for two years. Leo’s children were only thirteen (Tracy Edna) and eleven (Albert Lloyd) when their father died. As the obituary points out, Leo was the only remaining family member carrying on the hat and fur business started by Albert Sigmund in 1846, A. Sigmund & Son.

“Well-known Merchant Who Died Yesterday,” The Baltimore Sun, August 1, 1913, p. 12

The obituary is as much a tribute to Leo’s wife Claudia as it is to Leo; it describes how she took over and even improved the business while Leo was ill as well as nursing Leo and taking care of the household.

Unfortunately, Claudia found herself in a struggle to keep the business after Leo’s death. According to a complaint she filed in 1916 to have receivers appointed to the business, her own brother Michael Hirsch fraudulently induced her to sell him the business for far less than its value in the aftermath of Leo’s death. She claimed that the business was worth at least $45,000 (if valued at more than $60,000 in assets with $14,800 in liabilities) and that she sold it to Michael for only $8,000, leaving her with only $1,600 after paying off the debts.

“Receivers for Furriers,” The Baltimore Evening Sun, December 13, 1916, p. 9

“Receivers for Sigmund & Son,” The Baltimore Sun, December 14, 1916, p. 13

I don’t know whether Claudia ever received any compensation for the alleged fraud committed by her brother as I could find no story that reported on that question. As for Michael Hirsch, he and his wife started another business, and it also ended up in bankruptcy.1

In 1920 Claudia Hirsch Sigmund and her two children, now 20 and 18, were living in Baltimore with her mother and sister. Claudia was not employed outside the home, but her daughter T. Edna was working as a stenographer for a soil improvement company and her son A. Lloyd was an office helper in a straw hat factory.

And the business started by Albert Sigmund in 1846 and that supported his family for so many years was gone.

Claudia Hirsch Sigmund and family, 1920 US census, Census Place: Baltimore Ward 13, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: T625_658; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 203
Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census

Fortunately, the 1910s were better years for the rest of Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund’s children and grandchildren, as the next post will reveal.


  1. The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, 02 Apr 1918, Tue • Page 15 

23 thoughts on “Leo Sigmund: Loss of A Life, Loss of a Business

  1. This is truly a sad story. It shows how greed for money can destroy not only a business but also ruin a family relationship. Reading this post, I feel like turning back the clock and helping poor Claudia to find justice.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Peter has said so well how I feel. It’s such a shame you haven’t been able to find any more about her lawsuit. She certainly deserved compensation; though that wouldn’t be able to make up for the emotional damage done.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow that is some story and family drama. First her husband passes and then her brother takes advantage but she fought back. What I find interesting is she seems to have some pretty good business sense. I wonder what led her to accept her brothers offer in the first place. I suspect foul play on his part. Sharon

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: The Early Years | Entering the Pale

  5. I agree with Peter’s comments, and Claudia’s brother must have somehow felt entitled to defraud his own sister, or maybe it was the greed of the wife. The deception was low-life.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund’s Family in the 1910s: For Most, A Quiet Decade | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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