I have two pictures of my great-grandparents, Mendel and Lena Silverman with my grandfather and his brother dressed in Russian Cossack outfits.

These are not two different pictures; they are the same picture pasted on different card stock from different studios.

Here is the photo I showed in The Silvermans Come to America.













Decreasing the quality of the image shows that this photo was taken by George H Rosenblatt, 202 Broadway, New York.


Here is the second copy.














The back of this photo is in Russian.  A friend translated it for me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              










It says photograpgic studio of Josef Wasilewski, Stavropol, Kavkaz.  Stavropol is the city where my great-grandparents lived.  Kavkaz is the area like a state or province.  Tiny letters at the bottom of the back of the photo say Trapp and Munch.Wien



I have figured this much of the mystery out .  Trapp and Munch were the papermakers, located in Vienna.

This photo was taken at about the time the family emigrated, so it is possible that it was taken in either country, although I do find it hard to believe that they brought the Cossack outfits with them.

There is one more interesting bit. At the bottom of the front side of the photo with the Russian studio information in very small red letters it says  J.Wasilewski–in English.


Why would a Russian photographer have his name in English on the front of a photo?

So, I am left with a mystery.  Where was this picture taken?

Any ideas?



This is the final part of four of the story of my grandfather, Alexander Silver. Follow the links for Parts I, II, and III.

My grandparents settled in Philadelphia by 1920.

They lived first in the Strawberry Mansion section of Philadlephia where we all lived when I was born.

My grandfather, my brother and me

Later we all moved to West Oak Lane where my grandparents and my father lived until they passed away.

Over their 66 years of marriage there were many births and celebrations.  I am putting up some photos.

My Grandmother Pauline

Sixtieth Anniversary

I will expand on this story at a later date.

This is the third part of a series about my grandfather, Alexander Silver.  You can read Parts I and II by following the links.


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.

Pauline and Alex about 1896

Alex and Ethel



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.


Hester Street 1903


Forsyth Street















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.

Unknown Woman

Piece work list















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.

Pauline, Alex, Ethel, and Sylvia

Alex, Pauline, and Stanley with family friends






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.







In Part I of this series I listed some of the facts I know about my grandfather’s life.  In this post I have turned those facts into a story

My grandfather’s story is in many ways an ordinary story.  Grandpa’s is the Eastern European Jewish version of the story, but there is an Irish version, an Italian version, a German version, a Japanese version, a version for every ethnicity.  If you are African-American it is a different story.  Lack of choice changes the story, but mine is the ethnic story. You know this story, briefly, oppression in the homeland, leave everything and take a boat to a new country, arrive somewhere where you don’t speak the language, live in harsh, soul-crushing poverty, survive and thrive. These stories are common, yet I find them extraordinary.  A million people or more arrived in this country every year between 1890 and 1910.  These were primarily Eastern Europeans and my grandfather was one of them.

Why did he come?  At the end of the 18th century Catherine the Great, Czar of Russia, created the Pale of Settlement where the Jews of Russia would be forced to live.  The Pale included what is now the Ukraine, Poland and other areas.  The laws became more and more restrictive over time.  Even within the Pale Jews could not own land, paid extra taxes and could not attend university.   Eventually Russian law demanded that large numbers of Jews between the ages of 12 and 25 serve 25 years in the Russian army.  Any community that failed to provide its quota would be punished. The Silvers or Silvermans, as they were known then, left Russia forever when their oldest son was twelve. In light of the alternatives emigration to America looked good, even if the streets weren’t paved with gold.

In August of 1891 the Silverman family arrived in New York on the S.S. La Champagne having left Le Havre, France eight days earlier.

My grandfather traveled with his parents, Mendel and Lina and his brother Sam.  I have no idea how they got to Le Havre, most likely by rail. They may have stayed in France for a while, my father recalls his father speaking of time in France.  My cousin remembers being told they spent time in Ireland. Whatever their route and whatever the delays they came through the Barge Office in New York and started a new life.

The Barge Office New York---- Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

First Photo in America Mendel, Lina, Alex and Sam


There is much more to this story and there will be a Part III.