The Rosenbachs

Caroline Rosenbach was born in Maryland in 1849, and her sister, Clarissa (known as Clara, except in property ownership records) was born in Maryland in 1851. The Rosenbach sisters were daughters of Henry and Famiie Rosenbach, Jewish immigrants who had been born in Prussia. The Rosenbach family lived in Maryland as late as 1858, when Henry and Fannie Rosenbach’s youngest child, Isador, was born. The family did not yet live in western Pennsylvania when the 1860 census was taken, but began living in Pittsburgh by 1861, when Hemy Rosenbach was listed in the Pittsburgh city directory.

The Rosenbach family began renting a house at 63 Wylie Avenue (demolished; on or near the present site of the USX Building). Henry Rosenbach opened a dry goods store at 70 Market Street (at the southeastern comer of Fourth Avenue and Market Street), within walking distance of his home. By 1862, however, Rosenbach left this business and became an oil dealer with an office at 4 Hand Street (now Ninth Street), at the comer of Pemi Avenue, Downtown. City directories listed Rosenbach as an oil dealer at this addr ess through the rest of the 1860s.

Hemy Rosenbach’s entry into the oil industry came three years after the discoveiy of oil at Titusville in northwestern Pennsylvania. Rosenbach and thousands of other men intent on profiting from extracting, transporting, refining, and selling oil invested their time and available capital in this industry. Pittsburgh shared in the oil boom as a center of river transportation and as the site of several refineries. During this time, a number of Pittsburgh men traveled to growing northwestern Pennsylvania communities such as Titusville, Franklin, Warren, Oil City, and Pithole to participate in the oil business. Hemy Rosenbach appears to have had limited success in the highly risky and capital-intensive oil industry, and was not among the many who made or lost fortunes.

In 1869, Fannie Rosenbach purchased a home for her family at 34 Anderson Street in Allegheny City for $8750. The 1870 census enumerated the Rosenbach family at this address. Henry Rosenbach, 55, was enumerated as an oil merchant, and Fannie, 53, had no occupation. The Rosenbachs’ son Louis, 21, was a druggist, and Solomon, 16, was a trunk maker. Caroline, 21, Clara, 19, Jeannette, 14, and Isador, 12, had no occupation. Two servants lived with the Rosenbach family: Elizabeth Shaffer, 23, born in Saxony, and Kate Kline, 20, born in Pennsylvania.

The 1870 manuscript census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Henry Rosenbach owned real estate worth $20,000 and had a personal estate of $5000. The Rosenbach home on Anderson Street may have been worth about $10,000.

Henry Rosenbach’s office was listed at 145 Smithfield Street in city directories published in 1871 and 1872. The Rosenbach family left the Pittsburgh area by 1873.

The 1880 census enumerated Hemy, Fannie, Caroline, and Clara Rosenbach in an un-numbered house on Centre Street in Oil City, Venango County. Herman Mayer, 34, a German-born cigar merchant who was Jeannette Rosenbach’s husband, was enumerated as the head of the household. Hemy Rosenbach, 65, was still an oil dealer. Caroline and Clara Rosenbach, ages 31 and 29, were reported to have no occupation. Others enumerated in the house were Jeannette Mayer, 24, and the Mayers’ three children, Della, six, Philip H., four, and Elsie, two. Louis, Solomon, and Isador Rosenbach no longer lived with their parents by 1880.

Henry Rosenbach died between 1880 and 1885. The first indication of the Rosenbachs’ return to the Pittsburgh area was the 1885 city directory, which listed Fannie Rosenbach as the widow of Henry Rosenbach and living at 838 (then 36) Western Avenue in Allegheny City. The 1885 directory also listed Miss C. Rosenbach as a dressmaker at the same address. Clara and Caroline Rosenbach were both listed as dressmakers during the next 40 years, with Clara Rosenbach appealing in directories more frequently than her older sister. The Rosenbach sisters worked at home at 838 Western Avenue, which they and their mother rented, and later at 836 Western Avenue.

Fannie, Caroline, and Clara Rosenbach lived at 838 Western Avenue until late 1889 or early 1890, then moved into the newly completed 836 Western Avenue (known as 317 Western Avenue until 1899).

The 1890 manuscript census, which would provide information on Clara, Caroline, and Fannie Rosenbach, and any other occupants of 836 Western Avenue in that year, was destroyed in a warehouse fire following its completion.

Allegheny County records show that Caroline and Clara Rosenbach purchased a 52′ by 110′ lot on Hutchinson Avenue in Edgewood in 1891. The sisters never lived in Edgewood, and may have made this purchase as an investment. The sisters sold the lot in 1914 for $3000, suggesting the property remained undeveloped.

Fannie Rosenbach died at home at 836 Western Avenue at age 83 on Independence Day, 1897.

The 1900 census enumerated Caroline and Clara Rosenbach as dressmakers living at 836 Western Avenue. Although the Rosenbach sisters may have had live-in help at 836 Western Avenue at some times, the 1900 census enumerated only the sisters, and no other related or unrelated persons, at 836 Western Avenue.

Herman and Jeannette Rosenbach Mayer moved to Pittsburgh in about 1906, renting a house at 230 South Aiken Avenue (then South Rebecca Street) in Friendship. Caroline and Clara Rosenbach moved from 836 Western Avenue to their sister’s home within a short time, and moved their dressmaking operations to room 302 of the Wemer Building at 631 Penn Avenue, Downtown. Herman Mayer was still a cigar merchant in 1906 and later years, with a shop at 211 Forbes Avenue (then Diamond Street), Downtown.

The 1910 census enumerated Caroline and Clara Rosenbach in the home of Herman and Jeannette Mayer at 230 South Aiken Avenue. Living in the house were Herman Mayer, 63, a cigar merchant, Jeannette Mayer, 54, who had no occupation, Eric Mayer, 32, a traveling salesman of cigars, Elsie F. Mayer, 32, who had no occupation, Caroline and Clara Rosenbach, dressmakers, a son-in-law whose name is illegible in handwritten census records, who was 40 and a cigar salesman, his wife, Della, and their daughters, Jeannette L., seven, and a six-month-old whose name is also illegible.

Two servants, Nellie (last name illegible), born in Pennsylvania to German immigrant parents, and Theresa (last name illegible), an Irish immigrant, also lived at 230 South Aiken Avenue in 1910.

The Mayer family and Caroline and Clara Rosenbach moved from South Aiken Avenue to another rented home at 413 South Pacific Avenue in about 1911. The Rosenbach sisters continued to made dresses in the Wemer Building throughout the 1910’s and into the 1920s.

Caroline and Clara Rosenbach sold 836 Western Avenue in 1913 to Josephine Hanson. Josephine Hanson and her husband, Octavius Hanson, a clerk, owned and occupied 836 Western Avenue for four years.

After selling their property in Edge wood in 1914, Caroline and Clara Rosenbach purchased another small property on Susquehanna Street in Homewood. The sisters continued to live at 413 South Pacific Avenue, and sold this property in 1919.

Living at 413 South Pacific Avenue in 1920, according to census records, were Herman Mayer, 73, a cigar merchant, Jeannette Rosenbach Mayer, 63, and Elsie Mayer, 42, who had no occupation, Caroline and Clara Rosenbach, 71 and 69, dressmakers, and one servant: Josephine Wisner, 16, born in Pennsylvania to Polish immigrant parents.

The 1920 census is the most recent census that provides detailed information on the Rosenbach sisters or the Mayer family. Manuscript census records are withheld from the public for 72 years, to protect the privacy of persons enumerated.

Clara Rosenbach was listed in the city directory as a dressmaker in the Wemer Building and living at 413 South Pacific Avenue as late as 1925. She moved to 5546 Darlington Road in Squirrel Hill shortly before her death on
June 18, 1927, at age 76. Caroline Rosenbach died in New York City on April 28, 1931. Both sisters were buried in West View Cemetery.