Unraveling A Mystery and Deciphering Census Reports: Cousin Marie

You know how you can pull one small thread and a whole sweater unravels? That’s a bit like what my experience was in researching Marie Wetherill Schlesinger. I started and couldn’t stop.

In my earlier post about the Schlesinger family, I wrote that I was disappointed that I had not been able to find any information about the background of Cousin Marie, the woman who married my cousin Joe Schlesinger and who cared for his mother Brendena for many years even after Joe died.  She was a kind and loving person, according to my father, and she lived until she was 93, dying in Bradenton, Florida in 1981.

The only possible document I’d found about Marie from before she married Joe was a birth record listed on FamilySearch for a baby girl born in Philadelphia on August 15, 1888, the same place and date that Marie was born.  That baby was listed on FamilySearch as Emma Virginia M. Wethcrell, but her father’s name was Francis M. Wetherill, making me think that “Wethcrell” was a mistake in transcription by the indexer. The baby’s mother’s name was listed as May Wetherill.  I had speculated that the M in the baby’s name might have been for Marie or Maria (some documents from after Marie’s marriage to Joe spell Marie’s name as Maria).

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I thought that perhaps the actual birth record might have more information; I also wondered if the marriage certificate for Joe and Marie would include more information about her parents’ names. I went to the Philadelphia genealogy group on Facebook and asked for advice on obtaining copies of the actual documents.  I was very, very fortunate that a member named Jo Schwartz volunteered to go to the city archives in Philadelphia to obtain copies.

The birth certificate did not add a lot of new information.  It did, however, reveal that the baby’s name was Emma Virginia May (or is it Mary?) Wetherill, born to Francis M. and Mary Agnes Wetherill.  Thus, the M was for May or Mary, not Marie or Maria.  The record also revealed that Francis made his living as a driver. (Please click through and zoom to see the fifth entry.)

Marie Wetherill birth record

Marie Wetherill birth record

The marriage record for Joe  Schlesinger and Marie Wetherill was more helpful. It was dated July 11, 1915, and it included Marie’s parents’ names, including her mother’s birth name—Francis Wetherill and Mary Wilson. The parents’ name matched those on the birth certificate for Emma Virginia May/Mary Wetherill, so I am reasonably certain that the birth certificate is in fact the record for the Marie Wetherill who married Joe Schlesinger. The marriage license also revealed that Marie’s parents were both born in Philadelphia, that her father was dead, and that Marie was working as a “saleslady.”

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Marriage license and certificate of S. Joseph Schlesinger and Marie Wetherill

Marriage license and certificate of S. Joseph Schlesinger and Marie Wetherill

Armed with the additional information regarding Marie’s parents’ names, I went back to see if I could find out more about her background.  The first document that popped up was an entry in the Social Security Applications and Claims Index on Ancestry:

Catherine Wetherill Welch on SSACI Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Catherine Wetherill Welch on SSACI
Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

This had to be Marie’s sister—Catherine Wetherill Welch. The parents’ names were the same, and she was born in Philadelphia four years after Marie.  Further research revealed that Catherine Wetherill married Talbot Welch in 1915, that, like her sister Marie, Catherine had not had children, and that, like Marie, she had died in Bradenton, Florida in 1981.  My guess is that Catherine and Marie, both widowed, were living together in Bradenton and died within months of each other.

I figured it would be easy to find Marie on the 1900 and 1910 census records now that I had the names of her parents and sister. But I was wrong. I focused first on Philadelphia since both Marie and Catherine had married men from Philadelphia and both had married in Philadelphia. I could not find a Francis or a Frank Wetherill on the 1900 census in Philadelphia.  I did find a Francis M. Wetherill in several Philadelphia directories, but he was a student in 1895, and that made him too young to be Marie’s father.  I also found a Frank Wetherill in a Philadelphia directory, but when I found him on a census based on the address, it was not with the same family.

Then I found a marriage record for a Francis M. Wetherill and a Mame A. Wilson who were married in 1887 in Camden, New Jersey. Camden is right across the river from Philadelphia, so this seemed a likely match for Marie’s parents.  Maybe Mame was a nickname for Mary or vice versa.  Maybe that’s why that birth record said May.  At any rate, I decided to search Camden as a possible residence, but still came up empty handed for 1900.

marriage record for Francis Wetherill and Mame Wilson Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1670-1965 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

marriage record for Francis Wetherill and Mame Wilson
Ancestry.com. New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1670-1965 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.

And then the light bulb finally went off.  What if Marie’s father had died before 1900? Maybe I was searching for Marie with the wrong family. I searched the 1900 census again, but instead of searching for Francis or Frank, I searched for any Wetherill born 1860-1870 in Pennsylvania with a daughter named Catherine (since I wasn’t sure which name Marie might have been using as a child). And lo and behold, I found Marie and her family:

Marie Wetherill and family on 1930 census Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1461; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0416; FHL microfilm: 1241461

Marie Wetherill and family on 1900 census
Year: 1900; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1461; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 0416; FHL microfilm: 1241461

But, boy, this census report was confusing.  The head of household was Mary Ann Smith, an 81 year old widow. Next listed was her daughter Annie Wilson, a 52 year old widow, and then Mary Ann’s son, Jerry Smith, age 49 and single.  Annie listed that she had had four children, two of whom were still living.

The fourth person in the household was a 30 year old woman named Mamie Wetherill; this seemed like it could be Marie’s mother, who had been listed as Mame A Wilson on the marriage record with Frank Wetherill in 1887.  On the 1900 census, Mamie is listed as Mary Ann’s granddaughter.  Since I knew that Marie’s mother’s maiden name was Wilson, I figured that Mamie was Annie Wilson’s daughter and thus Mary Ann Smith’s granddaughter.  Although Mamie listed her status as married, there is no husband listed as living in the household. Mamie reported that she had had four children, four of whom were still living. Not one of the adults in the household listed an occupation on the census.

There are then five children with the surname Wetherill listed after Mamie, but they are listed as the grandchildren of the head of household.  This must be wrong; these are clearly Mamie’s children, given their ages and surname. They are the great-grandchildren of the Mary Ann Smith, the head of household. The five children are Frank (17), Marie (12), Florence (10), Katherine (6), and Harry (3).

I had found Marie, and now I knew that by 1900 she was living with her four siblings, her mother, her grandmother and great-uncle, and her great-grandmother.

But there were so many questions left to answer. Was her father still alive?  And if her father was still alive, where was he?

TO BE CONTINUED

 

 

 

 

 

The Rest of the Trip: Thoughts on My Country

This post was originally written before the horrific event in Orlando, Florida, last weekend.  I’ve rewritten it in part as I reflect on what is happening in the US these days and how the opportunity to see another part of the country affected my views.

The Road to Taos, Taos, and the Road Back to Denver

Because we had taken the “low road” or “river road” from Taos south to Santa Fe when we arrived, we decided to take the “high road” back to Taos when we left Santa Fe.  Although some commenters on TripAdvisor had made it seem as if this was going to be a very scary ride, it wasn’t at all.  It was, however, incredibly scenic.

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We stopped at the Santuario de Chimayo on our way.  It is an important Catholic pilgrimage site and a pretty adobe church on lovely grounds.  I was particularly taken by this painting, which reminded me of Da Vinci’s Last Supper; the people surrounding Jesus are quite obviously Native American and Spanish in their ethnicity.

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We continued north, and the scenery just got better and better.

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Finally, we arrived in Taos.  As you can see, there was some kind of motorcycle event going on that weekend, and everywhere we turned, we saw and heard motorcycles.

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Taos is actually quite a small town, and we realized pretty quickly that we had seen a good part of the town when we’d stopped to stretch our legs on our way south to Santa Fe four days before.  In fact, Taos seems like a down-sized version of Santa Fe.  There is a plaza and even a hotel called La Fonda on the plaza.  There is an old street called Ledoux Street that has some galleries and historic homes, like a much smaller version of Canyon Road in Santa Fe.

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On the outskirts of Taos, a few miles south of the town, there is a church named for St. Francis, just as in Santa Fe.  This one, however, is an adobe church, and it has been painted by Georgia O’Keefe and photographed by Ansel Adams.  You can see why even in my photographs.  The way the light hits the various planes of the church’s exterior gives it a sculptural feel that goes beyond its architectural and religious aspects.

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The scenery around Taos also makes you stop and appreciate where you are:

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Despite its small size, Taos has four museums that we found well worth visiting.  Two reflected the importance of Taos as an art center.  First, on Ledoux Street, we visited what was once the home of the artist Ernest Blumenschein[1] and is now a museum of his works and those of his wife Mary Shepherd Greene Blumenschein and his daughter Helen Greene Blumenschein. Ernest Blumenschein was one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists in 1915 and is considered one of those who drew other artists to Taos, making it an important art center.  Blumenschein himself was considered one of the leading artists in the Taos art community.

English: Ernest and Mary Blumenschein, New Yor...

English: Ernest and Mary Blumenschein, New York, 1910. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d never heard of any of the Blumenscheins before, and although their art was worth seeing, what was more interesting to me was the house itself.  It was created from what had once been a fortress surrounding the town made up of interconnecting rooms.  Over time the Blumenscheins acquired a fair number of these rooms for their home.   The rooms are all connected end to end (with a few exceptions), and it was interesting to see how the family had decorated them and turned what had been a fort into a home.

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The second museum we visited was also on Ledoux Street, the Harwood Museum of Art, where we saw a really fascinating exhibit about Mabel Dodge Luhan, another person whose name was unfamiliar to me, but whose life was quite remarkable.   As described on the brochure for the exhibit, Mable Dodge Luhan (1879-1962) “brought modern art to Taos, New Mexico, putting it on the national and international maps of the avant-garde and creating a ‘Paris West’ in the American Southwest.”  Among those whom she invited to Taos were Georgia O’Keefe, D.H. Lawrence, Edward Weston, Martha Graham, and Ansel Adams.


Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Mabel Dodge Luha...

Carl Van Vechten, Portrait of Mabel Dodge Luhan (1879-1962), 1934 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mabel was born in Buffalo, New York, and lived in Paris, where she met her first husband, Edward Dodge, and then in Florence, where she and her husband established a salon attended by Gertrude Stein and many other artists and writers of the early 20th century.   When she and her husband returned to New York City, they established another salon and became instrumental in introducing modern art to the United States in the 1910s.  Mabel left her first husband for John Reed (subject of the movie Reds) in 1913, and in 1915 she established the Elizabeth Duncan [sister of Isadora] School of Dance in Croton-on-Hudson, New York (where 50 years later I would go to a music and arts camp).

English: John Reed, American journalist and ra...

English: John Reed, American journalist and radical political activist, c. 1917. Portrait published in USA prior to 1923, public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mabel then met her second husband, Maurice Sterne, and spent the summer of 1915 with him in Provincetown (a town I know well, having visited there every year since I was ten years old).  She and Sterne married in 1917 in Peekskill, New York (where my husband and I were married just about 60 years later and almost 40 years ago).  Shortly after, Mabel and Maurice moved to Taos, where she lived for most of the rest of her life.  She married her third husband, Tony Luhan, in 1923, and that relationship seemed to endure for the remainder of her life.  She died in 1962 and is buried in Taos.

I was tickled by the number of geographic parallels Mabel and I shared (Croton, Provincetown, Peekskill), and the exhibit was very effectively organized to show the impact she had on Taos by displaying works of the artists she drew to Taos and various quotations and other writings by or about Mabel and her role in the Taos art community.

In the other two museums we visited we learned more about the general history and culture of the region.  First, at the Kit Carson Home & Museum, we learned something about the real man behind the myth of Kit Carson (1809-1868).  Although he is best known for his role as a trapper and scout who helped with the exploration of the American West, he was also a family man.  He was married three times, each time to a Native American woman.  His first wife, with whom he had two daughters, died; his second marriage did not last; his third marriage to Josefa in Taos lasted until his death.  With Josefa he had eight children; Josefa died in 1868 giving birth to the eighth, and Kit died just a month later.

Christopher 'Kit' Carson (1809-1868), American...

Christopher ‘Kit’ Carson (1809-1868), American explorer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although Kit Carson is known as someone who fought in many battles against the Indians, he also served as an agent for the Native Americans in the Taos area. However, he is known for leading the relocation of the Navajo people from Arizona to New Mexico at Bosque Redondo.  I found this description of that event and Carson’s role in it quite disturbing:

Although his orders were to capture women and children and kill all men, Carson chose to disregard the orders.  He ultimately gained the submission of the Navajo people by destroying their food sources at Canyon de Chilly.

Escorted by U.S. troops, over 9,500 men, women and children were led on foot to Bosque Redondo, a reservation in New Mexico 400 miles from their homes.  The march was brutal and many Navajo died on The Long Walk.

Realizing the utter failure of the Bosque Redondo reservation, Carson was influential in urging Congress to grant permission to the Navajo peoples to return to their homeland in 1868.  Today there is a memorial to the Navajo people at Bosque Redondo.

[From the guide to the Kit Carson Home & Museum]

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Thus, Carson had conflicting roles and relationships with the Native American people. He married three Native American women, but he also fought to take the land from Native American people.  He led a forced relocation of the Navajo people, but then acted as their agent and argued to obtain permission for them to return to their original land.

Finally, we visited the Millicent Rogers Museum.  Millicent Rogers (1902-1953) was another name that I’d not heard before.  Her grandfather Henry Rogers founded Standard Oil with John D. Rockefeller; she herself was an artist and a collector, and she moved to Taos in 1947 in the aftermath of a relationship with Clark Gable.  She designed jewelry, and she supported the artistic careers of many Native American and Hispanic artists.  The museum not only displays her own work, but also (and primarily) the work of those local artists.  I found an exhibit comparing Native American weavings with Hispanic weavings quite interesting as it showed how the two styles influenced each other over time.  An exhibit of baskets revealed how different tribes used different basket making techniques and styles.

Decorated bowl from the ruins of the former Ho...

Decorated bowl from the ruins of the former Hopi village of , circa 1400-1625 AD; now located at the Millicent Rogers museum in Taos, New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following photos were taken on our way to the Millicent Rogers Museum, as we started our drive north from Taos towards Colorado.

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From these four museums, I developed a perspective not only on Taos, but on art, culture, and history.  All four museums focused on how individuals can influence history and culture and effect changes in both: Carson, through his explorations and through his role in the mistreatment of Native American peoples; Blumenschein, Luhan, and Rogers through their efforts to support and encourage the creation of artistic works.  Rogers helped to preserve the local culture of the Native American and Hispanic communities in and near Taos.

I also was struck by the painful disparities that exist in this country: people who have incredible wealth and power or perhaps just one or the other, like Carson, Blumenschein, Lujan, and Rogers, and people who are poverty stricken and powerless.  People who abuse their power and people who use their power for good cause.  People who respect the diversity and cultures of others and people who believe that only they know what is right and good.

Traveling back from Taos to Denver, we again marveled at the open spaces, the gorgeous vistas, the limitless sky.  The views from the Rio Grande Bridge north of Taos are breathtaking.  Crossing through the mountains east of Fort Garland was incredibly uplifting.

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Looking back on this trip and all that we saw, especially in light of what is happening across this country, I am struck by the contrasts and incongruities that riddle our nation. This is such a beautiful country.  Everywhere you look, there are sights to inspire you and make you realize how small we are and how majestic nature is.  Everywhere you go, there are signs that we human beings recognize that beauty, that majesty, especially in the art we are inspired to create and to appreciate.

But there is also much ugliness in us, so much hate and disrespect and intolerance. There is not enough understanding of diversity; there is not enough empathy for those who live in poverty and feel powerless.  There is too much ignorance and prejudice.

In light of this weekend’s hate-filled massacre in Orlando, in light of the electoral process which has produced a candidate who promotes hate and intolerance, in light of the continuing paralysis in our government over issues like gun control and climate control and so many other critical issues, it is hard not to feel hopeless and disgusted and despair about our country.

But then I look back on my photographs and remember all that we saw and felt and learned, and I remember that people can appreciate each other and can be sensitive and tolerant.  People can be filled with awe and inspiration and love and respect.  Yes, we have much to be ashamed of in our history, but we also have much that should give us pride. We have moved forward in many ways. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen much social progress; the civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the LGBT movement, and the environmental movement have all had major impacts on our society, making this a better place for all of us to live.

We can make the right decisions. Yes, too often we have chosen the wrong path. But I want to believe that we can more often do what is right—that we can live in peace, that we can love and respect one another, and that we can appreciate the beauty that surrounds us all, inside and outside.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Blumenschein was born in Pittsburgh in 1874, and his father was a German immigrant.  I wondered whether his family had any Jewish roots or whether he might have crossed paths with my Schoenthal relatives in Pittsburgh, but I’ve found nothing to support either notion.

Under the Boardwalk: My Cousins, the Atlantic City Hoteliers

I admit it. I have been avoiding Simon Schoenthal.  Not for any bad reason, but simply because he and his wife Rose Mansbach had ten children. Ten.  I just couldn’t get myself motivated to follow up on their ten children, each of whom was my first cousin, twice removed.  That is, those ten children were my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen’s first cousins.  And once she married and moved to Philadelphia in 1923, she was living not far from most of these cousins.  Maybe she knew them well.  I should be more motivated, but I’ve been procrastinating simply because I was overwhelmed by the number of children to research.

The nine surviving children of Simon and Rose (Mansbach) Schoenthal Photo courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

The nine surviving children of Simon and Rose (Mansbach) Schoenthal
Photo courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

But it’s a new year, and the time is now, so here we go.  First, to recap what I’ve already written about Simon and Rose and their children.  Simon was the fifth child of Levi Schoenthal and Henriette Hamberg and was born on February 14, 1849.  He was nine years older than my great-grandfather, his brother Isidore.  Along with his sister Amalie, Simon arrived in Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1867, a year after their older brother Henry had settled there. Simon was a bookbinder and occupied in that trade for many years after he first came to the US.  In 1872, Simon married Rose Mansbach, and in the 1870s they had five children: Ida (1873), Harry (1873), Gertrude (1875), Louis (1877), and Maurice (1878).

By 1880, Simon, Rose and their children had moved to Philadelphia, where Simon continued to work as a bookbinder.  They had five more children in Philadelphia: Martin (1881), Jacob (1883), Hettie (1885), Estelle (1888), and Sidney (1891).  Their oldest daughter, Ida, twin of Harry, died in 1887 from heart disease, leaving nine living children.

Simon Schoenthal with twins Harry and Ida 1875 Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Simon Schoenthal with twins Harry and Ida 1875
Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

In the 1890s, Simon left the bookbinding business and turned to other fields.  He sold cigars early in the decade, and then by 1898 he and his family had relocated to Atlantic City, where he had a “bric-a-brac” store.

What brought them to Atlantic City? In fact, what had led Simon and Rose to move from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in the first place? I’ve been to Atlantic City twice since its revitalization in the 1980s, and I’ve played Monopoly since I was a little girl and know many of the famous street names from that game—Pacific, Illinois, Indiana, Mediterranean, Park Place, and, of course, the Boardwalk.  But I didn’t know much about the history of the city or what it was like in the late 19th century and early decades of the 20th when Simon Schoenthal and his children were living and working there.

The official website for Atlantic City provides a fairly detailed history of the city.  Up until the mid-19th century, the island upon which Atlantic City was built was a fairly unsettled place.  Originally settled by the Lenni-Lenape Indians, the first permanent settlement by non-native Americans was not established until 1785 when Jeremiah Leeds settled there.  As late as 1850, there were only seven permanent homes on the island, all belonging to Leeds and his descendants.  Then in 1854, the first railroad line was completed, connecting Atlantic City to Camden, New Jersey, and in 1870 the first official road was completed.

At that point, Atlantic City was attracting visitors:

By 1878, one railroad couldn’t handle all the passengers wanting to go to the Shore, so the Narrow Gauge Line to Philadelphia was constructed. At this point massive hotels like the United States and the Surf House, as well as smaller rooming houses, had sprung up all over town. The first commercial hotel the Belloe House, located at Massachusetts and Atlantic Ave., was built in 1853, and operated till 1902. The United States Hotel took up a full city block between Atlantic, Pacific, Delaware, and Maryland (the current site of the Showboat Parking lot). These grand hotels were not only impressive in size, but featured the most updated amenities, and were considered quite luxurious for the time.

There were beautiful hotels, elegant restaurants, and convenient transportation, but the businessmen of Atlantic City had one big problem to contend with…SAND. It was everywhere, from the train cars to the hotel lobbies. In 1870, Alexander Boardman, a conductor on the Atlantic City-Camden Railroad, was asked to think up a way to keep the sand out of the hotels and rail cars. Boardman, along with a hotel owner Jacob Keim, presented an idea to City Council. In 1870, and costing half the town’s tax revenue that year, an eight foot wide wooden foot walk was built from the beach into town. This first Boardwalk, which was taken up during the winter, was replaced with another larger structure in 1880.

….

On Weds. June 16, 1880, Atlantic City was formally opened. With fanfare the likes few in the area had seen, a resort was born. By the census of 1900, there were over 27,000 residents in Atlantic City, up from a mere 250 just 45 years before.

 

The PBS website provided this description of Atlantic City in its early days:

The city boasted a prototype rollercoaster by the late 1880s. In the decades around the turn of the twentieth century, middle and working class Philadephians, and soon others from up and down the East Coast, would come to play by the seaside. Vendors hawked their wares. James’ Saltwater Taffy became “Famous the World Over.” Mechanical marvels took tourists on daring rides that made their stomachs turn. Children rode carousels, and families dined in seaside cafes. Concerts were held on the sand every evening and the many hotels up and down the shore held gala dances.

Atlantic City seemed to have developed two personalities. On the one hand, the resort was promoted as a restful and wholesome vacation spot, offering sun and surf. On the other hand, tourists reveled in the boisterous atmosphere spawned by a festival of midways, numerous amusement piers (such as the one H.J. Heinz purchased to popularize his 57 varieties of pickles), and a selection of rollicking rides.

English: Glossy postcard reads "A Mile St...

English: Glossy postcard reads “A Mile Straightaway Stretch of the World-famous Atlantic City Boardwalk.” Back is divided. Published by Chilton Company, Phila., Pa., U.S.A. 4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thus, my relatives arrived as the city was booming, and it must have seemed a place of great opportunities for them and their children. In 1900, the older children of Simon and Rose Schoenthal were young adults. Harry was a student at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania; Louis, Martin, and Jacob were still living at home with their parents, but working: Louis was selling cigars, and Martin and Jacob were working in the laundry business. Maurice was not listed in the 1900 census, as far as I can tell, but he also was living in Atlantic City in the early 1900s, according to the 1904 Atlantic City directory.  In fact, four of the brothers appeared to be working in a related business at that time.  All four brothers were living at 22 Delaware Avenue in Atlantic City.  It appears that Martin and Jacob were running a laundry called Incomparable Laundry at 1432-1434 Atlantic Avenue and that Louis was running a cigar, tobacco, stationery and sporting goods business at the same location.  Louis also listed a billiards and pool hall on “S Virginia av n Beach.”  Maurice is listed as a manager at “S Virginia av, Ocean end.” The three youngest children, Hettie, Sidney, and Estelle, were still young and living at home in 1900.

English: Postcard published by the Post Card D...

English: Postcard published by the Post Card Distributing Co., Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA. Back is divided. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The oldest daughter, Gertrude, had married Jacob Miller in 1898, and they were living in Pima, Arizona, where they would have three children: Juliette (1900), Harry (1902), and Sylvester (1905).  The last child, Sylvester, was likely named for Simon Schoenthal, who died on March 26, 1904, when he was only 55 years old.

So what happened to the nine surviving children of Simon Schoenthal after he died?  For one thing, most of them lived long lives, especially for that generation.  Martin lived to only 67, but Hettie lived to be 103 and Sidney lived to be 100.  All the rest at least lived into their 80s.[1]  Almost all of them were married and had children and then grandchildren.  That’s a lot of years and a lot of people. You can see why I was procrastinating.

So let me start with the oldest, Harry, who was born in 1873, and as of 1902, was working for the Atlantic Wine and Liquor Company and living at 931 Atlantic Avenue in Atlantic City.  (His brothers Jacob, Louis, and Martin were living at 1434 Atlantic Avenue.)

Harry Schoenthal Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Harry Schoenthal
Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Harry does not appear in the Atlantic City directories between 1903 and 1910, whereas his younger brothers are listed in those years.  Harry does appear, however, in the 1910 census, living in Philadelphia, where he was boarding with a family named Wirtschafter.  The head of the household, Joseph Wirtschafter, and his wife and three children had several other boarders living in their household in addition to Harry.  Harry’s occupation is listed as the owner of a retail saloon, and Joseph’s occupation was a laborer in a liquor establishment.  Perhaps Harry’s landlord was working for him.

This photograph, shared with me by the family of Harry’s sister Hettie, is labeled “Uncle Harry’s Beer Business ? Philadelphia,” so I assume it refers to the liquor business owned by Harry Schoenthal.

Uncle Harry's Beer Business Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

Uncle Harry’s Beer Business
Courtesy of the family of Hettie Schoenthal Stein

One of Joseph Wirtschafter’s children on the 1910 census was a 21 year old daughter named Esther.  Later that year, Harry, who was sixteen years older than Esther, married her.  In 1912, their first child, Sylvan Harry Schoenthal, was born (presumably named for Harry’s father Simon) and in 1914, their second son, Norman, was born.   In 1918, they were living in Philadelphia at 2153 North Howard Street, according to Harry’s draft registration for World War I.  Harry listed his occupation as “merchant” and was self-employed.

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907615; Draft Board: 12

Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County: Philadelphia; Roll: 1907615; Draft Board: 12

By 1920, however, Harry’s circumstances had changed. His in-laws, Joseph and Jennie Wirtschafter, had relocated to Atlantic City and were the proprietors of a hotel located at 139 St. James Place. According to the Atlantic City directory, the name of the hotel at that address was the St. James Hotel.  Harry and Esther and their two sons were also living at the same address in Atlantic City, where Harry was now employed as a clerk in the hotel. His mother Rose and his thirty year old sister Estelle (listed as Stella) were also living with them.  The 1922 Atlantic City directory lists Esther Schoenthal and her brother Charles Wirtschafter as the hotel proprietors at 139 St. James Place.

According to Wikipedia, this was a good time to be in the hospitality business in Atlantic City:

The 1920s, with tourism at its peak, are considered by many historians as Atlantic City’s golden age. During Prohibition, which was enacted nationally in 1919 and lasted until 1933, much liquor was consumed and gambling regularly took place in the back rooms of nightclubs and restaurants. It was during Prohibition that racketeer and political boss Enoch L. “Nucky” Johnson rose to power. Prohibition was largely unenforced in Atlantic City, and, because alcohol that had been smuggled into the city with the acquiescence of local officials could be readily obtained at restaurants and other establishments, the resort’s popularity grew further. The city then dubbed itself as “The World’s Playground”. [footnotes omitted]

The city’s website reports a similar view of the city’s popularity in this era:

Atlantic City became “the” place to go. Entertainers from vaudeville to Hollywood graced the stages of the piers. Glamorous Hotels like Haddon Hall, The Traymore, The Shelburne and The Marlborough-Blenheim drew guests from all over the world.

PBS had this to say about Atlantic City in the 1920s and 1930s:

By the 1920s, Atlantic City also had become a pre-Broadway show tryout town, a practice that continued until 1935. With the entrance of show business, the resort increasingly attracted celebrities who added a special element of glamour. Even as the city declined as a Broadway showcase, the celebrities continued to grace the city in the decades to come. Over the years people like Sophie Tucker, Jimmy Durante, Fanny Brice, Harry Houdini, Milton Berle, Martha Raye, Guy Lombardo, Irving Berlin, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Monroe, and many more would be spotted around town.

Its tourism and light-hearted revelry made Atlantic City the perfect spot to hold the first Miss America Pageant on September 8th, 1921.

Though the economy hit hard times in the 1930s, people continued to flock to Atlantic City. It became even more well known when it became the city featured in the Depression-era hit game, Monopoly, where players handled large sums of money and strategized to buy the best property along the boardwalk.

Monopoly board on white bg

Monopoly board on white bg (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

According to a passenger manifest dated February 16, 1925, Harry and Esther were living at the Hotel Raleigh, located at 170 St. Charles Place in Atlantic City.  This is consistent with the 1930 census record for Harry and Esther, which has them living at 170 St. Charles Place in a hotel.  The census reports that they were the father-in-law and mother-in-law of the heads of household, which had me quite confused for a while.

Year: 1930; Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Roll: 1308; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0007; Image: 402.0; FHL microfilm: 2341043

Year: 1930; Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Roll: 1308; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 0007; Image: 402.0; FHL microfilm: 2341043

Harry and Esther had sons who were eighteen and sixteen in 1930, so it made little sense.  Reading through the record of all those listed at 170 St. Charles Place, I found that the head of the household was Charles Wirtschafter, Esther’s brother.  Harry, now 56, was listed as retired, and Charles must have been running the hotel.  Esther and Charles’ father Joseph Wirtschafter, now a widower, was also living in the hotel.  So Harry and Esther were actually brother-in-law and sister of the head of household.

Raleigh Hotel, Atlantic City, found at http://www.monopolycity.com/ac_earlyhotels.html

Raleigh Hotel, Atlantic City, found at http://www.monopolycity.com/ac_earlyhotels.html

As for their two sons Sylvan and Norman, neither one was listed as living with their parents on the 1930 census.  In 1930-1931, Sylvan, then 18-19, was a freshman at Franklin and Marshall, according to the F&M 1931 yearbook. But where was he when the census was taken early in 1930? Norman was only sixteen in 1930—where could he have been? Boarding school? Living somewhere else? Just skipped by the enumerator?  I don’t know.  But neither appears on the 1930 census.

I found this family Jewish New Year’s greeting in the September 11, 1931 issue of the Jewish Chronicle of Newark, New Jersey (p. 28) in which Norman and Sylvan were included as well as their parents and the family of Charles Wirtschafter, all apparently still associated with the Hotel Raleigh:

1931 Rosh Hashanah greetings Harry Schoenthal and family

 

But then I also found this little social news item in the November 20, 1932 issue of the Washington (DC) Evening Star (p. 33):

Sylvan and Norman Schoenthal 1932 in DC paper

If Sylvan and Norman were going to Atlantic City for Thanksgiving, the implication is that neither son was living in Atlantic City at that point but rather presumably in Washington, DC, where the newspaper was published.  I did find Sylvan listed in both the 1933 and 1934 Washington, DC, city directory; in both years he was working at in the Shoreham Hotel and living at 2709 Woodley Road.  According to the 1940 census, Sylvan was still living in Washington, DC, in 1935.

As for Norman, he is not listed in the Washington, DC, city directories during the 1930s.   The earliest directory listing I have for him is the 1938 Atlantic City directory where both he and his brother Sylvan are listed as working at the Villa D’Este  hotel (located at 3100 Pacific Avenue) and living at 102 South Chelsea Street in that city.  Well, actually there is no separate listing for Sylvan, but rather one for a Mrs. Sylvan Schoenthal at that same address.  I believe that the directory editor mistakenly thought Sylvan was a woman and the wife of Norman Schoenthal.

Harry, Esther, Norman, and Sylvan Schoenthal 1938 Atlantic City directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

Harry, Esther, Norman, and Sylvan Schoenthal 1938 Atlantic City directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

In this same listing, you can see that Norman and Sylvan’s parents, Harry and Esther (Wirtschafter) Schoenthal, were also residing at 102 South Chelsea Street, but still working at the Hotel Raleigh.

In March 1938, there was a fire at the Villa D’Este hotel operated by Sylvan and Norman Schoenthal:

JPG Villa deste fire 1938 Sylvan and Norman Schoenthal-page-001

As the article indicates, the Villa D’Este hotel was not owned by the Schoenthal brothers, but managed by them.

In 1940, Harry, Esther, Sylvan and Norman were all still living together in Atlantic City, but no street address is indicated on the census record.  The record also has some of the relationships confused.  Sylvan is listed as the head of the household (and as single, making me doubt even more the 1938 directory listing for a “Mrs. Sylvan Schoenthal”); Norman is listed as the manager.  Their mother Esther is listed as the assistant manager, and their father Harry is listed as “Brother.”  How many think that Harry was the manager and Norman the brother? Or was Harry really the head of household and Sylvan the manager?  One thing is certain:  Harry was not Sylvan’s brother.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2301; Page: 82A; Enumeration District: 1-62

Year: 1940; Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2301; Page: 82A; Enumeration District: 1-62

In addition, the census identified Sylvan as the hotel proprietor, Norman and Esther as partners, and has no occupation or title given for Harry.  I am not sure what to make of that, but my guess is that the line for “Harry” was really describing Norman and vice versa.  Also, the news article above indicated that Sylvan did not own the Hotel D’Este, so was this a different hotel? Or had he purchased it since 1938? Or is the census record inaccurate on this point as well?  I don’t know.

Year: 1940; Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2301; Page: 82A; Enumeration District: 1-62

Year: 1940; Census Place: Atlantic City, Atlantic, New Jersey; Roll: T627_2301; Page: 82A; Enumeration District: 1-62

 

Sigh.  More errors and ambiguities in census records….

Although the 1940 census record for Harry and his family did not include a street address or hotel name, in 1941, all four family members are listing in the Atlantic City directory as residing still at 102 South Chelsea Street, and Sylvan and Harry have the notation “Villa D’Este” next to their names, as they did in the 1938 directory.  So the fire did not result in closing down the hotel.

Both Sylvan and Norman served in the military during World War II; Norman enlisted in the army on February 24, 1942, for the duration of the war, and his brother Sylvan enlisted on September 5, 1942, also for the duration of the war.  Norman’s record with the Jewish Welfare Board about his military service indicates that he was wounded during his time in the service, but I could not find any further details.

Ancestry.com. U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc. Original data: Alphabetical Master Cards, 1942–1947; Series VI, Card Files—Bureau of War Records, Master Index Cards, 1943–1947; National Jewish Welfare Board, Bureau of War Records, 1940–1969; I-52; boxes 273–362. New York, New York: American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History.

Ancestry.com. U.S., WWII Jewish Servicemen Cards, 1942-1947 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.
Original data: Alphabetical Master Cards, 1942–1947; Series VI, Card Files—Bureau of War Records, Master Index Cards, 1943–1947; National Jewish Welfare Board, Bureau of War Records, 1940–1969; I-52; boxes 273–362. New York, New York: American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History.

After the war, both Sylvan and Norman returned to their parents’ home at 102 South Chelsea Street.  Sylvan was now married to a woman named Rose, according to the 1946 Atlantic City directory, and Norman was still associated with the Villa D’Este hotel.  But the 1950 directory only includes Sylvan and Rose, still at 102 South Chelsea and still associated with the Villa D’Este. In 1952, Sylvan continued to be the manager of the Villa D’Este hotel, as seen in this advertisement; note that he is described as the “owner-mgr,” so perhaps he had purchased the hotel after the 1938 fire and thus the 1940 census record could be correct in describing him as the proprietor of a hotel:

Sylvan Schoenthal ad villa deste 1952 Richmond VA paper

 

Harry, Esther, and Norman are not listed in the 1950 Atlantic City directory. It is not really too surprising that they had left Atlantic City by then.  As the city’s own website reports:

Atlantic City’s future seemed bright, until World War II. After the war, the public seemed to stop its love affair with The World’s Favorite Playground. Possibly because of the public’s access to national air travel, the shift of the population westward, the general deterioration of the city, or a shift in the public’s taste for more sophisticated entertainment, Atlantic City lost much of its shine; and most of its tourists.

It appears that Norman moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, sometime after 1946.  He is listed in the 1951 and 1953 directories for that city with a wife named Harriet.  In both directories, he is listed as the manager of Spanish Courts.  A search on newspapers.com brought up this article from the December 13, 1950, Palm Beach Post (p. 4):

Normal Schoenthal buys Spanish Courts Palm Beach Post article

Interestingly, it appears that Norman had been in Florida before the war, returned after the war to Atlantic City, and then again returned to Florida.  Norman became active in the local business association and was elected president of the Palm Beach County Chapter of the Florida State Motor Courts Association, according to the April 27, 1951, issue of the Palm Beach Post (p. 15).

Norman’s parents, Harry and Esther Schoenthal, must have also moved to Florida in the 1950s because Harry died in Palm Beach on September 23, 1954.  He was 81 years old.  According to the records at Mt. Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia where he was buried, he had been a resident of West Palm Beach, Florida, when he died.  He was buried near his parents, Simon and Rose (Mansbach) Schoenthal.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

Norman and Harriet divorced in 1954, and she relocated to NYC, where she became a very well-known publicist in the furniture industry and was president of Harriet Schoenthal Inc., a New York advertising, marketing and public relations firm. As far as I can tell, Norman and Harriet had not had any children.  On October 26, 1954, the Palm Beach Post (p. 1) reported that Norman had sold the Spanish Courts motor court for $175,000.  (Later news articles reveal that in 2002 there were plans to tear down the Spanish Courts motel for a new development, but that must not have happened because as recently as 2013, the Palm Beach Post reported new plans to raze the site for redevelopment.)

Sadly, a year later Norman Schoenthal died on September 15, 1955; he was only 41 years old.   He also was buried at Mt. Sinai in Philadelphia where his father and his grandparents were buried.  According to the cemetery records, he was a resident of Atlantic City when he died and thus I assumed he must have returned there after his divorce and the sale of his business.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

But he was only 41, and I wondered what had been the cause of his death.  I could not find an obituary or a death certificate online.  I thought he might have died in New Jersey, which does not have death records online, so I asked my New Jersey researcher to check the archives in Trenton, but she reported back that there was no death certificate for Norman Schoenthal in New Jersey.  I was stumped, so I turned to Tracing the Tribe, the Jewish genealogy group on Facebook, and as always received great assistance.   One group member there, Stacy, located Norman’s death certificate in the Delaware records:

Norman C. Schoenthal death certificate Delaware Death Records, 1855-1961," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KX3F-P3J : accessed 14 January 2016), Norman C Schoenthal, 15 Sep 1955; citing Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware, United States, Hall of Records, Dover; FHL microfilm

Norman C. Schoenthal death certificate
Delaware Death Records, 1855-1961,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KX3F-P3J : accessed 14 January 2016), Norman C Schoenthal, 15 Sep 1955; citing Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware, United States, Hall of Records, Dover; FHL microfilm

There is a lot to digest here.  First, this is obviously the right person, given the parents’ names, occupation, informant’s name, burial place, and former wife’s name.  But what was he doing in Delaware? And why is his residence address in Washington, DC, not Atlantic City or Florida or Delaware?  Mt. Sinai’s records reported his residence as Atlantic City.  The address in Washington, 3801 Connecticut Avenue, is an apartment building.

The cause of death is very disturbing.  Norman was run over by a truck, resulting in a fractured skull and crushed chest.  The coroner originally typed “accident” on the death certificate, but then that was crossed out and “suicide” was handwritten above it.  What had happened that led the coroner to change his conclusion? The certificate states that the injuries occurred in Farnhurst, Delaware.  When I Googled Farnhurst, the first thing that popped up was “Farnhurst Delaware State Hospital,” once known as the Delaware State Hospital for the Insane at Farnhurst.  Had Norman been a patient there? I could not find a Fairview Avenue in Farnhurst on current maps, only one in Wilmington, which is about six miles from Farnhurst.  I am hoping to learn more and have contacted the Wilmington Public Library Reference Department to see if they can locate a news article about Norman’s terrible death.

As for his survivors, his mother Esther had returned to Atlantic City after living in Florida; she is listed in the 1957 Atlantic City directory.  As the informant on his brother Norman’s death certificate, Sylvan had given his address as the Hotel Mark in Atlantic City. Sylvan had married a woman named Rose by 1954, as they are listed together in that year’s Atlantic City directory as well as in the 1956 directory for that city.  But they are not listed in the 1957 Atlantic City directory.  It seems that Sylvan and Rose had moved to Florida.  In January 1960, Sylvan and Rose were divorced in Dade County, Florida. It must not have been an amicable divorce as there was some post-divorce litigation. See Schoenthal v. Schoenthal, 138 So.2d 802 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1962).

Sylvan remained in Florida after his divorce.  There are two entries in the Florida Marriage Index and one in the Florida Divorce Index indicating that Sylvan was married and divorced again and then married one more time in 1971 to Doris Lippman, to whom he was married for 27 years until he died. (Although the Marriage Index indicates that her name was Dorothy Rosner, I am quite certain that it was in fact Doris Lippman; Doris’ stepfather was named Rosner, and Sylvan’s obituary indicates that he and Doris were married in the same year as the index entry for Sylvan’s marriage to “Dorothy Rosner.”)

Esther Wirtschafter Schoenthal died on October 21, 1969; she was 80 years old.  She was buried with her husband Harry and her son Norman in Mt. Sinai cemetery in Philadelphia.  Her burial record indicates that she was still residing in Atlantic City at the time of her death.

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Collection Name: Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records

Sylvan Schoenthal, the only remaining member of his immediate family, continued to live in Miami, Florida, for the rest of his life.  He died on December 28, 1998, when he was 86 years old, according to his obituary in the December 31, 1998, issue of the Palm Beach Post (p. 95).  According to the obituary, Sylvan had moved to Miami in 1942, but that is not consistent with the directories and other sources I located.  He apparently was also in the hotel business in Florida.  In addition, he had three children, whom I am now trying to locate.  I have been in touch with his step-great-granddaughter, who reported that he was a kind man, well-loved by her great-grandmother’s family.  It would be interesting to hear any family stories about the Schoenthal family’s life in the hotel business in Atlantic City in its heyday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] As we will see, I could not find anything about when Maurice died, so I don’t know how long he lived.