Chocolatespoon: Emily’s Musings

Archive for the ‘Family History Project’ Category


Posted on: May 24, 2004

geneandiris.jpgMom just wrote to say Iris, Uncle Gene’s housekeeper for many years, passed away last night. Uncle Gene was my grandfather’s oldest brother — he was a professor at Columbia and used to write crossword puzzles. Iris lived in his house in Amagansett. Mom sent along this fabulous photo of Iris with Uncle Gene.

Read a terrific article in today’s NY Times about the Seward Park branch of the New York Public Library, “In Library’s Back Pages, a Vivid History Unfolds” by Joseph Berger (A23). I have to wonder (and maybe Mom could tell me), if my great-grandfather used to visit that branch. According to mapquest, it is only a quarter of a mile from the Henry Street Settlement where he used to hang out with Lillian Wald when he was a boy. I may have the timeline off though — looks like the library opened in 1909, and AR would have already been about 25, so I don’t know if he was still living in that neighborhood by then.

Dad and Jane came across this photo in an exhibit about Edith Piaf in the Hotel de Ville in Paris! Looks just like my uncle Jonathan (and even a bit like Brian) — but its my great uncle Gene.

In one of those great I-love-the-Internet moments, Tim Hartneck, a historian in Peoria, Illinois, came across my blog and sent me the following information about my family:

As you know, Joseph Greenhut was a soldier during the Civil War.
Following the war, the organization, the Grand Army of the Republic, was
created asa a veterans association. The GAR was very active here in
Peoria. About 1908, The veterans decided that they wanted to build
their own meeting place. A building was planed and construction was
started on 1909. Joseph Greenhut covered probably teo thirds of the
cost of the building. It was known as the Grand Army of the Republic
Hall – Greenhut Memorial. About 1972, this building was in danger of
being demolished. A preservation organization, the Central Illinios
Landmarks Foundation, was formed to save the building. I was a member
to that group and did some research on the building and the Greenhut
connection. There are very nice portraits of Joseph and Clara Greenhut
that still hang in the building. We were successful in saving the
building and restoring it. If my memory serves me correctly, Clara
Greenhut Rabinowitz (your great-grandmother??) made a contribution to
the restoration fund.

Fast forward a few years. The Landmarks foundation started giving
walking tours in several neighborhoods here in town, one being the High
Street Moss-Bradley area. I did a lot of the research for the tours.
The Greenhuts and Wolfners and other related families lived in this
neighborhood. In 1884, Joseph Greenhut built what was one of the most
imposing homes built in Peoria in the nineteenth century. The Greenhuts
entertained President William McKinley at their home when he was here in
1899 for the dedication of the Soldier’s and Sailor’s monument. The
home was later acquired by his brother-in-law, William Wolfner, and was
totally remodeled. It still stands today. Ben and Minnie Greenhut also
lived in the neighborhood a few blocks down the street.

I live in this same neighborhood and through the years have continued to
research its architectutral history and the famillies that lived here.
There are several family groups that I have continued to research over
the years, the Griswolds, Clarkes, Bush/Browns, and the
Greenhut/Wolfners. All these families were a significant presence in
the neighborhood and made a substantial impact on the city.

I guess what I’m hunting for would be photos of the Joseph Greenhut
residence and the Ben Greenhut residence, exteriors or interiors, or
any written material such as journals or diaries or letters that might
document life in the neighborhood.

From the New York Times, October 3, 1956, p. 51

News of the Advertising and Marketing Fields


Ralph Sheffer has been elected president of The Masthead Corporation, publishing affiliate of Spencer Advertising Company, Inc., organized to meet special book and booklet requirements of national and regional advertisers. He will continue to serve as vice president of Spencer Advertising Company.

Alan scanned these for me after we borrowed them from Annie and Harold’s wall.

Laban (Marias?) and Rose Stynowsky Rabinowitz (Jacob’s parents)

Morton and Naomi Brodin (Jennie’s parents)

Jennie and Jacob were my great-great grandparents (them -> AR -> Betty -> Mom -> Me), so these are two sets of my great-great-greats!


Another story from the AR file, this one from the NY Times on May 9, 1939, p. 25

Title: Bridle Path Dust in Park Denounced

“Park Commissionar Robert A. Moses was sharply criticized and his chief aide, Allyn R. Jennings, general superintendent of parks, was accused of ‘perfectly impudent conduct’ by a group of equestrians known as ‘the Early Riders’ that met last night to protest the conditions of the bridle paths in Central Park.”

“At a vehement session at the Tavern on the Green in Central Park at Sixty-seventh Street, the riders appointed a committee to call upon Mr. Moses to ‘rectify the dusty condition of the bridle paths’ and another to visit Health Commissioner John L. Rice to apprise him that ‘paths consitute a distinct public menace.'”

“On Saturday the group sent a telegram to Mr. Jennings inviting him to the meeting. He sent his regrets and a letter that Aaron Rabinowitz, one of the protestants, called ‘smart-alecky and impudent.'”
Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s some information from Aaron Rabinowitz’s obituary in the New York Times, April 4, 1973, p. 46

The headline was: “Aaron Rabinowitz is Dead at 89; Pioneed in Housing Development. Chairman of Fred French was Former Governor of Real Estate Board.”
Read the rest of this entry »

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.”

Here’s a little information I’ve dug up on my great-great-grandfather Jacob Rabinowitz (and yes, I should be working on my thesis proposal instead of doing this…)

From his obituary in the NY Times, December 10, 1939

“Jacob Rabinowitz, vice president of Spear & Co., Inc., a real estate concern here, and an active worker in Jewish philanthropies, died Friday night of a heart ailment in his home at 884 West End Avenue. He was 79 years old.

“Mr. Rabinowitz was an organizer of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, president of the United Hebrew Community and a judge of the Jewish Conciliation Court of America.” [The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives has a collection of documents from the court. According to their site, “Founded in 1931 as a board of lay-persons and rabbis, the Jewish Conciliation Board sought to fill a void in American society of a Jewish issues court.  The Board is a descendent of the Beth Din (a Jewish court of law) and as such is a free court allowing immigrants to avoid potentially costly litigation.”]

“He was also president of Congregation Zemach Zedek, treasurer of Maskil el Dol (Aid to the Poor) and of Beth Hamedrosh Hagodol, vice president of Machzikei Talmud Torah and the Hebrew Free Loan Society and a former president of the Hebrew Kindergarten Infants Home, and the Far Rockaway Infants Home.” [According to the American Jewish Historical Society, “In 1920 alone, the New York Hebrew Free Loan Society distributed more than $1 million in loans to Jewish-owned small businesses.”]

“He was a director of the Home of Old Israel and Anshei Mymud, and a member of the Federation of Jewish Philanthropic Societies, Xitmer Darchei Noam Talmud Torah, Rabinical Colleges of Slonim and of Thelsi, Daughters of Jacob Home, Beth Abraham Home for Incurables, Israel Orphan Asylum, Rabbi Elkonon Yeshiva College and the Loan and Relief Society of Brooklyn.”

“Born in Russia, the son of Marias and Rose Stynowsky Rabinowitz, he came to the United States in the Eighties.”

“Surviving are his widow, three sons, Aaron Rabinowitz [my Mom’s grandfather], Maurice R. Spear and Leon R. Spear [apparently they changed their name when they went into the Army – Naomi Guismar is one of Leon Spear’s kids, and her daughter Barbara Howard was at grandpa’s recent 90th birthday]; two daughters, Mrs. Rose Gural and Mrs. Kenneth C. Newman [Aunt Felicia, who is Margaret Gordon’s grandmother — whose daughters are Edith Weinburger, Annette Gordon, and Dorothy Seligman (who was also at Grandpa’s birthday party) — those three are my grandmother’s first cousins then]; sixteen grandchildren and a great-grand-child.” [According to Mom, that first great-grandchild was probably Jeffrey Gural — Rose was the oldest of those five kids and her son Aaron was the oldest of the grandchildren and is now about 90.]

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