More Gifts of Photographs

In my last post, I shared the wonderful photograph I received of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer from one of their descendants.  Before posting it here, I shared it with other descendants of Amalia and Jacob, and that prompted some of those descendants to share some other photographs. Thank you to the extended Baer family for allowing me to publish these photos.

First is a photograph of Lawrence Baer, Amalia and Jacob’s youngest child, born in 1891 in PIttsburgh.  Lawrence became one of the principal innovators and executives at the family-owned jewelry business, Attleboro Manufacturing.  This photograph was taken in 1924.  The little boy in the center is John Degen Baer, Lawrence’s son.  He would have been three years old in this photograph. The individual on the right is not known.

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

Lawrence Baer, John Degen Baer, unknown person, 1924

Here is a photograph of Lawrence Baer’s first wife and John Degen Baer’s mother, Donna Degen.  This photograph was not dated, but it looks like the 1920s to me.

Donna Degen

Donna Degen

This is another picture of their son John, dated 1924:

John Baer, summer of 1924

John Baer, summer of 1924

How adorable is he!

Finally, here is a photograph of Olivia Ganong Baer, Lawrence Baer’s second wife, and Minette Brigham Baer, John Degen Baer’s first wife, with Lawrence in the background.

Olivia Ganong Baer, Minette Brigham Baer, and Lawrence Baer

Olivia Ganong Baer, Minette Brigham Baer, and Lawrence Baer

John Degen Baer grew up to be a very accomplished business leader like his father.  He died just a little over a year ago on November 3, 2015.

According to his obituary,

Baer attended both Yale and Brown Universities, graduating from the latter in 1943. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, having been attached to the Second Marine Division in the Pacific theater and int he Occupation of Japan. He resigned his commission in 1950. He was the owner and C.E.O. of the Bishop Company, an Ophthalmic Manufacturing Company, which he merged with the Univis Lens Company of Dayton, Ohio in 1960. The merged company, Univis, Inc., was headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with branch manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico, Tennessee, New York and Massachusetts. Univis was sold to Itek, Inc. in 1970. Mr. Baer established a consulting company in Atlanta, Georgia, and in 1970 joined the Edwards Baking Company as Executive Vice President. He retired from Edwards in 1978. While residing on Sea Island, Georgia, he participated in the construction and management of the Island Retreat and the Island Square apartments.

Baer and his family moved to Blairsville in 1985 where he and his wife founded and managed the Truck & Gas Market. The business closed in March 1992. Baer then retired from all activity. While residing in Massachusetts, Baer served as a member of the Attleboro Zoning Board of Appeal for 12 years. He was also a Director of a local Bank and the Chamber of Commerce. For several years he served as a director of the Optical Manufacturers Association, located in New York City. While living in Oxford, Georgia, Baer was elected and served on the town Council.

Thank you again to his children for sharing these photos and allowing me to see the faces behind the names of these cousins of mine. Here’s a chart showing how we are related.


A Special Photograph

While taking a short break from research, I want to share a few photographs and records I’ve received recently, but did not have a chance to post on the blog.

You may recall the series of blog posts I did about Amalia Hamberg and her family.  Amalia, born Malchen, was my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal’s first cousin:

corrected relationship isidore schoenthal to malchen hamberg


She acted as the administratrix of the estate of Charles Hamberg, the cousin who lived in South Carolina whose first wife had been murdered and whose son Samuel Hamberg ended up living with Henry Schoenthal in Washington, Pennsylvania after his father died as well.  Amalia had married Jacob Baer, with whom she had nine children, many of whom ended up working for the family jewelry business founded by the oldest brother, Maurice, in Attleboro, Massachusetts.

Well, one of the descendants of Amalia and Jacob Baer found my blog and connected me with his siblings, one of whom graciously shared with me this wonderful photograph of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer. Both Amalia and Jacob lived long lives.  Amalia lived from 1851 until 1931; Jacob from 1847 to 1932. Imagine all the changes they saw—starting in Germany in the middle of the 19th century and living through the Industrial Revolution, the first World War, and the Roaring Twenties.  They raised nine children in western Pennsylvania and must have seen Pittsburgh grow from a small fairly rural area to the home of steel manufacturing.  They lived to see the invention and development of cars and telephones, even airplanes.


I don’t know when this photograph was taken.  Although Amalia and Jacob may look old because of their attire and Jacob’s seemingly gray hair, their faces have no wrinkles, and the style of dress does not look 20th century to me.  I would guess that they were in their 40s, so perhaps the picture was taken in the 1890s.  What do you think?

I am so excited to have this photograph. Thank you so much to the Adler siblings who shared this with me.

The Last Chapter of the Story of Amalia Hamberg

Finally, I come to the two youngest children of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer to survive to adulthood[1]: Elsie Baer Grant and Lawrence Baer.   With this post, I close the chapter on Amalia Hamberg, first cousin of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal, or my first cousin, three times removed.  Her children were my second cousins, twice removed (or my grandmother Eva Schoenthal’s second cousins).

corrected relationship isidore schoenthal to malchen hamberg

Elsie Baer was born in Pittsburgh in 1886 and married Jerome Grant in 1913.  For almost their entire married lives they lived in New York City, where Jerome worked for Baer & Wilde, one of the family jewelry businesses based in Attleboro, Massachusetts.  Elsie and Jerome had two daughters, Marjorie and Elinor.  As of 1930, they were still living in New York City, and Jerome was still working for the family jewelry business.  The same was true in 1940; both daughters were still at home.

In the next decade both daughters married. Marjorie married Richard E. Weinreich, whose family was also in the jewelry business.  Richard’s father, Sol Weinreich, had founded Marvella Pearls, a jewelry wholesale business with his brother in Philadelphia, where Richard was born in 1915.  By 1930, the family and the business had relocated to New York, and by 1940, both Richard and his father were working in the business.

Marvella pearls

I assume that Richard and Marjorie met as a result of the fact that both families were in the jewelry business in New York.  Richard and Marjorie would have one child.  Richard eventually became president of Marvella.  According to this antiques website, “Marvella was purchased by Trifari in the early 1980s and eventually became part of the Liz Claiborne group. As of 2010, jewelry is still being distributed in department stores and other retail outlets on cards bearing the Marvella name.”

Marjorie’s sister Elinor served for over a year with the Red Cross in India in the early 1940s. On December 19, 1946, she married Alan Fredrick Kline of Chicago.

Elinor Grant wedding to Alan Kline 1946 NYTimes-page-001

Alan was a graduate of Dartmouth College and had served in the US Naval Reserves during World War II.  His father Jacob was one of the founders of Kline Brothers, a department store chain that started in Lorain, Ohio, and eventually had a large number of stores in the Midwest.

Suburbanite_Economist_Sun__Oct_28__1973_ article about Kline Bros

Elinor and Alan had two children before Alan died at only 37 years old on October 1, 1950, leaving Elinor with two very young sons.  Elinor would eventually remarry.

Elsie Baer’s husband Jerome Grant died on July 29, 1964; he was 75.  According to the death notices in The New York Times, he was a Mason, a member of The Golden Circle, and a member of the Maiden Lane Outing Club.

Like her sisters Josephine, Tilda, and Amanda, Elsie Baer Grant lived a long life, dying many years after her husband in May 1983 at age 96.

Unfortunately, the daughters of Elsie and Jerome were not blessed with their mother’s longevity.  Marjorie predeceased her mother, dying in May, 1978; she was only 59.  Her sister Elinor died at age 72 on November 2, 1993.

As for Elsie’s younger brother Lawrence, the youngest of the children of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer, he played, as I’ve written here, a critical part in the success of the family jewelry business in Attleboro.  He not only invented the Kum-A-Part cufflinks that made the company highly successful in the 1920s; he also invented and received patents for several other jewelry products.  For example, in 1922, Lawrence received a patent (No.  US 1420232 A) for a jewelry contained, described as “a container which can be carried in the pocket or in a traveling bag or the like or placed in an article of furniture in the home, for holding buckles, brooches, buttons, and any article of jewelry.”  He also received during the 1920s and 1930s patents for a number of other inventions: necktie holders, a belt fastener, a bill holder, a shirt holder, and a display device.

Jewelry holder invented by Lawrence Baer


As noted in my earlier post, Lawrence had married Donna Degen in 1919, and they had one child, a son named John Degen Baer, born in 1921.  As of 1942 when Lawrence registered for the draft, they were still living in Attleboro and Lawrence was still working for the family jewelry business, now known as Swank, Inc.  But by 1946, Lawrence was listed with his second wife, Olivia Ganong, in the West Palm Beach, Florida, city directory.  He and Olivia lived in Florida for the rest of his life.  Lawrence died in May, 1969, in Lake Worth, Florida. He was 77 years old.

His son John remained in Attleboro even after Lawrence remarried and moved to Florida. According to his obituary, John attended Yale and Brown, graduating from Brown in 1943. During World War II, he served in the United States Marine Corps in the Pacific theater and in the occupation of Japan.

In 1946, the Attleboro city directory lists John as serving in the United States Marine Corps and married to a woman named Minette. In 1953, he was the executive vice-president of The Bishop Company in Attleboro.  According to his obituary, John “was the owner and C.E.O. of the Bishop Company, an Ophthalmic Manufacturing Company, which he merged with the Univis Lens Company of Dayton, Ohio in 1960. The merged company, Univis, Inc., was headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, with branch manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico, Tennessee, New York and Massachusetts. Univis was sold to Itek, Inc. in 1970.“

In 1963, John was still listed with Minette in the Attleboro, directory, but that is the last listing I can find for him there.  Sometime in the 1960s, John relocated to Florida, living not far from where his father was also living at that time.  He also appears to have married his second wife, Jane Rollins, during this time period.

After he sold Univis in 1970 (a year after his father died), John moved again, this time to Atlanta, Georgia, where he was executive vice-president of Edwards Baking Company until 1978.  In 1985, he relocated yet again, moving to Blairsville, Georgia, where he started and managed the Truck and Gas Market until 1992, when he retired.  John Baer died on November 3, 2015.  He was 94 years old. (All this information comes from his obituary, which also includes a number of photographs of John.)


Thus ends the recounting of the lives of all of the children (and the children of the children) of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer: Maurice, Hattie, Josephine, Amanda, Flora, Tilda, Elsie, Alfred, and Lawrence.  I am once again amazed by the fact that two immigrants who came to the United States in the 19th century raised children who achieved such remarkable success both in business and in the arts.

Perhaps it is a lesson to us all about the contributions that immigrants have made and will continue to make this country.  We should be very wary of anyone who seeks to exclude immigrants from this country.  After all, most of us living in the US today are descended from immigrants.




[1] Alfred Baer, the second youngest child, had died years before.

Tilda Baer Stone and Her Children: Massachusetts Cousins

Like Amanda and Josephine, her two older sisters, Tilda Baer lived a long life (a few months shy of ninety) and outlived her husband by close to twenty years.  But she didn’t live in a big city like Philadelphia or New York; she spent her entire adult life in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where she raised her four children.

As written about here, Tilda married Samuel Einstein in about 1907, according to the 1910 census, and their first child, Stephanie, was born in June 1908 in Attleboro.  They had three additional children, Samuel, Jr. (1910), Harriet (1913), and Babette (known as Betty, 1919).  By 1927, the family name had been changed to Stone, which was the name used by all family members thereafter (until the daughters married and adopted their husbands’ surnames, that is).  Samuel was by 1930 the President of Attleboro Manufacturing, and he and Tilda remained in Attleboro for the rest of the lives, living almost all those years at 224 County Street in that town.

Samuel and TIlda Baer Einstein/Stone and children from 1923 passport application National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2295; Volume #: Roll 2295 - Certificates: 304850-305349, 08 Jun 1923-08 Jun 1923

Samuel and TIlda Baer Einstein/Stone and children from 1923 passport application
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2295; Volume #: Roll 2295 – Certificates: 304850-305349, 08 Jun 1923-08 Jun 1923

Their daughter Stephanie graduated from the National Park Seminary in Washington and the Garland School of Homemaking.  She married “the boy next door” on November 14, 1936—or at least the boy down the street. Her husband was Royal Packer Baker, who was a native of Attleboro like Stephanie and whose family also had lived on County Street (#148) as of 1920.  Royal was four years older than Stephanie, and he came from a family with a long history in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

Boston Herald, November 15, 1936. p. 61

Boston Herald, November 15, 1936. p. 61


Royal’s father, Harold Baker, was the owner and co-founder of Attleboro Refining Company, a gold, silver, and copper refining business.  According to the website for the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum, which is housed in what was once the Attleboro Refinery Company building:

In 1899, Harold D. Baker and his brother George W. Baker, both of Providence, Rhode Island, formed a partnership to establish the Attleboro Refining Company in Attleboro, Massachusetts. It specialized in the refining of gold, silver and copper byproducts. The refinery followed established refining methods used at that time known as a stripping process. The process dated back to the late 18th Century. Base metals such as copper and zinc were eaten by a compound-acid solution. The precious metals underwent succeeding operations where they were reduced to a certain degree of fineness.

By 1907, however, the Bakers were convinced that better methods were available that would involve lower costs. They experimented with the then-existent electrochemical equipment available and finally succeeded in adapting the ELECTROLYTIC process to jewelers’ scrap. Theirs was the first refinery in New England to do so. The process underwent continuous improvement and development where gold was finally purified to .9991/2 fine and every trace of silver or other precious metal was re-claimed in the chlorination and succeeding copperas processes.[1]

Although his older brother Harold Jr. worked at the family business from the start of his career, Royal started his career taking a different path.  He was a graduate of Dartmouth as well as the University of Virginia, according to the wedding announcement.   By 1935 he was a lawyer practicing in Attleboro.

According to the 1940 census and their wedding announcement above, like their parents Stephanie and Royal also lived on County Street in Attleboro (#170), and Royal was working as an attorney in private practice.  In 1941, their son was born.  In 1946, Royal was listed along with his father and older brother Harold Jr. as an owner of Attleboro Refining, but was still practicing law.  By 1949, however, he was the treasurer of Attleboro Refining and no longer listed himself as a lawyer in the Attleboro directory. (His brother was now the president of the company; their father had died in 1947.)

Former building of Attleboro Refining Company

Stephanie’s younger brother Samuel Stone, Jr., graduated from Michigan State University and Babson Institute. In the 1935 Attleboro directory, he is listed as married to “Ruth M” and working as the treasurer of Quaker Silver Company, a company in North Attleboro that manufactured silver products such as flatware, bowls, and salt and pepper shakers.

Ruth M was Ruth Mills, born in Massachusetts on February 5, 1913.  Samuel, Jr. and Ruth had two daughters born in the 1930s, according to the 1940 census, which lists Samuel’s occupation as a jewelry manufacturer.  On the 1939 Attleboro directory, he is listed as the president of C H Eden Co., another jewelry company originally created by his father in 1901 that was acquired in substantial part by Charles Eden in 1903.  (Apparently, Samuel Stone, Sr. and Maurice Baer established a number of separate companies in Attleboro, all engaged in some aspect of jewelry manufacturing.)

By 1946, however, Samuel Jr’s marriage to Ruth had ended as he married his second wife, Marie Eames, on May 1, 1946.  Unfortunately, that marriage did not last either as they were divorced in 1952.

Samuel Stone Jr wedding to Marie Eames

By 1956, Samuel, Jr was listed in the Attleboro directory as the president of Swank, Inc., the successor to Attleboro Manufacturing Company, the company his father first founded with his uncle Maurice Jay Baer back in the late 1890s.

As for the two younger daughters of Tilda Baer and Samuel Stone, Sr., Harriet attended the Northampton School for Girls, then Wheaton College, and received a degree from Simmons College. (Cape Cod Times, September 6, 2002, ( : accessed 13 July 2016))

In 1941 she married Lionel O’Keeffe.  He was the youngest son of Irish immigrants and was born and raised in Boston.  His father had worked in the grocery business, and in 1930 two of his brothers had been working as purchasing agents for First National Stores, a supermarket chain (later known as Finast).  Lionel was a graduate of Boston Latin High School and Dartmouth College. (Boston Herald, December 22, 1987, p. 53.)

On the 1940 census, he was living as the head of household in the house at 61 Pond Street in Jamaica Plain, the same house where he and his family had lived when he was a child.  But in 1940 he was living there without any other family members, but with a maid.  He listed his occupation as an executive of a chain store, which according to his obituary, was First National Stores.  The following year he married Harriet.

Lionel enlisted in the military on May 8, 1942, and he and Harriet had their first child five months later in September, 1942.  Lionel was discharged from the military on January 3, 1946, having served for the duration of World War II.  He and Harriet would have two more children during the 1940s.  In 1948 they were still living at 61 Pond Road in the Jamaica Pond section of Boston, the same house where Lionel’s family had lived, and Lionel was working as a buyer, according to the Boston directory for that year.  He continued to work for First National Stores for the rest of his career.

The youngest child of Tilda Baer and Samuel Stone was their daughter Babette, also known as Betty.  She graduated from the Northampton School for Girls in 1937 and then graduated from Smith College, later getting a Masters in Social Work from Simmons College.  In 1944, she married John Saunders Parker, known as Jack.  He became a doctor.  They would have two children. (Boston Globe, February 21, 2013.)

Samuel Stone, Sr., the father of Stephanie, Samuel, Harriet, and Babette, died on February 4, 1957, when he was 84 years old.

Samuel Stone Sr obit February 5, 1957 Boston Traveler p 58-page-001

Boston Traveler, February 5, 1957, p. 58

samuel stone obit His wife, my cousin Tilda Baer Stone, daughter of Amalia Hamberg and Jacob Baer, died on August 2, 1974.  She and her husband Samuel are both buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Attleboro, Massachusetts, the place they called home for their entire married life and where they raised their four children, two of whom also spent almost all of  their lives in Attleboro.

As for the children of Tilda and Samuel, Stephanie’s husband Royal Baker continued to work as the treasurer of Attleboro Refining for the rest of his career.  Then on April 3, 1967, Royal died suddenly at age 62.  A year later Attleboro Refining was sold to another company.  According to the Attleboro Area Industrial Museum website, “on June 26, 1968, Handy & Harman Refining Group, Inc. purchased the Attleboro Refining Company. In November 1973, Handy & Harman left 42 Union Street for a new facility located on Townsend Road in the “new” Attleboro Industrial Park.”   Handy & Harman is still in business today engaged in the recycling of metals.

Royal P Baker death notice April 1967

Stephanie Stone Baker died on March 1, 1993; she was 84.

Her brother Samuel Stone, Jr., died at age 70 on December 28, 1980.

Samuel Stone Jr obit 12 31 1980

The third child, Harriet Stone O’Keeffe, lost her husband Lionel on December 20, 1987.  He was 76 years old.  She lived another fifteen years, dying on September 5, 2002, when she was 88.  According to her obituary, “Mrs. O’Keeffe lived in Brookline for many years and was active in volunteer work. She spent summers in Hyannisport and moved there year-round in 1973. She enjoyed gardening and bridge. She was a member of the Hyannisport Club, the Oyster Harbors Club and the Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda.” (Cape Cod Times, September 6, 2002, ( : accessed 13 July 2016))

The youngest sibling, Babette, died just three years ago on February 19, 2013, at age 93.  Her obituary reported that:

She loved people and was a frequent volunteer in the activities of her children and an outgoing devoted friend to so many. She was an active volunteer in the Wellesley Community including the Service League of Wellesley, the Garden Club of Wellesley and was a past president of the Smith Club of Wellesley. She devoted many hours to the support of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and loved her Investment Club and Bridge Club, as well as her activities at the Wellesley Country Club, Wianno Club, The Country Club and The Moorings and Riomar Clubs of Vero Beach, Florida. She cherished all the interactions with the people that were brought into her life by these varied interests.  (Boston Globe, February 21, 2013, located at

I’ve not yet connected with any of the descendants of Tilda Baer and Samuel Stone, but hope to be able to connect with these cousins whose roots are here in Massachusetts where I now live.  They are descendants of two people who seemed to have achieved the American dream—Samuel, a German Jewish immigrant who came to the US as a young teenager and became a highly successful jewelry manufacturer, and my cousin Tilda, the daughter of two German Jewish [2] immigrants who grew up in Pennsylvania; she raised four children, all of whom received a higher education and lived their lives in Massachusetts.








[1] There was a bitter dispute between the Baker brothers in 1918, which apparently ended in with Harold as the sole owner of the company. See “Attleboro Receivership Granted for Attleboro Refining Co. Decree Handed down by Superior Court, Wednesday,” Pawtucket Times, April 11, 1918, p. 12.

[2] It seems that at some point Tilda and Samuel and their children became members of the Universalist Church and no longer identified as Jewish.


Attleboro Manufacturing Company: My Cousins, the Jewelers

As I mentioned in my last post, the oldest child of Amalia (Hamberg) and Jacob Baer, Maurice Jay Baer, founded a jewelry company in Attleboro, Massachusetts, in the late 1890s when he was in his twenties. The company was originally called Attleboro Manufacturing. The stories of four of Amalia and Jacob Baer’s children are integrally related to the history of Attleboro Manufacturing: two of their sons, Maurice and Lawrence, and two of their sons-in-law Samuel Stone, married to their daughter Tilda, and Jerome Grant, married to their daughter Elsie, were all involved in leadership roles in the company.

At one time, Attleboro, Massachusetts was known as the Jewelry Capital of the World due to the numerous jewelry manufacturers doing business there.  But like most of the manufacturing businesses in Massachusetts, jewelry businesses in Attleboro eventually moved elsewhere to save on labor and other costs.

Attleboro Manufacturing was one of the businesses that eventually moved out of the region; later known as Swank and Company, the company was in business in Attleboro until the closing of its plant there in 2000. Though no longer in Atttleboro, Swank, Inc. is still in business today as a division of Randa Accessories, designing and manufacturing men’s jewelry, belts, personal leather accessories, and gifts. (“Jewelry legacy takes another hit with Swank closing, ” The Sun Chronicle, March 17, 2000.)

The company was founded by Maurice Baer and Samuel Stone.  Samuel Stone was born Samuel Einstein in Laupheim, Germany, on February 25, 1872, the son of Moritz Einstein.  He immigrated to the US in 1885, according to his 1920 passport application, and settled in Attleboro, Massachusetts.  He was only thirteen years old at the time and seems to have come by himself.  According to his 1920 and 1923 passport applications, his father was still residing in Germany at those times.  Other sources indicate that his parents both died in Germany.  This source also concluded that he came by himself to the US.

Samuel Einstein is listed as a jewelry manufacturer as early as 1890 and 1892 in the Attleboro city directories for those years, that is, several years before he and Maurice Baer founded Attleboro Manufacturing together.  How did Maurice, who lived in western Pennsylvania, end up doing business with a young man living in Attleboro? Was there a family connection? Not that I have yet found.  Perhaps they just met through business, Maurice traveling to New England or Samuel traveling to Pennsylvania.

According to this source:

By chance, Einstein had been doing business for a number of years (presumably wholesale jewellery) with a Pittsburg, PA salesman named Maurice Baer. It probably helped that Baer’s parents were German immigrants and both men were also of a similar age so an apparently close bond developed between the two.

That article and several other sources report that in 1897 Samuel and Maurice started Attleboro Manufacturing Company.  Their first year brought an unexpected challenge.

The beginnings of Swank, Inc. can be traced to the year 1897, when Samuel M. Stone [originally Samuel Einstein] and Maurice J. Baer founded the Attleboro Manufacturing Company to produce and sell jewelry for women. The two men took over a building in Attleboro, Massachusetts, that had been constructed decades earlier as a forge to turn precious metals into jewelry.

Unfortunately, less than a year after Stone and Baer began production, one of the largest fires in the town’s history claimed an entire block of buildings, destroying their small enterprise. Many of the company’s employees helped fight the fire and were able to salvage a portion of the machinery and finished jewelry. Therefore, the Attleboro Manufacturing Company was able to resume its operations with the remaining equipment and material in another building nearby, which came to be the center of production for the next century.


The local Attleboro newspaper, the Sun Register, also reported on this history in its March 17, 2000, issue (“Jewelry legacy takes another hit with Swank closing, ” The Sun Chronicle, March 17, 2000) :

The company, starting with 10 employees, was located in a factory at Mill and Union streets. The fire of 1898 leveled a good portion of Attleboro’s jewelry plants, including the Attleboro Mfg. Co. However, volunteers managed to save the equipment of Attleboro Mfg. and within a day, the company was back in operation in the basement of a building adjacent to the present plant on Hazel Street.

Although both of these sources report the almost immediate re-opening of the business after the fire, Maurice Baer may not have yet relocated permanently to Attleboro, as he is listed as residing in Pittsburgh in the 1899 Pittsburgh city directory and on the 1900 census.  But soon the company was doing quite well, and in 1908 Maurice and another man named Eben Wilde started a separate division to expand from women’s jewelry to men’s jewelry:

Within ten years, the Attleboro Manufacturing Company was enjoying a good deal of success in producing women’s jewelry and decided to begin expanding into new markets. In 1908, [Maurice] Baer formed a new division, called Baer and Wilde, to oversee the production of men’s jewelry, while Stone remained in charge of Attleboro Manufacturing.

Downtown, about 1909

Downtown Attleboro, about 1909 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At some point, Maurice must have introduced his younger sister Tilda to his partner Samuel Einstein because by 1908 they were married and living in Attleboro where their first child Stephanie was born in June, 1908.  They would have three more children, Samuel, Jr. (1910), Harriet (1913), and Babette (or Betty, 1919).  In 1910, Samuel was still using the surname Einstein, as he was in 1920, so all four children were originally given the surname Einstein.

Samuel and Tilda Baer Einstein (Stone) 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Attleboro Ward 2, Bristol, Massachusetts; Roll: T625_681; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 9; Image: 794

Samuel and Tilda Baer Einstein (Stone)
1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Attleboro Ward 2, Bristol, Massachusetts; Roll: T625_681; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 9; Image: 794

The family was still using the name Einstein as late as 1923, as that is how Samuel is listed in the Attleboro directory for that year and also the name appearing on his 1923 passport application, but by 1927, they had switched to Stone, as can be seen in this ship manifest for a trip they all took to France that year.

Samuel and TIlda Baer Einstein/Stone and children from 1923 passport application National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 - March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2295; Volume #: Roll 2295 - Certificates: 304850-305349, 08 Jun 1923-08 Jun 1923

Samuel and TIlda Baer Einstein/Stone and children from 1923 passport application
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; NARA Series: Passport Applications, January 2, 1906 – March 31, 1925; Roll #: 2295; Volume #: Roll 2295 – Certificates: 304850-305349, 08 Jun 1923-08 Jun 1923

Stone family on 1927 passenger manifest Year: 1927; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4125; Line: 1; Page Number: 28

Stone family on 1927 passenger manifest
Year: 1927; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4125; Line: 1; Page Number: 28

The third Baer child whose family was to become involved in the Attleboro Manufacturing Company was Elsie, the seventh child and youngest daughter.  In 1910 she was still living with her parents in Pittsburgh, working as a kindergarten teacher.  She was 24 years old.  Three years later she married Jerome Louis Grant in Philadelphia.  Jerome was born in Cortland, New York, in 1888, and in 1910 he had been living with his parents in Philadelphia where he and his father, Theodore Grant, were both working in the fur business.

Two years after marrying, Jerome and Elsie were living in New York City where Jerome was working as a salesman.

Jerome and Elsie Baer Grant and family 1915 NYS census New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 49; Assembly District: 23; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 60

Jerome and Elsie Baer Grant and family
1915 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 49; Assembly District: 23; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 60

Jerome Grant’s draft registration for World War I revealed for whom he was working as a salesman: Baer & Wilde, the division of Attleboro Manufacturing Company started by his brother-in-law Maurice Baer.  He was a salesman as well as the manager of their New York office.  The registration revealed something else: Elsie was pregnant.

Jerome Grant World War I draft registration Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786805; Draft Board: 147

Jerome Grant World War I draft registration
Registration State: New York; Registration County: New York; Roll: 1786805; Draft Board: 147


Elsie and Jerome’s first child was born in 1919, a daughter named Marjorie.  Their second daughter was born two years later and named Elinor.

Although the 1920 census reported that Jerome was a contractor in the building industry, the 1930 census reports that he was still in the jewelry manufacturing business.  Moreover, both the 1920 and the 1925 New York City directories list Jerome as associated with Baer & Wilde, so I believe that the 1920 census is not correct in its reporting of Jerome’s occupation at that time.

Jerome and Elsie Baer Grant 1930 census Year: 1930; Census Place: Long Beach, Nassau, New York; Roll: 1461; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0137; Image: 104.0; FHL microfilm: 2341196

Jerome and Elsie Baer Grant 1930 census
Year: 1930; Census Place: Long Beach, Nassau, New York; Roll: 1461; Page: 3A; Enumeration District: 0137; Image: 104.0; FHL microfilm: 2341196

Finally, the other Baer sibling to get involved in the Attleboro business was the youngest child, Lawrence.  Even in 1910 when he was only 18, Lawrence was already involved in jewelry sales.  By 1917 when he registered for the draft for World War I, he was a part owner of Baer & Wilde and living in Attleboro, Massachusetts.  There was a notation on his draft registration saying, “This man employs from 150 to 175 people in jewelry business.”  Was this a basis for exempting him from the draft?

Lawrence Baer World War 1 draft registration Registration State: Massachusetts; Registration County: Bristol; Roll: 1684755; Draft Board: 40

Lawrence Baer World War 1 draft registration
Registration State: Massachusetts; Registration County: Bristol; Roll: 1684755; Draft Board: 40

The company did in fact participate in its own way in the war effort:

By the time the United States became involved in World War I, the Attleboro Manufacturing Company was large enough to handle the production of thousands of metal identification tags, better known as “dog tags,” for the military. While this was the company’s most notable contribution to the war effort, it also profited from the production of numerous other emblems for the U.S. government during those years.

But was that enough to keep a man exempt from the draft? Although it would certainly seem that Lawrence was not essential to the operations of the business, given the involvement of his brother Maurice as well as two of his brothers-in-law, he certainly had a major impact on the success of Baer & Wilde:

[Baer & Wilde} operated with marginal success until 1918, when [Maurice] Baer’s brother, Lawrence Baer, came to them with his newly invented Kum-A-Part “cuff button”. It was an immediate success, to the tune of some four million pairs per year. In 1923, with some improvements made to it by Wilde, the design was patented. Kum-A-Part items remained in production until 1931.

Kum-A-Part cufflinks

Kum-A-Part cufflinks

The tremendous success of the Kum-A-Part cufflinks had a major impact on the future of the company:

[After World War I, the demand for this cuff button was so great that the company stopped making women’s jewelry. By this time Baer & Wilde had absorbed the Attleboro Mfg. Co. facilities.

By the 1920s, Baer & Wilde was selling more than 4 million pairs of cuff buttons a year. The company started to grow with acquisitions and adding other lines such as belt and buckle.

Lawrence Baer’s invention thus changed the fortunes of the company founded by his brother Maurice and brother-in-law Samuel.

Lawrence married Donna Degen on October 20, 1919.  Donna was a Michigan native, and in 1910 she had been living with her parents and brother in Grand Rapids Michigan, where her father was a life insurance agent.

Engagement announcement of Lawrence Baer and Donna Degen, Pittsburgh Jewish Criterion, October 24, 1919

Marriage announcement of Lawrence Baer and Donna Degen,
Pittsburgh Jewish Criterion, October 24, 1919

After marrying, Lawrence and Donna were living in Attleboro in 1920; a year later their son John Degen Baer was born in Attleboro.  The family was still living in Attleboro in 1930, and Lawrence was listed as the owner of a jewelry manufacturing factory.

The 1920s were years of rapid growth for the family’s jewelry business:

After production of the women’s jewelry line was halted, the company focused solely on the manufacture and marketing of its men’s items. Although its men’s products were already in high demand, the company pushed even harder to gain more market share through the implementation of a new marketing plan and increased advertising. The new marketing plan was originated by [Samuel Einstein] Stone in the late 1920s and dictated that the Attleboro Manufacturing Company employ seven wholesale dealers in different major cities throughout the United States to handle the sale and distribution of the men’s jewelry line. This action helped the company more easily distribute its products nationwide and also increased its advertising range.

Thus, by 1930, there were three Baer siblings living in Attleboro and involved in the leadership of the very successful family jewelry business: Maurice, Tilda, and Lawrence.  Another sibling, Elsie, was living in New York, where her husband Jerome was also working for the family’s jewelry business.

As seen in the last post, their three other surviving siblings had no connection to the jewelry business. Josephine was living in New York with her husband Morris Green, who was in the financial industry at that time.  Two of the Baer daughters were in Philadelphia: Amanda, whose husband Meyer Herman was in the clothing manufacturing business, and Flora, whose husband Julius Adler was a successful engineer.  Two of the nine children had died young: Hattie in 1910 and Alfred in 1923.

By 1930, Jacob and Amalia had thirteen grandchildren: Hattie’s two children, Justin and Richard Herman (raised by her sister Amanda, who had married Hattie’s widowed husband Meyer Herman); Josephine’s son Alan Baer Green; Flora’s three children, Stanley, Jerrold, and Amy Adler; Tilda’s four children, Stephanie, Samuel, Harriet, and Babette Stone; Elsie’s two daughters Marjorie and Elinor Grant; and Lawrence’s son John Degen Baer.

In my next series of posts I will describe what happened after 1930 to the seven surviving children and thirteen grandchildren of Jacob and Amalia (Hamberg) Baer and to Attleboro Manufacturing Company.

The Eleventh Child of Jacob and Sarah Cohen:  My Great-Grandfather Emanuel (FINALLY!)

About a month ago, my father (who reads the blog regularly) asked me when I was going to get to his grandparents.  Although I wanted to get there also, my linear mind would not let me “skip ahead.”  I knew that if I did, I’d get too caught up in my direct ancestors and not want to return to all the “lateral” relatives.  So I have stuck, more or less, to my plan and taken each of Jacob and Sarah’s children in birth order.  (Yes, I had to skip Reuben and Arthur while waiting to hear from descendants, but otherwise, I went in order.)  There are still two more children to do after my great-grandfather, Jonas and Abraham, so I still have to resist the temptation to move on to my great-grandmother’s Seligman line.  Also, I still have to return to Jacob’s brother Moses and his family and also some of Jacob and Sarah’s grandchildren whom I’ve yet to research or discuss.

But for now, I finally get to talk about my father’s grandfather Emanuel and his family.  Sadly, my father never knew Emanuel because he died just a few months after my father was born.  There is no one else left for me to ask about Emanuel since there are no other descendants still alive who would remember him.  But my father knew his grandmother, Emanuel’s wife Eva May Seligman, very well, and he remembers other family members as well, although he has not seen or been in touch with them for more than 60 years.  And I never knew any of his Cohen relatives other than my aunt, Eva H. Cohen, who died in 2011.  I never met my father’s father or his uncles or his cousins.

Thus, most of what I know about Emanuel and his sons and their families is based on the same kind of resources I’ve relied upon in all my other research, sprinkled with some family stories from my father or indirectly from my aunt as my brother remembers them.  As I was writing this post, my father also sent me copies of pages from a  family bible that revealed some other dates of births, marriages, and deaths.  There is also a suitcase filled with photographs and papers in my parents’ garage that I have not yet had a chance to examine.  I hope to get to that suitcase soon, but it may have to wait until after the summer.

That means that right now I have no pictures of my Cohen great-grandparents and only a few of my grandfather.  I have none of his brothers or their children.  Of course, it is in part because of this lack of knowledge that I started doing this work in the first place.  I knew so little about any of my grandparents, less about my great-grandparents, and nothing about my great-great-grandparents.  Now I am working hard to fill in those gaps.

So let me start to tell the story of my great-grandparents Emanuel and Eva Seligman Cohen, and eventually I will have to come back and add some pictures and other materials, assuming some exist in that suitcase.

My great-grandfather Emanuel was the eleventh child of Jacob and Sarah Cohen, born June 10, 1862, during the Civil War.  (The family bible has a different date—June 14, 1860, but given that I have eight other sources indicating he was born in 1862, including his death certificate, I will stick with the 1862 date.)   In 1870, when he was eight years old, he was living with his parents and ten of his twelve siblings at 136 South Street in Philadelphia. I imagine that his childhood was a happy one.  His father’s business was successful, and he was surrounded by siblings.  His oldest sister Fanny was married when Emanuel was only four, and he had nieces who were only a little older than he was in addition to all his siblings.  His brother Lewis was only two years older and his brother Jonas two years younger.  It must have been quite a household.

Jacob Cohen and family 1870 US census

Jacob Cohen and family 1870 US census

By 1880, his life had changed.  His mother Sarah had died in 1879, and only five of his siblings were still living at home: two of his older sisters, Hannah and Elizabeth, and his three brothers closest to him in age, Lewis, Jonas, and Abraham.  Emanuel was working as a clerk in one of the pawnshops.  He was eighteen years old.

Jacob Cohen and family 1880 US census

Jacob Cohen and family 1880 US census

On January 27,  1886, Emanuel married my great-grandmother, Evalyn Seligman, who was later known as Eva May and as Bebe by her grandchildren after my aunt called her that when she was a toddler.  I don’t know how my great-grandparents met.  He was 24, she was 20.  In 1886, they were living at 404 South Second Street, and Emanuel was working for his father’s pawnbroker business.  Their first child, Herbert S. Cohen, was born on either January 28 (family bible) or March 5, 1887 (Philadelphia birth index). On this one, I will rely on the bible as the entry was made by Herbert’s mother, Eva May, who would best know when her child was born.  Their second child, Maurice Lester Cohen, was born on February 27, 1888 (both sources agree here), and the family was living at 1313 North 8th Street, and Emanuel was working at 901 South 4th Street.

On October 17 (bible) or 22, 1889, two and a half year old Herbert died from typhoid fever, as had several of his little cousins.  Just two weeks later, a third son, Stanley Isaac, was born on November 4, 1989.  How terrible it must have been for my great-grandparents to be mourning one child while another was born.  How did they find a way to celebrate that birth and manage through those difficult, early weeks of infancy while their hearts were broken?

Herbert Cohen death certificate 1889

Herbert Cohen death certificate 1889

In 1890, the family was still living at 1313 North 8th Street, and Emanuel was still working as a pawnbroker at 901 South 4th Street.  They were still there in 1893 because when Emanuel’s uncle, Jonas H. Cohen, died in January, 1893, the funeral took place at Emanuel and Eva May’s residence.  I wonder why, of all the nephews and nieces of Jonas, Emanuel was the one to have the funeral at his home.

funeral at emanuels

(“Mortuary Notice,” Thursday, January 26, 1893, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: 128   Issue: 26   Page: 6)

By 1895, the family had moved.  Emanuel’s brother Isaac had also lost his wife Emma in 1893, and as of 1895, Emanuel and his family had moved into Isaac’s house at 1606 Diamond Street, presumably to help Isaac take care of his teenage son, Isaac W. On December 6, 1895, my grandfather, John Nusbaum Cohen, was born, completing Emanuel and Eva’s family.  Emanuel continued to work at the 901 South 4th Street pawnshop.

John Cohen as a baby

John Nusbaum Cohen about 1896

As I wrote about previously, Isaac was sixteen years older than Emanuel, so I am not sure why, of all the siblings, he chose to live with his much younger brother Emanuel.  I think it says a lot about what kind of people Emanuel and Eva May were, taking in these two family members while also raising three boys of their own.  Emanuel and Eva had also been the ones who opened their home for the funeral for Emanuel’s uncle Jonas. According to the 1900 census, they did, however, also have two servants helping them in the home so perhaps it was not as onerous as it might seem; perhaps they were the best situated to do these things.

Emanuel Cohen and family 1900 census

Emanuel Cohen and family 1900 census

I would imagine that the 1890s were overall not an easy decade for the extended Cohen family.  First, the family patriarch, Jacob, died on April 24, 1888, just two months after Maurice was born. His brother Jonas H. Cohen, the last of Hart and Rachel’s children, died five years later on 1893. Also, a number of Jacob’s young grandchildren died during this decade, including many of Reuben and Sallie’s children and also Benjamin Levy, Maria’s son. His brother Isaac had lost his wife Emma. On the other hand, there were many children born, many siblings married, and business overall seemed to be thriving for the family pawnshops.

As of 1905, Emanuel and his family had moved down the street to 1441 Diamond Street.  On the 1910 census, they are listed as living at 1431 Diamond Street, and Isaac, Emanuel’s brother, was still part of the household, along with Eva, all three of Emanuel’s sons, and two servants. Maurice, who was 22, was working as a salesman for a clothing business; Stanley (20) and John (14) were not employed outside the home.

Emanuel Cohen and family 1910 census

Emanuel Cohen and family 1910 census

In the 1913 and 1914 city directories Emanuel is listed as a pawnbroker at 1800 South 15th Street.  His brother Isaac died in 1914, and as of 1917 the family had moved again, this time to 2116 Green Street.

His oldest son Maurice married Edna Mayer on January 19, 1915.  Their son Maurice Lester, Jr., was born January 30, 1917.   According to the 1917 city directory, they were living at 4248 Spruce Street, and Maurice was working at the South Philadelphia Loan Office; on his draft registration that same year he described himself as self-employed as a broker.

Maurice Cohen World War I draft registration

Maurice Cohen World War I draft registration


On the 1920 census they were still living on Spruce Street, and Maurice’s occupation was pawnbroker.

Maurice Cohen and family 1920 census

Maurice Cohen and family 1920 census

In 1917 Stanley was still living at home and was the proprietor of a pawnshop at 2527 South 13th Street, according to his World War I draft registration.  In the 1917 city directory he is listed as working at the South Philadelphia Money Loan Office, the same business where his brother Maurice was working and presumably the shop located at 2526 South 13th Street.  He is also listed at the same business in 1921, living at 2114 [sic?] Green Street.

Stanley Cohen World War I draft registration

Stanley Cohen World War I draft registration

In 1917 my grandfather John was also living at home at 2116 Green Street and employed as an advertising salesman for the Morning Bulletin, according to his World War I draft registration.

John Cohen Sr. World War I draft registration

John Cohen Sr. World War I draft registration

According to the 1918 city directory, John was in the United States Navy at that time.  I have not yet found anything more specific about his military service.

In 1920, Emanuel, Eva (listed incorrectly as Edith), Stanley, John, and two servants were living at 2116 Green Street.

Emanuel Cohen and family 1920 census

Emanuel Cohen and family 1920 census

Interestingly, in the 1921 city directory, Emanuel’s business was now classified as watches and jewelry.  Had he left the pawnbroker business between 1920 and 1921, or was this just another way of describing his business?

I didn’t think I would be able to find the answer, but then, to be honest, I stumbled upon it.  I had found my grandfather John’s 1921 passport application almost a year ago and found it interesting that he was applying for a passport to go to Cuba for up to twelve months. I also found the similarity between his signature and my father’s signature rather remarkable.

John Cohen passport app cropped

John N. Cohen passport application 1921

I had noticed that the page facing his application had a photograph of someone else, the person whose application preceded his in the database.  So I went to the following page to see if his photograph appeared on that page, and sure enough it did.  It also had a physical description of my grandfather: 5’ 6” tall, with a high forehead, straight nose, grey eyes, regular mouth, round chin, dark brown hair, dark complexion, and an oval face.

John N Cohen passport application page 2

John N Cohen passport application page 2

What I had not noticed the first time I studied this document was the letter that appears on the facing page—a letter signed by my great-grandfather Emanuel, certifying that his son, John N. Cohen, was going to represent the interests of the “Commodore” in Cuba.  The letter was on the stationery of the Commodore, located at 13th Street and Moyamensing Avenue, with the slogan “Our Policy One Price for All.”  I had never heard this business mentioned or seen it named on any other document.

Letter by Emanuel Cohen  March 5, 1921

Letter by Emanuel Cohen May 21, 1921

After some work on, and Google, I finally found an advertisement for the business:

The Commodore ad from Our Navy, vol. 13

This was a business owned or at least managed by my grandfather when he returned from the Navy to provide merchandise to veterans at a fair price. I found this ad interesting in several ways.  First, I love that he sold suits “both snappy and conservative.” I also found it interesting that the ad proclaims that it has “no connection with any other store in Philadelphia.”  Was this my grandfather’s way of asserting his independence from the family pawnshop business?  Or was this some trademark issue involving a store with a similar name?  (I did see ads for a furniture store advertising a living room set as The Commodore.)  My father had never heard the store referred to by this name, but said he did recall that his father had a Navy friend whom he referred to as the Commodore who was his connection to the Navy Yard in Philadelphia.  My father does remember visiting the store years later when his grandmother was managing it and selling only jewelry, not men’s clothing, snappy or otherwise.

The years between 1920 and 1930 were years of growth for Emanuel and Eva’s sons.  In 1922, Maurice and Edna had a second son, Emanuel.  On January 5, 1923, Stanley married Bessie Craig, who was fourteen years younger than Stanley. Their daughter Marjorie was born two years later in 1925.

My grandparents, John Nusbaum Cohen, Sr., and Eva Schoenthal, were married on January 7, 1923, according to the family bible. (I assume they were married outside Pennsylvania since there is no marriage record in the Pennsylvania index for them) My aunt, Eva Hilda Cohen, was born January 13, 1924, and my father John, Jr., was born two years later.  My father recalls that the family was also living on Green Street in 1924 when his sister was born and at 6625 North 17th Street when he was born.  (There were no city directories available online for the years between 1922 and 1926.)  (The fact that there were two Emanuels, two Maurices, three Evas, and two Johns in their family must have created some confusion, though Maurice, Jr, was called Junior and Emanuel II was called Buddy. My father was always called Johnny.)

This is the only picture I have of my grandparents together.  They were certainly a handsome couple.  And they were certainly wearing  “snappy” clothing!  I am struck by the Star of David that my grandmother is wearing; they were not religious people, but obviously she felt a strong enough Jewish connection to be wearing such a large star.

John and Eva Cohen  c. 1930

John and Eva Cohen, My Paternal Grandparents
c. 1930

Eva Hilda Cohen

Eva Hilda Cohen

I have always loved this picture of my father; his face really has not changed in many ways.  He still has those beautiful, piercing blue eyes.

My father at 9 months old

My father at 9 months old

Reverse of John Jr at 8 months but 9 months

The reverse side of the photo above—inscribed “Taken a about 9 months, Johnny”

Another wonderful picture, capturing my father as a happy little toddler.

John Jr


Although the next photograph is badly damaged, I am including it in large part to show the inscription on the back, “Johnny Boy.”  My father said that his grandmother Eva May was the one to label the photographs, just as she was the one who made the entries for her children and grandchildren in the family bible.  I like to think that I have inherited her role as a family historian and photograph archivist.

Johnny Boy reverse of John Jr as child

“Johnny Boy”

John Jr little boy


This photograph below captures my aunt as a young girl.  She was a strong and independent person who always stood up for herself and knew what she wanted.


Eva Hilda Cohen

My Aunt, Eva Hilda Cohen

If the 1920s were years of growth, they were also years of loss.  On February 21, 1927, my great-grandfather Emanuel died after a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal, according to my ever-reliable medical consultant).  It looks like the principal cause of death was pneumonia and either anemia or a hernia.  It also says he suffered from diabetes mellitus.  He was only 64 years old.

Emanuel Cohen death certificate 1927

Emanuel Cohen death certificate 1927

These were also years of loss for the larger Cohen family; by the time Emanuel died in 1927, he had lost all but two of his siblings, Hannah and Abraham, and Hannah would die just a few months later.  Although Jonas had died in 1902, Hart and Fanny in 1911, and Isaac in 1914, between 1923 and 1927 the family lost eight siblings: Joseph (1923), Elizabeth (1923), Lewis (1924), Maria (1925), Rachel (1925), Reuben (1926), and then Emanuel and Hannah in 1927.  Of the thirteen children of Jacob and Sarah Cohen, only one remained after Emanuel and Hannah died, the baby Abraham.

The next decade, the 1930s, were also very challenging years for Eva, Emanuel’s widow, and her three sons. According to the 1930 census, Stanley was now working as a broker. My grandfather John listed his occupation as a clothing and jewelry merchant on the 1930 census, perhaps still working at The Commodore; he and his family were still living at 6625 North 17th Street at that time, which was about fifteen miles north of the Commodore location.

My grandparents, my aunt and my father on the 1930 census

My grandparents, my aunt and my father on the 1930 census

I could not find Maurice on the 1930 census, unless he is the Maurice L. Cohen listed as living with a wife Celia, a son Lester, and a daughter Nannette.  I dismissed this household many times, but since I cannot find him elsewhere and since his son’s middle name was Lester and his other son was Emanuel, which could have been heard by a census taker as Nanette, I suppose, I am inclined to think that this is probably Maurice’s listing, but perhaps not.  At any rate, I was able to find Maurice’s death certificate.  He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head on August 14, 1931; family lore is that he had been suffering from cancer.  He was only 43 years old, and his sons were fourteen and nine years old when he died.

Maurice Cohen death certificate 1931

Maurice Cohen death certificate 1931

Some years after Maurice’s death, his widow Edna moved to southern California.  According to the 1940 census, she and her two sons, Maurice, Jr., and Emanuel, now called Philip, were living in Los Angeles, although the census indicates they were all still living in Philadelphia in 1935.  My father recalls going to camp with both of his cousins in 1938, so I assume it was sometime after that that Edna and her sons moved away.  My father said he never saw them again.

Edna Cohen and sons 1940 census

Edna Cohen and sons 1940 census

Maurice was not the only one to face serious medical problems during this time period.  My grandfather John contracted multiple sclerosis also during this period.  My grandmother, a sensitive and fragile person, was herself hospitalized and unable to care for her husband or her children, and so John, Sr., and his two children were taken care of by his mother, Emanuel’s widow, Eva May Seligman Cohen.  Once again my great-grandmother opened her heart and her doors to care for family members as she had done over 25 years earlier for her brother-in-law Isaac and his son.

In 1936, my grandfather was admitted to a Veteran’s Administration facility in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, over forty miles away from Philadelphia.  He lived the rest of his life until he died on May 2, 1946.  He was 50 years old.

John Cohen, Sr. 1940 census

John Cohen, Sr. 1940 census

My great-grandmother continued to care for his children, my father and his sister, until she died on October 31, 1939, from heart disease.  My father and aunt then lived with various other relatives until their mother was able to care for them again.

Eva May Seligman Cohen death certificate

Eva May Seligman Cohen death certificate

Stanley, Maurice and John’s brother, did not face the terrible health issues faced by his brothers.  In 1940 he was working as a pawnbroker, and according to his World War II draft registration in 1942, he was self-employed, calling his business Stanley’s Loan Office.

Stanley Cohen World War II draft registration

Stanley Cohen World War II draft registration

In the 1950s, Stanley and Bessie moved to Atlantic City, where he lived for the rest of his life. Bessie died in April, 1983, and Stanley died in July, 1987.  He was 97 years old.  I have located where his daughter was last residing and hope to find a way to contact her.

As for Maurice’s family, I don’t know very much about what happened to them after they moved to California.  Edna died in 1979, and Maurice, Jr., in 1988.  Both were still living in California when they died.  Emanuel Philip was harder to track down, but I eventually found him as Bud Colton in the California death index.  How, you might wonder, did I know that Bud Colton was the same person as Emanuel Cohen? Well, the death index listed his father’s surname as Cohen and his mother’s birth name as Mayer.  In addition, he was always called Buddy by the family.  Colton is fairly close to Cohen in pronunciation, and there was some family lore that he had in fact changed his name to something else.  Bud served in the army during World War II as Bud Colton.  He married Helga Jorgensen in April, 1957, when he was 34 and she was 49.  Bud died in February, 1995, and is buried as a veteran at Los Angeles National Cemetery.  I did not find any children of either Bud or Maurice, Jr.; although I found a few Maurice Cohens in the California marriage index, only one of those marriages seemed to have resulted in a child, and her birth certificate revealed that her father Maurice Cohen was not the one related to me.  The other two Maurice Cohen marriages would have been fairly late in Maurice’s life (if in fact it was the same Maurice Cohen), and I found no evidence of any children from those marriages.  Given the age of Helga when she married Bud, it also seems unlikely that that marriage resulted in any children.

It is rather sad that we know so little about my father’s paternal first cousins, but this was all I could find up to this point.  I will keep looking and hope that more information will turn up.  Perhaps in that mysterious suitcase I will find more pictures, more documents, more answers.  Nevertheless, I know a great deal more now than I once did about my great-grandparents Emanuel and Eva Cohen and my paternal grandfather John Nusbaum Cohen.

Below is the headstone for my great-grandparents Emanuel and Eva May and for my grandfather, John N. Cohen, Sr., who were buried at Mt. Sinai Cemetery in Philadelphia.  Maurice is also buried there, one section over.

headstone for emanuel, eva and john n cohen











Family Heirloom: Jacob’s Ring


I was told by its current owner, my third cousin, that the ring depicted above is rose gold with an onyx table and diamonds in the initial.  I was also told that it once belonged to my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen, the successful Philadelphia pawnbroker, father of thirteen children including my great-grandfather Emanuel.  According to my third cousin, the ring was passed down from Jacob to his son Reuben, who gave it to his son Arthur Lewis Wilde Cohen, Sr., who then passed it on to his son Arthur Lewis Wilde Cohen, Jr., who gave it to his son, my third cousin, for his twenty-first birthday.  Jim shared with me the following story about the ring:

This ring is deeply important to me. The story behind it is as follows:

I found it one day while, as a kid who was doing precisely something he was told not to do (because, we do that kind of thing as kids), I was looking in my father’s jewelry cabinet in my parents’ room. For some reason the ring just grabbed me. I really loved it right from the start.

When I got older, and it actually fit closely enough to wear, I kept swiping it to wear it, and he would always catch me with it.

He’d give me the stern warning and ground me. I think he probably came to view this recurrent situation with some amusement. I think it was pretty obvious that I really had a thing for this ring, and if he had been truly angry the groundings would have been a LOT longer. So he must have known that, aside from swiping it, I wasn’t going to be irresponsible with it.

Then one day, I went to swipe it again, and it was gone. I thought, “I can’t believe he hid it!”

On my birthday, after our party, he took me aside, away from my twin brother and handed me a quite large box. It was covered all over in clear packing tape – and inside that was another box, and another, all wrapped in clear packing tape. Apparently, he wanted me to really work to get into the last box, and every time another box came into view, he laughed.

And then I got to the final box, opened it, and there was the ring. He had taken it, polished and cleaned it, replaced stones that had gone missing over the years, and sized it to fit my finger “for real.”

So yes, this was my 21st birthday present, and it meant a great deal on its own.

Then, he had a fatal heart attack two weeks before my 22nd birthday.

This ring, and its story and history, are the last birthday present I ever received from my father.

How lucky my cousin is to have something that once belonged to Jacob, our mutual great-great-grandfather.  I wish I knew more about the story behind the ring and more about the men who have owned it.  I wonder why Jacob gave it to Reuben of all his sons.  Or did each child inherit something similar from Jacob and Sarah? If my great-grandfather Emanuel did inherit a family heirloom, I have no idea where or what that would have been.

I’ve never been one to care about jewelry for its material value, but I care deeply about the sentimental value of any jewelry that has been given to me.  I have no idea what Jacob’s ring is worth in monetary terms, but to me the fact that it once belonged to my great-great grandfather, that it was once worn by my great-grandfather’s older brother Reuben and then by his son and grandson and now his great-grandson, makes it priceless in my eyes.  I’d gladly trade a new piece of jewelry worth far more in material terms for one small “worthless” trinket that had come from one of my ancestors.