Milton Goldsmith: Final Chapter

In 1940, Milton Goldsmith turned 79 years old. He appears to have retired by then, although a few of his books were re-released in the 1940s. As seen in my last post, his younger daughter Madeleine had married Charles A. Jacobson, Jr., on September 29, 1933, and his older daughter Rosalind married Michael Zale on October 25, 1940.

Rosalind was a commercial artist; and as we saw, illustrated one of her father’s books. I do not know what her husband Michael did for a living. I also could not find any military record for Michael Zale during World War II. Given that Michael would have been 26 when the US entered World War II in December 1941, I find it odd that there is no military record for him. I searched for him as Michael Zale, Michael Zalefsky, Metre Zale, Metre Zalefsky, and other wildcard and Soundex possibilities, but nothing came up.

According to her obituary,1 Milton’s younger daughter Madeleine worked as a dietician. Her husband Charles listed his occupation as a banker on the 1940 census.2 Charles served in the US military during World War II, but I could not find any details about his service. He was 37 when he enlisted in 1942.3

After World War II, Charles and Madeleine moved to Larchmont, New York, a suburb of New York City.  According to several city directories, Charles was at least for some time the treasurer of Voland & Sons, a company that his brother James had purchased in the 1940s that manufactured balance scales.4

A Voland & Sons balance scale

Michael and Rosalind Zale stayed in New York City at least until 1960 according to directory listings, but again, I have no information about Michael’s occupation.5

Milton Goldsmith died on September 21, 1957, at the age of 96. According to his obituary in The New York Times, he had lived in Larchmont with his daughter Madeleine before going to a nursing home in New Rochelle. He was described in the obituary as the author of 24 books and as having been in the advertising business until his retirement 25 years earlier. The only book specifically mentioned in the obituary was Rabbi and Priest and the play that was based upon it, The Little Brother.6 Interestingly, Milton was not buried in New York where he’d lived since 1905, but back in Pennsylvania at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Trevose, Pennsylvania, about twenty miles from Philadelphia where Milton was born.

UPDATE AND CORRECTION:  Thank you to Marla Oxenburg Roth of Huggin’ My Cousins!  for investigating the burial of Milton Goldsmith. I was puzzled that FindAGrave had a listing saying that he was buried near Philadelphia after living in New York for over fifty years, and Marla volunteered to go to Roosevelt Memorial Park to find his grave. Sure enough, there was no marker for Milton Goldsmith there, and when I followed up with a call to the cemetery, they had no record of a Milton Goldsmith buried there. Obviously, the FindAGrave memorial I relied on was incorrect, and I have notified the contributor of the memorial.  I am hoping the contributor will remove the memorial so others are not confused. This is the first time I’ve found such a mistake on FindAGrave. Thank you, Marla!

Marla also found a death notice for Milton from the Philadelphia Inquirer that stated that he had been cremated. So perhaps he is not buried anywhere.

Milton Goldsmith death notice Phil Inq

I learned even more about Milton from his obituary in The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent:

The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, October 4, 1957, p.43.

For example, from this obituary I learned that Milton could remember when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated although he was not even four years old in April 1865 when Lincoln was shot. The obituary also revealed that Milton had entertained the troops during World War I with his skills as an amateur magician. Another hobby was “medieval wood carvings”—did he make them or collect them? I assume the latter. And not surprisingly, he enjoyed math and word puzzles.

Michael Zale died eleven years after his father-in-law in November 1968.7 As the death notice below indicates, Michael was cremated, and the family asked that donations be made to the New York Association for the Blind. I mention this because several of Michael’s siblings made similar requests—that donations be made to some organization for the blind. It makes me wonder whether a member of the family—perhaps Michael himself—was blind. That might explain why I cannot find any records of his military service or his occupation. Michael was 53 when he died.

UPDATE: Michael Zale was in fact blind at least as a child.  Heather Paxton once again found the answer! She located a news article about a camp for blind children in New Jersey that included this quote:

Snip from Michael Zale article

“Blind Find Zest in Normal Recreation at Camp Lighthouse on Barnegat Bay,” Asbury Park Press, July 22, 1945, p. 3.

New York Times, November 5, 1968.

Rosalind died eleven years after her husband Michael in May 1979.8 She was 78 years old. According to her death notice,9 her family asked that contributions be made to the Vacation Camp and Community Center for the Blind in New York City, another indication that blindness may have afflicted someone in the family. A listing on FindAGrave indicates that Rosalind donated her body to Columbia University for medical research and was later buried in 1981 at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn at a site purchased by Columbia to honor those who had dedicated their bodies to science.

Charles Jacobson, Jr. died in November, 1983. I could not find a death notice or obituary for him, only the entry in the Social Security Index. According to that record, his last residence was in Larchmont, New York. He was 78 years old.10

Madeleine Goldsmith Jacobson far outlived her husband, sister, and brother-in-law. Like her father, she lived into her nineties, dying on August 21, 2001, in Chevy Chase, Maryland.  She was 97 years old. According to her obituary, she had worked as a dietician for many years after college and had been active in many charitable and other organizations while living in Larchmont. The obituary reported that “she and her husband always welcomed friends, relatives and sometimes foreign students into their home for as long as they wanted to stay. She will be remembered for her hospitality and as someone who was always helping people and working for organizations that tried to make the community and/or the world a better place.”11

It has been very rewarding and interesting to learn about my cousin Milton Goldsmith and his family; I enjoyed having the opportunity to read some of his books and to understand more about his life and his views through those books. Because of my own interest in and love of reading and writing, those family members who contributed to the world through their published works all hold a special place in my heart.


  1. Deaths, The New York Times, September 30, 2001, found at 
  2. Charles and Madeleine Jacobson, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02626; Page: 70A; Enumeration District: 31-51; 1940 United States Federal Census 
  3. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. Original data: National Archives and Records Administration. Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946 [Archival Database]; ARC: 1263923. World War II Army Enlistment Records; Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 64; National Archives at College Park. College Park, Maryland, U.S.A 
  4. E.g., 1952 New Rochelle, New York, City Directory, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  5. Manhattan, New York, City Directory, 1960, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. 
  6. “Milton Goldsmith,” The New York Times, September 23, 1957, found at 
  7.  Number: 114-01-4400; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951; Source Information U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration. 
  8.  Number: 058-38-2229; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: 1963. Source Information U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration. 
  9. Deaths, The New York Times, May 14, 1979, found at 
  10.  Number: 063-09-1238; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951. Source Information U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2014. Original data: Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index, Master File. Social Security Administration. 
  11.   Deaths, The New York Times, September 30, 2001, found at 

The Mysterious Son-in-Law

As of 1930, Milton Goldsmith and his wife Sophie and daughters Rosalind and Madeleine were all still living together in New York City.  All that would change in the next decade.

On September 29, 1933, Milton’s younger daughter Madeleine married Charles A. Jacobson, Jr. in New York City.1 Charles was a native New Yorker, born on February 8, 1905 to Charles A. Jacobson, Sr., and Emily Metzger.2 His father was a linen merchant. In 1930 Charles, Jr. was living with his parents and brother James in Lawrence, New York, on Long Island. His father was now retired, and Charles was a stockbroker.  His brother James was a book publisher.3 According to the engagement announcement in The New York Times, Charles was a graduate of Phillips Exeter Academy and Harvard. Madeleine was a graduate of Columbia University.

“Miss Goldsmith Plights Her Troth,” The New York Times, September 5, 1933.

Milton’s wife Sophie Hyman Goldsmith died less than a year after Madeleine’s marriage.  She died on June 18, 1934, in New York City. She was 67 years old.4

In 1940, Milton was living with his daughter Rosalind in New York City at 136 West 75th Street.  He was now 78, and she was 38. Neither listed an occupation on the census. 5 Madeleine and her husband Charles were also living in New York City; Charles was now working as a banker.6 They would have one child in the 1940s.

Later that year, Rosalind married Michael Zale on October 25, 1940, in New York City. 7 From 1942 until 1960, Michael Zale is listed in the New York City telephone directories at 136 West 75th Street, so I assume he moved into the apartment where  Rosalind had been living with her father prior to her marriage.

But I was having no luck learning anything else about Michael Zale.  The only records I could find were the listing in the NYC Marriage License Index cited above and those telephone directory listings. There was a Michael Zale in the Social Security Death Index who died in November 1968,8 but I wasn’t convinced it was the same person since that Michael Zale was born on October 15, 1915, making him fourteen years younger than Rosalind and 25 when he married her in 1940 when she was 39. Rosalind’s obituary9 also mentioned that she was the widow of Michael Zale. But that was it. I couldn’t find one other record or mention of a Michael Zale anywhere.

I searched Ancestry and FamilySearch using all the wildcards and variations I could think of. I searched the various newspaper databases—the New York Times,,, and I tried Google. Nada. Nothing. I was completely stumped.

So I turned to the genealogy village for help. And Heather in the Tracing the Tribe Facebook group came to my rescue. She found a death notice for Michael Zale in the November 5, 1968, New York Times that broke down the brick wall.

The New York Times, November 5, 1968.

I asked her how she’d found it since I had searched the Times database numerous ways numerous times. She said that she had gone through the obituary listings day by day in November 1968, hoping that the Michael Zale in the SSDI was the right person. And he was. Why hadn’t I done that? Now I have learned another important lesson. (Heather said she also had gotten no hits when searching by his name. Very odd.)

Now we knew that Michael’s father was named John, but nothing more. And I couldn’t find a John Zale either. But again Heather found what she hoped was Michael’s family on the 1940 US census: John and Olga Zalefsky in Brooklyn living with two children: Karl, 16, and Dorothy, 4. John and Olga were both born in Russia, John was an alien and Olga was naturalized. John was working as a bottler in a dairy.10  But was this in fact Michael Zale’s family?

From that point, I started searching for John and Olga Zalefsky and found them (as Zalifsky) on the 1930 US census,11 where they were living with four children: a six year old son Karl, a ten year old son Roosevelt, and a fourteen year old son whose name appears to be Metre. Could this be Michael Zale? The age was right (Michael would have been fourteen going on fifteen when the census was taken in 1930), and the name started with M. Perhaps John and Olga had given him a more Russian name that he later Americanized. John and Olga had immigrated in 1914, according to the census, and were still aliens. John was a laborer in a dairy.

Moving backwards, I then found them on the 1925 New York State census as John and Olga Silefsky with three children, Carl (one), Roosevelt (5), and a daughter named Metra, age nine.12 Was this a mistake? Was the oldest child a girl, not a boy as indicated on the 1930 census? Was this not the right family at all?

I wasn’t sure.  And so far I’ve had no luck finding them on the 1920 census or the 1915 census. And although I found birth records for Karl and Dorothy, I have none for Metra/Metre or Roosevelt.

Meanwhile, Heather found a great deal of information about John and Olga’s other children and found some living relatives. I have written to them and hope that they can tell me whether the Michael Zale who married Rosalind Goldsmith was the son of John and Olga Zalefsky.  For now, I can’t be sure, but I am hoping they respond and can help to clarify the conflict between the 1925 and 1930 census and tell me more about Michael Zale. In the meantime, I will continue to search for more information about the Zalefsky family.

Thank you so much, Heather, for all your help!

One final post on Milton and his family to come.






  1. New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937. Original data: Index to New York City Marriages, 1866-1937. 
  2. New York, New York, Extracted Birth Index, 1878-1909 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Index to New York City births, 1878-1909. 
  3. Charles Jacobson and family 1930 Census; Year: 1930; Census Place: Lawrence, Nassau, New York; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 0053; 1930 United States Federal Census  
  4. New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Index to New York City Deaths 1862-1948. 
  5. Milton Goldsmith and daughter, 1940 US Census; Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02636; Page: 4A; Enumeration District: 31-572; 1940 United States Federal Census 
  6. Charles and Madeleine Jacobson, Jr., 1940 US Census; Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02626; Page: 70A; Enumeration District: 31-51; 1940 United States Federal Census 
  7.  New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Volume Number: 8; New York, New York, Marriage License Indexes, 1907-1995 
  8. Number: 114-01-4400; Issue State: New York; Issue Date: Before 1951; U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  9. New York Times, May 14, 1979. 
  10. John Zalefsky and family, 1940 US Census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02551; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 24-219. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  11. John Zalifsky and family, 1930 US Census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 1857. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  12. John Sliefsky and family, 1925 NYS Census; New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 43; Assembly District: 02; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 72. New York, State Census, 1925 

Abie’s Irish Rose: One for My Copyright Students

After the very productive first two decades of the 20th century when Milton Goldsmith published at least ten books and had a play produced on Broadway, his output seemed to drop off after 1920. Although he published some puzzle books for children during the 1920s, he did not publish another novel or non-fiction book until 1930.

Milton Goldsmith, The Book of Anagrams, (Whitman Publishing Company, 1930).

The 1925 New York State census record is a bit of a mess so it’s hard to know how reliable it is. I think the enumerator was a bit confused. For example, for Milton he first wrote that he was born in Russia, as was the case for the person in the line above his entry. Then he crossed that out and correctly entered “US.” However, he left the entry that Milton was an alien, not a citizen. So can I trust the listing for Milton’s occupation as a store manager? I don’t think so.

Especially since the line below for Milton’s wife Sophie says she was in advertising and the line below that for Rosalind (spelled “Roseline” here) said “housewife” and was then crossed out and replaced with commercial artist (which she was). So I think that the enumerator had all the occupations off by a line and that Milton was still, as he had been since 1910, in advertising. And I’ve no idea why the enumerator completely crossed out Madeleine (“Madline”) and the servant living in the home.

Milton Goldsmith and family 1925 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 51; Assembly District: 09; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 30 New York, State Census, 1925

Despite these confusing entries on the census, I think it’s safe to assume that Milton was still working in advertising and that his wife and daughters were still living with him at 353 West 85th Street in New York City. Both daughters were now in their twenties. I was not able to learn much else about their lives in the 1920s; there were no news articles of interest or directory listings or other records that shed any light on how they spent that decade.

There was, however, one mention of Milton in a news story that was of particular interest to me as a former teacher of copyright law. One of my favorite cases to teach was Nichols v. Universal Pictures,1 an opinion written in 1930 by the renowned jurist, Learned Hand, of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. The case was brought by Anne Nichols, the author and copyright owner of the play, “Abie’s Irish Rose,” which was a hit on Broadway in the 1920s.  She claimed that Universal Pictures had infringed her copyright with its movie, “The Cohens and the Kellys.”

Both works involved a story of an interfaith marriage between a Jew and a Catholic and the conflict it creates for their parents, who don’t approve of the marriage. There were a number of differences between the stories (which my copyright students better remember in detail, but aren’t relevant here), and both the trial court2 and the appellate court3 ruled in favor of the defendant movie studio, concluding that the theme of star-crossed lovers, one Jewish, one Catholic, was something in the public domain and not protected by copyright law.

How did Milton Goldsmith become entangled in this dispute? He was a witness for Universal Pictures at the trial in 1929, giving testimony about his own work, Rabbi and Priest and the play based upon it, The Little Brother. Although his testimony was not described in detail in the New York Times article that covered the trial, I imagine it was used to support the defendant’s argument that conflict between Jews and Catholics is a common theme used in many works, including Rabbi and Priest, and not original to Anne Nichols play, Abie’s Irish Rose.

“Abie” Not Unique, Professor Finds,” The New York Times, January 5, 1929.

It would have been fun to mention this family connection to the case when I was teaching, but alas—I knew nothing about my cousin Milton at the time.

Although Milton released updated versions of some of his earlier books in the 1930s and 1940s, his last new book, first published in 1930, was Old Mother Earth and Her Family, a geography book for young people.4 His daughter Rosalind did the illustrations for this book.

Milton Goldsmith, Old Mother Earth and Her Family (G. Sully & Company, Inc., 1930).

I was unable to find Milton or any of his family on the 1930 census, but I was able to find  Milton, Sophie, Rosalind and Madeleine on several ship manifests in 1930 and 1931 that showed that their home address was still 353 West 85th Street in New York City.5 I used to search by that address in the 1930 census, but no members of Milton’s family were listed at that address. I wonder whether the whole family was traveling or living abroad when the 1930 census was taken.

The next decade would bring some more changes for Milton and his family.


  1. Nichols v. Universal Pictures, 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930). 
  2. Nichols v. Universal Pictures, 34 F.2d 145 (S.D.N.Y. 1929) 
  3. Nichols v. Universal Pictures, 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930). 
  4. Milton Goldsmith, Old Mother Earth and Her Family (G. Sully & Company, 1930) 
  5.  Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4663; Line: 1; Page Number: 11; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. UK, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960 (Departure from Southampton, England, September 6, 1930, Lancastria).  Also, Year: 1931; Arrival: New York, New York;Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957;Microfilm Roll: Roll 4903; Line: 1; Page Number: 75; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. Year: 1930; Arrival: New York, New York; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: Roll 4822; Line: 1; Page Number: 13. Description
    Ship or Roll Number: Roll 4822. Source Information New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957. 

Milton Goldsmith, Children’s Author and More

My father remembers Milton Goldsmith as an author of children’s books so I was not surprised to learn that Milton had in fact written a number of works for children after moving to New York City in about 1905.

In 1905, Milton, Sophie, and their two young daughters were living at 1125 Madison Avenue in New York City, but Milton was still working as a merchant, according to the 1905 New York State census.

Milton Goldsmith 1905 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1905; Election District: A.D. 29 E.D. 20; City: Manhattan; County: New York; Page: 30 New York, State Census, 1905

However, by 1906, Milton was listed in Who’s Who in America as an art publisher and author.1 The listing stated that he was the president of Goldsmith-Leving Company, a company engaged in the embossing of art, calendars, pictures, and the like.  It further described him as a contributor of many short stories to magazines and local and Jewish newspapers and of “several hundred poems” to magazines such as Puck, Judge, Life, and Cosmopolitan. In addition, Milton’s musical and dramatic works were mentioned in the listing and, of course, his books.

In 1908 Milton published his first children’s books. So far I have found three of them published in that year alone. The Adventure of Walter and The Rabbits,2 is a story about a boy named Walter who follows a rabbit into a hole in a tree and observes the rabbit family; he learns never to be cruel to animals based on his observations.  It is a sweet story and one with a lesson all children should learn.  Its innocence and simplicity seem quite refreshing in contrast with some of the cloying Berenstain Bear books I’ve lately had to read to my three year old grandson. I assume that Milton wrote this book with his two young daughters in mind.

I was unable to locate online versions of the other two children’s books published by Milton Goldsmith in 1908; I wish that I could spend the money to buy copies of all his works, but alas, that is not feasible. But I was able to find images of the covers of the books online.

One was entitled Dorothy’s Dolls:3

The third book published by Milton Goldsmith in 1908, also a children’s book, was The Magic Doll. 4

I imagine that Milton’s two young daughters Rosalind and Madeleine were the inspiration for all three books. From this point forward in his writing career, almost all his books were written for an audience of children.

By 1910, Milton seems to have left the art embossing business and gone into advertising, for that is the occupation listed for him on the 1910 census.  At that time he and Sophie were living at 783 Madison Avenue with Sophie’s mother and her two sisters as well as her sisters’ husbands. I was puzzled that neither of Milton and Sophie’s daughters was listed in the household; Rosalind would have been nine, Madeleine six. Where could they have been? Since I could not find them anywhere else on the 1910 census, I believe that this was just an enumeration mistake.

Milton Goldsmith 1910 US Census
Year: 1910; Census Place: Manhattan Ward 19, New York, New York; Roll: T624_1043; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 1161; FHL microfilm: 1375056 1910 United States Federal Census

According to one source, Milton spent 1910 and 1911 in Berlin and Paris, translating German and French plays into English for the American stage.

By 1915, they were all listed together (though Rosalind was here listed as Ralph and as a son), living at 353 West 85th Street in New York, and Milton continued to work in advertising, now at his own agency.

Milton Goldsmith 1915 NYS census
New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1915; Election District: 25; Assembly District: 15; City: New York; County: New York; Page: 18 New York, State Census, 1915

Meanwhile, his writing career continued. As his daughters grew from young children to schoolgirls and teenagers, his works also targeted somewhat older audiences than the fairy tales he’d written in 1908. In 1916, he published Practical Things with Simple Tools: A Book for Young Mechanics.5

Interestingly, and a sign of its times, this book was specifically targeted for boys. Here is part of the introduction to the book:

The book consists of instructions and illustrations for how to make a long list of things intended for boys:

Milton Goldsmith also wrote two books under the pseudonym Astra Cielo during these years.  The first, published in 1917, Fortunes and Dreams, is a “practical manual of fortune telling, divination, and the interpretation of dreams, signs, and omens.”6 The second Astra Cielo book is similar. Published in 1918, Signs, Omens and Superstitions covers, as you’d expect, signs, omens and superstitions.7

It’s hard to imagine the same author who expressed quite modern views of religion and skepticism about superstition in A Victim of Conscience and Rabbi and Priest endorsing these practices, but perhaps that’s why he wrote under a pseudonym.  Although both books express doubts about believing in or relying on these practices, the books go into great detail about these subjects and thus create a sense that these are legitimate practices and beliefs.

After these works of “non-fiction,” Milton published a novel for older children, The Strange Adventures of Prince Charming: A Story for Young & Old. 8  This work is a full length novel and tells about the adventures of a young prince as he makes his journey in the “real world.” It has elements of satire and more advanced vocabulary than the earlier children’s books. (I confess I did not read the entire book; perhaps my older grandson would appreciate it, however.)

Milton ended the decade with another work of children’s non-fiction, I Wonder Why: The How, When and Wherefore of Many Things.9 I was very happy to see that he dedicated this book to his daughters, “Rosalind and Madeleine, whose many questions inspired the writing of this book.” At least this time he recognized that girls also have curiosity and a need to know about practical matters.

The book is written in narrative form based on a fictional family, the Palmers, with five children, three boys and (yay!) two girls. Their father is an engineer, and the book consists of chapters on different topics where the father (sigh) answers the children’s questions about a wide variety of scientific issues.  Here is just a portion of the table of contents:

In addition to publishing all these books, Milton, along with Bennett James, adapted his first novel Rabbi and Priest into a play, The Little Brother, which was performed in London and then on Broadway in 1918 with a cast that included Tyrone Power, Sr. Despite positive reviews for its treatment of interfaith conflict and prejudices, it closed after 120 performances in March, 1919.

Thus, by 1920, Milton had published a number of books and had had a play produced in London and on Broadway. However, his principal occupation, as listed on the 1920 census, was  still advertising.  10

What would the next decade and those to follow bring for my cousin Milton and his family?

  1. John William Leonard, ed., Who’s Who in America, Vols. 2-4 (A. N. Marquis & Co., 1906), pp. 694-695. 
  2. Milton Goldsmith, The Adventure of Walter and The Rabbits (The Ullman Mfg. Co., 1903). 
  3. Milton Goldsmith, Dorothy’s Dolls: A Nursery Tale (Cupples & Leon Company, 1908). 
  4. Milton Goldsmith, The Magic Doll: A Fairy Tale (The Goldsmith Publishing Company, 1908). I wonder if for some time Milton had his own publishing company or if this was a family member or just a coincidence. 
  5. Milton Goldsmith, Practical Things with Simple Tools: A Book for Young Mechanics (Sully and Kleinteich, 1916). 
  6. Astra Cielo (pseud. Milton Goldsmith), Fortunes and Dreams (George Sully & Company, 1917). 
  7. Astra Cielo (pseud. Milton Goldsmith), Signs, Omens and Superstitions (George Sully & Company, 1918). 
  8. Milton Goldsmith, The Strange Adventures of Prince Charming: A Story for Young & Old (McCloughlin Bros. Inc,, 1919). 
  9. Milton Goldsmith,  I Wonder Why: The How, When and Wherefore of Many Things (George Sully and Company, 1920). In 1938, Milton published an updated edition of this book entitled I Wonder How: The Why, When and Wherefore of Many Things (Platt & Munk Company, 1938). 
  10. Milton Goldsmith and family, 1920 US Census, Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 9, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1202; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 704, 1920 United States Federal Census 

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

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( : 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 ( : 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 Predicts the Future

After the publication of his first book Rabbi and Priest in 1891, Milton Goldsmith contributed a number of essays and short stories to the Philadelphia newspapers. My favorite is “In the Next Century”1 dated August 28, 1892, when he predicted—with tongue in cheek—what life would be like in the year 2000:

Here are a few highlights from this clever and humorous look at the future—or in our case, the past:

It is safe to assume that the world is but in its infancy, and that coming generations will show a vast mental and physical improvement over the present inhabitants of the globe. Our varied knowledge, the wonderful progress on which we are so prone to pride ourselves, will probably appear as absurd to our progeny as the fragmentary information of our forefathers appears to us. Knowledge will be universal, and the inhabitants of our continent will, in the next century, be intellectual giants.

Imagine yourselves transported to the year 2000….What a change greets our wondering eyes. Ignorance appears to be unknown. The child of 5 knows more than the college graduate of the present era. Let us examine the system that has wrought this improvement.  The guide of that year first leads us into the School for Infants. It is here that the babies are taught under the supervision of the government. Competent teachers are appointed the very young idea to shoot. For example, as soon as a child is old enough to drink milk from a bottle, it is taught at the same time the fundamental laws of suction and the principle of the air-pump. Experiments with valves, Torricelli vacuums, etc., form part of the curriculum.

An illustration of Torricelli’s vacuum
By Kilom691 (The New Student’s Reference Work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How disappointed my cousin Milton would be. I am far past infancy yet I still didn’t know what a Torricelli vacuum was!

He continued with further examples of how babies and children would be instructed in gravity, zoology, geometry, trigonometry, and other mathematical and scientific concepts. Then he looked at medicine and health in the year 2000:

With a people of such mental caliber it is but natural that arts, science and inventions should prosper. The pleasure and comfort of man is greatly enhanced by the numerous devices invented for his welfare. Principal among these are the appliances for fostering the health of the community. Sickness is absolutely unknown. The medical fraternity, having discovered the germ of each disease, have at the same time provided an antidote for such germs. At the age of 2 months the child is vaccinated against tuberculosis. At the age of 3 months against cholera; at the age of four months against smallpox, and so on at regular intervals against all the diseases in the modern doctor books.

Here, Milton has done a better job of prognostication; we do have vaccines against smallpox and tuberculosis and many other diseases. But alas, we certainly have not eliminated all diseases.

Smallpox vaccine
By Photo Credit: James Gathany Content Providers(s): CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Milton went on to describe, with tongue in cheek, the extreme measures that would be taken to prevent the reintroduction of germs into society—“Before a mother kisses her child she cleans her teeth and lips with an antiseptic solution. All water is boiled, and all milk sterilized before it is taken.”

He then takes this notion and applies it to the way adults will behave in the year 2000.

When the boy or girl reaches the age when matrimony appears a consummation devoutly to be wished, there are no haphazard marriages as in former days.  The partner to be chosen is carefully examined by a psychologist, a pathologist and a phrenologist, and every peculiarity of mental or physical structure carefully noted.  Only such parties who are perfectly sound and whose peculiarities are fitted to one another, are allowed to mate. Such a thing as an unhappy marriage, or a divorce, are as a matter of course impossible. Sick or weakly offspring are unknown.

What would Milton think of couples meeting through online dating? Of our over 50% divorce rate? Of birth control and premarital sex?

He then discussed married life:

The intelligent groom knows that promiscuous kissing is injurious; that each kiss, acting upon the sensitive nerves of touch, are apt to create a depletion of nervo-vital force. He therefore limits his kisses to two a day. The lips are carefully disinfected before and after each osculations.  …. The groom retires promptly at 10 o’clock, as sufficient sleep is found to be more important than making love.

Imagine Milton watching some of the movies or television shows of our era. What would he think?

Finally, Milton reached his conclusions about life in the year 2000:

As a result of this wonderful system sickness is unknown in the community. People live to the normal age of 100 years and then die suddenly without a struggle. The remains are immediately cremated, the ashes disinfected and buried ten feet in the earth.

Taking it all in all one is almost glad that this happy time has not yet arrived, for though we may have more disease than the possible inhabitant of A.D. 2000, we have a great deal more fun.

Ah, Cousin Milton, how wrong you were! We are still having a lot of fun, probably more than your generation did, as we have fewer diseases, more leisure time, looser social mores, and all the amazing toys that modern science has given us.

I loved the satiric tone of his essay.  And I also loved the sense that while I am now looking backward to learn about the life that Milton led as a young man in the 19th century, in 1892 he was looking forward to the future to imagine what life would be like for his descendants in the 21st century.

By Tony Grist (Photographer’s own files) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Milton’s creative output in the 19th century was not limited to short stories and essays. In December 1893, Milton’s burlesque entitled “Jay Cesar, Esq.”—which he wrote and acted in—was performed by the Stag Opera Comique Company in Philadelphia. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “it was a distinct success from every standpoint and from a social standpoint it was decidedly the leading event in Hebrew society this season so far.”  The performance consisted of two hours of “catchy airs, humorous songs, fantastic dances and whimsical dialogue.” 2

Milton was obviously a very talented young man.  The 20th century would find him leaving behind his life as a merchant and making a new career in a new city.  I wonder what he would have predicted for his own future when he wrote “In the Next Century” in 1892.




  1. Milton Goldsmith, “In the Next Century,” The Philadelphia Times, August 28, 1892, p. 19. 
  2. “Stags on Stage,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, December 29, 1893, p. 3. A full copy of the text of Jay Cesar can be found here. It is quite clever, and Milton is credited not only with the whole text, but also with some of the music. For other stories, essays, and other works by Milton Goldsmith during the 1890s, see, “Milton Goldsmith’s Lecture Before the Young Men’s Hebrew Association,” The Philadelphia Times, March 28, 1897, p, 9; Milton Goldsmith, “That Grateful Ghost,” The Philadelphia Times, March 5, 1893, p. 23; Milton Goldsmith, “Raps Told of Murder,” The Philadelphia Times, December 11, 1892, p. 23; Milton Goldsmith, “The Pride of the Circus,” The Philadelphia Times, August 14, 1892, p. 10; Milton Goldsmith, “The Three Responses,” The Philadelphia Times, March 27, 1892, p. 14. 

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.


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)

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 ( : 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. 

Surprise! Another Mystery Solved When I Least Expected It

Sometimes when you aren’t even looking, an answer to an earlier mystery pops up unexpectedly. That’s what happened when I started researching the marriages of Abraham Goldsmith’s four oldest children, all of whom were married in the 1890s.

First, Edwin Goldsmith married Sarah Virginia Friedberger in 1891.1 Sarah Virginia, who was known as Jennie, was born in Philadelphia on January 17, 1866, to Henry Friedberger and Caroline Bellstrom.2 Her father was in the wholesale millinery business.  Edwin and Jennie had their first child on January 28, 1892, and they named her Cecile, presumably for Edwin’s mother, Cecelia Adler, who had died so young.3 A second child, Henry Friedberger Goldsmith, named for Jennie’s father, was born on September 8, 1893.4 In 1900 Edwin and Jennie and their sons were living in Philadelphia where Edwin continued to be a clothing merchant.

Edwin Goldsmith and family, 1900 US census
Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 22, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 7; Enumeration District: 0486 1900 United States Federal Census

Then, two of Abraham’s older daughters married in 1892. Emily Goldsmith was married on January 28, 1892, to Felix N. Gerson.5 And her marriage to Felix N. Gerson led me down quite an interesting rabbit hole and to a surprise—a solution to an unsolved mystery. Remember the “other” Harry Goldsmith—Harry N. Goldsmith, son of Raphael Goldsmith, who was living with Eva Goldsmith Anathan in 1910? I had been completely befuddled because I could not figure out why this Harry N. Goldsmith was living with my cousin (and the cousin of my cousin Harry Goldsmith) when he seemed to have no familial connection to my Goldsmiths. Well, stay tuned. It’s a bumpy ride.

I searched for background information on Felix N. Gerson as the husband of my cousin Emily Goldsmith. I found him on both the 1870 and 1880 census, living in Philadelphia with his parents, Aaron and Eva Gerson.  His father was a furrier, born in Prussia, and his mother was born in Pennsylvania.6

Then I found Felix on the Social Security Applications and Claims Index, giving his birth date as October 18, 1862, and his full name as Felix Napoleon Gerson. But what really jumped out was that his mother’s birth name was Eva Goldsmith.  This was confirmed on the death certificate for Felix Gerson—his mother was Eva Goldsmith, born in Philadelphia.

Felix N. Gerson, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007.

At first, I groaned. Oh, no, another intrafamily cousin marriage, I thought. Which Eva Goldsmith was this? So I searched for more information about Eva Goldsmith Gerson and found this record:

Eva Goldsmith Gerson death certificate
“Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : 16 May 2014), 004009428 > image 216 of 538; Philadelphia City Archives and Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

This Eva Goldsmith was the daughter of Napoleon Goldsmith and Zerlina Rosenthal. I knew immediately that those names looked familiar, but they were not part of my Goldsmith family.  Napoleon and Zerlina Goldsmith were the grandparents of that mysterious Harry N. (for Napoleon) Goldsmith who’d been living in 1910 with my cousin, the other Eva Goldsmith who’d married Nathan Anathan. Their son Raphael was Harry Napoleon Goldsmith’s father.

Napoleon and Zerlina Goldsmith were also the grandparents of Felix Napoleon Gerson, who married my cousin Emily Goldsmith. Felix’s mother Eva Goldsmith Gerson was the sister of Raphael Goldsmith. So Felix Napoleon Gerson and Harry Napoleon Goldsmith were first cousins, both named for their grandfather Napoleon.


Now’s where it gets a bit trickier. Felix Gerson married Emily Goldsmith. Emily Goldsmith Gerson and Eva Goldsmith Anathan were first cousins also; Emily’s father Abraham and Eva’s father Levy were brothers (and had been in business together.)  Still with me? Here comes the final twist.


When Harry Napoleon Goldsmith moved in with Eva Goldsmith Anathan around 1910, he was living with the first cousin of the wife of his first cousin. That is, Harry Napoleon Goldsmith was the first cousin of Felix Napoleon Gerson. Felix Napoleon Gerson was married to Emily Goldsmith, whose first cousin was Eva Goldsmith Anathan. Got it? Here’s a chart:


Now I knew how Harry Napoleon Goldsmith ended up living with my cousin Eva Goldsmith Anathan. They were connected by the marriage of their respective first cousins—Felix and Emily.

Of course, I wasn’t done digging yet. I needed to determine whether Napoleon Goldsmith or his wife Zerlina nee Rosenthal were somehow related to me directly, not just by these circuitous connections. After hours of digging, I’ve concluded that they were not. Or at least in no obvious way. Napoleon Goldsmith was born in Nassau, Germany in around 1803 and came to the US in 1836. By 1840 he was married and living with one child in Philadelphia. His wife Zerlina was also born in Germany in around 1813, but I don’t know where. Her mother Rachel Rosenthal also immigrated, perhaps in the 1830s with her husband Seller, but I am not certain about that. At any rate, I think it’s just coincidence that these two separate Goldsmith families ended up connected by marriage.

But the good news was that I’d figured out why there was another unrelated Harry Goldsmith living with my cousin Eva Goldsmith in 1910.

Let’s return then to Emily Goldsmith and her husband Felix Napoleon Gerson. According to his entry in Who’s Who in Pennsylvania,7 Felix went to Philadelphia public schools and then studied civil engineering; in the 1880s he served in the department of the Chief Clerk, Philadelphia & Reading Railway Company, and then in 1891 he changed careers and became the managing editor of Chicago Israelite.  In 1892, Felix became the managing editor of the Jewish Exponent of Philadelphia.

As noted above, he married my cousin Emily Goldsmith on January 28, 1892. Their wedding was a very small and modest affair.

“Married Quietly at Home,” The Philadlephia Times, January 29, 1892, p. 5

Given Abraham’s one-time prosperity, I was surprised that Emily’s wedding was so understated. But then I learned from Abraham’s obituary8 that in 1890 or so he had suffered a serious stroke that left him disabled and in poor health. As his children were moving on to adulthood, his health was in decline.

Emily and Felix’s first child Celia was born on October 27, 1892.9  She was also presumably named for her grandmother, Emily’s mother Cecelia Adler Goldsmith. A second daughter, Dorothy, was born on June 2, 1897.10 In 1900, Emily, Felix, and their daughters were living in Philadelphia., and Felix was working as an editor.

Emily and Felix Gerson and family 1900 US Census
Philadelphia Ward 20, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 4; Enumeration District: 0433 1900 United States Federal Census

Emily’s sister Rose Goldsmith married Sidney Morris Stern on May 25, 1892.11 Sidney was born January 14, 1861, in Philadelphia, and was the son of Morris Stern and Matilda Bamberger, who were German-born immigrants. His father was in the retail clothing business.12  Rose and Sidney’s first child, Sylvan Goldsmith Stern, was born on March 2, 1893.13 Two years later Rose gave birth to twin boys, Allan Goldsmith Stern and Howard Eugene Stern, on August 6, 1895.14 I could not find Rose and her family on the 1900 census despite having their address in 1899, 1900, and 1901.  They were living in Philadelphia during those years, and Sidney was in the jewelry business with his brother Eugene.

The next wedding in the family of Abraham Goldschmidt was that of his oldest child, Milton.  On Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1899, Milton married Sophie Hyman in New York City. 15 Sophie was the daughter of Nathan Hyman and Rose Friedberger. And Rose Friedberger was the sister of Henry Friedberger, whose daughter Jennie had married Milton’s brother Edwin in 1891. So Milton married his sister-in-law Jennie’s first cousin, Sophie Hyman.  Sophie’s father Nathan was a corset manufacturer.

“Weddings of A Day. Goldsmith-Hyman,” The New York Times, Februaru 15, 1899, p. 7

I found it interesting that although Sophie selected Milton’s sister Estelle to be her only attendant, Milton did not select either of his brothers—Edwin or Louis—to be his best man or one of the ushers. Instead he selected a first cousin, Samuel Goldsmith (son of Meyer Goldsmith) to be his best man. His mother and other sisters and brother Edwin are listed among those attending the wedding; Louis was not listed, but perhaps the list did not include everyone attending.

In 1900 Milton and Sophie were living in Philadelphia where Milton continued to work as a clothing merchant.16

Thus, by 1899, Abraham Goldsmith had four married children and seven grandchildren. In 1900, he was living with his second wife Frances and his remaining five children. Estelle, his youngest child from his first marriage to Cecelia Adler, was now thirty years old and working as a school teacher.  As for Abraham’s four children with Frances, Albert, now 22, was working as a salesman. Bertha was 21 and working as a “saleslady.” Perhaps they were both working in their father’s clothing store. Alice, 18, was a milliner, and Louis, 17, was still in school. Abraham’s mother-in-law Sarah Adler, his first wife’s mother, was also still living with them. Although the census lists her as a teacher, since she was 87 years old, that seems unlikely.

Abraham Goldsmith and family 1900 census
Philadelphia Ward 12, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Enumeration District: 0208 1900 United States Federal Census

The 20th century would bring new challenges and new accomplishments for the family of my three-times-great-uncle Abraham Goldsmith.

  1. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Original data: “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. License No. 41318. 
  2.  Pennsylvania Historic and Museum Commission; Pennsylvania, USA; Certificate Number Range: 059001-062000, Source Information. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 
  3. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. Original data: Social Security Applications and Claims, 1936-2007. 
  4. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Original data: United States, Selective Service System. World War I Selective Service System Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration. M1509, 4,582 rolls. Imaged from Family History Library microfilm. 
  5. Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852-1968. Original data: Marriage Records. Pennsylvania Marriages. Various County Register of Wills Offices, Pennsylvania. 
  6.  Year: 1870; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 10 District 32, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1395; Page: 549B; Family History Library Film: 552894. Source Information 1870 United States Federal Census. Year: 1880; Census Place: Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1172; Page: 458C; Enumeration District: 191, Source Information and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  7.   John W. Leonard, ed.,Who’s who in Pennsylvania: A Biographical Dictionary of Contemporaries (L. R. Hammersly, 1908, 2d. ed.), p. 292. 
  8. Abraham Goldsmith obituary, The Philadelphia Exponent, January 24, 1902, p. 3. 
  9. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 
  10. Number: 161-05-1973; Issue State: Pennsylvania; Issue Date: Before 1951. Source Information U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  11. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951. Original data: “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia Marriage Index, 1885–1951.” Index. FamilySearch, Salt Lake City, Utah, 2009. Philadelphia County Pennsylvania Clerk of the Orphans’ Court. “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia marriage license index, 1885-1951.” Clerk of the Orphans’ Court, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. License No. 51669. 
  12. Pennsylvania, Death Certificates, 1906-1966 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Pennsylvania (State). Death certificates, 1906–1963. Series 11.90 (1,905 cartons). Records of the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Record Group 11. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 
  13. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  14. Pennsylvania, WWI Veterans Service and Compensation Files, 1917-1919, 1934-1948. Original data: World War I Veterans Service and Compensation File, 1934–1948. RG 19, Series 19.91. Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Harrisburg Pennsylvania. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  15. New York, New York, Extracted Marriage Index, 1866-1937. Certificate No. 3384. 
  16. Milton and Sophie Goldsmith, 1900 US Census, Philadelphia Ward 24, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Page: 13; Enumeration District: 0572, 1900 United States Federal Census.