Growing up, the only things I knew about my grandfather, Irving, was that he had a hat company and that he was a womanizer.  Just how many wives did he have?

Our Maternal Grandfather Irving

There are still so many unanswered questions about Irving, but here are things we do know about him.

Isador (Isie, Irving) was born  Jakub Isak Woznicer on November 27,, 1883, to Tuvia (Gutman Tobias, Towie) and Seri/Serel Huttner (Hittner) in Tarnow, Galicia, Poland. Note that there are 2 different Jakub Isak’s in the registry.

Irving Wosnitzer Birth Record

This is what the original registry looks like. It was found in a search.

Irving's original birth record.

He came to the United States in 1901, entering at Newark, NJ.  He was about 18 years old.  (According to Isabel’s Declaration of Naturalization. See below.)

On September 13, 1903, he married Minnie Leber in Manhattan.

Isie and Minnie Marriage

From 1906 – 1918, he was employed as a hatter at the Hudson Hat Company owned by his Uncle Max, his father’s brother.

Hudson Hat Co Employees 1906

Also in 1906, he applied for Naturalization.

Issie applied for Naturalization in 1906
Issie applied for Naturalization in 1906

Issie applied for Naturalization in 1906
Issie applied for Naturalization in 1906

Irving and Minnie lived within a few blocks of the other Wosnitzers in Newark’s Third Ward (now called the Central Ward), so I would assume that they socialized with their Wosnitzer Aunts, Uncles, and cousins.

From 1908 – 1909, Irving’s sister, Ester, lives with him and Minnie.

1910 Census Record for Irving and Minnie

They were married for 15 years and were childless.  Finally, in 1918, they adopted a little girl, my mother May. My theory revolves around Herman Charipper who was llving in Newark’s 3rd Ward and working as an insurance agent there. Herman was the brother of Bertha Charipper, mother of Abe Kessler, my mother’s birth father. Herman must have known a lot of the Jewish population of Newark and might have met Issie at the hat factory or socially. Since my mother’s birth parents were married only 2 months before she was born, and back then that would have been considered a “shanda”, did Herman tell Issie and Minnie about the baby and being childless, did they want to adopt her?

In the 1918, Newark, NJ directory, Irving is still living in Newark and working at the Hat Factory. When did they move to the Bronx?

Hudson hat Co Employees 1918

On the 1920 Census report they are living in the Bronx, NY. His daughter’s name appears as Elsie. However, the wonder if the census taker could not understand the Yiddish accent. I assume they were trying to say their daughter’s name was Maizie.

By the 1925 Census report, my mother is listed as Moa. Again, did the census taker not understand the accent or was my grandmother angry that Issie was gone and did she give out erroneous information so as not to appear alone. Women during that time period did not want to admit to being divorced and often kept their husband’s name on the census records.

Another family story is that as soon as MInnie got the baby, she threw Issie out of the house for being a womanizer.

1920 Census for Irving and Minnie
1925 Census for Irving and Minnie

In 1921, his mother begged him to return to Tarnow to help take care of her.  His father was also sick and died in that same year.  Did Isie get to see him one last time?

Irving Passport App 1921

Irving’s Passport Application.  See the letter from his mother under the Tobias and Seri Section.

After his return, he started going by the name Irving. Also, his sister, Bella, immigrated to the United States. Although she does not live with them, Minnie signed as a witness on her naturalization papers.

Irving and May

           Irving and his daughter, May

In 1924, an Isador Wosnitzer, got divorced from a Jane Diamond.  Is this our Irving or someone else? Could this be why the 1925 Census report is so strange?  Did Minnie not want to admit that Irving had left (see census report above)? [1]

Isador and Jane Diamond Divorce

In 1929, two of Irving’s brothers send a postcard to Irving’s daughter, May. Was May and MInnie now living at that address or just Irving?

two of Irving's brothers in Poland
Text of postcard sent to May in 1929 from Poland

In 1931, Irving marries Isabel/Ita Peterfreund in Sparkhill, NY. She applies for Naturalization in 1937 and on the form Irving Wosnitzer is listed as her husband and also a Men’s hatter.  In 1940, Isabel divorces Irving.

Isabel Wosnitzer Naturalization

In 1936, The Watson Hat Co. leased space in Philadelphia. Is this the start of Irving’s business?  In 1942, the I. Watson Hat Company shows up in NYC listings.  In 1948, he is involved more than one lawsuit and awarded fees from his accounts.

I. Watson Hat Co in the news
1924 Directory Listing for Watson Hats
I. Watson Hat Co.

On his WWII draft card, he lists Ida Wosnitzer as his next of kin. Ida will be his last wife. We also learn that he had blue eyes and brown hair and was 5′ 6 1/2″ tall, and weighed 169 lbs. He was considered to have a light complexion.

IRving Wosnitzer WWII Draft Card

Irving Wosnitzer WWII draft card - back

Even though he was divorced, did he continue to support his daughter?

According to my father. Bernard Blieden, my mother did not see her father for at least 10 years.  After my parents got married, my father encouraged her to look him up.  She did, and my father even worked for him for a while.  However, my grandmother did not like that arrangement so the association was short-lived.  My mother did continue to see her father, though, as she always told me that he gave me a toy telephone for my first birthday.

According to one of my mother’s first cousins, Irving always sent money for at least my mother’s clothes as she was always well-dressed.  Millie A., my mother’s cousin, met him for the first time right after I was born.  She went to visit my mother and to meet me and when she got to the apartment, Irving was holding me.  She knew immediately he was May’s father, since she thought May looked just like him.  She was flabbergasted to find out in 2018, that Irving was not May’s birth father. In her mind, there was a strong facial resemblance.

Irving died on Feb. 28, 1949.  He is buried in Wellwood Cemetery in Long Island, NY. My mother was distraught since she had only recently got to know him again.

Isador Wosnitzer Obit
Irving Wosnitzer Gravestone

What is a little strange, is that my mother’s birth father, Abe E. Kessler, is also burried in Wellwood Cemetery.

His current wife, Ida, begged Minnie to loan her money to apy Irving’s debts. She said that until the Estate got finalized, she did not have the money.

Estate Letter of Irving Wosnitzer

Irving Wosnitzer


[1] Divorces in New York – from the article we learn with few exceptions, adultery was the only grounds under which divorces were granted in New York until 1967. Also, women would pretend to be widowed or single.

Family stories and papers.

Outstanding Questions

  • How did Irving and Minnie meet?
  • Where did Irving live and work between 1900 and 1903?
  • What did Minnie do for all the years she did not have a child?
  • When did Irving start working for his Uncle Max?
  • When did Irving and Minnie get divorced?
  • When did he start the I. Watson Hat Company?
  • Was he married to a Jane Diamond?
  • What did Irving die from?