Monday, September 06, 2010

Uncle Solomon

When my German relatives emigrated to New York during the first half of the nineteenth century they did not experience the full range of hardships that many other emigrants endured. They were not forced to live in unhealthy and dangerous slum dwellings where people, male and female, young and old, family relations and strangers, all packed together sleeping elbow to elbow, often on the filth-ridden floors. They did not earn their meager livings as rag pickers, scavengers, sweated clothing workers, or day laborers. They were not stigmatized for dressing in cast-off garments, nor for their inability to read or write and lack of rudimentary social skills. They did not come from lands, ones outside Britain and the countries of Northern Europe, where people were thought to be barbarous: they were not African-American, Irish, Italian, or Eastern European.[1]

They had little money, but their poverty does not seem to have been the main or only reason for their taking ship. Similarly, although they were Jews, religious persecution was not likely to have been one of their main reasons for departure. That, persecution, was on the decline where they lived at that time. In fact, they each probably had their own personal reasons. Conflicts within their families or personal disappointments might have motivated them. They might have been upset, as many were, with the political setbacks the country experienced in 1830 and, much more, in 1848, when popular movements for greater democracy were crushed.

None of them lived on farms. Their families were merchants with merchants' respect for education and by the time they set off for America, they all, or most anyway, had received the equivalent of the US high school education or better.[2]

Most of them came from the small, tightly-knit Jewish communities of Westphalia. Those communities were mutually supportive and I suspect their emigrant sons carried with them this communal spirit, though it might last among them, perhaps, no more than the first few years. The village about which I know the most, Beckum, had a Jewish community as early as 1343, possessed a synagogue and school of religion in 1743, and hired its first paid teacher in 1817. This school would later receive funding as one of the town's public schools.[3]

My great-grandfather's uncle, Solomon Windmuller, was the first of the family to emigrate.[4] He left no writings that have come down to me, but there are quite a few public records that cite him. The earliest is his registration as a United States citizen in May 1819. This reads: "Windmuller/Wingmiller, Solomon, report 14(?) May 1819: b. Warrendorff (i.e., Warendorf), co. of Westphalia, Prussia, age 35, migr. from Bremen, tavern-keeper, wife Julianna, b. Leignitz (i.e., Liegnitz), Silesia, Prussia, age 28 — 17 Apr. 1820."[5]

His name shows up next in the US Census of 1820 as a resident of New York City.[6] After that, he appears in a number of the directories which enterprising New York publishers produced with increasing frequency as the nineteenth century progressed. They show him in 1822 at Porterhouse (business) and 231 William St. (home); in 1826 at the National Coffee House (business) and 224 William (home); in 1828 at 6 Vandewater; in 1830 at 18 Gold; in 1831 at 100 William (business) and 12 Vandewater (home); in 1834 at 100 William (business); in 1835 at 100 William (business) and 86 Nassau (home); and in 1836 at 100 William (business) and 19 Rector (home).[7]

In 1831 he was cited in an emigration paper obtained by another nephew, Henry Lefman. The paper says Solomon had lived for some time in New York ("lebt seit längerem in New York").[8] Fairly intensive research that my aunt Florence undertook in 1986 turned up no deeds, probate records, or death record.[9] The last record I've found is an 1836 petition to be forgiven debts. It appears to be a declaration of bankruptcy during a time when there was no bankruptcy law.[10]

Like the other Windmullers in my family, Solomon came from the area around Munster. He's recorded as coming from the Warendorf district and, like other family members, may have come from the village of Beckum in that jurisdiction. Here is what that place looked like in the old days (which old days the print does not specify).

{Old Beckum; source:}

This old photo shows a house typical of the ones inhabited by the Windmuller clan and other Beckum Jews.

{Beckum. House of the Family Levy Stein on Marienplatz, Nordstrasse. Demolished after Pogromnacht. source:}

This modern photo shows a section of Nordstraße, the street where the Windmullers and most other Jews lived in Beckum.

{Beckum - Nordstraße — Blick vom Marktplatz in die Nordstraße. In der Bildmitte ein Neubau der Sonnenuhr mit Dach. By Blue Petunia This photo was taken on May 19, 2009. link to:}

In this aerial view of Nordstraße, you can see, on the left three of the original homes of Beckum Jews; virtually all of the town's Jews either escaped from Germany during the Nazi era or succumbed in the Nazi death camps.


This print shows a porter house. New York had more than one of them. This may or may not be the porterhouse where Solomon Windmuller is recorded as doing business in Manhattan. This one is on the far left, at the intersection of Broadway, Park Row, and Ann Street. It's no surprise that a man who styled himself "tavern keeper" in his immigration papers would turn up in one of these places.

{Broadway New York. South from the Park; 1846, hand-colored lithograph by N. Currier, 152 Nassau St. cor. of Spruce N.Y. 28.8 x 38.5 cm.; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

This print shows William Street where he lived and worked for the decade beginning in 1826.

{Franklin Market, foot of William St., New York City, 1820, by Samuel Hollyer, created in 1903, 12 x 17 cm. from Old New York. (New York : [s. n.] 1905-1914); source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

This print shows a different part of William Street. In this image, 100 William Street, where Solomon Windmuller ran a business during the 1830s, is on the left.

{John W. Quincy, 98 William St. at the corner of Platt Street New York in 1858. Lithograph from Endicott & Co. N.Y., 34.9 x 45.5 cm.; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

This print shows yet another part of William Street. It's likely that the room Solomon Windmuller rented at 224 William was in a building something like this one.

{Old house, 178 William St. by Sarony, Major & Knapp Lithographer, 10 x 8 cm.; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

In this print, 100 William St. is around the bend by the tree and the liberty pole.

{View of William Street, looking up from Frankfort St., 1859, by A. Weingärtner's Lithography, 10 x 15 cm. "For D.T. Valentine's Manual, 1859;" source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

This, as it says, shows Vandewater Street. Solomon Windmuller's rented room was in a wood frame building out of our sight, next to Grotten's Liquors.

{View of Vandewater St. cor. Frankfort St. (1863) by Major & Knapp Engraving, Manufacturing & Lithographic Co. 12 x 17 cm. "For D.T. Valentine's manual 1864;" source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

Here are some images from fire maps of the time.

You can tell from this that 100 William St. was a wood frame building having apartments on the second floor and a store on the first.

{100 William St. in 1855; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

Here is the map sheet from which I took the detail.

This detail shows 231 William Street where he lived in 1822. According to the key, 231 was a brick building having apartments above and a storefront under.

This is the sheet from which I took the detail.

Here you can see both 6 and 12 Vandewater, the first a wood frame structure and the second brick, both having apartments and storefronts.

And again the full sheet.

This is the title page of the 1834 directory of Manhattan.

{Longworth's American almanac (T. Longworth, 1834)}

This copy of page 743 shows Solomon Windmuller's business address as 100 William and his home address as 12 Vandewater.

{Longworth's American almanac (T. Longworth, 1834)}

I've annotated this 1836 map of lower Manhattan to show Solomon Windmuller's business and home addresses.

{Annotated detail from the "Topographical map of the city and county of New-York, and the adjacent country: with views in the border of the principal buildings, and interesting scenery of the island" by J.H. Colton & Co (1836); source: Library of Congress --}


Some sources:

Beckum Photographs


Beckum, Germany

Short History of Beckum

History of the Jewish Community of Beckum


Jüdische Gemeinde Warendorf


In Memory of the Former Jewish Community of Beckum

The German Language / Family Names

Jewish Immigration

A Century of Immigration, 1820-1924

1820 United States Federal Census

City Directories, an article by Kathi Sittner on

About New York City Directories

Imprisonment for Debt. Author(s): Richard Ford. Source: Michigan Law Review, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Nov., 1926), pp. 24-49. Published by: The Michigan Law Review Association. Stable URL:

Longworth's American almanac (T. Longworth, 1834)



[1] I've done quite a few blog posts on the experiences of those immigrants (and the freed slaves) who were members of detested minorities: African-Americans, Irish, Italians, and Jews from the Russian Empire.

[2] Although my emigrant relatives did not write about their lives in Germany, those for whom there are entries in biographic dictionaries did give information about their schooling. Thus I know that two, my great-grandfather and a more distant relative, were educated at the famous Gymnasium Carolinum (founded by Charlemagne in 804, this Latin grammar school is still highly-regarded for the quality of its instruction). Others were reported to have been given as much schooling as they, though maybe not so prestigiously. In one case, that of the Sutros, two young men remained in Germany to complete schooling and then joined the rest of the family, which had emigrated before them.

[3] Short History of Beckum Jewish Community School

[4] He was known as Salomon and Samuel as well as Solomon and his surname might be spelled Windmueller or Windmüller and occasionally windmiller as well as Windmuller. In the half century following 1775 countries in Northern Europe began to require that subjects submit family names for state records. Before then family names were either not used or were informal and variable. It wasn't until 1821 that family names were required of people in Warendorf, where Solomon came from. A set of web pages on the Warendorf village of Beckum gives some information on this.

[5] Source: Court of Common Pleas, p. 291. See NY NATURALIZATIONS 1792-1840, Early New York Naturalizations
Abstracts of Naturalizations Records from Federal, State, and Local Courts, 1792-1840, by Kenneth Scott (NY NATURALIZATIONS 1792-1840) and

[6] 1820 United States Federal Census

[7] Although the city directories of New York are widely regarded as being comprehensive, accurate, up to date, and highly useful, there's no authoritative list of them. Here's one that gives data on Solomon Windmuller: Longworth's American almanac: New-York register and city directory (T. Longworth, 1827)

[8] See Beitrage zur Westfalischen Familienforschung.

[9] That is to say my aunt Florence turned up no such records in the research she did in archives and libraries of New York City.

[10] During the early years of the republic, insolvent debtors could be imprisoned. In the 1830s there was a movement to reform this procedure and some states, including New York, passed laws for debtors' relief. The New York law did not, evidently, protect Solomon Windmuller against his debt to the government. He thus petitioned the House of Representatives for specific and individual forgiveness. Here's the text from the Journals of the House:
Tuesday, December 27, 1836.

Petitions ...

Mr. McKeon presented a petition of Solomon Windmuller, of the State of New York, late an importing merchant, setting forth that he is indebted to the United States in a large sum of money on custom-house bonds, given by the petitioner as surety for others; that judgments have been entered and are now standing against him; and that his said indebtedness arose prior to the passage of the act for the relief of certain insolvent debtors of the United States, and the various acts in amendment and in addition thereto; that he is now insolvent, and praying that the benefit of the said act may be extended to him: which said petition was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

Mr. Hall, of Maine, presented a petition of George Dyer, Jr., of the State of Maine, praying the allowance of the usual bounty on the fishing schooner Three Brothers, of Belfast, in the State of Maine, which went upon a fishing voyage to the Grand Banks in the year 1835, and returned into port four days before the expiration of the time fixed by law for said voyage.

Ordered, That the said two petitions severally be referred to the Committee on Commerce.

Monday, December 26, 1836.

Journal: 1st-13th congress

-- Journal: 1st-13th congress. Repr. 14th Congress, 1st session - 50th Congress, 2nd session, United States congressional serial set (1835)

No comments: