My great-great grandfather Daniel, pictured above with wife Fanny and granddaughters Marilyn and Dione, was a man of relatively slim means and several different livelihoods. By the time this photograph was taken in 1929, the success of his sons had provided him with a comfortable life, but there was a time when this was not the case. After his 1880 arrival in Cleveland, Ohio he worked variously as a peddler, a grocer, a teamster, an undertaker, a general contractor, and probably some other things, too. It appears that undertaking and teaming were his two central occupations, as the death certificates of many relatives bear his name (1), and because advertisements in the Cleveland Plain Dealer and a court case (2) attest to his work as a transporter of people and things.
In or around 1917, he was transporting an invalid named Mary Lehrer from the hospital to her home “in an invalid carriage.” They were proceeding “easterly on Linwood avenue in the city of Cleveland” when Daniel, Mrs. Lehrer and the carriage “collided with one of the [Cleveland Railway] company’s cars going southerly on East 66th street at the intersection where East 66th street crosses Linwood avenue.” Mrs. Lehrer was further injured (apparently) in this accident, though it is unclear from the case report I read whether Daniel himself sustained any injuries. Whatever exactly happened, Mrs. Lehrer sued both Daniel and the Cleveland Railway Company. A jury found in her favor, “assess[ing] her damages at $8,141.75 against the defendant, Daniel H. Rosenstein,” in addition to “further find[ing] for the defendant, the Cleveland Railway Company, to be assessed 18 per cent.” of the above $8,141.75. The judge, however, instructed the jury that they were not allowed to apportion damages between the defendants and returned them to the jury room for further deliberations, which led to another verdict that caused both Daniel and Mrs. Lehrer to file motions for new trials. What follows in the report I have read (actually a report on those filed motions, not on the original trial itself) is legal language I am not quite adept enough to explicate completely, but which suggests that Daniel was, in the end, likely to have paid that $8,141.75 ($124,937.23 in 2009 dollars) to Mrs. Lehrer. The August 2, 1917 articles of incorporation filed by the D.H. Rosenstein Company (purpose: “Undertaking, etc.”) listed its capital as $10,000, so Daniel clearly had some money at his disposal by the time of his court case.(3) Even if Daniel himself would have had problems raising the money due to Mrs. Lehrer, his sons likely would have helped him avoid any resulting financial problems. Before 1917, it appears that the undertaking business was a less professional thing, one that probably would not have had $10,000 in capital. As my grandfather recalled several years ago: “the way my father-in-law [Daniel’s son Charlie] described it, [Daniel] wasn’t really an undertaker. He had a team of horses that hauled dirt during the day. And then in the evening, they would take a kid, 12 or 13 years old, dress him up in a top hat and put a hearse behind the horses instead.” By 1917, though, Daniel’s youngest son Sidney had graduated from school, where he studied mortuary science, and they apparently could set themselves up as a “real” business.
By the time this picture was taken, though, most of that work and business was behind him. Daniel was nominally called a “general contractor” because of his association with his sons’ business, but he mostly went fishing and visited with his many grandchildren.
(1) A short list: his mother Belle Brina Rosenstein (1909), cousin-in-law Aaron Rosenblatt (1913), uncle-in-law Hyman Gottlieb (1917), aunt-in-law Yetta Perkanowitz Gottlieb (1917) and niece Becky Adelstein (1918).
(2) The account following comes from The Ohio Nisi Prius Reports, New Series, Volume XX. (Cincinnati: The Ohio Law Reporter Company, 1918). Lehrer v. Cleveland Railway Company, et al. Decided January 23, 1918. p. 481-499. Available via Google Books as of October 11, 2009.
(3) Annual report of the Secretary of State to the Governor and General Assembly of the State of Ohio for the year ending June 30, 1918. Compiled by William D. Fulton, Secretary of State. (Springfield, Ohio: Springfield Publishing Company, 1918). p. 41. Available via Google Books as of October 11, 2009.