Alexander Silver married Pauline Bublick in November of 1896. He was twenty years old and she was eighteen. In 1900 the young couple and their first child, Ethel, were living with his parents on the Lower East Side of New York.
At the turn of the twentieth century the Lower East Side was a neighborhood teeming with newly arrived immigrants, half of them were Jewish, upwards of 350,000 people and they were all crammed into two square miles at the tip of Manhattan. The Silvermans were living at 31 Forsyth Street, a typical tenement building.
Many of the women in the tenements worked in the garment industry. Conditions in the factories were difficult, long hours, low wages and terribly unsafe working conditions. Even with the brutal conditions these jobs were sought after. Many women and children did piecework if they couldn’t get a factory job or needed to be home with young children. I found an interesting photo of an unknown female relative from this period. I don’t know who this woman is, but the back of the photo holds a typical list of piece work either to be done or already finished.
By 1902 my grandfather was involved in the growing labor union movement in the United States. He became a recruiter for the Capmaker’s Union and spent at least ten years traveling the country working for the union. Although his citizenship papers say that his second child, Sylvia, was born in New York my grandparents and my aunt always said that she was born in New Orleans while he was working for the union. By 1907 they would be living in Detroit where my father was born in 1909.
Grandpa and Grandma never spoke much about this period in their life. By 1920 they would be settled in Philadelphia where Grandma’s family was already established. They would spend the rest of their lives there.
I’ll say more about their years in Philadelphia in my next post.