Helen Goldsmith and Edwin Meyer and Their Family

My last post shared photographs of Helen Goldsmith as a child and as a young woman. In this post I will share photos of Helen and her family from the time of Helen’s marriage to Edwin Meyer in 1914 through her adulthood. Once again, I am grateful to my cousin Marilyn, Helen’s granddaughter, for sharing these wonderful photographs with me. Most of the identifications of the people in these photograph came from Marilyn based on information she had.

To start, here is a photograph of the place cards that were used at Helen and Edwin’s wedding:

Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

As Helen noted, the wedding was on January 18, 1914 (the date is cut off on the photograph so it may look like it says 1912 or 1917, but it was definitely 1914). Helen was 24, and Edwin was 23. I wrote about Edwin and his background here.

Helen Goldsmith marriage record, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Marriages, 1852-1968 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Original data: Marriage Records. Pennsylvania Marriages. Various County Register of Wills Offices, Pennsylvania

A little over a year later, Helen gave birth to Edgar on February 27, 1915;1 a second son Malcolm was born three years later on January 17, 1918.2 This photograph of the two little boys must have been taken some time in 1918 as Malcolm looks about six to nine months old:

Edgar and Malcolm Meyer, c. 1918. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

“Uncle Art,” to whom this photo must have been sent, was Edwin Meyer’s younger brother.

UPDATE: Peter Klopp kindly edited this photo to fix poor Edgar’s face:

edgar-and-malcolom-meyer-Edited by Peter Klopp

Here is Edwin Meyer with his two young sons about a year later, I’d guess.

Edwin, Malcolm, and Edgar Meyer, c. 1919. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

This one skips ahead to about 1923; Edgar looks about eight, Malcolm five.

Malcolm and Edgar Meyer, c. 1924. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

In the next one Malcolm is a teenager so taken perhaps around 1935. This was a family golf outing, but not all the people in the photograph could be identified by Marilyn. Standing in the back from left to right are Helen Goldsmith Meyer, then two unidentified people, then Helen’s brother Walter Goldsmith, Edwin Meyer, and an unknown man on the far right. Kneeling in front are Edison Goldsmith (Walter’s son) and Malcolm Meyer.

Meyer family and others, c. 1935. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

I don’t know when this next photograph was taken, but I’d guess it was taken around the same time as the golf photograph based on a comparison of Helen’s face in the two photographs. This is a photograph of Helen (right) with her sister Florence. I love Helen’s comment: “Just sisterly affection brought out in the sunshine.”

Florence and Helen Goldsmith. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

We skip ahead now to the 1940s and this sweet photograph of Helen hugging her son Malcolm, who was in uniform. Malcolm served in the US Army from May 4, 1942 until March 2, 1946, including serving overseas from August 20, 1943 until January 24, 1946.3

Helen Goldsmith Meyer and Malcolm Meyer, c. 1942. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

In 1948, Helen and Edwin became grandparents when both of their sons had daughters. Here is a picture of the whole family showing off the two granddaughters. From left to right, standing: Esther Orringer Meyer (Edgar’s wife), Helen Goldsmith Meyer, Carolyn Schnurer Meyer (Malcolm’s wife). Front, Edgar Meyer holding his daughter, Edwin Meyer, and Malcolm Meyer holding his daughter.

Meyer family, 1948. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

Finally, Marilyn shared these three photographs from the 1950s. In the first, we once again see the family playing golf. Dated October 19, 1952, from left to right are Milton Goldsmith, Helen Goldsmith’s brother, about whom I wrote here, here, and here; Milton’s second wife and cousin Fanny Goldsmith Goldsmith, about whom I wrote here; Helen Goldsmith Meyer; and Edwin Meyer’s sister Leah:

Milton Goldsmith, Fanny Goldsmith, Helen Goldsmith Meyer, and Leah Meyer. 1952. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

I was excited to see a photograph of Milton and Fanny. And here is another one, taken in June 1958:

Fanny and Milton Goldsmith, June 1958. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

And finally, this is a photograph of Florence and Oliver, the same two siblings depicted on either side of Helen in the earliest photograph I have of her, so I am posting them together.  Despite the changes that aging carved in their faces, you can still see the same expressions sixty plus years later:

 

 

Thank you again to my cousin Marilyn for sharing this wonderful collection of photographs.


To all who celebrate, I wish you an easy and meaningful fast. May you be sealed in the Book of Life for another year. G’mar tov!

 

 

 

 


  1. Edgar Meyer, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1695, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  2. Malcolm Meyer, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 1695, Ancestry.com. U.S. WWII Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 
  3. Malcolm Meyer, Ancestry.com. Pennsylvania, Veteran Compensation Application Files, WWII, 1950-1966 

A Jaffa Family Postcard

I’ve been posting some of the family photographs that my cousin Marilyn, the granddaughter of Helen Goldsmith and great-granddaughter of Henry Goldsmith and Sarah Jaffa, shared with me. In the last post we saw a number of photographs of Helen as a young woman. She also appears in this photograph, sitting at the bottom left of the photograph. Marilyn could not identify the other people in this picture.

But the inscription on the back of the photograph left plenty of clues as to the identities of the other people in the photograph, and I was able to identify almost all of them after some research and analysis.

Ronie Jaffa, who signed and labeled the photo, was the son of Henry Jaffa, who was Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith’s brother.1 Most of the people in the photo are Jaffas, some of whom are also related to me through their marriages to Goldsmith relatives. Fortunately, that meant that many of the Jaffas were already on my family tree, making the task of identification easier than it otherwise would have been.

Ronie refers to the man second from the left in the top row as “Papa,” so I thought this must be his father, Henry Naphtali Jaffa. Henry died in January 1901,2 so that would have meant that the photo was taken before that time. But as you will see below, I later revised my thinking on the identity of “Papa” and the date of the photograph.

The first person in the top row is labeled Helen J. I assume the J stands for Jaffa, so that must be Solomon Jaffa’s daughter, Helen. Solomon is sitting right in front of her in the photo. He was Henry Jaffa and Sarah Jaffa’s brother. Solomon was also married to a Goldsmith—Leonora.  Leonora was the daughter of Simon Goldsmith’s son Jacob—i.e., Henry Goldsmith’s brother. Leonora lived to 1911, but she does not appear to be in the photo.

Next to Sol in the middle row is Ida Jaffa Mansbach. She was Samuel Jaffa’s daughter. Samuel was also a brother to Henry, Sarah, and Sol.  Ida also married someone from the Goldschmidt/Goldsmith family. Her husband was Meyer Mansbach, son of Abraham Mansbach and Sarah Goldschmidt.  Sarah was my 3x-great-aunt. She was the daughter of Seligmann Goldschmidt, my 3x-great-grandfather.

Two of Ida and Meyer’s children are in the photo. In the top row next to Solomon, Ronie labeled the young boy as “Ida’s boy.”  That must be Arthur Mansbach, who was born in 1896. Skipping to the bottom row, Ronie labeled the little girl on his lap as “Ida’s girl,” so that has to be Edith Mansbach. but she wasn’t born until December 1901. That means the photo must have been taken more like 1908 because Edith looks around six or seven to me and Arthur looks about ten or eleven.  Also, Helen Goldsmith at bottom left looks older than she did in the 1904 photo seen in the last post. So 1908 seems a likely guesstimate for the date of the photograph or perhaps a year or so earlier.

That means that the photo had to have been taken after Henry Jaffa died in 1901 and thus “Papa” could not be Henry. So who was “Papa” to Ronie Jaffa if not his father Henry? My best guess is it’s Samuel Jaffa, who died in 1909.3 Perhaps Ronie was labeling the photograph for Ida and her two children, who may have called their grandfather Samuel “Papa.”

Returning to the top row, Aunt Malchia was probably Samuel Jaffa’s wife Amelia.  Malchia or Malchen was a German name that often was changed to Amalia or Amelia in the US.  She would have been Ronie’s aunt, so that makes sense. That also bolsters the conclusion that “Papa” was Samuel Jaffa since Malchia is sitting right near him with her grandson in between.

The person next to Aunt Malchia is labeled Bertha, and I have no idea who that could be.

Now down to the middle row. Next to Ida is a man Ronie labeled as Hirsch Katz. He’s also labeled “Lena’s brother.”  So I looked for a Lena Katz in my family tree and found a Lena Katz who was the daughter of Juetel Jaffa, the oldest of the Jaffa siblings—sister to Henry, Solomon, Samuel, and Sarah. Juetel never left Germany. She married Mendel Katz. Their daughter Lena came to the US in the 1880s and lived with Henry Goldsmith and Sarah Jaffa and their children. After more research I was able to confirm that Hirsch Katz was also a son of Juetel and Mendel and also therefore a Jaffa cousin.4

That leaves us just the bottom row. We have Helen Goldsmith, then Ronie Jaffa himself, and then Florence Goldsmith. As for the man with his arm around Florence’s neck, I’ve no idea. Florence wasn’t yet married, so perhaps this was some beau. Since Ronie didn’t label him, maybe he wasn’t really a part of the family.

Thus, to recap, here is a key to the people in the photograph based on my analysis:

Top row: Florence Jaffa (daughter of Solomon Jaffa), Samuel Jaffa, Arthur Mansbach (Ida Jaffa Mansbach’s son), Amelia Sommers Jaffa (Samuel’s wife), “Bertha”

Middle row: Solomon Jaffa, Ida Jaffa Mansbach (Samuel’s daughter), Hirsch Katz (son of Jutel Jaffa)

Bottom row: Helen Goldsmith (Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith’s daughter), Ronie Jaffa (Henry Jaffa’s son), Florence Goldsmith (Sarah Jaffa Goldsmith’s daughter), and unknown man

Sadly, Ronie Jaffa, who left behind this wonderful key to the people in this photograph, died as a young man.  He was one of the milions of people who died from the flu epidemic. He died on January 28, 1919, at the age of 34.

Albuquerque Journal, January 30, 1919. p. 2


  1. Henry Jaffa and family, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Schedules of the New Mexico Territory Census of 1885; Series: M846; Roll: 1, Ancestry.com. New Mexico, Territorial Census, 1885 
  2. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/160599822 
  3. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/79951582 
  4. Hirsch Katz birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 907; Laufende Nummer: 442, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901; Hirsch Jaffa Katz, World War I draft registration, Registration State: Colorado; Registration County: Denver; Roll: 1561842; Draft Board: 6, Description
    Draft Card: K, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. 

Photographs of Helen Goldsmith: From Toddler to Young Woman

In this post I will share some more of the photographs that I received from my cousin Marilyn of Helen Goldsmith and her family. This post will focus on Helen herself—her childhood and early adulthood.

Marilyn believes that the little girl in the center of this photo is Helen. Helen was born in December 1889 and looks about two in this photograph, at most three, so this photo was taken somewhere around 1892. Comparing this photographs to later photographs that we know are of Helen, I agree with Marilyn that this is Helen in the center here.

Florence Goldsmith, Helen Goldsmith, and Oliver Goldsmith, c. 1892. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

Thank you to Peter Klopp of The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project for editing this photo to correct the flaw that marred Florence’s hair!

possibly-helen-goldsmith-in-the-middle-Edited

She is surrounded by two children who are most likely her siblings.  I believe that the little boy on the right is her brother Oliver, who was born April 17, 1887, so he would have been about five in 1892. Oliver became a lawyer, as we saw here. On the left would likely be Helen’s sister Florence, born May 19, 1883, and thus about nine when this photograph was taken. Florence became a musician, music teacher, and composer, as we saw here.

One other reason I think this photograph was taken in 1892 is that it does not include Helen’s brother Albert Goldsmith, who died from spinal meningitis on June 4, 1891, at the age of six.

The next photograph chronologically is this one of Helen Goldsmith and her older brother Walter, as labeled by Helen herself as seen on the reverse.

Helen Goldsmith and Walter Goldsmith, c. 1904. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

Helen’s note on the reverse was written on October 28, 1972, stating she was at that time 82 years old. But then she wrote she would be 83 on December 17, 1973; in fact, she would have turned 83 on December 17, 1972, just two months after labeling the photograph. Helen believed she was 14 or 15 when the photograph was taken, dating it around 1904. Walter, who was born in December 7, 1881, and thus was eight years older than Helen, would have been about 22 in this photograph. Walter would become a dentist, as we saw here and here.

The next photograph is of Helen alone:

Helen Goldsmith. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

It also had a note on the reverse:

There is unfortunately no date nor is there any information revealing the name of the person to whom Helen wrote the note. It appears to be an exchange between two young women discussing some young men they were interested in. Helen asked the recipient for the address of an “Aunt Lena,” so presumably she was writing to a relative, perhaps even her sister Florence or one of her many cousins.

I first assumed that “Aunt Lena” was Lena Katz, Sarah Jaffa’s niece, the daughter of her sister Jutel Jaffa. But by 1900 Lena Katz was living with Henry Goldsmith and Sarah Jaffa, so why would Helen need her address unless Lena had taken a trip somewhere? Another possibility was Lena Goldsmith Basch, Henry’s sister and thus truly Helen’s aunt. She died in 1906 in Columbus, Ohio, so that would mean the photograph was taken before that time. Helen would have been 17 or younger, and that seems possible from this photograph.

The next two photographs of Helen have no note on the back nor are they dated. This one appears to have been taken about the same time as the one above:

Helen Goldsmith and unidentified man. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

In this one Helen is posing with an unidentified man, and Marilyn did not know who he might be. Helen appears to be about the same age in this photograph as she was in the one above—same hairstyle, same style of dress.  So who is the man with her? It’s not her husband Edwin, but it could be one of her many older brothers or even her father Henry.

This next photograph of Helen appears to have been taken when she was somewhat older, although Helen’s hair and clothing are still similar to that in the prior two photographs. It’s just something in her expression that makes me think it was a few years later. What do you think?

Helen Goldsmith. Courtesy of the family of Helen Goldsmith

There is one more photograph of Helen taken in the years before she married in 1914. But that one requires some extended discussion so I will save it for the next post.

A Mystery Photo

In August, I received a wonderful collection of photographs from my cousin Marilyn, the great-granddaughter of Henry Goldsmith and the granddaughter of Helen Goldsmith; I’ve written about Henry and about Helen in several places, including here, here, here, and here. Marilyn and I are both the four-times great-granddaughters of Fradchen Schoenthal. We are also both descendants of Jacob Falke Goldschmidt, the father of my three-times great-grandfather, Seligmann Goldschmidt and Marilyn’s great-great-grandfather Simon Goldsmith.

The next set of posts will feature the photographs Marilyn sent, most of which are of her grandmother Helen and some of Helen’s siblings and of Helen’s sons Edgar and Malcolm and their children. Some of these photographs were labeled, some were not. And even where labeled, sometimes those labels left more questions. All of these photographs are posted courtesy of my cousin Marilyn.

For example, this photograph, which is the oldest photograph in the collection.

On the reverse of this photograph was the following label:

But the more I studied this photograph, the more I became convinced that that label was incorrect. The photograph was taken in Philadelphia by a photographer named Brooks located at 600 or 724 Arch Street. I searched Philadelphia directories on Ancestry and was able to find a photographer named Thomas Brooks located at 630 Arch Street in several directories from the 1870s.1 Portrait photography as an art and business did not really even start until the 1850s.

Simon Goldsmith was born in 1795 and came to the US in 1845 when he was already fifty years old. By the 1870s, he was in his seventies. The man in the photograph does not look like he is in his fifties, let alone his seventies. His skin is smooth with no wrinkles or age lines. He appears to be at most in his forties, but probably even younger.

So who is that man? My first guess, given the source of the photograph and the collection in which it appears, was that it was Henry Goldsmith, Simon’s son. Henry was born in 1847, and in the 1870s when Thomas Brooks was operating a photography business on Arch Street in Philadelphia, Henry would have been somewhere between 23 and 33, and the man in that photograph could be in that age range.

Henry, however, was living in Connellsville, Pennsylvania, in the 1870s, not in Philadelphia. In fact, Henry never lived in Philadelphia. I thought perhaps when he married Sarah Jaffa in 1871, they married in Philadelphia, but the 1870 census shows Sarah living with her brother Samuel Jaffa in Pittsburgh,2 so she wasn’t in Philadelphia either.

Moreover, I am quite certain that it was Henry’s daughter Helen who wrote the words on the back of this photograph. There are several other photographs labeled in the same handwriting in the collection that are quite obviously labeled by Helen. For example, look at these two examples:

If Helen labeled the photograph of the man she assumed was her grandfather Simon, wouldn’t she have known if it were instead a photograph of her father Henry? I’d think so. So the more I study these photographs, the more I doubt this was a photograph of either Simon Goldsmith or his son Henry.

So who was he? I see a slight resemblance to Sol Jaffa, Helen’s uncle, as seen in this photograph to be analyzed in a later post. But wouldn’t Helen have known that it was Sol when she labeled the photograph? He and Helen are holding hands in this photograph, so she obviously knew him well. Did her uncle look so much different as an older man that she couldn’t see the resemblance?

 

The mystery lingers…

More of the collection from Marilyn to come.

 

 


  1. E.g., Gopsill´s Philadelphia Business Directory, 1870, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, City Directory, 1874, Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  2. Sarah Jaffa, 1870 US census, Year: 1870; Census Place: Pittsburgh Ward 2, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: M593_1295; Page: 441A; Family History Library Film: 552794, Ancestry.com. 1870 United States Federal Census 

An Update on My Dannenberg Cousins

I now have blogged about Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander, my three-times great-grandparents, and all their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. I also have blogged about two of Seligmann’s brothers, Lehmann and Simon, and their families. Seligmann had one other full brother, Meyer, a full sister, Jette, and two half-siblings, Elieser and Jude. I will turn to Meyer next. I have not yet found any primary or even secondary sources for Jette, Elieser and Jude and their families—just the family trees of others—so I may not blog about them. Time will tell. Maybe I will find more to add to those trees.

But before I turn to Meyer Goldschmidt and his family, I have some other things to write about. In the many months that I’ve been working on my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith family, I’ve also been in touch with a number of cousins who have provided me with additional photographs of and documents about other relatives. Being the somewhat-compulsive person that I am, I didn’t want to break the chronology of the Goldschmidt story, so I kept folders and notes for all those new items and decided I’d return to them once I found a place to take a break in the Goldschmidt/Goldsmith story. So the next couple of weeks will be devoted to these new materials. Then I will return to Meyer Goldschmidt.

To start, I want to share some photographs I received back in March and April from my fourth cousin Arlene, who is also a great-great-great-granddaughter of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hincka Alexander. Arlene is descended from their daughter Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, sister of my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein. (For more background on the individuals named in this post, please follow the links from their names.)

Arlene’s great-grandmother was Hannah Mansbach, who was my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein’s first cousin. Hannah married Gerson Dannenberg. I wrote about the Dannenberg family here. Arlene is the granddaughter of Hannah’s son Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr., and she is the daughter of his son, Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr.

Arlene shared these images of two wonderful photographs of her great-grandparents Hannah Mansbach and Gerson Dannenberg:

Gerson Dannenberg. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Hannah Mansbach Dannenberg. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Both are signed at the bottom by Elias Goldensky 39 (which I assume is the year the photographs were taken when Hannah would have been 81 and Gerson 77; Hannah died in 1940, Gerson in 1943). Elias Goldensky was a very well-known professional portrait photographer in Philadelphia whose works were exhibited world-wide and who even photographed Franklin Roosevelt in the White House in 1932.1

I think I even see a slight resemblance between Hannah and my great-grandmother Hilda, her first cousin, especially around the mouth and nose.  What do you think?

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

In addition, Arlene sent me this image of a photograph of a Passover gathering of the extended Dannenberg-Loeb family in 1937. Most of those depicted are not my blood relatives, but are the family of Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr.’s wife, Marion Loeb. But Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr,, and his two sons, Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr., and James Dannenberg, are included in this photograph, as labeled at the bottom. James stands to the far left in the top row, Arthur Jr. to the far right in the top row, and their father, the much-beloved pediatrician whom I wrote about here, Dr. Arthur M. Dannenberg, Sr., is the tall gentleman standing third from the left in the top row.

Passover, 1937. The Dannenberg-Loeb family. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes

Arlene commented on my blog back in March 2019 that her father, Arthur, Jr., had also become a physician and that he had devoted his career to researching tuberculosis, a cause that was important to him because his mother Marion’s first husband, Milton Stein, had died from TB while Milton and Marion were on their honeymoon in 1915, as I wrote about here. In fact, Arthur was not a true “junior” as his middle name was Milton (for Milton Stein), not Mansbach, his father’s middle name.

Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr. 1965. Photograph by Julian Hart Fisher. Courtesy of Arlene Dannenberg Bowes.

Arthur M. Dannenberg, Jr., died on June 15, 2018. The American Association of Immunologists published a lovely tribute written by Ellen J. Mackenzie, Dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, where Arthur has spent much of his career as a professor and researcher. The entire tribute can be found here. I will post just a few excerpts from Dr. Mackenzie’s tribute to Arthur Milton Dannenberg, Jr.:

Art’s research explored cellular pathways to preventing and treating tuberculosis, and he was passionate about finding new vaccines against the disease. He was affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Vaccine Initiative as well as the Johns Hopkins Center for Tuberculosis Research, which established a student achievement award in his honor.

His work made a lasting contribution to our understanding of a disease that still, despite significant progress in saving lives through diagnosis and treatment, remains one of the top 10 leading causes of death worldwide.

A graduate of Swarthmore College, Art obtained his medical degree from Harvard in 1947. He continued his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where, in 1952, he received a Ph.D. in microbiology and immunology, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in experimental pathology.

….

All of us who worked with Art over the years were impressed by his tireless pursuit and devotion to unraveling the mysteries of one of the most important infections plaguing humans throughout history – tuberculosis. We will sorely miss his enthusiasm and devotion to medical research and to educating the next generation of scientists.

My deep gratitude to my cousin Arlene for sharing these photographs and stories with me. It is always wonderful to see the faces of my cousins and learn more about them.


  1. “Elias Goldensky, Photographer, Dies,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 11, 1943, p. 11. 

Cohen and Company Photograph: Is That My Grandfather?

Hello, everyone! I have returned from my break and am ready to dive back into my exploration of my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith relatives. But before I do, I want to share my second experience working with “Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist” aka Ava Cohn.

In the course of my genealogy research, many cousins have shared photographs with me, and fortunately almost all the time they can identify the people in the photographs. But occasionally I have received photographs with unidentified people in them, and sometimes those photographs just stay in my head and bother me. Who are those people? How can I figure out who they are?

This is one of those photographs, a photograph that belonged to my late cousin Marjorie Cohen, my father’s first cousin, the daughter of Stanley Cohen, my grandfather’s brother. The only person I was fairly confident I could identify in the photograph was Marjorie’s father Stanley, the man on the far left in the photograph.

Cohen & Company photograph

Here is a photograph on Stanley taken just a few years later when he was serving in World War I. You can see the resemblance to the man on the left.

Stanley Cohen World War I

The group photograph was taken in Philadelphia in front of the Cohen & Company Money Loan store, which was part of the pawnshop business started by my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen in Philadelphia in the 1850s and then carried on by many of his sons, including my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen, who ran this particular store. I wondered whether these five men were also grandsons of Jacob Cohen. I was particularly curious about whether my grandfather John Cohen was one of the men standing in front of the store.

When I connected this summer with my second cousin Marcy, the granddaughter of my grandfather’s other brother, Maurice Cohen, she sent me some photographs of Maurice and of Maurice’s sons, Buddy and Maurice, Jr.

Emanuel (Buddy), Maurice Sr., and Maurice, Jr.

My great-uncle Maurice Cohen, Sr.

I also had photographs of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen, my great-uncle Stanley, and my grandfather John. Having had fabulous success with Ava Cohn, aka Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist, in the past, I decided to have Ava analyze these photographs to see if she could identify the people in the Cohen & Company photograph.

Emanuel Cohen, my great-grandfather

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, 1923

John and Eva Cohen
c. 1930

John Nusbaum Cohen c. 1894

Ava’s work is remarkable. Her attention to detail and the research she did to try and answer my questions is incredibly professional and thorough. Although she could not definitively identify all the people in the photograph, she certainly narrowed down the possibilities and made some very helpful and persuasive comments and suggestions. With her permission, I am going to summarize and excerpt from her report.

First, Ava analyzed whether the date that I’d been told was on the back of the photograph—April 1913—was accurate.  She based her analysis in part on the type and content of the photograph:

…the scan appears to me to be a brown color, indicating a platinum print (sepia color) used generally from 1880-1930. Platinum prints often fade and there is some fading of this photograph. However, after 1920 most photographs were gelatin silver prints that had crisper black and whites than the platinum prints, another indication that this photograph was taken before 1920. … The photograph was taken outside. Since one of the men is wearing a sweater, it is appropriate to say that the photograph was taken in a cooler month, but obviously not winter. This is consistent with the presumed date of April, 1913. 

Ava then analyzed the clothing worn by the people in the photograph, labeling them A through E from left to right:

  1. Person A is wearing a coat sweater with V-neckline, knit cuffs, two patch pockets and six buttons. This dates from the 1911-1912 period.
  2. All the men are wearing shirts with detached collars from around 1908 and skinny ties that were popular in 1912.
  3. Person B is wearing a high cut vest also with 6 buttons, a style found in ads from 1912.
  4. Persons C and E are wearing jackets that are slightly fitted at the waistline. Person D is wearing an older jacket that is less fitted.  The slightly fitted waist style of men’s jackets was popular from 1912-1915. Also in that time period men’s jackets had 1, 2 or 3 buttons as can be seen on the men’s jackets in the photograph.
  5. Person D is holding a soft felt Optimo shape Panama hat from about 1912.
  6. Persons A, B, D and E have their hair combed back in a pompadour style with no part. Men wore their hair in this manner in the 1912-1913 period. Person C has a variation of this style with a side part.

From these observations, Ava concluded that the date of April 1913 on the photograph was likely accurate.

Then using that date and her estimation of the age of the five individuals in the photograph, Ava deduced the likely birth year of each of the five:

A: 24 years old. Born circa 1889.

B: 15 years old. Born circa 1898.

C: 24-26 years old. Born circa 1887-1889.

D: 18-19 years old. Born circa 1894-1895

E: 25 years old. Born circa 1888.

As noted above, I was already reasonably certain based on other photographs that Person A was my great-uncle Stanley Cohen, Marjorie’s father, who was in fact born in 1889. Ava’s analysis further confirmed that conclusion by relying on the physical descriptions of Stanley in his draft registrations for World War I and World War II. The World War II registration indicated that Stanley was 5’9” tall, and from that fact Ava was able to compare him to the other men in the photograph to reach some conclusions about their heights.

Using this information as well as information from draft registrations, census records, directories, and other sources, Ava reached the following hypotheses about the other four people in the photograph:

B: Simon LB Cohen, born 1898.

C: Samuel S. Cohen, born 1887.

D: John Nusbaum Cohen, born 1895.

E: Morris N. Cohen, born 1887.

For person B, Ava noted that Simon LB Cohen was the only grandson of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen who would have been that young (roughly 15) in 1913. I would love for that to be Simon because I know so much about what happened to him just a few years after this photograph was taken. Simon served valiantly in World War I, was seriously injured and presumed (mistakenly) killed in action, and was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his bravery. He died as a young man in 1934, perhaps as a consequence of his time in the war.

Croix de Guerre awarded to Simon LB Cohen in 1918

But we can’t be sure that this boy was even related to the Cohens (or that anyone in the photograph other than Stanley was). Perhaps they are just a bunch of friends. But if we assume that they are all Cohens and all grandsons of Jacob Cohen, then Simon LB Cohen is a likely candidate to be person B. Since there are no draft registration descriptions of Simon nor any photographs, it is impossible to know for sure whether this is Simon in the photograph.

I was also very intrigued by Ava’s hypothesis that persons C and E  could be the twin brothers, Morris and Samuel Cohen, sons of my great-grandfather’s older brother Joseph Cohen and grandsons of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen. Morris and Samuel were born on August 22, 1887, in Cape May, New Jersey, but in 1910 they were living with their parents in Philadelphia, both working as salesmen in a department store, according to the 1910 census. Ava thought that although they were not identical, they did look like brothers and appeared to be about the same age—24 to 26 years old.

Ava’s analysis seemed very convincing, so I was motivated to search for descendants of Morris Cohen and Samuel Cohen to see if they had any photographs of the twin brothers. With the help of a good friend who knew one of Samuel’s grandchildren, I was able to make a connection. Unfortunately the grandchildren’s memory and photographs of their grandfather Samuel (displayed below) did not confirm that he was either Person C nor Person E in the photograph so I am back to square one in identifying those two men.

Samuel Cohen. Courtesy of his grandchildren

Samuel Cohen, courtesy of his grandchildren

But it was Person D I was most interested in, as I hoped he was my grandfather John Cohen, who would have been almost seventeen and a half in April 1913 and thus close to the age of Ava’s estimated age of Person D. Also, Ava pointed out that on his 1921 passport application, my grandfather’s height was reported to be 5’6” and that his World War I draft registration described him as short; certainly Person D is a shorter man than Persons A, C and E. Those two factors pointed to Person D being my grandfather.

John Cohen Sr. World War I draft registration

John N Cohen passport application page 2

But comparing Person D to the photographs of my grandfather created doubts for Ava (and myself) as to whether Person D was my grandfather. My grandfather had very distinctive eyes—very deep set and slanted down; Person D is squinting, making it hard to see his eyes, so it is hard to tell if they are the same as my grandfather’s eyes. Ava also pointed out that Person D has a widow’s peak whereas there does not appear to be a widow’s peak in the photographs of my grandfather.

Here is a closeup of Person D and then several of my grandfather—in 1921,1923 and 1930. In addition, Ava believes (and I agree) that the man holding a baby in the fifth photograph is probably my grandfather.  I know we see what we want to see, but the more I study these, the more I think Person D might be my grandfather. The loss of the widow’s peak could be from his obviously receding hairline. Look at the difference between 1921 and 1923. In 1930 he is wearing a hat—perhaps to hide his balding?

One other thing I noticed in the photographs of my grandfather—he had attached earlobes. Unfortunately when I zoom into the Cohen & Company photo, it’s hard to tell whether Person D also has attached earlobes.

 

 

John Cohen in 1921

John Cohen in 1923

John Cohen, 1930

Could this be my grandfather John Cohen? And who is the baby?

I now believe that Person D is my grandfather, but I know that that’s what I am hoping for so I don’t trust my judgement. Ava was not certain, but thought it was possible.

What do you think?

Although it was not possible for Ava to identify all of the people in the group photograph, she certainly narrowed the field and provided solid and convincing reasons for her conclusions. Thank you, Ava, for a wonderful job on this extremely difficult project!

 

 

The Life of Frieda Bensew Loewenherz, Part I: 1885-1912

In the last post I published before Thanksgiving, I wrote about the two daughters of Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew, Roschen and Frieda. They were my grandmother’s second cousins, my second cousins, twice removed. They were the great-granddaughters of Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hinka Alexander, my three-times great-grandparents.

After publishing that post on November 16, I received a wonderful treasure trove of pictures and documents and information from Frieda Bensew’s great-grandson, Franz Loewenherz, my fourth cousin, once removed. Among those shared items was an almost 60 page memoir written by Frieda in 1970 when she was in her eighties (with an addendum written in 1972).

Reading that memoir moved me to tears—not because Frieda had a hard or sad life. To the contrary. She wrote about a life filled primarily with love and happiness—parents who adored her, a marriage filled with deep love, an adoring son and his family, and an extended family that she cared for and about and who cared for and about her. Of course, there were heartbreaking losses and difficult challenges, but throughout her memoir, Frieda’s love of live and her gratitude for all she was given came shining through.

With the permission of her great-grandson Franz, I want to share some of this memoir and also photographs of Frieda, her husband Emanuel Loewenherz, and their son Walter.  Not only is this a touching life story, it has value not only for what it reveals of family history but for its insights into the times in which Frieda lived.

As noted in my earlier post, Frieda was the youngest child of Breine Mansbach and Jacob Bensew, born February 21, 1886, in Melsungen, Germany.1 Here are two photographs of Frieda as a young child, one with her brothers Max and Heine and one alone:

Heine, Frieda, and Max Bensew, c. 1890. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda Bensew c. 1890. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Her memoir gives a sense of her happy childhood in Melsungen:

[Melsungen] was situated in a valley on the river Fulda, surrounded by beautiful woods. A climb of 15 minutes from my home would take me into the thick of them. Oak, Linden and Pine exuded that spicy fragrance remembered for all time. Of course in the summer when school was out this was my favorite outing. But I had also some duties to perform, not just picnic, and that was berry picking! With my friends I would start out in the morning, provided with sandwiches and a pail. It was blueberry time and our ambition was to come home with a full pail. Sitting under trees in a blueberry patch, with the sun filtering down, bees humming around us, we often had a very extended lunch hour! Our dessert were berries eaten right from the bushes. We had to hurry to finish our work as we had to be home before sundown, picking wild flowers on the way. My mother would be pleased with the crop to be used for cake, preserves and jelly. She was not so pleased with the condition of my white undies, full of squashed blueberry stains!!

Winter’s great recreation was ice skating on the river. The ice was so clear, it looked green and one could see the plant life beneath it, moving according to the current. The surface was like glass and I took many tumbles! In those days there were no snow or skating outfits. I wore woolen petticoats, long knitted black wool stockings, flannel pants. When I got home my petticoats and dress usually would stand out like a ballerina’s lampshade – frozen stiff! My mother would receive me with a warm drink and a piece of black bread after getting into dry clothes and warming myself at the stove. There were many simple pleasures, another sledding down a hill or when my father would take me along in the sleigh drawn by our horse, with hot bricks at our feet. The floor of the sleigh covered thick with straw. When we stopped at a village inn, my father would let me take a sip of his grag!

Frieda Bensew c. 1898
Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Frieda seemed to have a special relationship with her uncle, Julius Mansbach, her mother Breine’s brother who had, like all of Breine’s siblings, immigrated to the United States. But Julius returned to Germany and visited Frieda when she was fourteen years old or in about 1900.

My happiest recollections are, from the time I was 14 when my Uncle Julius, my mother’s youngest brother, came to visit us from America. He took me along on so many day trips to historical places, one of them the famous Wartburg, where Martin Luther was imprisoned and where he translated the Bible. And, of course, it is the setting of Wagner’s opera “Tannhaeuser.” I learned history on authentic grounds. With my uncle I saw my first American circus! Barnum and Bailey, with Buffalo Bill and his wild-west show were touring Germany then and we saw the performance in Kassel. The clowns told their jokes in English, naturally, and my uncle would translate them to me. The three ring performances left me breathless, as did the riding skill of the Indians. This was an unforgettable summer. I was so grateful to my uncle, not alone for providing so many pleasures of various kinds for me but he also was the one who taught me quite a few English expressions and the first rudiments of the language.

Frieda’s ongoing relationship with Julius as well as her uncle Louis Mansbach and grandmother Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach as well as her use of English can be seen in the postcard she sent on September 21, 1902. The photograph is of Frieda and, I believe, her uncle Julius, probably taken while he was visiting the family in Melsungen.

Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

Some wonderful people in the Jekkes Engaged Worldwide in Social Networking group on Facebook helped me transcribe and translate the German parts of the card:

On the right side: Dated 21-9-02 (September 21, 1902) from Melsungen:

Dearest Grandmama [Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach] and Uncle Julius [Mansbach],

Unsere Karte von Cassel aus habt Ihr bei dieser Zeit hoffentlich erhalten, morgen ist es wieder ein heisser+ nasser Tag, wo Willi + Heine uns verlassen. Was denkt Ihr vom nebenstehendem Bild? Ist es nicht beautiful? Ende dieser Woche erwarte ich sicher einen grossen Brief von dir, sowie die Ansichtskarte.

(Translated: I hope you have received our card from Cassel by this time. Tomorrow will again be a hot and wet day when Willi + Heine leave us. What do you think of the picture on the other side? Isn’t it beautiful? At the end of the week I expect a long letter from you as well as the picture postcard.)

With best love and kisses, your Fritz

I believe Fritz was Frieda’s nickname.

Underneath Frieda’s message in a different handwriting is this note from her brothers Willi and Heine:

Meine Lieben haltet den Jontef Cholent warm.

Translation: My dears, keep the holiday Cholent warm.

Willi & Heine

I believe that Willi and Heine were sailing to the US, Willi to return having lived in the US since 1885 and Heine coming for the first time: his naturalization card states that he arrived on September 30, 1902.2;I had to smile when I checked and saw that Rosh Hashanah that year started on the next night, October 1. So Willi and Heine must have spent the holidays with the family in Philadelphia. (For those who do not know, cholent is traditional Jewish dish—a stew that usually has meat and vegetables. Here is a typical recipe.)

Along the margin of the right side of the card, Frieda wrote:

Hast du die K. abgeliefert? Wenn nicht, bekommst du keine wieder von mir.

Translation: Did you deliver the K? [card, I assume] If not, you won’t get another from me.

The left side is mostly in English; at the top it says “Best regards to Uncle Louis, Aunt Cora, and Rebecca.” This would be referring to her mother’s brother Louis Mansbach and his family.

Under the picture it says: “Im “Fidelio” war es grossartig [“Fidelio was fabulous]. If you, dear uncle, come again, I will sing the “Arien” [arias] for you. Don’t stay long! Otherwise you are well.” I assume this was directed to her dear uncle Julius Mansbach.

Frieda received a good education at a school in Kassel and had a passion for music and art. And, as she wrote, she wanted to see the world, in particular, America. By the time she was 21 in 1907, all her brothers had immigrated to America, and she also decided to move across the world from her birth place:

It was only natural that I wanted to go to America. Most of our family lived here, from three generations back. My grandparents [Sarah Goldschmidt and Abraham Mansbach] had come to Philadelphia where most of their children lived and some in the west, in Colorado. My mother [Breine] was the only one who remained in Germany as she had a family and my father refused to leave. When the time came for me to investigate, I did so with the promise of my parents that they would follow after I had familiarized myself with my new surroundings. My disappointment was great when my father declared he changed his mind. They did not wish me to return, however, insisting that I had a right to my own life. That is how loving and understanding and unselfish they were.

This paragraph touched me deeply— thinking of Frieda’s courage and determination and her parents’ respect for it. And yet I also could feel how torn both she and they must have been about this separation.

And so, as I wrote before, Frieda left home in 1907 when she was 21 and joined her brothers and other family in the US. First, she settled in Denver where some of her brothers as well other Mansbach cousins were living, and once again she demonstrated her determination and independence:

After a few months of visits with my family in Denver I had acquired quite a vocabulary and felt able to enter an American School of business. There I studied besides English, correspondence, shorthand and light bookkeeping and typing. I knew German shorthand, and the switch was not easy. It required extreme concentration as, in addition, I did not know business language and form either. Well, I made it and kept step with my class, all American born. I finished even ahead of time and got my first job shortly after. And what was the requirement? German shorthand! The irony of it all! 90% of the dictation was in German and 10% in English.

From what I gathered in the memoir and from what I know from the 1910 census, this job was in Chicago, and as we saw, in 1910, Frieda’s brothers Julius, Max, and Heine were also living in Chicago. Frieda wrote about these days as a single young woman in Chicago with great joy—describing activities and trips she took with her friends and also a trip to Philadelphia to see her relatives. This trip probably took place in 1912 because Frieda notes that her cousin Reta Dannenberg was engaged, and Reta was married in December 1912:3

My Aunt Hannah [Mansbach Dannenberg] and Uncle and their three children made our visit of a few days most enjoyable, Rita the oldest was engaged, Arthur a medical student at the U. of Penn. And Katrinka, the youngest, showed us the sights. We had a lot of fun! Then on to New York. My uncle Julius-who was in this country on business from Germany (he had returned there a few years before with his wife, my cousin Frieda on account of her parents’ wishes) entertained us royally.

In this one paragraph I learned three things. First, that Frieda and presumably the other Bensews were very much in touch with their mother’s Mansbach relatives in the US. Secondly, that the Frieda Bensew who married Julius Mansbach was in fact related to this Frieda Bensew and her family (though I still don’t know how). And thirdly, I learned why Julius Mansbach had returned to live in Germany—to satisfy the wishes of his in-laws.

Frieda Bensew as a young woman. Date unknown. Courtesy of Franz Loewenherz

From New York, Frieda and a friend named Rose sailed to Germany where they spent the summer of 1912. Frieda was delighted to be with her parents and sister Roschen, but the separation at the end of that visit was difficult. Frieda wrote:

And then came the time to say good bye again. It was not easy – My parents were so kind and understanding.They realized that I had outgrown my old environment and that my opportunities for a fuller life were so much better in America, the land which I loved and do to this day. Perhaps, being foreign born, gave me even a deeper appreciation of the freedom and privileges so many seem to take for granted. My parents and I were grateful for the time we spent together and kept up a brave front at parting.

She stopped in Philadelphia on her way home and was invited to stay for her cousin Reta’s wedding that coming December. She had a wonderful long visit there, and then after the wedding she received a letter from her brother Julius about a new job opportunity in Chicago, so she left to start her new job. That decision was life-changing, as we will see in the next post.


All excerpts from Frieda Loewenherz’s memoir and all the photographs in this post are published with the permission of Franz Loewenherz, her great-grandson. My deep gratitude to Franz for his generosity.

 

 


  1.  Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 4574, Ancestry.com. Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 
  2.  “Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939N-FGS7-2?cc=1838804&wc=M6TM-Q6X%3A165129401 : 20 May 2014), B-524 to B-550 Gustov Joseph > image 983 of 6652; citing NARA microfilm publication M1285 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.). 
  3. Ancestry.com. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Marriage Index, 1885-1951, Marriage Year: 1912, Marriage License Number: 289763 

The Langer Brothers: Lives Devoted to Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Denver Post, December 20, 1911, p. 7

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

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

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

Denver Post, March 3, 1924, p. 6

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

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

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

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

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

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

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

Embed from Getty Images

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

Two Photos to Identify—Can You Help?

I am back…sort of! Still working on my first Goldschmidt posts, but before I dive into that matter, I have two wonderful new photographs to share, thanks to my cousin by marriage, Ulrike Michel.

Ulrike is married to my fourth cousin, once removed, Torsten Michel. Torsten and I are both descended from Bernard Schoenfeld and Rosina Goldmann, my fourth great-grandparents; Torsten’s great-great-grandmother Ziborah Schoenfeld was the sister of my three-times great-grandmother Babetta Schoenfeld, wife of Moritz Seligmann, my three-times great-grandfather.

 

I’ve not met Torsten, but when we were in Germany, we spent a day with Ulrike in Heidelberg, as I wrote about here. Ulrike is the family historian in their family, and she and I have been in touch for several years now.

Recently Ulrike found and shared with me two photographs. I am particularly excited by this one that Ulrike believes is Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann:

 

Here is the only confirmed photograph I had of Babetta, and I do see a definite resemblance.  But is it the same woman? Or is it perhaps her sister Ziborah, Torsten’s direct ancestor? What do you think?

The second photo Ulrike sent me is this one.  She believes this could be Franziska Seligmann, granddaughter of Moritz Seligmann and Babetta Schoenfeld and my first cousin, three times removed:

 

Here are the photographs I’d previously found of Franziska:

Franziska Seligmann Michel

 

Fred Michel and Franziska Seligmann Michel
Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Again, there is a definite resemblance, but is it the same woman? What do you think?

One of the mysteries raised by this photograph is why the Michel family would have had a photograph of Babetta’s granddaughter, who lived from 1875-1933.  Was it simply because she was Ziborah Schoenfeld’s great-niece?

Or was there a second connection to the Michel family? Franziska married Adolf Michel, and I have no information about his background. But Ulrike is now researching to see if Adolf Michel was related to her husband’s Michel relatives. She and Wolfgang are meeting in a few weeks to compare notes and see whether there is an additional overlap between the Seligmanns, Schoenfelds, and Michels.

I’d love your feedback on the photographs. Let me know what you think.

Quick Update on Lionel Heymann

In my last post, I discussed how I was puzzled to learn that Lionel Heymann had been a well-regarded photographer, but had listed his occupation as a waiter on the census records for 1930 and 1940.  Well, now I have found an explanation.

In the course of looking for a print of one of Lionel’s photographs to purchase (which I’ve not yet been able to locate), I found this bit of information about Lionel online, quoting from the catalog of  the Sixteenth Detroit International Salon of Photography, Photographic Society of Detroit, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1947.

“Started photography as a hobby by joining Fort Dearborn Camera Club in Chicago in 1928. Started professionally January 1945, and conducts a portrait studio in Blackstone Hotel. Conducts a weekly photographic class on portrait and paper negative process. Associated professionally with a photographer in Detroit, 1937-38.”

This explains so much.  First, it explains what Lionel was doing in Detroit when his brother Walter arrived from Germany.  Second, it explains why Lionel did not list photography as his occupation on the 1930 or 1940 census or on his World War II draft registration.  He did not become a professional photographer until 1945.