The Langer Brothers: Lives Devoted to Photography

Amelia Mansbach and her husband Henry Langer died in the 1920s and were survived by their two sons, my grandmother’s second cousins Joseph and Lester, both of whom were career photographers, Joseph for The Denver Post and Lester as a dark room technician. We saw that in 1930, Joseph was still living in Denver,1 but Lester was living in Kansas City.2 Neither brother was married at that time. Lester was a lodger in what appears to have been a large boarding house in Kansas City, and Joseph was living in a hotel in Denver. This post will look at their lives in more depth.

It was a challenge to learn much more about Lester, the younger of the two brothers. In 1940 he was still living in Kansas City, working as a photographer, and living at the Washington Hotel. According to the census record, he was married, but I found no other indication of a marriage, and he is not listed with another woman named Langer at the Washington Hotel.3 I believe this was an enumerator mistake, or Lester was lying. After all, he had listed his mother as his wife on his World War I draft registration. Lester was still living at the Washington Hotel two years later when he registered for the World War II draft (he was then 58 years old). And he was still working as a photographer—for Guy E. Smith.

Lester Langer, World War II draft registration, The National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; World War II Draft Cards (Fourth Registration) for the State of Missouri; Record Group Title: Records of the Selective Service System, 1926-1975; Record Group Number: 147; Box or Roll Number: 966.  Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942

I could find no other information about Lester in his years in Kansas City except for this news story about him being the victim of a robbery in 1930:

“Loot Is His By Priority,” Kansas City Star, March 11, 1930, p. 22

The only other reference I could initially find for Lester was an entry on FindAGrave indicating that he died on March 19, 1960, and was buried at Temple Israel Cemetery in Memphis, Tennessee.4 I contacted the synagogue affiliated with the cemetery where Lester was buried, and the archivist there told me that there are no other Langers buried there and that Lester was not a member of the congregation. I was not sure where else to look to learn more about Lester and how he ended up being buried in Memphis.

So I  joined the Tennessee Genealogy group on Facebook, and a very helpful member named Shannon located Lester’s death certificate, which opened the doors to the rest of his story.

Lester Langer death certificate, “Tennessee Deaths, 1914-1966,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-L9DL-CF56?cc=1417505&wc=34DM-BZS%3A1580614801 : 15 October 2018), 007552516 > image 33 of 2310; Tennessee State Library and Archives, Nashville.

Lester had died in the Baptist Hospital in Memphis, but was residing at the time of his death in the tiny village of Ridgely, Tennessee, located about 100 miles north of Memphis. Ridgely’s population in 1960 was 1,464. Why was Lester living there? His death certificate indicated that he was still a photographer working as a darkroom technician.

I contacted the local newspaper for Ridgely, The Lake County Banner, and they kindly sent me a copy of Lester’s obituary:

Lake County Banner, March 24, 1960, p. 5

From the obituary I learned that Lester had moved to Ridgely, Tennessee in 1954, just six years before he died, to work with W.L. Glover, a “nationally known livestock photographer,” who had purchased the photography business of Lester’s Kansas City employer, Guy E. Smith (the name mentioned on Lester’s World War II draft registration card) in 1952. The obituary said that Lester had worked for Smith for twenty years, so dating back to 1930 or so, when he was living in Kansas City.

Then I contacted one of W.L. Glover’s sons, Jere, who remembered Lester well and told me that Lester had also spent time in Hollywood where he did photography developing and printing for movie studios. From what I already knew about Lester’s career, I assume that he must have been in Hollywood sometime after 1920, when he was still in Denver, and before 1930, when he was already in Kansas City. Those must have been exciting days in the early years of the movie business. Unfortunately Jere did not have more details as he said that Lester had not talked very much about his Hollywood days.

Jere also told me that Lester “was well liked by everyone in the town. He had a good sense of humor and was a truly nice person.” He thought that Lester was probably the only Jew in the area.  Nevertheless, Lester had held on to his Jewish identity. His funeral was officiated by a rabbi, and he was buried in a Jewish cemetery. I found it particularly touching that a small number of residents of Ridgely, including the Glovers, traveled all the way to Memphis to attend the funeral, as noted in the obituary.

So from knowing almost nothing about Lester, I now have a fairly complete picture of Lester Langer’s life, thanks to the generosity of Shannon from the Tennessee Genealogy group, the Lake County Banner, Temple Israel synagogue in Memphis, and Jere Glover.

Fortunately, it was easier to find information about Lester’s older brother Joseph—largely because Joseph worked for a newspaper. In fact, I was able to find news coverage about Joseph dating back as early as 1899 when he was just twenty years old and won an amateur photography contest with a photograph of the then-governor of Colorado laying the corner stone for a hospital in Denver:

“Joseph Langer Wins The Leslie Prize,” The Denver Post, September 3, 1899, p. 5

Not long after that, Joseph became a staff photographer for The Denver Post. In 1904 he took this photograph:

The Denver Post, January 2, 1904, p. 14

And in 1908 Joseph did this full page layout of photographs of the mayor of Denver, Robert Speer:

The Denver Post, January 19, 1908, p. 46

He also took this photograph of the Denver Post editorial board:

And here is a street photograph he took of a couple hoping to marry:

The Denver Post, July 10, 1909, p. 3

Obviously, these are not very good quality reproductions of the photographs as they are scans of photographs published in old newspapers, but they give a sense of the variety and volume of Joseph’s contribution to the newspaper.

Sometimes Joe Langer was himself the subject of articles, as in this 1911 article written when he broke his leg after slipping on ice. The newspaper wrote of the irony of him injuring himself this way in light of the risks he had taken for his job:

Denver Post, December 20, 1911, p. 7

The strangeness of the ways of fate is here again emphasized.  All newspaperdom familiar with Langer’s record as one of the pluckiest of press photographers and his hair-breadth escapes in the pursuance of his arduous and hazardous vocation, his daring exploits and his proverbial good luck while on perilous ventures—and now a slip and a trifling fall has laid him up in pain for perhaps six weeks!

The article then described some of his feats, including climbing up on the scaffolding on the spire of the new cathedral to get a birds-eye view of Denver and another time climbing up on the tower of a newly completed building, standing in the wind as it swayed, to get another shot of the city.

As noted in an earlier post, Joe served in the armed services intelligence division during World War I. In 1924 the Post published a whole article about Joe, celebrating his 22nd anniversary with the Denver Post:

Denver Post, March 3, 1924, p. 6

This article also heaped high praise on Joe for his work:

“Joe” has been struck by lightning, burned by flashlight powder, his camera has been smashed, he’s been cursed and lauded, rebuffed and welcomed, but he’s never lost his enthusiasm for the press photography fame, and if there is a better newscamera man in the world. The Post hasn’t been able to find him.

… In his twenty two years as The Post’s news photographer, Langer has exposed approximately 90,000 negatives.  If those negatives were placed end to end they would make a glass strip all the way from Denver to Arvada.

The news of Denver, as Langer has seen it thru his cameras, would fill a library. And the most interesting stories, because they are the inside and the most intimate stories of the big happenings of those one score and two years, would far surpass what has been printed.

The article also described some of Joe’s many challenging experiences over the years.

After his mother Amelia died in 1926, Joe retired and began to travel the world.5 In 1930 Joe Langer was one of a number of journalists sailing on the SS Resolute, when this photograph was taken:

Embed from Getty Images

I found one manifest for Joe on the SS Resolute in 1929,6 and Joe also traveled to South America in February 1930 on the SS Samaria,7 and in August he traveled on the SS St. Louis to Hamburg Germany.8 It is thus not surprising that I could not find Joe on the 1930 US census.

While searching on Google for more information about Joseph Langer and for more examples of his photographs, I ran across this image:

Embed from Getty Images

According to the caption with the photograph on the Getty Images website, “JAN 20 1933; Honeymooners are Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Langer of Denver, shown here as they reached New York recently after an eighteen-day cruise of the West Indies. For many years Langer was a photographer on The Denver Post staff. His bride was Miss Bertha Courlander of Denver. Following their wedding here they sailed from New York Dec. 17 on the S.S. Reliance of the Hamburg-American line and spent the holidays sailing the Caribbean sea. (Photo By The Denver Post via Getty Images)”

Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate an actual marriage record for Joseph and Bertha or even a newspaper article, despite a search done by the Denver Public Library of issues of the Denver Post for that time period. From the caption, it appears that they were married in Denver shortly before departing on December 17, 1932, for their honeymoon cruise to the West Indies. It also appears that Joe was no longer working for the Denver Post, as the caption described him as someone who “[f]or many years… was a photographer” for the Post. (Emphasis added.)

Joe was 53 in December, 1932, when he married Bertha. She was 36. Bertha was born in Chicago on August 11, 1896, to David Courlander and Tillie Oppenheim. Her father was a dry goods jobber in 1900.9 In 1910, Bertha and her parents and siblings were living in Indianapolis where her father was now a woolens merchant.10 Then in 1920 Bertha was a patient in the National Jewish Hospital for Consumptives in Denver. She was 24 and listed her occupation as a stenographer for a lawyer. Bertha was also, however, included in the enumeration of her parents’ household in Detroit in 1920, where she was listed without an occupation. Since both enumerations are dated in January 1920, I am not sure how to reconcile this, but my guess is that her parents included her because they still considered her residence to be with them even if she was a hospital patient elsewhere.11

But Bertha Courlander stayed in Denver. She is listed in the 1922 Denver directory as residing at 1356 Pearl Street, in 1924 at 1440 Washington Street, and in 1928, 1929, and 1930, at the Hotel Cosmopolitan, the same hotel where Joe Langer resided.12 It was probably there that Joe and Bertha met. In 1933 they are listed together in the Denver directory as living at 2737 East 13th Avenue in Denver, and Joe was working as an agent for a steamship company. They later moved to 3535 East 17th Avenue in Denver.13

Sadly, their marriage did not last very long because Joe’s life was cut short on August 29, 1934, when he died from complications after a minor operation. He was 54 years old. The obituary published by his former employer, The Denver Post, filled in some of the remaining gaps in the story of Joseph Langer:

“Death Takes Former Post Photographer,” The Denver Post, August 30, 1934, p. 9

Announcement that “Joe” Langer is dead will be received with sincere regret and sorrow by thousands who knew him during his activities as a newspaper photographer. Until he retired to become a world traveler some eight years ago [1926] he was always at the front with his camera in every important story calling for picturization. No day was too long, no task too difficult to curb his enthusiasm or turn his ambition to be the “unscooped photographer.” The great and humble and all in between were to him “interesting subjects: and his files were a clear pictorial history of the times. ….After the death of his mother in 1926 he decided to see something of the world.
He took a world cruise, carrying the faithful camera along, and on his return headlined many club programs with moving pictures and oral descriptions of places he had visited in far lands.

Joe Langer certainly left his mark on the paper and the city of Denver.

Neither Joseph nor Lester Langer had any children, and thus there are no descendants for them or for their parents, Amelia Mansbach and Henry Langer. The two brothers both had such full and interesting careers in photography, one living in Denver all his life, the other living at times in Hollywood, Kansas City, and finally the small town of Ridgely, Tennessee. I am so glad I was able to learn so much about them and keep the facts of their lives from disappearing into oblivion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. Publication Title: Denver, Colorado, City Directory, 1931, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  2. Lester Langer, 1930 US census, Census Place: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0018; FHL microfilm: 2340928. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  3. Lester Langer, 1940 US census, Census Place: Kansas City, Jackson, Missouri; Roll: m-t0627-02165; Page: 81A; Enumeration District: 116-13, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census. 
  4. MEMORIAL ID 149610799, Ancestry.com. U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current. 
  5.  “Death Takes Former Post Photographer,” The Denver Post, August 30, 1934, p. 9 
  6.  The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving at San Pedro/Wilmington/Los Angeles, California;NAI Number: 4486355; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85. NARA Roll Number: 021, Ancestry.com. California, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1959 
  7. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4706; Line: 1; Page Number: 193. Ship or Roll Number: Roll 4706,
    Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists 
  8. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4805; Line: 19; Page Number: 14. Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  9. Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007, SSN: 573669492. Courlander household, 1900 census, Census Place: Chicago Ward 9, Cook, Illinois; Page: 10; Enumeration District: 0221; FHL microfilm: 1240253,
    Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census 
  10. Courlander household, 1910 US census, Census Place: Indianapolis Ward 3, Marion, Indiana; Roll: T624_367; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 0062; FHL microfilm: 1374380, Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  11. Bertha Courlander 1920 US census, Census Place: Denver, Denver, Colorado; Roll: T625_162; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 244, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census. Courlander household, 1920 US census, Census Place: Detroit Ward 14, Wayne, Michigan; Roll: T625_813; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 428, Ancestry.com. 1920 United States Federal Census 
  12. Denver City Directories, 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929, 1930, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  13. Denver City Directories, 1933, 1934, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 

Gifts from My Cousin Steve

How very lucky I have been in finding my Seligman cousins.  Starting with my cousin Pete from Santa Fe, then my cousin Wolfgang in Germany, then my cousin Suzanne from Scranton, and now two more cousins: Lotte, a descendant of Hieronymous Seligmann, brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard, and Steve, a descendant of Marx Seligman, brother of my three-times-great-grandfather Moritz.  I will talk about Lotte in subsequent posts, but for now I will continue the story of Marx Seligman and his descendants.

Steve is a grandson of Sigmund Seligman, the oldest child of Marx and Sarah Seligman, and as I mentioned last time, he has generously shared with me many photographs of his family as well as personal anecdotes about them.  All the photographs in this post are courtesy of Steve.  I am filled with gratitude to him for bringing to life his father Leo, his aunt Mary, and his uncles Max and Albert.

In my earlier post about Marx and his descendants, I wrote that “Sigmund and Charlotte had five children between 1883 and 1896: Mary (1883), Max (1884), Leo (1891), Theresa (1894), and Albert (1896).  Sigmund was employed in the insurance industry.  In 1900, they were living at 304 East 117th Street.”  As posted last time, here is a family photograph of Sigmund and Charlotte and their children from about that time, estimated to be taken in 1901.

Sigmund Seligman and family about 1901. Standing rear: Mary, Max.  Sitting middle row: Sigmund, Albert, Leo, and Charlotte.  In front: Theresa Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

Sigmund Seligman and family about 1901. Standing rear: Mary, Max. Sitting middle row: Sigmund, Albert, Leo, and Charlotte. In front: Theresa
Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

Tragedy struck this happy family on September 27, 1902, when eight year old Theresa, the little girl seated in front, died from tubercular meningitis.

Theresa Seligman death certificate

Theresa Seligman death certificate

 

In 1905, the remaining children were all still living with their parents at 89 East 121st Street; Sigmund was a supervisor in an insurance company, Max was working as a bookkeeper, and the other boys were in school.  Mary was home.

As noted last time, Mary married Joseph Brandenburg (later Brandt) in 1907.  By 1910, her parents and brothers had moved to 275 East 123rd Street.  Sigmund was still working as a supervisor in the insurance company, now identified as Metropolitan Life.  Both Max and Leo were working as clerks for American Pencil Company, and Albert was only fourteen and presumably in school.

In 1915, the family had relocated again to 60 West 129th Street; Sigmund was still in the insurance business.  The census does not report what businesses they were working in, but Max was working as an assistant manager, Leo as a salesman, and Albert as a stock clerk.

Sigmund Seligman and family 1915 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 09; Assembly District: 21; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 35

Sigmund Seligman and family 1915 NY census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 09; Assembly District: 21; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 35

Sigmund and Charlotte’s first grandchild, Jerrold Thurston Brandt, son of Joseph and Mary (Seligman) Brandt, was born on June 15, 1913.

On October 12, 1915, Max married Pauline Hirsch. Pauline’s father Samuel was a German immigrant working as a watchman; her mother had died in 1901. Pauline had been working as a bookkeeper for a clothing company in 1910.  Pauline and Max had a daughter Theresa born August 15, 1916, presumably named for Max’s little sister Theresa, who had died in 1902.

Both Leo and Albert served in World War I.  Leo served stateside near Jacksonville, Florida; Albert was sent overseas where he was gassed on the battlefields of France.  According to his nephew Steve, Albert never fully regained his health, suffering from heart problems and pneumonia all his life.

Leo Seligman World War I courtesy of Steve Seligman

Leo Seligman World War I courtesy of Steve Seligman

Albert Seligman ww1

Albert Seligman World War I photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

By 1920 Sigmund had retired.  He and Charlotte were still living with two of their sons, Leo and Albert, as well as a boarder. Home from the war, Leo was a salesman for a cloak company, and Albert was a merchant in ladies’ clothing.

On April 18, 1920, Leo married Jeanette Freundlich, the daughter of Morris and Martha Freundlich.  Morris was an immigrant from the Austria-Hungary Empire, and according to his passport application, he was born in Krakow.  Morris was a furrier and had his own business.  According to the 1920 census, Jeanette and her brothers Julian and Edwin were all helping their father in his business.  Jeanette and Leo had three children in the 1920s, Joan, my newly-found cousin Steven, and Edward.

Leo Seligman and his family

Leo Seligman and his family

Joan Seligman

Joan Seligman

Edward, Joan and Steven Seligman

Edward, Joan and Steven Seligman

EDDIE & STEVE ABOUT 1938 001

Edward and Steven Seligman about 1938

Joan Seligman, age 13

Joan Seligman, age 13

In 1920 Max was working as the assistant manager in the pencil company, and he and his family were living at 424 East 51st Street.

Albert Seligman married Bella Heftler on November 20, 1921. Bella was the youngest of ten children of Max and Sarah Heftler, who were Hungarian immigrants.  Max Heflter was supporting that large family as a tailor, with his two oldest daughters working in a shirt factory in 1900. By 1920, Max had died, and Bella was working as a bookkeeper, still living with her mother and five of her siblings.  In 1923, Bella and Albert Seligman had a son Maxwell, named presumably for Bella’s father.

Albert Seligman courtesy of Steve Seligman

Albert Seligman courtesy of Steve Seligman

Bella Heftler Seligman

Bella Heftler Seligman courtesy of Steve Seligman

Maxwell Seligman courtesy of Steve Seligman

Maxwell Seligman courtesy of Steve Seligman

Sigmund Seligman died on June 15, 1924.  He was 74 years old.  His wife Charlotte survived him by ten years, dying on July 18, 1934.  She was 75 years old.

Sigmund Seligman and Charlotte Koppel Seligman

Sigmund Seligman and Charlotte Koppel Seligman

As for their children, in 1930 Max was working as the manager of a movie theater and living with his family on West 97th Street.  Leo was living with his family on Cathedral Parkway (110th Street) and working in coat manufacturing.  Albert and his family were living on Jesup Avenue in the Bronx, and Albert was a salesman in the film industry.  Mary and Joe Brandt were living with their son Jerrold at 23 West 73rd Street, and Joe was one of the owners of what was now called Columbia Pictures.

By 1940, all three brothers were somehow connected to the film industry.  Joe Brandt had left Columbia Pictures in 1932 and had died in 1939, but he somehow must have connected his three brothers-in-law to the movie industry.  According to the 1940 census, Max Seligman was working as a purchasing agent for Columbia Pictures.  His draft registration for World War II says that Columbia Pictures was his employer.  Leo reported that he had his own office as a film distributor on the 1940 census, and on his World War II draft registration he said his employer was Max Seligman.  According to Steve, his father distributed foreign films as well as children’s cartoons for a local movie theater.  As for Albert, the 1940 census reports his occupation as a movie theater manager, but on his World War II draft registration he listed his employer as Columbia Pictures.  Steve said that Albert was in the publicity department.  Thus, by 1942 all three brothers appear to have been working in the film business.

Max (front left), Leo (rear on right), and Mary (front right) and two friends playing cards  Courtesy of Steve Seligman

Max (front left), Leo (rear on right), and Mary (front right) and two friends playing cards
Courtesy of Steve Seligman

Mary had also moved back from Hollywood to New York at some point after Joe died, and her nephew Steve remembers that she would often take him and his siblings to the movies.  Steve wrote, “Aunt Mary would march up to the box office and demand to see the manager.  When he came out she would come up with the same pitch.  ‘My husband was President and co-founder of Columbia Pictures and this child and I would like to see this picture.’ I never remember being turned away.”

Mary Seligman Brandt Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

Mary Seligman Brandt
Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

About his Uncle Max, Steve wrote, “Uncle Max had a habit of saying almost everything twice.  When I would go and visit him and my Aunt Pauline, Uncle Max would invariably open the door and say, ‘Hello my boy, hello my boy, how are you, how are you.’  Even during conversations it would happen.  I don’t know whether he thought we were hard of hearing or if he just wanted to emphasize what he said.    Not everything was repeated, of course, but enough times for my brother Eddie and my cousin Maxwell to refer to him as Uncle Max, Uncle Max.”

Steve also wrote this loving tribute to his father, Leo Seligman, the middle brother:

One thing you could say about my father was that he was a lousy ballplayer.  He couldn’t throw, he couldn’t catch, he didn’t even follow the baseball teams. When my brother Eddie and I would be in our room listening to a replay of the day’s games, my father would be in the living room reading the paper and surely not the sports page. But in other ways he managed to spend quality time with us. In the summer almost every Sunday we would go up to the roof of our apartment building with bridge chairs and hang out for a couple of hours. He would have contests between Eddie and me testing our spelling, math and memory skills. Eddie would always win the math contest but I managed to hold my own in the other games. I think whoever won would get a nickel, nothing to get crazy over but enough to tide us over in the candy store.  In my early teens on Sundays in the spring he and I would rent bikes and go bike riding in Central Park. It’s amazing but I still remember the store. The owners name was Aug, it was on 81st St. and he charged a quarter an hour. That was fun. What my father lacked in ball playing he made up on a bike. One other thing; he never spanked us. When I misbehaved he would “flick” my ear, hard.  It’s hard to describe what “flicking” an ear is but if you put your forefinger against your thumb and release it strongly, that’s flicking. It really didn’t hurt much but it didn’t matter, we knew we were being punished.

Leo Seligman

Leo Seligman

Leo and Jeanette (Freundlich) Seligman

Leo and Jeanette (Freundlich) Seligman

All three brothers died within five years of each other.  Albert, the youngest, died first on October 6, 1948.  He was only 52 years old and had been plagued with poor health since his service during World War I.  Leo died on January 1, 1952; he was just sixty years old.  Max, the oldest of the three, died the following year on March 9, 1953; he was 68.

 

Max Seligman NYT Obit

Mary Seligman Brandt, the oldest of the children of Sigmund and Charlotte Koppel Seligman, lived the longest.  She died in February, 1977, at the age of 94.

Thank you once again to my cousin Steve Seligman for sharing his photographs and his stories with me.  I am so pleased that we have found each other.  These new contacts and the pleasure they bring me continue to be the most meaningful benefits I get from doing genealogy and writing this blog.  Here are some additional photographs of Steve’s family:

Steve's brother Eddie Seligman

Steve’s brother Eddie Seligman

Steve's wife Arline

Steve’s wife Arline

Joan Seligman's husband Bennett Pollard

Joan Seligman’s husband Bennett Pollard

Steve and Arline Seligman

Steve and Arline Seligman

Nancy (nee Seligman) and Barry Buzzuro

Nancy (nee Seligman) and Barry Buzzuro

Steve and Arline Seligman and daughter Nancy

Steve and Arline Seligman and daughter Nancy

Jane Brenwasser Jacobs, great-granddaughter of Sigmund Seligman

Jane Brenwasser Jacobs, great-granddaughter of Sigmund Seligman

 

 

I Could Have Been A Contender*

 

The original CBC Film Sales logo used from 191...

The original CBC Film Sales logo used from 1919 through 1924 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I continued to research the descendants of my four-times-great-uncle Marx Seligman, one thing kept bothering me. I had not yet confirmed one of the facts asserted in the second handwritten tree discovered by my cousin Wolfgang.  That second handwritten tree, which had led me to Marx and his family, claimed (1) that Marx had remarried and moved to New York.  That was true about the Marx I was following—he had married Sara Koppel and moved to New York City.

The creator of that second tree also claimed that (2) Marx and Sara had had a son who (also) married a woman whose surname was Koppel (or Coppel).  That also proved to be true of the Marx I was following: his son Sigmund had married a woman named Charlotte Koppel, born in Germany (and likely related to Sigmund’s mother).

tree 2 page 8

But there was one more specific fact that the tree had mentioned that I had not yet confirmed:  (3) that the son had had a daughter who married a film agent. As I researched up to 1900, I had not yet uncovered anyone involved in the film industry who was related to Marx.  Being a big movie fan, I was disappointed not to find a connection to Hollywood.

But then I entered the 20th century in my research.  While researching the children of Sigmund Seligman as they entered adulthood, I found the answer.  According to another family tree I found on Ancestry owned by Sharon Bolton, Sigmund and Charlotte’s first child, Mary, married a man named Joseph Brandt, who was born on July 20, 1882, in Troy, New York.  I am always very reluctant to rely on anyone else’s tree, having seen so many that are unsourced and clearly carelessly done, but this one seemed very thorough and included many photographs as well as personal stories by Sigmund’s grandson, Steve. (I am now in touch with both Sharon and Steve, and they generously shared wonderful photographs and stories about Sigmund’s family.  I will post more photographs in a subsequent post.)

Sigmund Seligman and family about 1901. Standing rear: Mary, Max.  Sitting middle row: Sigmund, Albert, Leo, and Charlotte.  In front: Theresa Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

Sigmund Seligman and family about 1901. Standing rear: Mary, Max. Sitting middle row: Sigmund, Albert, Leo, and Charlotte. In front: Theresa
Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

According to Joseph Brandt’s record on the 1920 census, his father was born in Russia and spoke Yiddish; his mother was born in Germany.

Joseph Brandt and family 1920 census  Source Citation Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 23, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1227; Page: 38B; Enumeration District: 1506; Image: 543

Joseph Brandt and family 1920 census
Source Citation
Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 23, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1227; Page: 38B; Enumeration District: 1506; Image: 543

 

I could not find Joseph on any census before or after 1920, and I could not find anything else about his parents or family.  (Sharon also had nothing about his background on her tree.) Based on his birth date and birth place as recorded on Sharon’s family tree, the only other official records I could find for him were his 1913 passport application, his 1918 World War I draft registration card, and several ship manifests for his travels with Mary.

But his draft registration corroborated that third missing fact from the handwritten family tree.  According to his 1918 draft registration card, Joseph was then employed as an attorney and assistant treasurer for Universal Film Manufacturing Company.  Now I had evidence that the Marx Seligman I had been following was the same man discussed in the handwritten family tree: Marx’s son Sigmund had married a woman named Koppel; they had had a daughter (Mary) who married a “film agent.”

Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1787086; Draft Board: 170

Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1787086; Draft Board: 170

Of course, Joe Brandt was more than a film agent.  In fact, he was much, much more.  Once I saw that he was in fact involved in the film industry, I googled his name and learned more.  From Wikipedia and his obituary in the New York Times on February 23, 1939, p.28,  I learned that Joe Brandt was one of the founders and the first president of Columbia Pictures.  Joe had graduated from NYU Law School in 1906 and had worked in the advertising industry for several years before being hired in 1912 by Carl Laemmle, the founder of Universal Film Manufacturing, today known as Universal Studios.  In 1919 he and two brothers he had known at Universal,, Harry and Jack Cohn, formed their own film production company, known first as C.B.C. Film Sales (for Cohn Brandt Cohn) and later known as Columbia Pictures.

Christmas ad in The Film Daily December 1920  p 1484

Christmas ad in The Film Daily December 1920 p 1484

 

Joe sold his interest in Columbia Pictures in 1932 and then became president of two other film companies before retiring due to poor health in 1935.  Joe died at the age of 56 on February 22, 1939. Joe and Mary had had one child, a son named Jerrold Thurston Brandt, who would also enter the movie industry.

Joe Brandt obit NYTimes February 23, 1939

But why couldn’t I find out anything about Joe’s background before entering the film industry other than his birth in Troy, New York, in 1882?  From a link in the Wikipedia entry, I found this little snippet about him from a journal called Moving Picture World dated April 6, 1912:

Joe Brandt goes to Laemmle

Joe had changed his name from Brandenburg to Brandt.  There is also a reference to his name change in this article from the February 1, 1913 edition of Motography:

Motography part 1

Motography part 2

Motography part 3

Once I knew his original name, I had no trouble locating his parents and his siblings. Joseph Brandenburg was the son of Daniel and Rosa Brandenburg.  Daniel was born in 1846 in Russia, and according to the 1900 census, had arrived in the United States in 1870.   His wife Rosa was born in Prussia in 1847 and had immigrated to the US in 1865, according to the 1900 census.  Daniel and Rosa had married in 1871, and by 1880 they were living in Troy, New York, where Daniel was working as a tailor.  They had three children by that time: Albert, Lilly, and Anna.   Joseph was their youngest child, born in 1882. At some point the family must have moved to New York City because the article reprinted above from Motography states that Joe was educated in the NYC public schools.  On the 1900 census, Daniel and Rosa were living in New York City with all of their children, including Joe, who was already a lawyer, according to the census report.  Daniel was still working as a tailor.  Joe was still living with his parents as of the 1905 New York census and was still listed as a lawyer on that census record.

On October 20, 1907, Joseph Brandenburg married Mary Seligman in New York City.

New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940," database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24HY-X9K : accessed 15 July 2015), Joseph Brandenburg and Mary Seligman, 20 Oct 1907; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm .

New York, New York City Marriage Records, 1829-1940,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:24HY-X9K : accessed 15 July 2015), Joseph Brandenburg and Mary Seligman, 20 Oct 1907; citing Marriage, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York City Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm .

He was still using the Brandenburg surname as of 1910, when according to the census, he was working in advertising for Billboard magazine.   He and Mary were living at 3161 Broadway in NYC.  Sometime between 1910 and 1913 when he applied for a passport, Joe changed his surname to Brandt, as that is how he appears on every document thereafter.

Joseph Brandt passport application 1913 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 194; Volume #: Roll 0194 - Certificates: 14182-15185, 07 Aug 1913-30 Aug 1913

Joe Brandt passport application 1913
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 194; Volume #: Roll 0194 – Certificates: 14182-15185, 07 Aug 1913-30 Aug 1913

Joe Brandt’s story is another one of those remarkable American dreams come true.  The son of a Russian Jewish immigrant who worked as a tailor, Joe not only went to college and law school.  He became a major figure in the burgeoning American film industry of the early 20th century and an extremely wealthy man, according to his nephew Steve. In fact, if I hadn’t found the facts myself, I’d say it was just a Hollywood story made to perpetuate the myth of the American dream.  But it is in fact a real story.

Mary Seligman Brandt Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

Mary Seligman Brandt, my second cousin, three times removed
Photo courtesy of Steve Seligman

Moving Picture World July-September 1913, p. 728  http://archive.org/stream/movingpicturewor17newy#page/727/mode/1up

Moving Picture World July-September 1913, p. 728 http://archive.org/stream/movingpicturewor17newy#page/727/mode/1up

 

————-

* From On the Waterfront, a Columbia Pictures film