Eugene and Maurice Goldsmith: Together at Home and at Work

In 1910 the two surviving sons of Meyer and Helena Goldsmith were living with their parents in New York City.  Eugene Goldsmith, 51, was in the import business, and his brother Maurice, 46, was working in a department store. They were both single and had lived together with their parents Helena (Hohenfels) and Meyer Goldsmith all their lives, first in Philadelphia and then in New York City. But with their mother’s death in 1910 and then their father’s in 1911, their lives changed.

Eugene and Maurice Goldsmith (possibly). Courtesy of the family.

Meyer Goldsmith 1910 US census, Census Place: Manhattan Ward 12, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1028; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0739; FHL microfilm: 1375041
Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census

In 1913, Eugene married May Jacobs in Philadelphia.1 He was 54, she was 41. May was the daughter of Michael Jacobs and Alice Arnold, both of whom were born in Pennsylvania.2 May’s father died when she was just a young child, and she and her three sisters were all living together with their mother in Philadelphia in 1910.3 I’d love to know how May connected with Eugene, who had by that time been living in New York City for over twenty years.

In 1915 Eugene and May were living at 817 West End Avenue in New York City; Eugene was still in the import business, and May was doing housework. They were still living at 817 West End Avenue in 1920, and Eugene’s import business was now identified as umbrellas. They also had a servant living with them.

Eugene Goldsmith 1915 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 18; Assembly District: 17; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 28, Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1915

As for Maurice, the 1915 New York State census lists him (now as Murry Goldsmith) in his own household at 256 West 97th Street in New York City, working as a clothing salesman.4  Despite finding him listed in both the 1920 and 1922 New York City directories and having addresses from both years, I was unable to find Maurice/Murry/Murray on the 1920 US census. But the 1920 directory revealed important information about both Murray and Eugene.5

I learned that by 1920 Eugene and Maurice were involved in a new business together. Eugene is listed as the president of a firm called Goldsmith-Dannenberg in the 1920 New York City directory, and Murray is listed as its treasurer. Barnard Dannenberg was the secretary, and their business was described as infants’ wear.

New York, New York, City Directory, 1920 (under Goldsmith)
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

New York Times, August 9, 1922, p.12

Unfortunately, this business soon ran into legal problems with a company that failed to take delivery and pay for a large order of goods from Goldsmith-Dannenberg.6 According to the complaint filed by their lawyer, Leo Levy (Eugene and Murray’s brother-in-law), on December 26, 1919, Berg Bros., Inc., contracted with Goldsmith-Dannenberg for the purchase of 373 dozen specially made hand-knit caps for infants for a total price of $5051.25, to be delivered in several separate installments over a several month period. Berg Bros. accepted the first installment, which was very small compared to the overall order (nine dozen caps), but refused to accept the last two installments of 182 dozen caps each. The purchaser had paid Goldsmith-Dannenberg only $141.25 of the $5051.25 purchase price.  Goldsmith-Dannenberg asserted that since the goods were specially made for this purchaser, they could not be resold and that therefore the company was entitled to the complete purchase price as damages.

In its answer, Berg Bros. denied the allegations in the complaint and also asserted two defenses: first, that the contract was not in writing and thus was unenforceable under the Statute of Frauds because it was for more than $50 worth of goods, and second, that the employee who entered into the contract with Goldsmith-Dannenberg did not have the authority to do so. The defendant also claimed that the goods were “standard” goods that could be easily resold by the plaintiff in order to mitigate its damages.

I was disappointed that I could not find out how the case was resolved—whether by a court or by a settlement between the parties. The only decision I could locate relating to the case was not on the merits of the underlying claim but rather on a procedural question involving the plaintiff’s request to take a deposition of some of the defendant’s employees.7 But given that the last advertisements and directory listings for Goldsmith-Dannenberg are dated 1922, it appears that the company did not recover from this litigation or otherwise ran into business trouble and went out of business.

In 1925, Eugene listed himself both in the New York State census and in the New York City directory as once again in his own umbrella importing business (I don’t know whether he had ever left this business even when involved in the baby clothes business).8 He and May were living at 500 West End Avenue. As for Maurice/Murray, the 1925 New York City directory lists him at 248 West 105th Street and as “treasurer,” but there is no indication as to where he was serving as treasurer. 9 Perhaps his brother’s umbrella company? Unfortunately I couldn’t find Murray on the 1925 New York State census, which might have provided more details.

The 1930 US census found Eugene and May still living at 500 West End Avenue and Eugene still in the umbrella importing business.10 Murray was still at 248 West 105th Street, where the 1930 census shows that he was one of a number of people boarding in the household of Joseph Mantzer. His occupation was given as salesman for an umbrella company, obviously that owned by Eugene.11

Maurice/Murray Goldsmith died at age seventy on April 21, 1933;12 his death notice in the New York Times stated that he died after a “short illness.” He was described as the “beloved son of the late Meyer and Helena Goldsmith and dear brother of Eugene J. Goldsmith, Rose G. Morgenstern and Florence G. Levy.” There was also a death notice posted by his Elks Lodge.

New York Times, April 23, 1933, p. 28.

In 1940, Eugene and May were living at 277 West End Avenue, and Eugene no longer was working.13 He died six years later on April 27, 1946. 14 He was 86 years old. His wife May died the following year on October 11, 1947.  She was 75.15 A family member shared with me that May had beautiful porcelain and lace dolls which she allowed this family member to play with when she was a young child.

Neither Eugene nor Maurice had any direct descendants and were survived by one of their sisters, Florence, and by their nieces and nephew. In so many ways, their stories are stories of the American dream—two sons of immigrant parents who created their own business, used the legal system to try and find justice, lost their business but started all over again, just as their father Meyer had after losing his business in Philadelphia and moving to New York City.

 

 

 

 

 


  1.  Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Marriage License Number: 294169. 
  2. Michael Jacobs death certificate, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VK8M-GJF : 8 March 2018), Michael Jacobs, 07 Jan 1880; citing v A p 15, Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; FHL microfilm 1,003,706. Alice Jacobs and family 1880 census, Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1173; Page: 105B; Enumeration District: 205. Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census. Jay Jacobs death certificate, Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1966; Certificate Number Range: 087501-090500. Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. 
  3. Alice Jacobs and daughters, 1880 US Census, Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 15, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1391; Page: 14A; Enumeration District: 0232; FHL microfilm: 1375404. Ancestry.com. 1910 United States Federal Census 
  4. Murry Goldsmith, 1915 New York State census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 12; Assembly District: 17; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 12. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1915 
  5. New York, New York, City Directory, 1920, 1922. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  6. The legal papers connected with this case can be found here. They were filed in connection with an appeal with the New York Appellate Division of an order dated December 28, 1920, from the New York Supreme Court for the County of New York, Index No. 24707. 
  7. Goldsmith-Dannenberg v. Berg Bros., Inc., 196 A.D. 930 *; 1921 N.Y. App. Div. LEXIS 6091 **; 187 N.Y.S. 935 (1921). 
  8. Eugene Goldsmith, 1925 New York State census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 52; Assembly District: 09; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 5. Ancestry.com. New York, State Census, 1925. New York, New York, City Directory, 1925. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  9.  New York, New York, City Directory, 1925. Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  10. Eugene and May Goldsmith, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 25A; Enumeration District: 0431. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  11. Murry Goldsmith, 1930 US Census, Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0489. Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  12.  Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948. Certificate 9791. 
  13. Eugene and May Goldsmith, 1940 US Census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02637; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 31-587A. Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  14. New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2WY9-ZN3 : 10 February 2018), Eugene J Goldsmith, 27 Apr 1946; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,132,945. 
  15. New York Department of Health; Albany, NY; NY State Death Index; Certificate Number: 62459. Ancestry.com. New York, Death Index, 1880-1956 

Milton Goldsmith: A Victim of Conscience

In my last post we saw what my cousin Milton Goldsmith predicted for the 21st century; in this post, we will start to look at his life in the 20th century.

In 1900, Milton was recently married to Sophie Hyman of New York City, and the newlywed couple were living in Philadelphia where Milton continued to make a living as a clothing merchant. Their first child, Rosalind, was born on February 1, 1901, in Philadelphia,1 and a second daughter, Madeleine, followed on May 20, 1904, also in Philadelphia.2

By this time Milton had published his first novel, Rabbi and Priest (1891), as discussed here, as well as a second novel, A Victim of Conscience (1903).3

A Victim of Conscience takes place in the 1850s in a city that is unnamed but (based on the street names) is most likely Philadelphia. The main character is a recent German Jewish immigrant named Isaac Schwartz.  He has been in America for four years at the beginning of the novel and is living in dire poverty, desperate for a way to earn enough money to support his family. He finally decides to go to California to join the gold rush. There he encounters anti-Semitism and abuse and ultimately commits the crime that makes him a “victim of conscience.”

The principal theme of the book is atonement. Isaac seeks advice from a rabbi about how to atone for his crime and is discouraged by some of the rigidity of Jewish law. He then considers converting to Catholicism and studies with a priest, but ultimately decides that he can’t accept the notion that mere faith in Christ as his savior will provide salvation. In the end he learns that Judaism can provide a path to forgiveness and expiation for his sins.

The book’s focus is thus on Isaac’s struggle with his conscience and how religion affects that struggle. But the book is of more interest to me in the way that it reflects the way my cousin Milton understood his own family’s story—their life in Germany, their reasons for leaving Germany, and the life they found when they first settled in the US fifty years before he wrote this book. A few excerpts will illustrate what I mean.

Although I have no reason to assume that Milton was being at all autobiographical in describing the lives of some of his characters, I did wonder whether this description of Isaac’s life in Germany was based on his father Abraham’s life in Oberlistingen before emigrating:4

Isaac’s father, old Meyer Schwartz, was a power in his native village of D. He was in fair circumstances, and educated as far as education went in those days; for the Jews, rich and poor alike, were denied the privileges of the village schools, and were limited in their instruction to the teachings of their “Cheders ” and the scraps of information which they could impart one to the other. Old Schwartz was a profound Talmud scholar, and was deemed as wise as he was devout, which was no equivocal compliment, for he was pious indeed. … It was [his] ambition to make a Rabbi of [Isaac], but in spite of his earnest and painstaking instruction, Isaac never got beyond the general outlines of the law and the Talmud. Buying and selling afforded him more pleasure than poring over parchments, and, after a vain effort to keep him to his studies, old Schwartz reluctantly allowed him to follow his own inclinations.

Milton also provided some background for the reasons so many German Jews emigrated:5

In those days the Jews in Germany had few rights and many grievances. Harsh measures were devised, stringent laws enacted to drive them out of the country, or at least to restrict their increase. The possession and cultivation of land, the study of a profession, the following of the fine arts, were all interdicted. Buying and selling, borrowing and lending, were the only channels in which the Israelites were allowed to exercise their ingenuity, and grievous was their condition in consequence. Worse still, a Jew was not allowed to marry until some co-religionist in the community had died or had moved away.

His main character Isaac decides to emigrate because he wants to marry the woman he loves, Lena, and cannot stay in his home community and do so.

Milton also described the hard lives of the Jews who made a living as peddlers after coming to the US, as his father Abraham probably did:6

A number of peddlers were among the visitors, stalwart young fellows but lately arrived from Germany, who, with a heavy pack on their shoulders, or, if their means allowed, with horse and wagon, wandered through the State, hawking a varied assortment of merchandise, and seeking to master the American tongue while they accumulated American dollars. It was a hard experience, but a salutary one. For the pious Jews, peddling meant untold privations, a total abstinence of all food except eggs and such “Kosher” dried meats as they could carry with them. It meant a weary trudging through unfamiliar villages, over stony roads, amid hostile surroundings, from Sunday morning until Friday evening, and a short rest on the Sabbath in some synagogue town.

It was a career which might well have daunted the most enterprising youth, and yet thousands of “greenhorns ” adopted it, thrived at it, became wealthy through it. It was not considered degrading in those pioneer days, but eminently proper for a new arrival.

19th century etching of a peddler by Granger found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/1-peddler-19th-century-granger.html

The book also sheds light on the lives of German Jewish families in Philadelphia during that time period—the level of observance of Jewish law, the economic and social conditions, and the relationship between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities. The book is likely more valuable today for what it reveals about its times than for its literary merit, but for me, it was a worthwhile read.

Thus, by 1903, Milton had published two novels and written many essays, short stories, and even a musical. He and his family must have decided that it was time to leave Philadelphia and move to New York City where he might have more opportunities to pursue his literary career.

You can download a free copy of A Victim of Conscience here.


  1. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBYW-R9L : 9 March 2018), Rosalind Goldsmith, 01 Feb 1901; citing bk 1901 p 107, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,340. 
  2. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VBBL-N5K : 8 December 2014), Madeline Goldsmith, 29 May 1904; citing cn 22583, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 2,110,933. 
  3. Milton Goldsmith, A Victim of Conscience (Henry T. Coates & Co., 1903). 
  4. Ibid., p.6. 
  5. Ibid., p. 7. 
  6. Ibid., pp. 84-85. 

Milton Goldsmith: Rabbi and Priest

When I prepared this post, it didn’t occur to me that I would be publishing it on the day  that is both Good Friday and Erev Passover—the night of the first seder. But it couldn’t be a more appropriate day to post about a book that deals with the need for religious tolerance—written by my cousin Milton Goldsmith in 1891.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all!


Abraham Goldsmith’s oldest child was his son Milton, born to Abraham’s first wife Cecelia on May 22, 1861, in Philadelphia.1 I have been looking forward to researching and writing about Milton for a long time, ever since my father told me that he had once met one of his Goldsmith cousins and remembered that he had written children’s books. It took me a while to figure out which Goldsmith that was, but I believe that it must have been Milton.

From what I’ve written about Milton so far, you would not know about his literary interests and career.  From the late 1880s until at least 1900, public records listed his occupation as clothing merchant, and he worked in his father’s clothing store, A.Goldsmith & Sons, for many years.

But even during those years, Milton was engaged in other, more creative pursuits. According to one online biography, Milton graduated from Central High School in Philadelphia in 1877 and then studied literature, languages, and music at the University of Zurich for three years from 1877 until 1880 when he returned to Philadelphia.

His first full length novel was published by the Jewish Publication Society in 1891. It was an interesting choice of subject matter for the son of a very successful German-Jewish immigrant. Entitled Rabbi and Priest, it is the story of two Russian Jewish brothers who are separated during a pogrom; one eventually finds his way to Kiev where his uncle lives; he is educated in a yeshiva and grows up to be a rabbi.  The other is rescued by a Russian Countess and sent to a monastery where he grows up to be a priest.2

The book provides insight into the lives of poor Jews living in Russia in the 19th century and their attitudes, practices, and beliefs as well as the lives and views of the Christian populations. It also includes information about Russian history and the treatment of Jews there between 1850 and 1880, including details about pogroms and the attitudes of the czars and the Russian people. There are also insights into Milton Goldsmith’s own beliefs and attitudes, revealed by the character of Phillip Harris, a Russian Jew who immigrates to America and comes back to visit his former home in Kiev.

Milton Goldsmith explained in the preface to his book his reasons for writing this story:3

Towards the end of 1882, there arrived at the old Pennsylvania Railroad Depot in Philadelphia, several hundred Russian refugees, driven from their native land by the inhuman treatment of the Muscovite Government. Among them were many intelligent people, who had been prosperous in their native land, but who were now reduced to dire want. One couple, in particular, attracted the attention of the visitors, by their intellectual appearance and air of gentility, in marked contrast to the abject condition of many of their associates. Joseph Kierson was the name of the man, and the story of his sufferings aroused the sympathy of his hearers. The man and his wife were assisted by the Relief Committee, and in a short time were in a condition to provide for themselves.

The writer had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Kierson a few years later and elicited from him a complete recital of his trials and an account of the causes of the terrible persecution which compelled such large numbers of his countrymen to flee from their once happy homes.

His story forms the nucleus of the novel I now present to my readers. While adhering as closely as possible to actual names, dates and events, it does not pretend to be historically accurate. In following the fortunes of Mendel Winenki, from boyhood to old age, it endeavors to present a series of pictures portraying the character, life, and sufferings of the misunderstood and much-maligned Russian Jew.

In the description of Russia’s customs and characteristics, the barbarous cruelty of her criminal code and the nihilistic tendency of the times, the author has followed such eminent writers as Wallace, Foulke, Stepniak, Tolstoi and Herzberg-Fraenkel. The accounts of the riots of 1882 will be found to agree in historic details with the reports which were published at the time.

With this introduction, I respectfully submit the work to the consideration of an indulgent public.

MILTON GOLDSMITH

Philadelphia, April, 1891

Russian Jews in Philadelphia 1890

The themes that run through the book focus primarily on anti-Semitism and its roots, Jewish faith and identity, and the value of a more worldly and secular education. As to the first, Goldsmith wrote:4

The serf persecutes the Jew because he is himself persecuted by the nobility. There is no real animosity between the peasant and his Jewish neighbors. Our wretched state is the outgrowth of a petty tyranny, in which the serf desires to imitate his superiors. Let the people once enjoy freedom and they will cease to persecute the Hebrews, without whom they cannot exist.

I thought this was an insightful perspective for someone living in 1893—to understand that a group’s prejudice often has its roots in its own oppression and poverty and that freedom and prosperity for all is the best way to eliminate hate and discrimination.

But it is Goldsmith’s attitudes towards education and assimilation that I found most interesting, keeping in mind that he was a man who had spent three years in Switzerland, learning about literature, language, and music. First, he notes how Talmudic study sharpens the intellect of Jewish students:5

It was to this incessant study of the Scriptures that Israel owed its patience, its courage, its fortitude during centuries of persecution. It was this constant delving for truth which produced that bright, acute Jewish mind, which in days of fanaticism and intolerance, protected the despised people from stupefying mental decay.

But then he expresses concern for how Talmudic study fosters closed-mindedness and superstition, stating,”That this study often degenerated into a mere useless cramming of unintelligible ideas is easily understood, and its effects were in many cases the reverse of ennobling.”6

It is, however, when the character of Phillip Harris returns to Russia and speaks of life in America that Goldsmith’s personal views and experience are most clearly revealed.  In speaking with the people of his former community in Kiev, Philip asserts that Jews are on equal footing with Christians in America, and when questioned about the fact that he has shaved his beard and abandoned many traditional Jewish practices, he says:7

[I]t seems to me that a Jew can remain a Jew even if he neglect some of those ceremonials which have very little to do with Judaism pure and simple. Some are remnants of an oriental symbolism, others comparatively recent additions to the creed, which ought to give way before civilization. What possible harm can it do you or your religion if you shave your beard or abandon your jargon for the language of the people among whom you live? … Every effort to develop the Jewish mind is checked, not by the gentiles, but by the Jews themselves. … A knowledge of the history of the world, an insight into modern science, will teach us why and wherefore all our laws were given and how we can best obey, not the letter but the spirit of God’s commands.

Romanian Jewish journalist Sache Petreanu, an advocate of assimilation, cutting off the payot of an observant Jew (1899 caricature by Constantin Jiquidi)
Constantin_Jiquidi_-_Sache_Petreanu,_Foaia_Populară,_14_feb_1899

Phillip continued:8

You will all admit that you place more weight upon your ceremonials than upon your faith. You deem it more important to preserve a certain position of the feet, a proper intonation of the voice during prayers than to fully understand the prayer itself, and in spite of your pretended belief in the greatness and goodness of God, you belittle Him by the thought that an omission of a single ceremony, the eating of meat and milk together, the tearing of a tzitzith (fringe) will offend Him, or that a certain number of mitzvoth (good acts) will propitiate Him. Do you understand now what I mean when I say that superstition is not religion?

The character concludes by saying:.9

Worship God as your conscience dictates, continue in your ancient fashion if it makes you happy, but be tolerant towards him who, feeling himself mentally and spiritually above superstition, seeks to emancipate himself from its bonds and to follow the dictates of his own good common-sense

Goldsmith recognized that for those living in Russia where oppression and poverty made Jewish lives difficult, an adherence to these traditional practices was more understandable, for the rabbi responds to Phillip by saying, “Whether these observances are needed or are superfluous in a free country like America I shall not presume to say, but in Russia they are a moral and a physical necessity.”10

When poor Jews from Eastern Europe and Russia began to immigrate to the US in the 1880s and 1890s, they faced prejudice not only from the Christian majority here, but also from many Jews with German origins whose families had immigrated decades earlier and had assimilated into American life.11 I am proud of my cousin Milton Goldsmith for writing a book that tried to convey to Americans and perhaps in particular to American Jews the travails and obstacles faced by these new Russian Jewish immigrants. He does an excellent job of describing what their lives were like, why they were forced to emigrate, and why they were clinging to traditions and practices that American Jews might no longer feel necessary. And he also endorsed the need for and value of a liberal education and an open mind.

The book is not just a novel, but a lesson in tolerance, in the need for education, and in the power of faith when life seems too grim and hopeless to bear.

If you are interested in buying the book, it is available on Amazon as an e-book here.


  1. Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Births, 1860-1906,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VB16-KTZ : 8 December 2014), Milton Growsmith, 22 May 1861; citing bk 2 p 168, Department of Records; FHL microfilm 1,289,306. 
  2. Milton Goldsmith, The Rabbi and The Priest: A Story (Jewish Publication Society, 1891) 
  3. Goldsmith, Milton, Rabbi and Priest: A Story (pp. 6-8, Kindle edition). 
  4.  Goldsmith, Milton. Rabbi and Priest A Story (p. 30). Kindle Edition. 
  5.  Goldsmith, Milton. Rabbi and Priest A Story (p. 84). Kindle Edition. 
  6. Goldsmith, Milton. Rabbi and Priest A Story (p. 84). Kindle Edition. 
  7.  Goldsmith, Milton. Rabbi and Priest A Story (pp. 99-100). Kindle Edition. 
  8.  Goldsmith, Milton. Rabbi and Priest A Story (p. 102). Kindle Edition. 
  9.  Goldsmith, Milton. Rabbi and Priest A Story (p. 103). Kindle Edition. 
  10.  Goldsmith, Milton. Rabbi and Priest A Story (p. 104). Kindle Edition. 
  11. Irving Aaron Mandel, “Attitude of the American Jewish Community toward East-European Immigration As Reflected in the Anglo-Jewish Press 1880-1890,” American Jewish Archives, 1950. 

More Goldschmidts Become Goldsmiths in Philadelphia

In my last post we saw how my three-times great-uncle Jacob Goldsmith came to the United States and settled in Philadelphia by 1850, then married and had seven children in the 1850s and 1860s.  He also established a retail clothing business on Market Street.

But Jacob was not the only child of Seligmann and Hincka to come to the US as early as the 1850s. His younger brother Abraham was the second of Seligmann and Hincka’s children to come to the US. Abraham was born in March 13, 1832:

Birth record of Abraham Goldschmidt
Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 668)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 4

Abraham arrived in the US on August 21, 1850, listing his occupation as a merchant:

Abraham Goldschmidt passenger manifest 1850
Year: 1850; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 091; Line: 1; List Number: 951

 

On January 17, 1858, he married Cecelia Adler in Philadelphia.  Cecelia was the daughter of Samuel Adler and Sarah Kargau, and she was born on November 26, 1838, in Würzberg, Germany. She and her parents had immigrated to the US by 1850 and settled in Philadelphia where her father was a merchant.

Marriage record of Abraham Goldschmidt and Cecelia Adler
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 792
Organization Name: Congregation Rodeph Shalom
Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Church and Town Records, 1669-2013

In 1860, Abraham and Cecelia were living in Philadelphia, where Abraham was a clothier with $15,000 worth of personal property. That he amassed that much money so quickly indicates to me that he must have been either a very successful business person, or either his parents or his in-laws provided a substantial financial cushion. Note that Abraham, like his brother Jacob, had Americanized his name from Goldschmidt to Goldsmith.

Abraham and Cecelia (Adler) Goldsmith 1860 census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1163; Page: 914; Family History Library Film: 805163

Abraham and Cecelia had six children between 1861 and 1870: Milton (1861), Hildegard (1862), Edwin (1864), Rose (1866), Emily (1868), and Estelle (1870).  In 1870, Abraham now claimed he had $25,000 worth of real estate and $20,000 worth of personal property.  He continued to be in the clothing business. Cecelia’s parents were also living with Abraham and Cecelia and their six children in 1870, as well as three domestic servants [shown on the next page of the census].

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 12 District 35, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1396; Page: 133B; Family History Library Film: 552895

Thus, like his older brother Jacob, Abraham was quite well-settled in Philadelphia by 1870.

The youngest son of Seligmann and Hincka, Meyer, was the third brother to immigrate. He was born October 25, 1834, apparently registered with the name Rafael. I still believe that this was the same child later known as Meyer, based on his age on several US records and the fact that the 1900 census says that he was born in October 1834, and there is no other birth registered to Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander for that month and year.

Birth record of Rafael/Meyer Goldschmidt 1834
Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 668)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 5

Meyer arrived in the US on July 8, 1852. He was seventeen years old.

Meier Goldschmidt passenger manifest
Year: 1852; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 116; Line: 1; List Number: 895

According to the 1900 census, in 1859, Meyer married Helene Hohenfels, daughter of Jordan and Adelaide Hohenfels, all of whom had emigrated from Germany to the US by 1850. Meyer and Helene’s first child Eugene was born on October 6, 1859, in Newton, New Jersey, which is about 100 miles north of Philadelphia and sixty miles west of New York City.

In 1860 Meyer, Helene, and Eugene were living in Newton; Meyer was working as a “merchant tailor” and had $4000 worth of personal property. Also living with them were a servant and a thirteen year old boy named George Stone from the Hesse region, whose relationship to the family I’ve not determined. Like Jacob and Abraham, Meyer had changed the spelling of his surname to Goldsmith.

Meyer Goldsmith and Helene Hohenfels 1860 census
Year: 1860; Census Place: Newton, Sussex, New Jersey; Roll: M653_709; Page: 605; Family History Library Film: 803709

 

By 1863 or so, Meyer and his family had relocated to Philadelphia where his siblings were living. On the 1870 census, you can see that while his first two children were born in New Jersey, the third, who was seven in 1870, was born in Pennsylvania.  By 1870 Meyer and Helene had five children: Eugene (1859), Heloise (1860), Maurice (1863), Samuel (1867), and Rosa (1869). Meyer was working as a wholesale clothier and claimed $2000 in personal property. (I guess all those children ate into the $4000 worth of savings they’d had in 1860!) A sixth child, Florence, would be born in 1872.

Meyer Goldsmith 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 13 District 39, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1397; Page: 465A; Family History Library Film: 552896

 

Levy, the second oldest son of Seligmann and Hincka, was the next to come to the US. He was born November 10, 1824. He arrived in the US on September 20, 1853, and also settled in Philadelphia.

Levy Goldschmidt passenger manifest
Year: 1853; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 132; Line: 1; List Number: 991

Two years after arriving he married Henryetta Lebenbach in Philadelphia on March 21, 1855.

Marriage record of Levy Goldschmidt and Henryette Lebenbach
Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Historic Pennsylvania Church and Town Records; Reel: 792

In 1860, they were living in Philadelphia with two daughters, Eva (1856) and Estella (1859). He claimed $7,000 worth of personal property, and like his brothers, was now using the surname Goldsmith. Interestingly, he also seems to have changed the spelling of his first name from Levy to Levi. It looks like Henryette had also adopted a new spelling of her name—Henrietta.

Levi Goldsmith and family 1860 census

Levi was, like his three brothers, in the clothing business. A search of the Philadelphia directories for these years revealed that at least Abraham and Levi were in business together.

Title: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1862
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

Goldsmiths in the 1866 Philadelphia directory
Title: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1866
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995

I say “at least” Abraham and Levi were in business together because I think it’s possible that Jacob was also in the same business.  If you compare these two directory listings, one in 1862, one on 1866, you can see that whereas in 1862 Jacob was at 335 Market Street and Levi and Abraham at 532 Market Street, in 1866 they’d reversed—Jacob was at 532 and Levi and Abraham at 335.

By 1870, Levi (here spelled Levy) and Henrietta had seven children. After Eva and Estella came George (1861), Felix (1862), Helen (1865), Blanche (1868), and Sylvester (1869). Levy reported that he was in the wholesale clothing business and that he had $25,000 in real estate and $50,000 in personal property. He obviously was doing quite well.

Levy Goldsmith and family 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20 District 64, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1406; Page: 293B; Family History Library Film: 552905

 

Although by 1853, all four sons of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander had thus left Germany for the United States, their four sisters—Sarah, Bette, Eva, and Rose—were still in Germany at that point. But soon enough two of them also would come to the US.

In 1856 my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt arrived with her husband Gerson Katzenstein, and they, too, settled in Philadelphia, as I’ve written about previously. They came with their three oldest children: Scholum (1848), Jacob (1851), and Brendina (1853). And as noted before, traveling with them were some of the children of Gerson’s sister Hannchen Katzenstein Mansbach, who were also cousins to the children of Eva Goldschmidt’s sister Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach. As already described, Eva and Gerson would have three more children in the US: Perry (1856), Hannah (1859), and my great-grandmother Hilda (1863).

Seligmann and Hincka’s youngest child, Roschen or Rosa, was born on October 27, 1837.

Birth record of Roschen Goldschmidt
Geburtsregister der Juden von Oberlistingen (Breuna) 1826-1852 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 668)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, Wiesbaden, p. 9

She arrived in the US on July 9, 1860:

Roschen Goldschmidt passenger manifest
Year: 1860; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 202; Line: 1; List Number: 597

 

On January 20, 1864 she married Bernhardt Metz, another German immigrant. They would have four children between 1865 and 1870: Hattie (1865), Paul (1867), Emily (1869), and Bertha (1870). In 1870, they were living in Philadelphia where Bernhardt was a cloak manufacturer. He claimed $10,000 of real estate and $2000 of personal property:

Bernhardt and Rosa (Goldschmidt) Metz 1870 census
Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 20 District 66, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1407; Page: 438B; Family History Library Film: 552906

Thus, by 1860, all but two of  Seligmann and Hincka’s children had emigrated to the US, and by 1870, those in the US were all living in Philadelphia and married with children; all the sons were working in the clothing industry.

Only two siblings were still in Germany: Sarah, the oldest daughter, and Bette/Biele.  After 1870,  the children of Sarah Goldschmidt and her husband Abraham Mansbach II would also begin to emigrate, followed by Sarah and Abraham themselves in 1882, as discussed in my next post.

Walter and Max Katz: Two Outstanding Americans

When I spoke with Fred Katz, I had many questions about what it was like to come to the US in 1938, a nine year old boy leaving the small town of Jesberg, arriving in New York City, and then settling in Oklahoma. Fred made it seem as though this was not a very difficult adjustment for him, although he said it was harder for his parents. I asked how he felt about leaving Germany, and he said that he had been very excited to come to the US although sad to leave the family’s horse behind.  He said he learned English quickly and adjusted easily to school in Oklahoma, and he said the family felt comfortable in Oklahoma, having so many other family members around, most of whom had been either born in or living in the US for quite some time.

So what happened to the rest of the family of Karl and Jettchen Katz after immigrating to America in the late 1930s? What happened to Fred’s two older brothers, Walter and Max?

On September 24, 2000, two graduate students at Wichita State University, Janice Rich and Paul Williams, conducted an oral history interview of Walter Katz. That interview, which remains unpublished, is the source of much of the information in this post.

In the interview Walter spoke about the family’s decision to leave Germany after 1933. He told the interviewers that boys who had been his friends before Hitler came to power ganged up on him and threw dirt clods at him, giving him a black eye; after 1935, his father and uncle were not legally allowed to engage in their cattle trading business, but they persisted illegally at great risk. He also shared the story that Fred had told of the difficulties the family had getting visas from the American consulate and of Fred’s rescue of the Torah scroll after Kristallnacht.

Walter also noted that his uncle Jake in Oklahoma had facilitated Max and Walter’s departure from Germany by submitting affidavits to support their applications for exit visas. When Walter left Germany, he sailed to New York, stayed with relatives there for a few days, and then took a train to St. Louis where he was met by his uncle Jake. Obviously Jake was very instrumental in saving Karl’s family from the Nazis.

Walter Katz on passenger manifest, line 29, Year: 1937; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6055; Line: 1; Page Number: 50
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6055
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Jake brought him back to Stillwater where he was enrolled in school and was quickly put on the football team (he was seventeen, but because he did not yet know English, he was placed in junior high school).

Walter’s younger brother Max arrived in New York on July 21, 1938, and also listed that he was going to his uncle in Stillwater, Oklahoma:

Max Katz passenger manifest
Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 6188; Line: 1; Page Number: 101
Description
Ship or Roll Number : Roll 6188
Source Information
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957

Finally, Max and Walter’s parents and brother Fred arrived on November 30, 1938:

Karl Katz passenger manifest, Year: 1938; Arrival: New York, New York;Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957;Microfilm Roll: Roll 6258; Line: 1; Page Number: 16
Ancestry.com. New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010.

The family of Karl Katz and Jettchen Oppenheimer was finally reunited in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The Family of Karl Katz reunited in Stillwater: Max, Jettchen, Karl, Fred, and Walter

In 1939, Walter moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he worked at a men’s clothing store owned by two of his Youngheim cousins.  In 1942, he was drafted and inducted into the army at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He was then transferred to Camp Cook in California (now Vantenberg Air Force Base) and was soon naturalized as a United States citizen, as he described in the oral history interview.

Walter Katz in the US Army during World War II, courtesy of his family

Walter was assigned first to the 5th Armored Division and worked in company supply because of his retail experience.  He trained in Tennessee and in New York and was then transferred to intelligence school at Camp Ritchie in Maryland where he received two months of intensive training to prepare him to interrogate POWs.  He and 300 other servicemen from his base were then sent to the UK for seven months more of training. After that he was stationed in France, Belgium, and Germany. In France Walter became entangled in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944; while en route to Paris to pick up jeeps, he learned that the Germans had broken through Allied lines, and his unit, which had been stationed in Reims, France, was relocated to Belgium.

In Germany Walter was part of the Counter Intelligence Corps (CIC) where his job after the war was to interview and arrest civilian officials who had been Nazis and to see that they were replaced with those who had not been affiliated with the Nazis.  Walter told his interviewers that the people he interviewed all denied being Nazis and claimed they had no choice but to follow orders.

While in Germany, Walter met up with his cousin Jack Katz, Aron’s son, who was stationed in Wiesbaden. The two cousins attended high holiday services in 1945 at a restored synagogue in Bad Nauheim. In one of those eerie small world stories, a teenage boy who participated in the service later married one of Walter’s cousins.  Walter did not know of this coincidence until visiting that cousin in New York years later.

Walter and Jack also visited Jesberg while they were stationed in Germany. Walter was distressed by the state of the cemetery, which had been vandalized during the war, and he demanded that the mayor restore the stones that had been toppled and clean up the damage, which was done by the next time he visited. Walter and Jack also met a young Jewish woman they’d known in Jesberg who had been in one of the camps and wanted to live in Jesberg again.  She had no money, so Walter went to the man who had been the local Nazi official responsible for the damage to the synagogues and Jewish homes and businesses and demanded that this woman be provided with everything she needed.

Walter and Jack visiting the former Jesberg synagogue after World War II, courtesy of the Katz family

Walter Katz and Jack Katz in Jesberg after World War II
Courtesy of the Katz family

Although Walter had an opportunity to stay in Germany and work for the State Department, he wanted to return to the US.  He returned to Wichita and to his work in his cousin’s men’s clothing store, The Hub, which he eventually purchased.  He married his wife Barbara Matassarin in Denver on July 7, 1950.  Barbara had been a nurse training in Wichita when she met Walter and had enlisted in the US Army as a second lieutenant in early 1950. When she was assigned to a hospital in Denver, they decided to get married. Walter and Barbara lived, however, in Wichita with their daughter for most of the rest of their lives, and Walter remained in the men’s clothing business until he retired.

Walter Katz at his store in Wichita, 1950s.
Courtesy of the Katz family

Walter’s brother Max also served in the US army during World War II.  He served in the Army Air Corps from 1942 until 1945, according to his obituary. Like Walter, he became a US citizen while serving in the armed forces.  According to his brother Fred, Max was stationed stateside during the war and did not fight overseas.

Max Katz in the US Army during World War II

After the war, Max returned to Oklahoma and attended Oklahoma A&M for two years, receiving a certificate in business.  He worked in the meat packing industry for several years before starting his own cattle trading business in 1953.

Military discharge papers for Max Katz

According to his obituary, “in 1973, Max began buying pasture land throughout Payne County and feeding his own cattle, in addition to commission buying. At any given time, Max usually had about 3,000 head of cattle either on pasture or in feed lots. Max retired from the cattle business in 2009.” Tulsa World, January 1, 2011.

Walter, Max, and Fred Katz lost their father Karl in 1966 and their mother Jettchen in 1979. Both had remained in Stillwater, where they are buried.

Katz family members buried at the Stillwater cemetery

Walter Katz died in Israel on November 5, 2007; his wife Barbara had predeceased him on July 1, 2000. They are buried in Israel. Max Katz died in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on December 30, 2010; he is buried in Stillwater.

According to his obituary, Max Katz “was known far and wide as a superior cattle buyer and rancher who created a successful 56-year career in the cattle business by relying on a keen eye, a razor-sharp business sense, honest dealings, and above all, pure hard work. His generosity and willingness to help others in need became his hallmark and reputation.” Tulsa World, January 1, 2011.

Walter Katz, when asked in 2000 by his interviewers what he would say to the youth of America, said “First, you are lucky to be born in the United States. Second of all, you can do anything here that you want to do if you put your mind to it. The opportunity for anything you want to do is here if you want to do it. Work hard and stay with it and be good and honest. Live a good honest life and you will make it!”

Although those words do not necessarily reflect the experiences of everyone in this country, they do reflect the experiences and the values of Walter Katz and of his brother Max. Both Walter and Max had escaped from Germany as teenagers and traveled by themselves to the United States; they both had contributed greatly to their adopted country. They served in its military during a war against their country of birth, and they worked hard to become successful businessmen.

And yet these were two men who almost did not get into this country because of some bureaucrats dealing with immigration in the 1930s.  How many more could have been saved? How many more were turned away because of ignorance, fear, and prejudice? Will we ever learn?

Happy 4th of July!

English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na ...

English: Statue of Liberty Gaeilge: Dealbh na Saoirse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy 4th to all of you who live in the US!

I know my country isn’t perfect. I have never been blind to the mistakes our country has made nor am I blind to our continuing problems with racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, and violence. And I know, especially after traveling this summer, that people all over the world love their countries and are proud of their history, their culture, and their heritage despite the mistakes and problems of  those countries.

But this is my home, and I am deeply grateful to my brave ancestors who had the courage to come here to seek a better life and freedom from oppression and prejudice and violence.  I am so grateful to my immigrant ancestors: Hart Levy Cohen, Jacob Cohen and Rachel Jacobs, Bernard Seligman, John Nusbaum and Jeanette Dreyfuss, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt, Isadore Schoenthal, Joseph and Bessie Brotman, and my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager, who came by himself as a teenage boy and walked across Romania to get to this country, leaving his parents and siblings behind.  How can I ever take that for granted?

So today I say happy birthday to the United States of America and thank you for giving my ancestors a place of refuge and opportunity and a home for their children, their grandchildren, and all their descendants.

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Passover 2015: The American Jewish Story

Handmade shmura matzo used at the Passover Sed...

Handmade shmura matzo used at the Passover Seder especially for the mitzvot of eating matzo and afikoman. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A year ago I was feeling disconnected from Passover until I heard my grandson tell us the story of Passover in a way that made it feel new and exciting and different all over again.  This year his little brother will experience his first seder, though at only ten months, that experience will likely be short and quite unfocused.  Just a lot of really noisy people sitting around a table eating food that he neither can nor would want to eat.  But it’s a new reminder that every generation and every child experiences Passover as a new experience, allowing all of us who are jaded and detached to be able to relive our own early experiences with this special holiday.

Last year I entered into Passover thinking about my mother’s ancestors, the Brotmans, the Goldschlagers, and the Rosenzweigs.  I focused on their exodus from the oppression and poverty and anti-Semitism of Galicia and Romania and their courage and the desire for freedom that led them to leave all they knew to cross the continent and then the ocean and come to New York City, where they again lived in poverty but with greater hopes for a life of freedom and economic opportunity.  And they attained their goals if not in that first generation, certainly by the third and fourth generations.

Poor Jews taking home free matzohs, New York

Poor Jews taking home free matzohs, New York (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the last year now, I have been researching, studying and writing about my father’s paternal relatives.  It has taken just about a full year to cover the Cohens, the Jacobs (with whom I actually need to do more work), the Seligmans, the Schoenfelds, the Nusbaums, and the Dreyfusses.  Soon I will start my father’s maternal relatives—the Schoenthals and Katzensteins and whatever other surnames pop up along the way.  Researching my father’s families has been so different from my mother’s, and I can go so much further back.  I can’t get back much before 1840 with my mother’s family and have absolutely no records before 1885 or so for any of them.  Although I have a number of Romanian records for my Rosenzweig and Goldschlager relatives, I have no records at all from Europe for my great-grandparents Joseph and Bessie Brotman, despite hours and hours of searching and even DNA testing.

In contrast, my father’s ancestors have provided me with a rich opportunity to learn about Jews in Amsterdam, London, and especially the towns of Gau-Algesheim, Erbes-Budesheim, Bingen, and Schopfloch, Germany.  I have been able to find records all the way back to 1800 or so for almost every line.  I’ve had amazing help along the way on both sides of the Atlantic, and I’ve even learned a little German to boot.  My father’s families were pawnbrokers and peddlers and clothing merchants; they were pioneers and politicians and war heroes.

Harrisburg Market Square with Leo Nusbaum store

Harrisburg Market Square with Leo Nusbaum store

They came to the United States in the 1840s and 1850s, and most of them suffered terrible heartbreaks, economic struggles, and early deaths.  Most of them settled in Philadelphia and other parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but there were those who went to places that I’d never think a Jewish immigrant would go: Iowa, Texas, Illinois, Michigan, California, and, of course, New Mexico.  Many married outside the Jewish community and assimilated into American culture far more so than my mother’s relatives.  Ultimately, the Cohens/Jacobs and Seligmans/Schoenfelds and Nusbaums/Dreyfusses were successful; they found the American dream, and they embraced it.

But there is a very sad underside to this story of American success.  It’s the story of those who did not leave Europe.  For the first time in my life I confronted the reality that the Holocaust did not just happen to other families, to other Jews.  Not that I have not been deeply affected by the Holocaust all my life; ever since I read Anne Frank’s diary as a child, I’ve identified with and cried for all those who were murdered by the Nazis.  But I never knew that I had relatives left behind in Germany who were part of that slaughter.  I am still finding more, and I will write about them soon.  The list of names of my cousins who died in the Holocaust grows longer and longer, and I realize more than ever how grateful I should be to Bernard Seligman, John and Jeanette (Dreyfuss) Nusbaum, and Jacob and Sarah (Jacobs) Cohen for leaving Europe and taking a chance on the new country across the ocean.

memorial plaque gau aldesheim

So this year for Passover I will be thinking about that first major migration of Jews from Europe to America.  I will be feeling thankful for the risks my ancestors took, and I will be feeling the loss of not only all those who were killed in the Holocaust, but the loss of all the children and grandchildren who would have been born but for those deaths.

And overall I will be celebrating family, freedom, and faith—faith that the world can be a better place and that human beings can be their best selves and live good and meaningful lives.  May all of you have a wonderful weekend—be it Passover or Easter or perhaps just another weekend in April for you.   Celebrate all the good things in life in whatever way you can.

Family Wedding: My Great-Aunt Betty Goldschlager Feuerstein and Her Children

Betty Goldschlager

Betty Goldschlager

I’ve told the heartbreaking story before of my grandfather Isadore’s little sister Betty Goldschlager.  After sailing alone from Iasi, Romania, just thirteen years old, she arrived at Ellis Island on April 4, 1910, expecting her father Moritz, my great-grandfather, to meet her at the boat.  What she did not know was that her father had died the day before, April 3, 1910, from tuberculosis, just eight months after he himself had arrived in New York.  Betty was detained for a day at Ellis Island until her aunt, Tillie Strolowitz, could meet her and have her discharged.  Only then could Betty have learned that she had missed seeing her father alive by just one day.

Morris Goldschlager death certificate.pdf

 

betty goldschlager ship manifest part 1

Betty Goldschlager ship manifest part 2

Year: 1910; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 1444; Line: 1; Page Number: 193

But Betty Goldschlager survived and in fact thrived in the United States.  She married Isidor Feuerstein in 1921, and they had two daughters, my mother’s first cousins.  Betty’s grandson Barry shared this photograph of his parents’ wedding in 1950.  My great-aunt Betty is standing to the far left.

courtesy of Barry Kenner

courtesy of Barry Kenner

When I look at this photograph, I marvel at the fact that that little girl, who sailed across the ocean by herself and then arrived only to learn that her father had died, somehow had the strength to endure all that and adapt to a foreign country and make a good life for herself, her husband, and her children.

Caps for Sale: Peddlers and Merchants

As I wrote in my last post, by 1852 or before, five of the eight children of Amson and Voegele Nusbaum had settled in Pennsylvania.  Two of the siblings had settled in Harrisburg, one in Lewistown, one in Blythe, and one in Philadelphia.  According to the 1850 census, John Nusbaum was a merchant in Harrisburg, and his brother-in-law Isaac Dinkelspiel was a peddler there, married to John’s sister Mathilde.  Leopold Nusbaum was a butcher in Blythe, Maxwell was a merchant in Lewistown, and Ernst was a merchant in Philadelphia.

It is not surprising to me that Ernst would have settled in Philadelphia, which, as I have written about in the context of my Cohen ancestors, had a fairly large German Jewish community by the mid 1800s.  But why were John Nusbaum and Isaac Dinkelspiel and their families in Harrisburg?  Even more surprising, what were Leopold and Maxwell doing in relatively small towns like Lewistown and Blythe?  What would have taken these new German Jewish immigrants away from the big cities and to smaller towns and cities in Pennsylvania?

The choice of Harrisburg is not really that surprising.  By the time John Nusbaum arrived in the US, perhaps as early as 1840 or even before but certainly by 1850, Harrisburg had been the Pennsylvania state capital for many years already, i.e., since 1812.  It had been settled in the early 18th century and because of its location on the Susquehanna River where there was an opening between the mountains, it had developed into an important trading post for trade and expansion to the west.  By the 1830s the railroad and the Pennsylvania Canal passed through Harrisburg, further increasing its economic importance for westward expansion.  By 1840 the population of Harrisburg was almost six thousand people.  By comparison, the population of Philadelphia in 1840 was over 93,000 people.


Capitol. (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.), by A. G....

Capitol. (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.), by A. G. Keet (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jewish immigrants began to arrive in Harrisburg in the 1840s, primarily from Germany and England.  The first synagogue, Ohev Sholom, was begun in 1853, first as an Orthodox congregation, and then in 1867 it became a Reform congregation.   The Jewish population, however, was not very large.  There were sixteen members of the congregation in 1853, and even as late as 1900 there were only 35 members.

So how would my three-times great-grandfather John Nusbaum have ended up here?  I do not know for sure, but I can speculate that like many German Jewish immigrants, he arrived in Harrisburg as a peddler and, once finding a strong and stable economic base there, eventually opened his own store.  Harrisburg was obviously an important location for trade not only for its residents but also for those who stopped there as they moved westward in the United States.  It was likely an ideal location for a merchant.  Unlike his three-times great-granddaughter (and her immediate relatives), he must have been a very able entrepreneur.

This pathway to economic success—from peddler to merchant—was quite common among German Jewish immigrants.  According to Hasia Diner in “German Jews and Peddling in America,” (hereinafter “Peddling”) located here:

In Nashville, 23 percent of the adult male Jews in 1860 peddled, as did 25 percent of those in Boston between 1845 and 1861. In Easton, Pennsylvania, a town which occupied the strategic meeting point of the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers, 46 percent peddled in 1840, but just five years later, the number jumped to 70 percent. By 1850 the number had dropped to 55 percent, still a significant figure for any one occupation among a relatively small number of people. Of the 125 Jewish residents in Iowa in the 1850s, 100 peddled around the state, as did two-thirds of all the Jews in Syracuse, New York in that same decade before the Civil War.

See also  Rudolf Glanz, “Notes on Early Jewish Peddling in America,” Jewish Social Studies ( Indiana University Press, Vol. 7, No. 2, April,  1945)  located here.

In a different article, “German Immigrant Period in the United States,” (hereinafter “German Immigrant”) located here in the Jewish Women’s Archive, Hasia Diner explained why peddling was so widespread among German Jewish immigrants.

Americans in the hinterlands had little access to finished goods of all sorts, since few retail establishments existed outside the large cities. Jewish men overwhelmingly came to these remote areas as peddlers, an occupation that required little capital for start-up and that fit the life of the single man. In the large regional cities, Jewish immigrant men would load themselves up with a pack of goods, weighing sometimes as much as one hundred pounds, and then embark on a journey by foot, or eventually, if a peddler succeeded, by horse and wagon.

In “German Immigrant,” Diner opined that because many of these German Jewish immigrants came as single men, they were not tied down to families in a particular location when they first arrived and could thus take on the itinerant life of the peddler.  In her “Peddling” article, Diner further explained the popularity of peddling, pointing out that many of these German Jewish men came from families in Germany where their fathers had been peddlers.  That was certainly true for John Nusbaum and his brothers; their father Amson had been a peddler.  This was an occupation with which they were familiar.  Diner also stated that the Jewish German immigrants had networks of families and friends who could extend credit and help them get started on a peddling business.

19th century etching of a peddler by Granger found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/1-peddler-19th-century-granger.html

19th century etching of a peddler by Granger found at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/1-peddler-19th-century-granger.html

In “Peddling,” Diner provided this vivid description of the life of the peddler:

The peddlers operated on a weekly cycle. They left their base on Sunday or Monday, depending on how far they had to go. They would, if necessary, take the railroad or canal barges to get to their territories.  They peddled all week and on Friday headed back to the town from which they had gotten their goods. Here on the Jewish Sabbath and, depending on geography, on Sundays as well, they rested, experiencing fellowship with the other immigrant Jewish peddlers who also operated out of this town. The peddlers engaged with the settled Jewish families, some of whom either operated boarding houses for peddlers or merely extended home hospitality to the men during their brief respites off the road. On the weekends the peddlers could partake of Sabbath religious services and consume some of the good food associated with Jewish holy time, food prepared in the distinctive manners of the various central European regions. Saturday night, after sundown, when the restrictions of the Sabbath lifted, the peddlers came to the shopkeepers and or other creditors to whom they owed money, paid up from the goods they had sold that week, and then filled up their bags, ready for another week on the road.

Rudolf Glanz wrote in “Notes on Early Jewish Peddling in America,” Jewish Social Studies ( Indiana University Press, Vol. 7, No. 2, April,  1945) located here, that these that peddlers played a crucial role in the economic growth and population growth in the unsettled parts of the United States in the 19th century because they provided the pioneers with access to goods that they otherwise would not have had.  This freed the pioneers from having to carry or manufacture these products themselves as they migrated west, thus enabling them to survive and adapt to the frontier conditions.  Glanz, pp. 121-122.  Diner described in “Peddling” the types of goods these peddlers generally sold:

The peddlers did not sell food or fuel. Rather they sold a jumble of goods that might be considered quasi-luxuries. In their bags they carried needles, threads, lace, ribbons, mirrors, pictures and picture frames, watches, jewelry, eye glasses, linens, bedding, and other sundry goods, sometimes called “Yankee notions.” They carried some clothing and cloth, as well as patterns for women to sew their own clothes, and other items to be worn. At times they carried samples of clothes and shoes, measured their customers, and then on return visits brought the finished products with them. When the peddlers graduated from selling from packs on their backs to selling from horse and wagon, they offered more in the way of heavy items, such as stoves and sewing machines.

As Diner points out, often these peddlers were the first Jews in a particular town or village.  Once a peddler had saved enough money to start a permanent store and become a merchant, they would often pick one of these towns where they had had success as peddlers, gotten to know the residents, and established a rapport and a reputation.  Both Diner and Glanz discuss this evolution from peddler to merchant.   According to Diner in “Peddling,” most peddlers did not peddle for long periods, but were able to become storeowners, marry, and start families within a reasonably short period of time. Most became at least moderately successful, and some became the owners of some of the biggest department stores in the US, such as Gimbel’s and Macy’s.

My hypothesis is that John Nusbaum also started out as a peddler.  He must have started from Philadelphia or perhaps New York as a single man and peddled goods through Pennsylvania until he accumulated enough capital and was able to settle in Harrisburg, a prime location for a merchant for the reasons stated above.  Perhaps it was only once he had done so that he married Jeanette and started a family in the 1840s.

When his brother-in-law Isaac Dinkelspiel arrived with his wife Mathilde Nusbaum Dinkelspiel sometime later, it would have made sense for them to settle in Harrisburg.  Since Isaac also started out as a peddler, as seen on the 1850 census, as a married peddler with children, it is not surprising that they would have moved to a place where Mathilde would have had family nearby while her husband Isaac was on the road.  In addition, it is very likely that John was supplying Isaac with the products he was peddling.  According to Diner, it was Jewish merchants who supplied the peddlers with the goods that they then carried out to the less settled regions to sell to those who lived there.  Jewish peddlers needed Jewish merchants for their inventory, and Jewish merchants benefited from the increased market they could reach through the peddlers.

Maxwell, John’s youngest brother, was also a merchant by 1850, but he was in Lewistown, sixty miles from Harrisburg and about 160 miles from Philadelphia.  What was he doing there? Unlike Harrisburg, it was not the state capital, and unlike Philadelphia, it was not a major seaport city.  But it was by 1850 itself an important trading center based on its location near the Pennsylvania Canal and the railroads.  Mifflin County, where Lewistown is located, had a population of close to 15,000 people in 1850 so it was not an insignificant location.  I assume that Maxwell, arriving after his brother John, had also started as a peddler, selling the wares he obtained from his brother, and traveling around the state, until he was able to save enough money and establish a store in his own territory, close enough to his brothers, but not so close as to compete for business.

According to the JewishGen KehillaLinks page for Lewistown, Pennsylvania, found here , the Mifflin County Historical Society had no records of Jews before 1862, but obviously Maxwell was already there. In fact, there was a street named for him:

A map of Lewistown in 1870 shows that Nathan Frank had a store at Brown and Market Streets, listed in a business directory of the time as Franks — Dry Goods, Carpets, Clothing, Furnishings, Goods, Etc.”  Spruce Street was at that time listed as Nusbaum Street and in April, 1880 M. Nusbaum — Clothing & Gents Furnishings was advertised. By 1907 however Nusbaum & Co. was no longer listed in the directory.

The biggest mystery to me is why Leopold Nusbaum ended up in Blythe as a butcher. Blythe is sixty miles from Harrisburg and a hundred miles from Philadelphia.  Like Lewistown, it was also located near railroads and the canals.  I cannot find anything about its population in 1850, but even today its population is under a thousand.  Schuykill County, where Blythe is located, however, had an overall population of over sixty thousand in 1850, which was a doubling of its 1840 population.  Something must have been happening there, but I’ve not yet been able to figure out why its population exploded in that ten year period.  Perhaps that explains why Leopold was living there with his wife Rosa and two young sons in 1850.  But why was he a butcher? Certainly he could not have been a kosher butcher; even today the Jewish population of Blythe is 0%.  At any rate, by 1860, as we will see, Leopold and his family had left Blythe and moved to Harrisburg, where Leopold also followed in his brother’s footsteps and became a merchant.

Thus, the Nusbaum story is not unlike the story of many of those German Jewish immigrants who came to the US, started off as peddlers, and then became merchants, owning stores all over the United States. It must have taken a lot of hard work and a courageous spirit to move to this new country, carrying a heavy pack hundreds of miles through undeveloped territory, dealing with strangers who spoke a strange language, on your own and alone for most of the week.  It must have taken much determination and persistence to do this week after week, maybe for a few years or more, until you had made enough money to find one town to settle in and establish a store.  And then it must have been a hard life, living as perhaps the only Jewish family in that town far away from other family members and other Jews.  In my posts to follow, I will trace the lives of my Nusbaum peddler and merchant relatives and how they progressed in America.

 

 

Whose Clothing Were They Wearing?

I recently posted these two photographs of two of the Strolowitz/Adler sisters, Rebecca (Ray) and Leah.

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

A number of people asked me questions about the photographs.  In particular, people were struck by the fact that two poor immigrant young women were dressed so well and were able to sit for a formal portrait.  The photograph was dated 1918, so Ray and Leah had only been in the US for about ten years.  They were both working as dressmakers.  How could they afford these luxuries like furs and hats and fancy shoes and a studio photograph?

I did some research online but did not find anything that indicated that photographers provided clothing for customers to wear, although there are many references to the props photographers kept in their studios to add interest to the photographs.  There is also this quote from a website that addresses the question of how to determine the date of a particular photograph:

“Your ancestor may have only owned one nice dress or suit that was used for all sorts of occasions. Perhaps they did not own a nice suit of clothing and borrowed one from the photographer.”

http://www.genealogytoday.com/articles/reader.mv?ID=1149

I also posted a question to the Tracing the Tribe group on Facebook about these issues and received numerous responses that were very helpful.  One commenter pointed out that since Leah and Ray were dressmakers, it was entirely possible that they made these outfits themselves.  The commenter recalled that her own ancestor was able to create fashionable dresses from older clothing and scraps by copying what she had seen in store windows.  Another commenter made the point that furs may not have been that expensive back then.  There was also discussion of the possibility that the furs and hats were props supplied by the photographer to supplement the clothing that belonged to the customers.  And some commenters believed that photographers did have clothing at their studios for the customers to wear.

As to the question of the cost of having a portrait taken, several people pointed out that having portraits done, regardless of your economic status, was very common.  Immigrants wanted to be able to send photographs back to the old country and to mark their own special occasions.  http://gary.saretzky.com/photohistory/resources/photo_in_nj_July_2010.pdf  This website points out that with improved photographic techniques, it was in fact not that expensive to have a formal photograph taken even for a family of limited means.  The early 20th century saw the development of postcard photographs in the size used like the ones of Leah and Ray, and the website states that they were a “cheaper, quicker format for producing prints, made photo portraits available to almost everyone.”

I was also able to locate some information about the photographer.  From the photographs I was able to find his name, Rothman, and address, 186 East 116th Street in New York.  By using the stevemorse.org tool for finding an address on a census, I was able to find Isadore Rothman, recent Russian immigrant, residing at 186 East 116th Street.  In 1916, Mr. Rothman was working for a different studio, Mantor Photographic Studio, according to the 1916 New York directory.  So perhaps Rothman was just starting out on his own when Ray and Leah came to have their pictures taken.  They also all lived in the East Harlem neighborhood.

Isadore Rothman on the 1920 census

Isadore Rothman on the 1920 census

So I don’t know the answer for sure, but it is possible that Leah and Ray made their outfits or borrowed them from the photographer or from someone else or a combination of both.   I guess we will never know.  And it is also possible that these photographs were not that expensive despite their seeming formality and quality.

UPDATE:  I just received this comment from Ava Cohn, an expert in using photographs in genealogical research.  She said, “Photographers did have props that were used in photos. By this time, however, the clothes were usually not part of what was “borrowed” from the photographer. As many have suggested, our Jewish ancestors were tailors in Europe and quite adept at pattern-making and sewing. There were also many companies that produced patterns and sewing one’s own clothes was both a business and a past-time. Studio photos were relatively inexpensive. …  And btw, if you are certain that your photos were taken in 1918, then Ray’s outfit is not the latest fashion. Her skirt length and shape are more typical of the 1916-1917 period.”  You can learn more about Ava Cohn and her services at her website, Sherlock Cohn.