Rabinowitzes of Harlem

Hunting for the truant officer

Tracking Blossom and Meta is harder since we don't have married names for them, but the Rabinowitz boys should be trackable. I checked Julius and found a 1920 census listing Anna as spouse, and three children Seymour, Abner and Judith. Walter's history mentions that Julius had a daughter Judith who was friendly with Stan's sister Joan, and who was about Joan's age. Sure enough, Judith Rabinowitz is one year old in 1920.

Walter's history also has Julius working for the New York City school board as a truant officer, but the census records show his occupation as bookkeeper (1910) and clerk-dry goods (1920). Perhaps it was one of the other brothers, Henry, Seymour or Abe, who worked in the schools. Like his younger brother Walter, Julius registered for the draft in 1918 even though he was then 41 years old.

Checking the other brothers, there are several plausible Henry Rabinowitzes, none a truant officer. I have an Abraham Rabinowitz who matches Walter's description as a men's clothing cutter. In 1920, he lives in the Bronx with wife Celia and children Yetta and Isadore. For Seymour, I have a 1917 draft registration card listing him as an unemployed bookkeeper who is blind in one eye, a 1930 census record showing him living alone in the Bronx and working as a--aha, there it is--a truant officer in the public schools, and a New York death notice recorded in February 1963.

Seymour's draft card

I noticed on Seymour Rabinowitz's draft registration that he gives his real birth date but changes the year to make himself 28 instead of 30. Was that intentional to get into the war? However, the card also notes that he is blind in one eye. Was that to get out of the war? This is our future truant officer, now an unemployed bookkeeper.

It would be worth reading up on the draft of 1917-18 to get a sense of how popular the war was. Were men of all ages required to register? It's interesting that Julius registered at age 41.

The 1917-18 military drafts

Here are excerpts from Kennedy about the 1917-18 military drafts. There will be more from him on other subjects, such as the gassing of American troops in France, at a later time.

Wilson might have accepted a comporomise that permitted at least an interim trial to the volunteer system, had not his arch-rival Theodore Roosevelt been busily establishing himself, with strong Republican backing, as the coountry's most visibly eligible volunteer....

Wilson determined to nullify the possibility that Roosevelt might lead a volunteer division to France by largely foreclosing all forms of volunteering....

The first order of business was to compile a national roster of eligible men in the designated age group between 21 and 30. The government quickly decided that the only expedient way to proceed was somehow to induce the men to come forward and register themselves. It was not at all certain that this scheme would work. Memories of Civil War draft riots haunted the adminitration. Senator James Reed of Missouri starkly predicted that the streets of America would run red with blood on registration day, June 5....

Governors, mayors, chambers of commerce, and state council of defense joined in concerted patriotic incantation to urge young men to the registarion places on June 5. Wilson himself struck the keynote of this gigantic propaganda exercise when he proclaimed, some what disingenuously, that the draft was not really a draft but a "selection from a nation which has volunteered in mass." ...

For all its ambiguity, the administration's approach to the distasteful business of military impression was largely successful. Nearly ten million men presented themselves at their local polling places to be registered on June 5, and the day, somewhat to Secretary Baker's amazement, went by without serious incident...

At 10:00 am on July 20, a blindfolded Baker drew the first draft number from a huge glass bowl in a ceremony at the Senate Office Building. College student tellers drew more numbers throughout the afternoon and evening, until by two the following morning a national "order-of-call" list had been compiled and telegraphed to local boards throughout the country...

At first the administration proceeded rather hesitantly against "slackers." By mid-1918 the Justice Department had prosecuted only 10,000 persons for failure to register. But in March of that year the Department inauguarted a new tactic, aimed not at the individual offender but designed to round up thousands of delinquents in one swoop. Justice Department agents launched the first "slacker raid" in Pittsburgh. More raids followed in Chicago, Boston and other cities, most notoriously in New York and norther New Jersey from September 3 thorough 6. In these last raids, armed soldier and sailors joined a canvass that detained more than 50,000 apparently draft-age men who were often apprehended at bayonet point in ball parks, restaurants, or on street corners and made to show their Selective Service documents....

In August, Congress extended the eligible age limits to 18 and 45, a step that called for a massive new registration on September 12 of the estimated 13 million men under 21 and over 30 now suddenly liable to the draft...

Joseph and Lena in the 1900 census

Wow! The1900 census has Joseph born in about 1855 and Lena in 1857, which is really getting back there. Lena is 36 when she has Walter, her last of 8 children (one deceased). They reside at 288 Pleasant Ave. in Manhattan, wherever that is. A deluge of info--but I have to stop now because must get up and finish writing a story tomorrow.

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