When our class first began to look at census data, I could not understand how it would be helpful to uncover the past. The class looked at the 1870 and 1880 U.S. Census for Alexandria, Virginia. For these two years, we focused on looking for German- Jewish Immigrants. It was not until I overlaid information from the Home of Peace Cemetery with data from 1870 and 1880 censuses that I was able to see who were members of Alexandria’s German-Jewish community in the mid-to-late nineteenth century. One of the surnames in the cemetery and census data was Kaufman (NOTE: the census taker also listed the name as “Kaufmann”). In the 1870 U.S. Census, the head of household for the Kaufmans was James, and in the 1880 United States Census his name was Joseph. It can be concluded that both James and Joseph were the same person because their children had the same names; the census taker must have written down his first name incorrectly. The census taker also struggled with Rosa’s name. In 1870, she was listed as “R. Kauffman,” but in 1880, she was “Rosa Kaufman.” We know that census takers did not always care about accuracy, and maybe the 1870 census taker heard their names and, perhaps, even the spellings but put down whatever he wanted. Joseph was from Baden, a kingdom in the southwestern region of central Europe that eventually became Germany. Rosa was supposedly born in South Carolina based on information in the 1870 U.S. Census, but from New York in the 1880 one. The 1880 U.S. Census also informs the researchers that Rosa’s parents were from Bavaria.
In the American Jewish Yearbook, I was able to find out that Joseph was on the board of trustees for the Beth El Synagogue and the Hebrew Benevolent Society, which helped to establish the Home of Peace Cemetery.[i] He was a part of these boards starting 1878 until Joseph’s death in 1902. The Kaufmann’s have a family plot in the Home of Peace Cemetery. Many of their children can be found there as well. The children listed on the 1870 U.S. Census were Morris (age 8), Estella (age 4), and Sidney (age 2). In the 1880 U.S. Census, the children listed were Maurice (age 17), Estelle (age 14), Sidney (age 12), Aleck (age 5), and Jerome (age 1). Two of the children were buried in the Home of Peace Cemetery who can also be found in the censuses. Aleck’s name was Alexander in the cemetery, so maybe Aleck was his nickname. Jerome was the other son listed; his tomb stone stated that he was born in 1876, which would make him 4 years old in 1880, not 1. Maybe the other children moved away, and that is why they are not found in the cemetery.
The Kaufman family had many other headstones in the cemetery. Isaac and Hannah died before the 1870 and 1880 censuses were written down. Isaac lived from June 1864- July 1864. Hannah lived from November 1875- March 1879. It is–unfortunately–very common for children to die young in the mid-to-late nineteenth-century.
Figure 1: Grave of Joseph Kaufman from Hope of Peace Cemetery in Alexandria, Virginia. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=140565904&PIpi=114885735 (accessed on September 24, 2015).
We know that the Kaufman family found some success as small business owners because they took out advertisements in the Alexandria Gazette for many years. In 1889, the advertisements first appeared, about once a month. They always advertised for the same thing and the prices never changed. The two advertisements that ran consistently in the Alexandria Gazette were “Avalanche of Bargains” and “WeWill Make Rome Howl!” [ii] The Phrase “We Will Make Rome Howl!” was from Robert Montgomery Ward’s popular 1831 play The Gladiator, written for Edwin Forrest. Forrest’s memorable rendition of Spartacus’s line, “We will make Rome howl for this,” led to the line becoming a popular catch-phrase in the mid-nineteenth century.[iii] The first advertisement was about clothes rather than shoes, but the second one focused on the various shoe styles and prices in the store. The prices never changed in the advertisements; in fact, they were rerunning the same advertisement on a weekly basis in 1889 without any changes.
The first advertisement was about clothes rather than shoes, but the second one focused on the various shoe styles and prices in the store. The prices never changed in the advertisements; in fact, they were rerunning the same advertisement on a weekly basis in 1889 without any changes.
[i] “American Jewish Yearbook.” American Jewish Committee Archives 1 (1899-1900): 264.
[ii] “We Will Make Rome Howl!,” Alexandria Gazette, October 19, 1889 and “Avalanche of Bargains,” Alexandria Gazette, June 12, 1894.
[iii] William Rounsevill Alger, The Life of Edwin Forrest, The American Tragedian (Philidelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1877), 649.