As mentioned in my earlier post, when Dorothea Blumenfeld’s daughter Gertha came to the US in 1939, she listed on the ship manifest an aunt named “J. Bloomfield” who lived at 1162 Grant Avenue in the Bronx as the person she was going to. I determined, based on that address and the name, that J. Bloomfield was born Johanna Tannenbaum and that she was the widow of Dorothea’s younger brother Markus Blumenfeld (Gertha’s uncle), who became Max Bloomfield in the US. (Because Max also had a nephew who adopted the name Max Bloomfield, I have labeled this Max, the uncle, Max Bloomfield I.)
Max’s immigration story, however, is quite different from that of his niece Gertha as well as that of his older sister Berta and the children of his brother Moritz, who all came to the US in the 1930s to escape Nazi Germany. Max had left Germany fifty years earlier, long before Hitler came to power.
Max, as we saw, was born Markus Blumenfeld in Kirchhain, Germany, on December 3, 1871, the fifth child of Giedel Blumenfeld and Gerson Blumenfeld. His mother Giedel died when he was only eleven years old, and five years later when he was only sixteen, Markus left home and immigrated to America, arriving on August 3, 1888. On the ship manifest he listed his occupation as “dealer.”
Markus Blumenfeld passenger manifest, Year: 1888; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Line: 1; List Number: 1061, Ship or Roll Number: Lahn, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957
What could have led a sixteen-year-old boy with a father and seven siblings back home to leave Germany? It’s hard to imagine why he left or how he managed when he arrived in New York on August 3, 1888.
Markus settled in New York and by 1894 had become Max Bloomenfeld, the name that he was using when on March 28, 1894, he married Johanna Tannenbaum Kahn, a widow who was also an immigrant from Germany. Johanna, who was born in 1868 to Mayer Tannenbaum and Minna Strauss, had arrived in the US on November 15, 1887. She had married Herman Kahn exactly four years later on November 15, 1891. Herman died less than a year after they married; he was 23 and died of an intestinal obstruction and general peritonitis on August 2, 1892. Johanna was already pregnant at that time and gave birth to their son two months later on October 10, 1892; she named the baby Herman in memory of his father, a father he never met.
Then a year and a half later on March 28, 1894, Johanna married Max “Bloomenfeld.”
On June 15, 1897, Max filed his naturalization petition under the name Max Bloomfield and reported his occupation as a butcher. He used the surname Bloomfield for the rest of his life.
Max Bloomfield naturalization petition, National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; NAI Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21, US District Court for the Southern District of New York (058-059), Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943
On the 1900 census, Max and Johanna were living in New York with Johanna’s son Herman, a ten month old daughter Minnie, and several of Johanna’s relatives. Max reported his occupation as carpet layer, as did his brother-in-law Max Tannenbaum.
Max Bloomfield 1900 US census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 2; Enumeration District: 0808; FHL microfilm: 1241116, Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census
I initially thought that Minnie was Max and Johanna’s first child, but a closer look at the 1900 census record alerted me to the fact that there had been two children born before Minnie. Johanna reported that she had had four children, two of whom were living. Given that her first husband died before the birth of their first child and within a year of their marriage, I assumed that the two other children who died were her children with Max, and I set out to locate their records.
I was able to locate both of those children. Gertrude Bloomfield was born on April 17, 1895, and died a month later on May 19, 1895. She died from a condition I’d never heard of before: erysipelas simple. According to WebMD, it is “a common bacterial infection of the skin. It affects the upper dermis (upper layer of the skin) and the lymphatic vessels within the skin. The condition begins with the breaking of the skin, followed by bacterial invasion. Erysipelas face occurs when the bacteria causes tender and bright red rashes to appear on the facial skin. Erysipelas infections usually affect the face and the legs but can occur anywhere on the skin.” According to Gertrude’s death certificate, she had this all over her body. Today it can be treated with antibiotics, but in 1895 that was not an option, and one month old Gertrude could not fight off the infection.
Gertrude Blumenfeld death certificate
Ella Bloomfield, born October 16, 1896, a year after Max and Johanna lost Gertrude, died on October 26, 1898, at the age of two from complications from asthma. I can’t imagine how Max and Johanna must have felt after losing two daughters like that.
So in fact Minnie was Max and Johanna’s third child, and by the time she was born on August 9, 1899, both of her older sisters had died. Fortunately, Minnie survived to live a long life.
Max, Johanna, Herman, and Minnie were still living in Manhattan when the 1905 New York State census was taken, and Max now listed his occupation as a dyer. Johanna gave birth to their son Gerard Milton Bloomfield on December 4, 1905, in New York. I’ve not located any birth or death records for a child of Max and Johanna born between Minnie’s birth in 1899 and Gerard’s birth in 1905, but I wondered whether Johanna and Max had lost any more children between those two births.
The 1910 US census indicates that in fact there had been no other children born, as Johanna reported that she had had five children, three of whom were living (Herman, Minnie, and Gerard). The family had moved from Manhattan to the Bronx between 1905 and 1910, and Max now reported that he was a carpet cleaner. The 1915 New York State census found them all still living together in the Bronx, and Max was still cleaning carpets for a living. The same held true in 1920 as well, but by then Max was the owner of the carpet cleaning business, and his daughter Minnie was working as a stenographer in the business while his stepson Herman was also in the business. They were now living at the 1162 Grant Avenue address in the Bronx where Max’s niece Gertha would later look for Johanna when she came to the US.
The following year Minnie Bloomfield married Richard Leon Altman on December 4, 1921, in New York. Richard was born in Port Jervis, New York, to Adolph Altman and Selma Schafronsky on July 31, 1897. On the 1920 census, Richard was living with his parents in New York and working as a salesman of cloaks and suits.
The 1925 New York State census lists Max, Johanna, and Gerard Bloomfield as well as Herman Kahn and his wife Frances (nee Gutman) all living together in the Bronx where Max and Herman were still in the carpet cleaning business and Gerard, now 20, was a student. Meanwhile, Minnie and Richard had also settled in the Bronx, and by 1925 had two children, Lawrence, born in 1922, and Gloria, born in 1925. Richard continued to work as a cloaks and suits salesman.
Altman family, 1925 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 65; Assembly District: 08; City: New York; County: Bronx; Page: 16, District: A·D· 08 E·D· 65, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1925
In 1930, Max and Johanna and their son Gerard were still living at 1162 Grant Avenue in the Bronx, and Max continued to own the carpet business, presumably with his stepson Herman, who also listed his occupation as owning a carpet business. Gerard was working as a lawyer. Minnie and her family were also living in the Bronx, and her husband Richard now owned a cleaning business.
Sadly, Max died three years later on September 13, 1933, in New York; he was 61 years old. He was survived by his wife Johanna, stepson Herman Kahn, daughter Minnie, son Gerard, and two grandchildren. He did not live to see his son Gerard marry and have children of his own, giving Max a total of five grandchildren. He also did not live to see that a number of his siblings and their children would come to the US to escape Nazi Germany, including his niece Gertha who listed Max’s widow Johanna as the person she was coming to in the US.
On December 19, 1937, Max and Johanna’s son Gerard married Kathryn Federman, daughter of Morris Federman and Esther “Queenie” Mendel. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, on October 24, 1908. In 1930, she’d been living with her parents in Manhattan and working as an art teacher. Gerard and Kathryn had three sons.
Now widowed, Johanna Tannenbaum Bloomfield was living with a servant at 1162 Grant Avenue in the Bronx in 1940. Her daughter Minnie and her family were living in an apartment in the same building and apparently right next door. Richard was still managing the cleaning business.
Johanna Bloomfield, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Bronx, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02467; Page: 10A; Enumeration District: 3-268C, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census
Richard Altman family, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Bronx, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02467; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 3-268C, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census
And Johanna’s son Herman Kahn and his family were also close by, living at 1420 Grand Concourse in the Bronx; Herman was still in the carpet cleaning business. Gerard and his family were also nearby at 1000 Grand Concourse in the Bronx, Gerard working a lawyer in his own practice while his wife Kathryn worked as a high school teacher.
Johanna Tannenbaum Kahn Bloomfield died in October 1955 and is buried with Max at Mt Zion Cemetery in New York, according to FindAGrave. According to the Mt Zion Cemetery website, she was buried on October 30, 1955. (I was unable to locate any death record for Johanna.) She was 87 years old and was survived by her sons Herman Kahn and Gerard Bloomfield, her daughter Minnie Bloomfield Altman, her daughters-in-law and son-in-law, and five grandchildren.
Herman Kahn only survived his mother by two years; he died on September 22, 1957, at the age of 64; he was survived by his wife Frances, their two children, and his half-siblings Minnie and Gerard and their families.
Gerard Bloomfield also did not live a very long life. He died of a heart attack when he was 69 on September 10, 1975. According to his obituary, he was a member of the Mayor’s Economic Council in New York City at the time of his death and had a history of civic involvement. He was survived by his wife Kathryn and their three sons and grandchildren.
Minnie Bloomfield outlived both of her brothers as well as her husband Lawrence, who died in 1982. Minnie died on March 8, 1990, in Hollywood, Florida, at the age of 90. She was survived by her children and grandchildren.
The story of Max Bloomfield (born Markus Blumenfeld) and his family has its tragic elements; losing two young daughters must have been heartbreaking. But overall his story—coming to the US as a teenager and building a life, a business, and a family in the US—is so different from the stories of the families of his older siblings Moritz and Berta, who escaped from Nazi Germany in the 1930s, and especially different from the story of Max’s sister Dorothea, whose entire family was almost completely wiped out by the Nazis except for her daughter Gertha.
The fact that Gertha named Max’s widow Johanna as the person she was going to in the US indicates that even after over fifty years in the US, Max’s family was still in touch with their Blumenfeld relatives back in Germany. Max may have assimilated into American life, but it appears that he never forgot his family back in Germany.