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.

Lionel Heymann: His Other Life

In my earlier post, I wrote about the three sons of my great-great-aunt Rosalie Schoenthal and her husband Willy Heymann:  Lionel, Walter, and Max.  All three had left Germany and settled in Chicago by 1939.

The oldest brother, Lionel, had arrived first in the 1920s and had consistently reported on passenger manifests and census records that he worked as a hotel waiter.  So I was quite surprised when I found this obituary written when Lionel died in November, 1966:

 

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1966, Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

According to the obituary, Lionel Heymann had had a long and distinguished career as a photographer.  The obituary states that he had retired in 1964 after 40 years as a photographer in Chicago, including 25 years as the photographer at the Blackstone Hotel.  That is, although Lionel consistently listed his occupation as a waiter on various government forms, if the obituary is for the same man, he had been working as a photographer since 1924—in other words, since his very earliest days in Chicago.

But was this in fact the same Lionel Heymann?  The name and age and residence in Chicago certainly made it seem so, but there were no named survivors in the obituary, just an unnamed sister living in Brazil.  Could this be my cousin?

I then found a death notice for Lionel Heymann on the same date in the same paper that contained further information about his surviving family:

 

Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

Chicago Tribune, December 2, 1966, Ancestry.com. Historical Newspapers, Birth, Marriage, & Death Announcements, 1851-2003 [database on-line].

This obviously was my cousin, whose two sisters-in-law were named Frieda and Lucy (or Lucie).  He was in fact the photographer described in the first obituary.

And he was not just a hotel photographer taking snapshots of guests. When I Googled his name and “photographer,” a number of links popped up, listing Lionel as an artist whose works are still being  auctioned by various art houses, online and elsewhere.  Lionel also wrote articles about photography and lectured frequently about the art of portrait photography. His works include portraits, nudes, architectural works, and highly stylized artistic photographs.

Here are two examples of the work done by Lionel Heymann; see the links above for others:

"The Shell", photograph by Lionel Heymann, April 1932 Camera Craft Magazine, accessed at http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid30/72/22/91/5/vintage-photograph-cameracraft-7222915-o.jpg

“The Shell”, photograph by Lionel Heymann, April 1932 Camera Craft Magazine, accessed at http://s3.amazonaws.com/everystockphoto/fspid30/72/22/91/5/vintage-photograph-cameracraft-7222915-o.jpg

 

Photograph by Lionel Heymann of Robert Maynard Hutchins, University of Chicago president (1929-1945) and chancellor (1945-1951), with team members of the Manhattan Project, the program established by the United States government to build the atomic bomb. Standing, from left: Mr. Hutchins, Walter H. Zinn, and Sumner Pike; seated: Farrington Daniels, and Enrico Fermi. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf digital item number, e.g., apf12345], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. accessed at http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/db.xqy?one=apf1-05063.xml

Photograph by Lionel Heymann of Robert Maynard Hutchins, University of Chicago president (1929-1945) and chancellor (1945-1951), with team members of the Manhattan Project, the program established by the United States government to build the atomic bomb. Standing, from left: Mr. Hutchins, Walter H. Zinn, and Sumner Pike; seated: Farrington Daniels, and Enrico Fermi. University of Chicago Photographic Archive, [apf digital item number, e.g., apf12345], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. accessed at http://photoarchive.lib.uchicago.edu/db.xqy?one=apf1-05063.xml

 

Why hadn’t Lionel claimed on the census records and World War II draft registration that he was a photographer? Why wouldn’t he have wanted to reveal that information?  Was it just an avocation, not his livelihood?  Did that change after the 1940s?

UPDATE:  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 in 1938.  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.

The obituary and death notice not only revealed that Lionel was a well-known photographer, but also provided more clues about his family.   First, who was this sister in the death notice named Henny Mosbach Rothschild? And was she the one described as living in Brazil in the obituary? And second, who was the nephew named Robert Heyman?

Since only one of Lionel’s brothers had had a child, I assume that this had to be Klaus Heymann, the son of Lionel’s brother Max. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to yet find out more about Klaus Heymann/Robert Heyman, but I have requested the military records of a Klaus Robert Heymann from the national archives and hope that those records will relate to my cousin.  If so, I will provide an update.

As for the sister named Henny Mosbach Rothschild, I will address her in my next post.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo Analysis: Why You Should Ask an Expert

Sometimes you need to hire an expert to help with hard questions.  With the help of the genealogy village—my fellow bloggers and the members of the various Facebook groups and JewishGen—I have been able to find and learn more than I ever imagined.  But when it came to some of those mystery photos that bewildered and frustrated me, I decided it was time to find an expert, and the expert who came highly recommended—for good reason—is Ava Cohn, a/k/a Sherlock Cohn, the Photo Genealogist.

I had originally sent Ava this photo of my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager because I was curious about identifying the other people in the photograph.

Isadore Goldschlager and unknown others

Isadore Goldschlager and unknown others

But Ava and I discussed it, and she concluded that without more information and more photographs, it would be impossible to make much progress identifying total strangers who lived over a hundred years ago. I really appreciated Ava’s honesty, and when she asked if I had any other photographs that might be more amenable to her analysis, I looked back to consider some other options.

I sent her this photograph from Fred Michel’s album, which I had discussed here and here and here, but about which I remained somewhat mystified.

Uncle Adolf and Grandmother Gau Algesheim

I had concluded tentatively from my own analysis and comparison to other photographs and the inscriptions on the photograph that the older woman was probably my three-times great-grandmother Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann, and the two men labeled Onkel Adolf and Onkel Jakob were probably Babetta’s sons, Adolf and James, brothers of my great-great grandfather Bernard Seligman.  Adolf, like my great-great-grandfather Bernard, had left Germany and settled in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and James had moved to Great Britain.  I had learned that James was not a common name for boys in Germany in the 19th century so it was likely that he was born Jakob and adopted the name James after emigrating.  Also, my cousin Lotte, who had met James Seligman when she was a young girl, thought that “Onkel Jakob” resembled the man she remembered as James Seligman.

But I was not at all sure who the two younger women were, especially the woman to the left in the photograph.  I’d asked on the blog if anyone could read the inscription near her picture, but no one was certain what it said.  The woman in the center appeared to be labeled Anna Oppenheimer, but I couldn’t understand why she would be in the photo.  Anna Oppenheimer was the daughter of Pauline Seligmann and Maier Oppenheimer and the granddaughter of Babetta.  But why of all the grandchildren would only she be in this photograph, especially since her mother was not included, just two of her uncles?

Ava studied the photograph as well as my blog posts, my family tree for the Seligmann family, and other photographs of the Seligmann family, and then sent me a detailed and thorough analysis of her own conclusions, which I found well-founded, fascinating, and persuasive.  With her permission, I am sharing some of her report.

I thought Ava’s analysis of the overall relationships among those in the photograph based on traditional posing in studio photographs of families was quite interesting:

In the mystery photograph, the family is posed in a typical family grouping of five individuals seated and standing around a large library table upon which is a dog, perhaps the family pet. The photo has been taken in a photographer’s studio with an appropriate backdrop for the time period. The two individuals on the left hand side appear to be a married couple while the elderly woman seated on the right could be mother or grandmother to one or more of the individuals in the photo. The man on the right, probably a son and the young woman in the center holding the dog could be related but are not married to each other.

Ava concluded that the photograph was taken in 1896-1897.  Here is part of the reasoning for her conclusion:

To establish a year for the photograph, I looked at the clothing worn. Since what we know of the family’s comfortable economic status, it is logical that they are wearing up-to-date fashions, for the most part. The elderly woman, as is customary for many older women, is not as fashionable as the two younger women. Her dress, with multiple small buttons down the bodice, is a typical style of the 1880s as is her bonnet. The other two women are wearing clothing from the latter half of the1890s, post 1895. By this point in time the enormous leg-o-mutton sleeves of the 1893-1895 time period have become less full with the vestige of fullness above the elbow.  The man on the left is wearing a high Imperial collar, common in the 1890s.

Ava agreed that it was reasonable to conclude that the elderly woman labeled “Grossmutter Gau Algesheim” was Babetta Schoenfeld Seligmann and that the man on the right, labeled Onkel Adolf, was her son Adolf Seligman, brother of Bernard and a resident of Santa Fe in the 1890s.  At that time Adolf was in his fifties (born in 1843) and unmarried.  Ava thought that the man labeled Onkel Adolf in the photo appeared to be in his mid-fifties. Ava did not think the woman in the center was Adolf’s wife, Lucy, since Lucy would have been only about fourteen in the mid-1890s and did not marry Adolf until 1902.

 

Onkle Adolf

Rather, Ava opined that the woman in the center was in fact Anna Oppenheimer as labeled.  She would have been nineteen or twenty in 1896-1897:

It appears that she is wearing a wedding or engagement ring in the photograph. The writer of the inscription has used Anna’s maiden name, Oppenheimer, as opposed to her married name, Anna Kaufman, so, along with the absence of Max Kaufman in the photograph, I believe that this photo was taken before her marriage to Max. Again, having a marriage certificate for Anna and Max could confirm why the writer used Anna’s maiden name here instead of her married name.

Unfortunately, I do not have a marriage record for Anna, and there is no record of any children born to her and her husband Max Kaufman so it is impossible to determine when exactly they married.

Anna Oppenheimer maybe

That left the two remaining people in the photograph: Onkel Jakob and the woman sitting on the left side of the picture whose name I could not decipher in the inscription.  Ava agreed that “Onkel Jakob” was James Seligman. So who was the other woman?

Ava believes that she was James/Jakob Seligman’s wife, Henrietta Walker Templeton, who was born in England in 1866 and married James Seligman in London in October 1887.  Ava read the inscription next to the woman to be “Tante Heni:”

Tante Glori

 

Heni is a nickname for Henrietta and clearly shows the relationship with the writer of the inscription because of the informal use of a nickname. Tante (Aunt) could be one by marriage not necessarily by blood. In the mystery photo Heni appears to be about age 30-31.

In addition, Ava interpreted the posing as indicative of a marital relationship between Jakob and the woman seated in front of him, saying, “The manner in which he is posed with his arm around the back of Heni’s chair suggests their relationship.”

This made perfect sense to me.  Ava speculated that perhaps James and Henrietta had come to Gau-Algesheim to celebrate their tenth anniversary with the Seligmann family, which would have been in 1897.  I also recalled that Lotte had mentioned in an email dated July 6, 2015, that James and his English wife (whom Lotte referred to as Hedy) had visited “the continent” once.  Lotte was born in 1921, so would not remember a visit in the 1890s, but the fact that James and his wife visited during Lotte’s lifetime in Germany makes it even more likely that they had in fact visited on earlier occasions.  Lotte also said that James returned after Henrietta’s death in 1928.

Ava even analyzed the dog in the photo.

Given that the same dog appears in both the mystery photograph and the one of Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann (born 1875), I thought I’d include that here. It is clearly the same dog. I had considered that the dog may have belonged to the photographer but given how calm he/she appears in the photographs, I believe he was a family pet. The photo of Bettina was taken roughly 3 years after this one, circa 1900. The photo of Bettina may have been an engagement picture as she and Adolf Arnfeld married in 1900.

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Bettina Arnfeld nee Seligmann

Anna Oppenheimer maybe

Bettina Seligmann Arnfeld was the daughter of Hyronimus Seligmann, Babetta’s son and brother of Bernard, Adolf, and James, among others.  She was Anna Oppenheimer’s first cousin.  So whose dog was it? Certainly not James or Adolf since neither lived in Germany.  Perhaps the dog belonged to Babetta? She is the only common link between the two young women pictured with the dog.  Babetta died 1899; if Ava is correct and the photograph of Bettina was taken in 1900, perhaps Bettina inherited the dog from her grandmother?

I was quite satisfied and persuaded by Ava’s analysis of the family photograph.  But she didn’t stop there.  I had also supplied her with additional photographs to help with her analysis of the family photograph.  For example, I sent her this one, which I believed was a photograph of Babetta as a young woman.

Uncertain see ava report

I had based that conclusion on the fact that another photograph that I paired with the one of the woman was labeled Grossvatter and thus presumably was my three-times great-grandfather Moritz Seligmann.

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

Courtesy of the Family of Fred and Ilse Michel

But Ava disagreed about the identity of the young woman:

I did a comparison of the older photograph of a young woman that you supplied. This photograph is roughly dated circa 1859-1861 based on clothing and hairstyle as well as the type of image, most probably a daguerreotype popular in the 1850s and very early 1860s. The young woman appears to be in her teens and no more than 20 years of age. This eliminates the possibility that this earlier likeness is Babetta who would have been 49-51 years old. But there is a possibility given the provenance of the photograph and the resemblance to Babetta that this is one of her daughters, Pauline or Mathilde. It is unlikely to be her niece/stepdaughter, Caroline. Given that the photo was obtained from the Michel descendants, Pauline is the most likely candidate. Further research, documentation and comparison photographs would be needed to make a positive identification. 

Although I was quite disappointed to think that this was not Babetta, the more I considered Ava’s analysis and the more I looked at the photograph of the young woman and the one of Moritz, the more I realized my error.  The frames on the two photographs are quite different as is the style and the posing.  I had just jumped to the conclusion that because Suzanne had sent these two photographs in the same email that they were of a couple.  That’s why sometimes you need to hire an expert!

Finally, Ava also did an analysis of the wonderful photograph that my cousin Davita had sent of a man she said was her grandfather, Adolf Seligman, and his favorite sister, Minnie, riding camels in Egypt:

gramdfather Adolph and great aunt Minnie_rev

I was quite surprised but also persuaded by what Ava had to say about the identity of the people in this photograph; she is quite certain that the woman is in fact Henrietta Walker Templeton, and the more I studied the photograph, the more I agreed.

The Egypt photo is roughly dated based on her suit and hat as being taken in 1910. That would make Heni 44 years old. Her face has aged from the earlier photo and she’s put on a bit of weight, not uncommon approaching middle age.  She is very stylish in the 1897 photo and likewise in the 1910 one. In both, she has chosen an up-to-date suit rather than a dress. Her dark hair is the same style. Notice the “dip” in her bangs on the right side of her forehead. It’s the same as the earlier photo.  Her eyebrows, nose and mouth are the same as is the overall attitude captured by the photographer.

Tante Heni

Tante Heni

 

Minnie Seligmann

After I read Ava’s comment, I checked the emails that Lotte had sent me and saw that she had described James’ wife as “big and pompous.”  The woman Ava concluded was Henrietta certainly does have a certain air of superiority in both of the photographs.

Also, I have absolutely no record of any kind supporting the existence of a Seligmann sister named Minnie, so already had had questions about Davita’s description. Thus, I was open to the idea that it was not Minnie, but someone else.  I hadn’t considered Henrietta since I believed that the man was Adolf, as Davita said.  Why would Henrietta from England be riding a camel in Egypt with her brother-in-law Adolf, who lived in Santa Fe?

But Ava raised a question as to whether this was in fact Adolf. If the photograph was taken in 1910, why would Adolf, who had married in 1902 and had three children by 1910, be traveling to Egypt? The more I looked at the earlier photographs of Adolf and Jakob/James, the more I became convinced that the man on the camel is in fact James, not Adolf.  Ava also agreed that it seems quite likely that it is James, not Adolf, in the photograph, but that without more information, we can’t be entirely sure, especially since Davita, the source of the Egypt photograph, believed that it was her grandfather Adolf. (Adolf died before Davita was born, so she had never met him in person and only had this one photograph that she had been told was of her grandfather.)

Adolph Seligman in Egypt

James or Adolf?

Onkel Jakob

James Seligman

Onkle Adolf

Adolf Seligman

Thus, although without more photographs and/or records we cannot be 100% certain, I am persuaded that Ava’s conclusions are correct about the likely identities of the people in the group photograph, the portrait of the young woman, and the Egypt photograph.

It was well worth the fee I paid to have the benefit of Ava’s expertise.  I highly recommend her to anyone who has questions about an old photograph.  If you are interested, you can email Ava at Sherlock.cohn@comcast.net or check out her website at http://sherlockcohn.com/  You will probably have to wait quite a while because her services are very much in demand and she devotes a great deal of time to each project, but it will be worth the wait.

[I was not paid or required by my contract with Ava to advertise her services; I am writing this blog post as a service to others who might be interested.]

 

 

 

.

 

The Goat, the Photographer, and the Daughter: The Children of Julius Schoenthal, Part I

Although I have written about Julius Schoenthal up to his death in 1919, I ended that post saying that I would return later to write about his children and other descendants.  So here I am.  Just to recap, Julius was the Schoenthal sibling who spent most of his years in the US in Washington, DC, as opposed to western Pennsylvania.  He had served both in the German army and the US army, had worked as a shoemaker like his father Levi, and had had four children with his wife Minnie Dahl: Leo, Rosalia, Sylvester, and Moretta, all born between 1875 and 1879.

His wife Minnie died in 1899.  All of their children were married by 1905, and although the three sons remained in Washington, DC, Rosalia (called Rose) and her husband Joseph Pach settled in Uniontown, Alabama, where Julius died, presumably while visiting them, in 1919.

I will discuss each child and his family separately beginning with 1920.  Today I will discuss Leo and Rose; the next post will cover Sylvester and Moretta.

Leo Schoenthal

In 1920, Leo Schoenthal was working as the chief inspector for the DC Division of Weights and Measures, where he had been working for many years.  He and his wife Fannie (nee Pach, sister of Joseph Pach, Rose’s husband) were living on Westminster Street in DC with their daughter Minnie (17) and five boarders.

Leo’s long and distinguished career with the Division of Weights and Measures came to an unfortunate end in May 1922.  According to the two news articles reprinted below, Leo had been disappointed when the Commissioner of the Division, James F. Oyster, had passed him over for a promotion to superintendent of the division.  Leo himself admitted that he was dissatisfied with that decision.  It then seems that Leo, who was planning to start a publication called The Goat allegedly to discuss suffrage issues, wrote a series of notes that made serious accusations regarding Commissioner Oyster; the content of those notes was not revealed in either of the news articles although apparently they included attacks on his “integrity, morals, and personality” as well as charges of irregularities in the operations of the office.  The notes were found torn into pieces in Leo’s trash basket in his office, and although he claimed that he never intended to publish them, he was dismissed from his position.  Leo also said that he had planned to resign his position anyway after he had been passed over for the superintendent’s position.

Leo Schoenthal fired 1922 pt 1

 

 

Washington Evening Star, May 3, 1922, p. 18

Washington Evening Star, May 3, 1922, p. 18

 

Headline Leo Schoenthal fired

Leo Schoenthal fired Washington Times 1922

Washington Times, May 3, 1922, pp. 1,2

Washington Times, May 3, 1922, pp. 1,2

Thus, after 29 years with the Division, Leo was fired seemingly without much opportunity to defend himself.  The article from the Washington Times ended with these words: “The discharged chief was declared to be one of the most capable men in the weights and measures office.” What a sad way for Leo to end such a distinguished tenure in that office.

But Leo apparently bounced back.  In the 1923 directory for Washington, DC, Leo listed his occupation as “Westminster Press.”  Although I cannot find any specific information about this business, I assume it was a printing business owned and managed by Leo, based on information from the obituaries of both Leo and his wife Fannie (see below).  I also assume they named it for the street where many of the Schoenthals had once lived in Washington, including Hilda, their cousin, daughter of Henry Schoenthal.

1914 directory for Washington, DC Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

1914 directory for Washington, DC
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.

Five years later on September 13, 1928, when he was just 53 years old, Leo Schoenthal died suddenly while on vacation at a resort in Atlantic City.  He was buried at Washington Hebrew Cemetery.

Washington Evening Star, September 14, 1928, p. 9

Washington Evening Star, September 14, 1928, p. 9

In his will, Leo left his estate to his wife Fannie.

Ancestry.com. Washington, D.C., Wills and Probate Records, 1737-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

Ancestry.com. Washington, D.C., Wills and Probate Records, 1737-1952 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.

He wrote:

I give, devise, and bequest to my wife, Fannie Pach Schoenthal, all my property, real and personal, of whatever nature possessed.

I am not forgetful of the best interests of my daughter, Minnie Pauline Schoenthal, but feel confident that my wife will always be mindful of the best interests of my daughter, and I leave it to my wife’s judgment and discretion to give to my daughter any part of my estate she sees fit and able to give.

Three months later on December 2, 1928, the Washington Evening Star announced Minnie’s engagement to Myron Hess, the son of Fred and Marcianna Hess of Atlantic City.  According to the 1920 census, Myron was then working in his father’s photography business in Atlantic City.

Washington Star, December 2, 1928 p. 64

Washington Star, December 2, 1928 p. 64

Minnie Pauline Schoenthal married Myron Samuel Hess on January 6, 1929, at her mother’s home in Washington, DC, on Garfield Street.  The article below describes it as a small but elegant wedding attended only by the relatives of the bride and groom.

Washington Evening Star, January 13, 1929, p.46

Washington Evening Star, January 13, 1929, p.46

So who were those out of towners named as guests at the wedding?

Gus Oestreicher, who gave away the bride, was the husband of Sarah Stern, Hannah Schoenthal’s oldest child.  Sarah was Minnie’s first cousin, once removed.

Mr. and Mrs. Lehman Goldman were Flora Wolfe and her husband.  Flora was the daughter of Amalie Schoenthal and also Minnie’s first cousin, once removed.

Mrs. Jennie Arnold was also the daughter of Hannah Schoenthal and thus also Minnie’s first cousin, once removed.

Mrs. Julius Afferbacker was, I believe, Mrs. Julius Averbach or Bernice Arnold, Jennie Arnold’s daughter, and thus Minnie’s second cousin.

The others must either have been the groom’s relatives or  Fannie Pach’s relatives or people I have not yet found.  But even this small list gave me a sense of how connected the overall Schoenthal clan continued to be as of 1929.  Jennie, Flora, and Sarah were my grandmother Eva Schoenthal’s first cousins as was Leo Schoenthal.  Minnie was her first cousin, once removed.  But it does not appear that my grandmother attended this wedding.  Of course, by 1929 my grandmother had two young children and was living in Philadelphia and also had spent her childhood far away from the Schoenthal clan on the East Coast.  Nevertheless, it is a bit sad that she and her parents were not at this wedding (or at least not included on the list reported in the newspaper).

Minnie moved to Margate, New Jersey, near Atlantic City, after marrying Myron where he continued to work in the family photography business.  They would have two daughters during the 1930s, and in 1940 they were still living in Margate and Myron was still in the photography business.  Here is a photograph taken by Fred Hess & Son Photographers.

8904309974_6d80a1024e_n

Strolling the Boardwalk at Atlantic City by Fred Hess & Son. Date unknown, but looks like the 1920s. https://www.flickr.com/photos/28025169@N08/

Leo’s widow Fannie Pach Schoenthal took over Westminster Press after Leo died.  On the 1930 census she was living alone in Washington, DC, and listed her occupation as president of a printing business.  By 1940 she appears to have left Westminster Press; she was still living on Garfield Street, but now with five lodgers in her home.  Her occupation was listed as a lodging house keeper.  On October 19, 1946,   Fannie died unexpectedly from a heart attack while she was at the Wardman Park Hotel in DC (a place I have stayed in Washington); she was seventy years old.

Washington Evening Star, October 21, 1946, p, 8

Washington Evening Star, October 21, 1946, p, 8

Minnie Schoenthal Hess’s husband Myron died four years later on November 6, 1950, a month before his 52nd birthday.  His daughters were just teenagers when he died. In 1955, five years after Myron died, Minnie remarried; her second husband was A. Jay Trilling, who owned a paint company.  He died in 1983. Minnie lived to age 95, passing away on August 15, 1998. According to her obituary, she took over Myron’s photography business after he died.

TRILLING, HESS, SCHOENTHAL, MINNIE, who came to Margate as a bride in 1929 and lived in the same house in Marven Gardens for sixty-five years, died at Manor Care Nursing Home in Potomac, Maryland, on August 15, after a long illness. She was 95.

Mrs. Trilling was born in Washington, D.C. and moved to Atlantic City when she married Myron Hess. She took over as head of Fred Hess & Son Photography Studio following the death of Mr. Hess in 1950. In 1955 she married A. Jay Trilling, president of Trilling Paint Co. and former president of the Greater Atlantic City Chamber of Commerce as well as president of Temple Beth Israel. He died in 1983.

Mrs. Trilling served as president of the Women’s Division of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Exchangettes, and she was a member of Soroptomist International, Beth Israel Sisterhood, Betty Bacharach Auxiliary, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Children’s Seashore Home. She was a member for 77 years of the Order of the Eastern Star. Mrs. Trilling was especially proud that she was responsible for the beautification and restoration of Marven Gardens in the late 70’s.

(“Press of Atlantic City, The”, New Jersey, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com/doc/obituaries/obit/0FB5351CB13A6EA1-0FB5351CB13A6EA1 : accessed 14 December 2015) TRILLING, HESS, SCHOENTHAL, MINNIE)

Thus, both Minnie and her mother Fannie became widows at a young age, and both took over their husbands’ business after their husbands died.   They were not only survivors; they were women who took on the responsibility of running a business to support their families.

Rosalia or Rose Schoenthal Pach

As noted above, in 1920 Rose and her husband Joseph Pach lived in Uniontown, Alabama.  Joseph was a dry goods merchant there. By 1930, however, they had returned to Washington, DC.  Joseph was now a commercial traveler selling ginger ale.  I wonder if they returned after Leo died to be closer to the rest of the family.  Rose and Joseph did not have any children, and perhaps they were lonely with no family close by in Uniontown; or maybe Joseph’s store wasn’t doing well.  In 1940, they were still living in DC, and Joseph was now a wholesale wine dealer.  On June 13, 1941, Joseph Pach died suddenly at home; he was sixty years old. (His sister Fannie Pach Schoenthal, Leo’s wife, also died unexpectedly in 1946.)

Rose died almost ten years later on January 23, 1951. She was 74.  Rose and Joseph had not had any children, so there were no descendants.  When Rose died, she had already lost not only her parents and her husband, but also all three of her brothers and at least two of her sisters-in-law.  There seemed to be a fair number of “sudden” or “unexpected” deaths in the family.

More on the younger two brothers in my next post.

 

Who is the little boy?

For my first 2015 post, I have some wonderful new photos from my cousin Lou.  These are photos he scanned from our mutual cousin Marjorie’s photo collection, but we don’t yet know who some of the people are in these photos.  We are hoping Marjorie will be able to tell us.  Some of these are quite intriguing as I am hoping that they will be photographs of family members I’ve never seen before.

For example, here is a photograph of my great-grandmother, Eva Seligman Cohen, wife of Emanuel Cohen, daughter of Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum.  But who is the man to her right? And who is the little boy to her left? Or is the little boy a little girl? Possibly Marjorie?

I showed my father the photograph, and he could not identify either person.  Could the man be Emanuel Cohen, my great-grandfather?  That would be the first photograph I’ve ever seen of him.  The little boy might be one of my father’s first cousins, Maurice Cohen, Junior, or Emanuel “Buddy” Cohen. If the older man is Emanuel, the photograph had to be taken in 1926 or before, as he died in February, 1927, and this is a photograph taken in the summertime.  Junior was born in 1917, Buddy in 1922, so it is possible that this is my great-grandparents standing with one of their grandsons.  I hope Marjorie can help us.

Eva Seligman Cohen with unknown man and boy

Here is another photograph of that little boy.  The man to his left is Stanley Cohen, my great-uncle, Marjorie’s father.   Marjorie album 58

 

But who is the man to his right?  Could it be my other great-uncle, Maurice Cohen, Senior?  I’ve never seen a picture of him nor have I seen a picture of either of his two sons, Junior and Buddy.  Maurice died in 1931; if this was taken in 1926 or so, this certainly could be him.  Maurice would have been 38 in 1926, Stanley would have been 37.

Finally, there is this photograph of the little boy.  Marjorie album 19

Who is that man?  It’s not the same man standing with my great-uncle Stanley in the prior photograph.  He seems to be a fair amount younger than both that other man and Stanley.

All those photographs seem to have been taken on the same day in Atlantic City, maybe around the same time as this photograph taken in 1932:

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

It looks like my great-grandmother was wearing the same or a similar hat and outfit to those she was wearing in the first photograph.

I am anxious to hear what Lou learns from Marjorie when he sees her.

The Magic of Photography

As I wrote last time, I did not have any photographs of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen despite the fact that my father lived with her for many years of his childhood and the fact that she took many pictures of him and his sister.  When I received some photographs from my cousin Marjorie’s cousin Lou Mahlman, in the mix was this photograph of Marjorie with Arthur Seligman and a woman who Lou said was Arthur’s wife Franc.  The photograph was taken in 1932 in Atlantic City.

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

 

But when I showed the photograph to my father, he said that the woman in the photograph was not Franc, but his grandmother, Eva Seligman Cohen.  I was so excited to hear him say that and to watch his face when he saw her face in the photograph.

There was another photograph, also from Atlantic City in 1932, in which Arthur Seligman is sitting with two women on the beach.  The initial version we saw was overexposed, but Arthur “Pete” Scott, Arthur Seligman’s grandson, was able to enhance the photo, and once my father saw the enhanced version, he said that the woman sitting next to Arthur Seligman is also his grandmother.

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

Eva M. Cohen, center, 1932 (Arthur Seligman, right)

So now we have two photographs of my great-grandmother Eva May Seligman Cohen, or Bebe, as she was known by all her grandchildren.  Thank you, Marjorie, for sharing these with all of us, and thank you, Lou, for scanning and sending them, and thank you, Pete, for enhancing the second photograph.  With these two photographs, we all now have a face to put with the name and the deeds of this wonderful woman who gave so much to others.

Whose Clothing Were They Wearing?

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

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Isadore Rothman on the 1920 census

Isadore Rothman on the 1920 census

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

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

Wonderful Surprises and Gifts

I had two wonderful surprises this week.  Usually I am hunting down family members, hoping for a response.  Twice this week I heard from relatives who found me.

Lou, a relative by marriage, is a cousin of my cousin Marjorie.  He had visited Marjorie recently and heard about my contact with her.  He sent me two wonderful photographs of Marjorie.  One is posted here: a photograph of Marjorie and her parents, Bessie and Stanley Cohen, at her graduation from Trinity College in Washington, DC, probably around 1947.  I’d never seen a picture of any of these family members before, and it was so meaningful to be able to see Marjorie’s face after spending time getting to know her on the phone this summer.  I hope to be able to meet her in person in the coming months.  I also was excited to see what my great-uncle Stanley looked like and what his wife Bessie looked like.   It really helps to bring these people to life when you can put a face to the name.  Bessie and Stanley look so proud of their daughter, a college graduate back when most women did not even dream of going to college.  (The second photograph I will post when I get to my Seligman relatives as it depicts two of them.)

Bessie and Stanley Cohen with their daughter Marjorie at her graduation

Bessie and Stanley Cohen with their daughter Marjorie at her graduation

The second wonderful surprise came in the form of a comment on the blog from a descendant of Julius and Augusta Selinger, their great-grandson Cito.  He had just accidentally found the blog while searching for something else and was pleased to see and learn more about his family’s history.

He then sent me this wonderful photograph of his great-grandfather Julius’ jewelry store.  Although the photograph is not dated, if you look at it closely, you can read the larger sign in the window that says “Sale…Watches…$4,” and see at the bottom “Price during the War +15.”  I am not exactly sure what that means, but I assume that the reference is to World War I, dating the photograph during the second decade of the 20th century.

Selinger's Jewelry Store 820 F Street, Washington, DC

Selinger’s Jewelry Store 820 F Street, Washington, DC

That makes sense because the young woman to the right standing in the doorway is assumed by the family to be Eleanor Selinger, the daughter of Julius and Augusta who married Henry Abbot and moved to London in 1926.  Eleanor would have been about 22 years old in 1917 when the US entered World War I.  I love being able to see Eleanor’s face also.  She has such a searching, pensive look on her face—what was she thinking?  You can see the reflections of a crowd of people looking into the window as well as some of the buildings across the way.  The store was at 820 F Street in Washington, DC.  Perhaps some of you recognize that location?

Thanks to both Lou and Cito for generously sharing these photographs and for contacting me.  I am so happy that you both were able to find me.  I also received photographs from another family member this week, my cousin Jack, the great-grandson of Joseph Cohen, who was my great-grandfather Emanuel’s older brother.  I will post some of those photographs next week after I have a chance to scan them.

So it’s been a great week to be doing genealogy research.  I am feeling very fortunate for all the gifts that genealogy has provided to me.  Happy Labor Day Weekend, everyone!