Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Matrilineal Monday - Henrietta Mahler Burk, Mogul?

Today is International Women's Day and I'm thinking about the women in my family tree. Henrietta Mahler Burk, my pat gmother, was quite a determined woman. Here she is with three of her four children: Mildred (left), my Aunt Millie; Miriam (in Henrietta's arms), my aunt; and Harold, at right, my father. At this time, boys might wear dresses such as this and have their hair long until their first haircut. The date of this photo must be after 1911 because that's when Miriam was born.

Henrietta crossed from US to Canada and back several times after she married Isaac in 1906 because he had found work in Montreal, Canada. In fact, my Uncle Sidney, the youngest of their children, was born in Montreal. Henrietta accomplished this long-distance travel by herself until 1915, with her young children by her side. That's determination.

Now here's why I'm focusing on Henrietta Mahler Burk for Matrilineal Monday: In 1931, my father Harold applied for a "fidelity bond" so he could be a transportation clerk at the Park Central Hotel in New York City. This was his first step toward becoming an independent travel agent. But because travel agents were responsible for blank airline tickets--which could be stolen or forged--they and their employees were required to be bonded.

My father applied to the Metropolitan Casualty Insurance Co for his bond. I have the application! He lists his address as 1580 Crotona Park East in the Bronx, and lists all his employers from Jan. 1926 to Oct. 1931. He'd worked for a summer at the Larchmont Yacht Club, been a runner for a Wall Street firm, and somehow was now seeking a job at the Park Central Hotel's travel agent concession.

Asked about his relatives, he lists "Isaac Burk" (his father) and shows Isaac's financial worth as $250. His mother, "Henrietta Burk," has (according to Dad) a net worth of $350. So if Dad is correct, Henrietta was wealthier than her husband. And this, during the Depression! Wealthiest of all, however, is Dad, if his application is to be believed. He lists $100 in cash and $400 in "building & loan association." Sorry, I simply don't believe any of his figures. My guess is that the entire family, combined, might have had that amount in savings.

And by the way, the references Dad lists on this application include:
  • Louis Volk, businessman, 3150 Rochambeau Ave., Bronx, NY (in reality, Louis is Harold's uncle)
  • Joseph Markel, salesman, 3235 Rochambeau Ave., Bronx, NY (in reality, Joseph is Harold's uncle)
  • Jack Mendelowitz, school teacher, 1580 Crotona Park E., Bronx, NY (a neighbor)

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