A Little More on Reuben and Sallie Cohen

Reuben Cohen

Reuben Cohen

Since ancestry.com was still not fully functional and I thus could not get access to many of the documents I need to complete the story of the children of Reuben and Sallie Cohen, I spent time  looking for news articles about the family on genealogybank.com, a site that has remained untouched by the attack on ancestry.  Here are a few interesting additional little peeks into their lives.

First, I was excited to find the picture above of Reuben Cohen published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 1, 1917, in honor of his birthday. (Sunday, April 1, 1917, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: 176   Issue: 91   Section: News   Page: 2)  It’s always good to be able to visualize what someone looked like, and since I have not been able to locate many photographs of any of these relatives, this was an exciting find.

Reuben and Sallie were also at least twice the victims of crimes.  In 1885 Reuben was the victim of an assault and battery while trying to stop a thief.  He was commended by the judge for his conduct. The accused was sentenced to eighteen months in prison for stealing a $7 roll of cloth.  It’s not clear whether he stole it from Reuben’s store or whether Reuben was just trying to aid in his arrest. I also found it disturbing that the defendant’s race was mentioned for no possible relevant reason other than the blatant racism of those times. (” Civil and Criminal. Suits and Prosecutions from the Court Reports,”  Wednesday, November 11, 1885 Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: CXIII Page: 3 )

reuben assault story


Then in 1903 Reuben and Sallie were themselves the victims of theft when a household employee of theirs stole a diamond ring in a “grip” belonging to Sallie when she asked him to carry it for her when she returned to Philadelphia from Cape May.  The accused admitted the theft and also admitted that he had been stealing from the Cohens for some time.  (“Says He Stole Jewelry,” Sunday, August 30, 1903, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA)   Volume: 149   Issue: 61   Section: First   Page: 6)

jewelry stolen


Finally, I was puzzled by this news item, describing a donation by Reuben to the Episcopal Church in Cape May of a silver plate to be used for communion.

church donation

Why was Reuben making a gift to the church?  Although Sallie may not have been Jewish, it does seem that they raised their children as Jews for here is an article announcing the confirmation of their son Arthur at Mickve Israel synagogue. (“A Minute’s Chat,” Wednesday, February 25, 1903, Philadelphia Inquirer (Philadelphia, PA) Volume: 148 Issue: 56 Page: 8 )

arthur confirmation

In addition, Reuben, Sallie, and all of the ten children who predeceased them are all buried in Mickve Israel cemetery.  Was this just a generous gift to an important institution in Cape May? Or were the Cohens also church members? Perhaps I can do some research of the church records to find out more.

There were also other articles about anniversary parties, trips to Cape May, and other family events and celebrations. This series of news stories reveals a little more of Reuben’s character and of his social and financial standing in the Philadelphia and Cape May communities.  It also reveals that despite all the heartbreak his family endured, they also continued to prosper socially and economically and apparently to enjoy life.

Adding another Dimension to the Story: What Newspapers Can Reveal

Before moving on to the next decade of the Cohen saga, I decided to spend some time searching through old newspapers online, seeing if I could find some birth, marriage or death announcement that might be helpful.  I was surprised to find some real news stories about my ancestors which add some additional dimensions to their life stories.

First, it seems that Jacob, my great-great grandfather, had a couple of interactions with law enforcement—never as the accused (as far as I found), but as a victim and/or witness to crimes.    One time Jacob was able to identify the man who had stolen a watch and chain and had pawned the chain to Jacob.[1]  The second incident involved Jacob purely as a victim of a crime when one of his servants, Eliza, stole a watch and chain worth about $50 from his home. [2]

Jacob’s grandson, also named Jacob Cohen, continued this tradition in 1899 when he also ended up with stolen goods in his possession as a pawnbroker. The thieves had broken into a house and stolen $1000 worth of household items, including some rugs that they had pawned to Jacob.   Jacob was able to identify the men who had pawned the rugs and thus assisted the police in capturing them.[3]

I am not sure what to make of these three stories, except to observe that (1) being a pawnbroker, one runs the risk of receiving stolen property, and (2) both Jacobs were observant witnesses and willing to assist the police in stopping crime.

I was also able to find several articles reporting that Jacob (among others) had obtained a pawnbroker’s license and several ads taken out by his son Isaac regarding the probate of Jacob’s estate.

The other article that I found quite interesting reported on a street argument or fight among several of my relatives, including Reuben Cohen, Lazarus Jacobs, and Reuben Jacobs.  Apparently an argument started at seven in the morning among what the article refers to as “barkers connected with the South Street clothing stores,” which “created considerable excitement in the neighborhood, with their jargon.” Four men were arrested, including my three relatives, who were taken to the alderman to “keep the peace.”  This article was dated Wednesday, July 10, 1867.[4]  In 1860, Joseph Jacobs, the brother of Lazarus and father of Reuben, had been a business partner in a clothing store Jacobs and Cohen with Jacob Cohen, father of Reuben Cohen.  I noticed in the 1868 Philadelphia directory that Jacob’s business was then called Hamberg and Co., presumably for his son-in-law Ansel Hamberg.  Had Jacob and Joseph had a parting of the ways? Were they now competitors? Were the cousins fighting over business at 7 in the morning? Or was this just a quarrel among young men that had nothing to do with the family businesses?

Although none of these articles revealed any significant clues or information about my relatives, they add a human dimension to the facts and data I can find in the census reports and vital records.  These were all real people with real problems.  Times may have changed, but people always have and always will deal with the forces of and the flaws of human nature.




[1] Hearings at the Central, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 4, 1869, p. 2.  Located at http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/doc/v2:110C9BFA1F116650@GBNEWS-1131D42D94DDFEC8@2404036-1131D42DDDBB7728@1-1131D43073B916C0@Hearings+at+the+Central/?search_terms=cohen%7Cjacobs_dlid=DL0114052113460322139&s_ecproduct=SUB-Y-5595-R-OB&s_ecprodtype=RENEW-A-I&s_trackval=&s_siteloc=&s_referrer=&s_subterm=Subscription%20until%3A%2011%2F07%2F2014&s_docsbal=%20&s_subexpires=11%2F07%2F2014&s_docstart=&s_docsleft=&s_docsread=&s_username=amybesscohen@gmail.com&s_accountid=AC0113110721363014323&s_upgradeable=nos_dlid=DL0114052113505122638&s_ecproduct=SUB-Y-5595-R-OB&s_ecprodtype=RENEW-A-I&s_trackval=&s_siteloc=&s_referrer=&s_subterm=Subscription%20until%3A%2011%2F07%2F2014&s_docsbal=%20&s_subexpires=11%2F07%2F2014&s_docstart=&s_docsleft=&s_docsread=&s_username=amybesscohen@gmail.com&s_accountid=AC0113110721363014323&s_upgradeable=no

[2] At the Central, Philadelphia Inquirer, February 15, 1873, p.2.  Located at http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/doc/v2:110C9BFA1F116650@GBNEWS-111FE4E816403290@2405205-111FE4E85086AEB0@1-111FE4E9E3B265B0@At+the+Central/?search_terms=cohen%7Cjacobs_dlid=DL0114052113480522392&s_ecproduct=SUB-Y-5595-R-OB&s_ecprodtype=RENEW-A-I&s_trackval=&s_siteloc=&s_referrer=&s_subterm=Subscription%20until%3A%2011%2F07%2F2014&s_docsbal=%20&s_subexpires=11%2F07%2F2014&s_docstart=&s_docsleft=&s_docsread=&s_username=amybesscohen@gmail.com&s_accountid=AC0113110721363014323&s_upgradeable=no

[3] Rugs Gave the Clue, Philadelphia Inquirer, May 28, 1899, p. 13.  Located at http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/doc/v2:110C9BFA1F116650%40GBNEWS-11499C1A1A4C6430%402414803-11499C1EE5C8F558%4020-11499C2C9B7C3D58%40Rugs+Gave+the+Clue+Police+Hint+They+Have+Captured+Two+Important+Fugitives/?search_terms=%22rugs%20gave%20the%20clue%22%7Ccohen%7Cjacob

[4] City Intelligence, Police Affairs, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 10, 1867. p. 2.  Located at http://www.genealogybank.com/gbnk/newspapers/explore/USA/Pennsylvania/Philadelphia/?lname=cohen&fname=jacob&kwinc=&kwexc=&dateType=range&formDate=&formDateFlex=10&rgfromDate=1850&rgtoDate=1890&processingtime=&group=&pg=3