Discovering Stored Treasures

Discovering Genealogy, One Ancestor at a Time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Was Max Hanging Around the Block?

Part III:

Following yesterday's post, I was left with a list of questions regarding the severe beating my great-uncle Max took in 1909. Yesterday's article, titled "Berkowitz was Released" revealed an important clue. Max was no stranger to his two assailants, Samuel Berkowitz and Samuel Waskowitz. Samuel Waskowitz was Max's former employer. I would like to know the following:
  • What kind of business did Sam Waskowitz own? Was it a grocery store? (Minnie's memoir describes Max's early job as grocery delivery boy).
  • Where was Sam Waskowitz's business in 1909? (presumably the "block" where the beating took place).
  • What is a block?
  • Where was Sam Waskowitz's business located prior to 1909? 
  • Where was Max employed prior to 1909.
  • Why was he hanging around this block?
I hope to answer some of these questions as I continue to trace Max Crane's trail. I feel fortunate to be accompanied by such wonderful readers on this treasure hunt. +Jenny Lanctot's keen eye, predicted my next more and suggested to proceed to the New Britain City Directories looking the two Sams and Max. 

Here are the findings beginning with 1909, the year of the incident:
  • Max boarded and worked as a clerk at 459 Myrtle Street. 

1909 New Britain Directory
  • Sam Berkowitz owned a grocery and meats store on 648 Main and lived next door on 646 Main Street.

1909 New Britain Directory
  • Sam Waskowitz was a grocer as well. His grocery and meat shop was located at 246 North Street and he was living also living right next door to his place of business, at 250 North street. And then... BINGO! Check out the next entry after Waskowitz Samuel!
1909 New Britain Directory
Waskowitz Block! 250 North Street. The site of the incident, Waskowitz's store and home! Now I really need to understand what is a block?
According to the dictionary on my apple computer, there are at least seven meanings to the word block. When used with a modifier chiefly in British English, A block means: "a large single building subdivided into separate rooms, apartments, or offices: an apartment block." 
It seems, young Max Crane stubbornly stood at the entrance to his former boss' new building! He was either blocking the door, according to Waskowitz testimony, or according to Max's version, he remained on the curb which was not far enough for the former boss.

Map of New Britain from the 1910 City Directory
(Click to enlarge)
For a better look, here is a closeup of the 1910 New Britain map:

X on the left marks where Max Crane lived and worked in 1909
X on the right marks the 250 North Street Block, the location of the beating incident.
(Click to enlarge)
To tie things up nicely, I wanted to figure out, where Waskowitz "old" store was and see if by chance, Max was listed in an earlier directory as employed for Waskowitz. 
List of Blocks, Building and Halls
(Click to enlarge).
In 1908 Samuel Waskowitz owned not one, but two grocery stores! One was at 236 North Street and the second at 172 Arch Street. He was living on 124 Hartford Avenue. The Waskowitz block was absent from the 1908 Directory. Once I understood what block meant, I found a list in the directory called Blocks, Buildings and Halls. The new Waskowtiz Block did not make the 1909 list (it must have been completed after the list was compiled), but it did appear in the 1910 list as Waskowitz Block 246 to 250 North Street.

Waskowitz's North street store in 1908 was few houses down from the future building. A review of the 1909 Waskowitz listing reveals that Waskowitz Max (a brother perhaps?) was running the 172 Arch street store and boarding at the 250 North street Block. Sam Berkowitz's listing was unchanged. In 1907 (not shown here), Waskowitz  ran only the 236 North Street store and lived at the same Hartford Avenue address.

Max arrived in the United States on October 4th, 1905 and headed to NY. He stayed in NYC long enough to know he didn't like living there, probably the better part of 1906. By 1907 he had settled in the City of New Britain (for some reason he was not absent from the 1908 directory). I could have put money that Max's place of employment on the 1907 directory would be 236 North Street, Waskowitz's store. I would have lost my money though. Instead, this is what the 1907 directory had to say about the eighteen year old Max:

Earliest sighting of Max in a US City directory.
1907 New Britain City Directory. 
Occupation: teamster! Unfortunately, the directory does not elaborate. My initial thought: the famous Teamster Union. It is difficult, but—knowing Max's Russian "revolutionary" tendencies— not impossible to imagine that hardly a year after arriving on US soil, speaking no English, Max would be employed by the Teamsters. Affiliation with the Union would certainly explain in part the altercation with his former boss.

According to Wikipedia, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters was formed in 1903 from a conglomerate of local unions. Luckily, Wikipedia called attention to an earlier definition of the word teamster, meaning "truck driver or person who drives a team of draft animals." Here I was, jumping to the conclusions about Max being a union organizer, when most likely he was a horse cart driver. According to Minnie he delivered groceries door to door, which would have required driving a truck or a carriage. Back in Russia, the family owned a horse drawn carriage and a horse or two. Max and his brothers helped their father deliver the town's mail using this wagon. He must have known how to drive a cart. Prof of this skill also appears on Max's Connecticut Military Census from 1917. On this form, Max reports to know how to ride a horse and "handle a team," meaning a team of horses! In all likelihood, the  City directory listing from 1907 translated into today's terms states that Max was a horse cart driver. He probably delivered the groceries for Waskowitz's clients on this wagon and may not have left the job on good terms. By 1909 Max was employed by a competitor and was promoted to Clerk. Either way, I doubt he was a union organizer.

Why was Max standing on this particular corner no longer worked there and his new home and work place were on the other side of town? I call you attention again to the 1909 City Directory listing.

Aaron Kranowitz, Max uncle  was living at 220 North Street! Only a couple of blocks down from Waskowitz's shop. Aaron and Waskowitz were neighbors at least as early as 1907 when Max arrived in town. Max, was taken in by his uncle and the family like a son, although he did not reside with them, as I imagine they did not have space for him in their home. Aaron had five children, the eldest, Louis Kranowitz was only three years younger than his cousin Max. It is very possible that Louis was Max's companion mentioned in the article. Even though Max didn't live on North street, this was his stomping ground. He moved to New Britain because of his Uncle Aaron. He got a job from his uncle's neighbor, Sam Waskowitz. The family must have shopped at the Waskowitz grocery. Why had the relationship deteriorated to the point that Max was no longer welcome on the block remains a mystery. What is clear, is that, the a relationship went sour.

As an added bonus, here is the view of the 250 North Street Block today. Thanks +Jenny Lanctot for the suggestion! The original building appears to be standing and takes up the whole block. It continues to house a few small stores as well as residential units above. Hartford Street is now Martin Luther King.

Note the building to the left is 232-238 North and houses a cuban grocery as well as other shops. That is the site of Waskowitz's original store where must have Max worked! The 218 and 220 North Street addresses where Aaron and Sophie Kranowitz lived with their children are an vacant lots today.

I hope you are enjoying this series! I promise there is more to come! Stay tuned until next week and enjoy the weekend!

In case you missed earlier posts about Max Crane:
Should Genealogist Spill Family Secrets?
Mystery Monday: Max Crane
Back to Square One
Treasure Trail Heating Up Part I
Trail Heating Up Part II

Source: U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta) [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.


  1. Oh ... it's getting clearer now! Now I really want to know what caused such a falling out that it would have led to a brutal beating! Keep 'em coming, Smadar!

    1. Thanks Jenny! I don't know that I will discover the answer, but there is a bunch more coming!

  2. Smadar, it seems that local historical newspaper sites will be your best friend as you pursue this further...possibly also any local genealogical society, especially if they have an online database, or keep local history books in their holdings at a local library.

    I noticed the entries for Aaron and was wondering if there were a relationship. Glad to find out there was. Of course, the fact that both uncle and nephew have occupation listed as "clerk" is a tempting feature--although I realize all sorts of duties might fall under that heading--and wondered if any further info might be gleaned by checking the address for where Max's uncle Aaron worked.

    However, though researching this episode will fill in more of the details about Max's life, it still is quite a few years from the point of Max's mystery death date and location. Will these two chapters somehow connect???

    Looking forward to the rest of the story! Nothing like making me wish away my weekend...

    1. I agree, Jacqi, the local papers should have a lot to offer. Aaron's children did quite well and show up quite a few times in the papers as far as I can tell. Aaron, is the first Kranowitz to immigrate to America, so I'm quite interested in him, though my work on him has only just begun. I have yet to explore what kind of clerk he was. I do know that later, he worked for his son-in-law's furniture store, but that is years away from 1907/09.

      A trip to New Britain Connecticut is my next genealogy road trip. I'm actually going to drive by there on Monday, but I can't stop. Unfortunately I'll be heading to a funeral. They have a large historical room in the public library which I am very much looking forward to spending quite a bit of time in.

      You correctly observed that this story is a bit removed in years from Max's suicide. I don't know if they will connect. We'll have to wait and see. I am hopeful to find a mention of his death in the local papers, but have not been able to do so on-line yet. In the mean time, I am finding it quite helpful to gain insight into Max's life. Amazing what a couple of discoveries in the paper can lead to. No?

      Thanks for all your ingisht and support!

  3. Oh, this was so much fun to read! I noticed right away from your first photo that Uncle Aaron's house was at 220 North street, and that must have been close to Waskowitz. I kept waiting for you to mention it, and then, at last, you saved it for the climax of the article! Very suspenseful.

    So Max delivered groceries on a horse cart, and then he got hired by a competitor and became a clerk. That makes sense so far. I wonder what else happened to Max before his unfortunate suicide? I'm interested to hear the next step in the story. I'm guessing that Max had strong opinions and maybe liked to "stand his ground," so he may have run up against people who argued with him? Very interested to see.

    1. We are having fun, aren't we! I'm impressed that you noticed that Aaron lived near by right away. I missed that initially and decided to hold the info until the end of the post since I presented the journey as I experienced it.
      As to the employment with a competitor theory, it remains a theory. Since the new place of employment was on the other side of town, he may not be a big competitor, but certainly looks like the job was a better job. We certainly can conclude that Max was opinionated and strong willed.
      Thanks for your input, Mariann!

  4. I have several family members from Perth Amboy, New Jersey who (around 1915-1930) had businesses at one address (such as street number 440) and seemed to live "next door" (such as at street number 442). In a few of cases that I investigated in current-day Perth Amboy, the business address was a street-level storefront, but the residence address was a doorway to a narrow staircase leading to one or more apartments on one or more upper floors. That is, they actually lived OVER their businesses.

    The addresses suggesting the "lived next door" situation you mention in this blog post could correspond be a living-above-the-business arrangement like that.

    1. Thanks, Carl. Your research experience is really valuable! I think you are correct that often people lived an worked at the same address, and two adjoining numbers would either mean a two family next to each other, or the upstairs apartment. Thanks for the insight!


Thanks for sharing your comments!