Researching Photos from the Oheb Shalom Collection

Posted on February 13, 2020 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie HERE.

Recently I was working on a photograph collection of images from Temple Oheb Shalom. I came upon an interesting folder labeled, “identified early congregants”. In the folder I found a collection of carte-de-visite, a type pf photograph made of a thin paper with the image mounted on a thicker paper card, each with a name written on the back. The photographs were from a time when Temple Oheb Shalom was located at 109-115 South Hanover Street and the Rabbi was Benjamin Szold, ca. 1858-1880. Many of the names were difficult to read but it gave me a starting point on trying to figure out who these congregants were. Most of the information I was able to find did not come from our collection and since I am often asked how we research I thought I could share some of the process that was used.

A sepia tone image of a woman and written on the back was Mrs. Eisler. Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, JMM 2004.097.108.

Although I was unable to find additional information on Mrs. Eisler, I was able to identify a time frame for the image by using the photographer’s information. By looking at Baltimore City directories, which are available online, I was able to find that Bendann Brothers photographers, started by brothers David and Daniel Bendann in 1859, was located at 207 Baltimore Street from 1863 to 1872. This information will help me to further research Mrs. Eisler, and attempt to figure out who she was.

A carte-de-visite of “Mrs. Moses, Lizzie, Oettinger nee Louisa Rosenfelt or Rosenfeld, daughter of Simon Rosenfelt, engaged May 6, 1854 – 1st year of Oheb Shalom cong.” Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, JMM 2004.097.122.

A wonderful resource is an online database called Find a Grave. I was able to find Louisa Oettingers grave! The site lets you search by name and location or by the cemetery itself. It will also often give you the date of birth, death, and sometimes even an obituary, along with information on family members and a photograph of the tombstone. Although many graves are listed, many are not. The site relies on volunteers and information is normally correct but not always. Another good place to look for grave information is which is available at the Baltimore County Public Library and the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry. Most of the grave information collected by the Museum has been added to JewishGen.

Mr. Moses Oettinger, Louisa’s husband. Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, JMM 2004.097.123.

Carte-de-visite of a man and woman, “Mr. & Mrs. Stern, Rachel Rosenfeld, St. Louis.” Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, JMM 2004.097.128.

It is believed this image is Rachel Rosenfeld (1848-1928) the daughter of Simon and Hannah Rosenfeld, of Baltimore. She married Herman Hohenthal (1837-1910) of St. Louis in 1865 at a ceremony officiated by Rabbi Benjamin Szold.

What is interesting about this image is the tax stamp on the back, “Known as The Sun Picture Tax, the government charged a tax on photographs from 1 August 1864 to 1 August 1866. The amount of tax per photograph varied based on cost of the photograph. Tax stamps were most commonly for 1, 2, or 3 cents. The popular cartes des visites (CDV) were among those photographs required to have tax stamps during this time period.  After 1 August 1866, this tax law was repealed.” (source).

This stamp allowed us to date the picture to within a year of when it was taken.

This stamp allowed us to date the picture to within a year of when it was taken.

“Mr. Abraham Brafman, 85 years old, a well-known wholesale clothing dealer, died yesterday at his home, 1609 Bolton street, Baltimore. Before rising last Monday he was stricken with paralysis. He was born in Bavaria and coming to this country engaged in the clothing business. In 1893 he retired, after having been in business for 55 years.

Mr. Brafman’s wife, who died about ten years ago, was, before her marriage, Miss Susan Weglein.
Nine children survive him. They are: Mrs. Julius Gutman, Mrs. I. H. Frank, Mrs. S. Goodman, of Philadelphia; Mrs. Charles Burger, Mrs. Jacob Rosenstock, of Frederick, Miss Julia Brafman and Messrs. Maxx, Julius and Aaron Brafman.” – Baltimore Sun January 11, 1906.

I was able to find Mr. Brafman’s obituary using the Baltimore County Public Library’s ProQuest database, which allows me to research historic Baltimore Sun editions from 1837-1994 as well as 7 other publications. From this I could find the obituary, read about Mr. Brafman’s will, real estate transactions, court hearings, damage to his business from the June 1858 flooding of the Jones Falls and that there was an attempted robbery of his home on Asquith street in May 1870.

Susan Weglein Brafman, wife of Abraham. Courtesy of Temple Oheb Shalom, JMM 2004.097.103.

These are just a few of the ways we begin to research the collection at the museum, and I hope that these may help in researching your own history.


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