Chocolatespoon: Emily’s Musings

Another great-great grandfather

Posted on: November 11, 2003

Here’s some information from the obituary of another of my great-great-grandfathers, this one is my mom’s mom’s mom’s dad, B.J. Greenhut.

The title says: “B.J. Greenhut Dead; Retired Merchant. Had Been Head of the Greenhut Co., Last Department Store Concern of Family. Screen Company Director. Son of Second Man to Enlist in Chicago for Civil War — A Democrat, but Voted for Coolidge.”

NY Times, March 30, 1932, p. 19

“Benedict J. Greenhut, retired merchant, who in 1918 was president of the Greenhut Company, the last of several large department store organizations controlled by his family in the once crowded shopping district at Eighteenth Street and Sixth Avenue, died yesterday at his residence, 575 Park Avenue, after a year’s illness that had confined him to bed since November, He was 61 years old.”

“Surviving are a widow, who was Minnie Gottlieb at their marriage in 1892; three children, Rose and Joseph B. Greenhut and Mrs. Clara G. Rabinowitz; a brother, Nelson W., and a sister, Fanny V. Greenhut.”

“Mr. Greenhut was born in Chicago, where his father, the late Captain Joseph B. Greenhut, a Gettysburg hero, was the second man in the city to answer Lincoln’s first call for volunteers. The son attended the public schools of Peoria, Ill., and then went to work for his father, who at that time was at the head of the Great Western Distilling Company, then the largest distilling concern in the world.” [I found a listing of a Supreme Court Case involving a draft purchased from the Great Western Distilling Company of Peoria for $6,926.15. on June 14th, 1887, signed “J. B. Greenhut, Sec. and Treas.”)

“Father and son came to New York in the ’90s and joined the Siegel-Cooper store, which drew 150,00 persons to its sensational opening on Sept. 12, 1896. The Greenhuts bought out Henry Siegel in 1902, and five years later, when B. Altman & Co. moved uptown, Captain Greenhut and Henty Morgenthau took over the Altman Building, on the block running from Eighteenth to Nineteenth Street on the west side of Sixth Avenue and established Greenhut & Co. there. This firm then merged with Siegel-Cooper and adopted the latter name, which, however, it replaced with the J.B. Greenhut Company when Siegel failed in 1914. The next year this Greenhut company failed. It was reorganized as the Greeenhut Company, but liquidated in 1918. At the time, Captain Greenhut was chairman of the board, his son presided.” [Siegel-Cooper & Company Dry Goods Store in 1896 — “This grand department store was the first on Ladies’ Mile to boast free samples and demonstrations, air conditioning and an extensive range of merchandise under one roof.”] [Here’s a walking tour of Ladies’ Mile where the store was located.]

“Having been a zealous Democrat for many years, a close friend of Charles F. Murphy and treasurer of Mayor Gaynor’s campaign committee, Mr. Greenhut, in September, 1924, announced that he would vote for Calvin Coolidge for President and would work for the election of the Republican as President. He expressed his admiration for Mr. Coolidge as ‘safe and sane,’ a leader under whom the country had enjoyed great prosperity, adding, ‘This is not time for new experiments in Washington or for explointing of new theories of government.'” [Coolidge’s opponent was John Davis of West Virginia. Davis was a compromise candidate, selected after the Democratic convention in New York was dead-locked for over 100 ballots. On a totally unrelated note, I’d like to mention that Calvin Coolidge is the one president to have graduated from Amherst College :)]

“Mr. Greenhut was a member of the Loyal Legion, Home of Veterans and Society of American Wars. Among his clubs were the Lotos, the Lambs, Railroad, Harmonie and Aldine.”

“His father, Captain Greenhut, died in November, 1918; his mother, in April, 1927.”

[According to the roster of officers of the 82nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry,Captain Joseph Greenhut was 20 years old when he enlisted and married [Lt. Col. Edward Selig] Salomon’s sister, and resigned February 1864. There are some quotes from Capt. Greenhut from a ceremony commemorating the monument being erected to the 82nd at Gettysburg on September 3, 1891 posted here.] [Found a cite for this book: Beveridge, JL, Vaughan DB, & Greenhut, JB. Illinois at Gettysburg. Springfield: HW Rokker, 1892.]

On April 1, 1932, an arrticle ran on p.21, which provides a few additional details:

“Hundreds at Funeral of B.J. Greenhut
Rev. Dr. H. G. Enelow Pays Eulogy to Merchant – Many Organizations Represented.”

The article says that, “Former business associates in this city and the Middle West were among the several hundred persons who attended the funeral services yesterday morning of Benedict J. Greenhut, prominent retired department store head, which were held in Temple Emanu-El, Fifth Avenue and Sixty-Fifth Street.”

The Rev. Dr. H.; G. Enelow said, “His greatest and deepest happiness was in the members of his family, and he put their welfare above his own interests.”

“Among members of the family present were Mr. Greenhut’s widow, the former Minnier Gottlieb; his three children, Miss Rose Greenhut, Joseph B. Greenhut and Mrs. Clara G. Rabinowitzl his brother and sister-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Nelson W. Greenhut, and their children and a sister, Miss Fanny V. Greenhut.”

“During the services, Handel’s Largo was played by Gottfried Federlein, organist of the temple. Mr. Greenhut having recently made the request. The coffin was covered with a blanket of roses and sweet peas. Many other floral tributes adorned the sanctuary. Burial took place in the family mausoleum in Salem Fields Cemetary.”

3 Responses to "Another great-great grandfather"

I ran across your family history posting today and enjoyed it very much. I live in Peoria, Illinois, and have been working on a project involving the Greenhuts and Wolfner (Mrs. Joseph Greenhut was a Wolfner) families. I would like to correspond with you. My e-mail address is

If you do write to me, please list Greenhut in the subject line.
Tim Hartneck

I chair the board of a camp for physically disabled people in Oakhurst, New Jersey. One of the original board members of the camp in the early part of the 20th century was a Mrs. J.B. (Claire) Greenhut. In preparing for our 100th anniversary we are trying to gather information about our founders. Is it possible that Claire was the mother of Benedict?

Marilyn Friedman

Ran across your page because of inquiry on Siegel -Cooper Stores and Henry Siegel.
Was nice to know what the complicated story is as years went on into early 20th C. Now I kknow..thanks for your hardwork !

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