Before he died, my dad gave me a box of old family photos. Some are labeled, many not. I confess I kind of forgot about the box until I started working on the One House project. It's a treasure trove of images, and I've spent hours marveling at photos of my grandparents as children, and trying to figure out who's who among the orphan pictures. There are a couple of photos of my great-grandfather Julius Gottschalk. In one he is wearing some ceremonial uniform--I imagine it is a fraternal order of some sort. In another he is leaning against the doorframe of his saloon in Brooklyn. This is the one I decided to use in my One House panel.
Julius Gottschalk Wein and Lager Bier. Julius came to the US in 1866 from Germany with his wife Marie, three-year old daughter Helene, and infant son Herman. I don't know when the photo was taken. Julius was born in 1836, so I'm imagining this must have been 1880 or there abouts. I was really charmed by the rakishness of Julius's pose--his splendid mustache and dapper clothes. And the romance of a great-grandfather who owned a Brooklyn saloon.
Family lore has it that Julius, a Jew from Germany, married a Swiss Lutheran countess, Marie von Rammenstein, and they emigrated to the United States to escape family disapproval. Julius was indeed Jewish, but thus far none of us have found any evidence that there were von Rammensteins, just plain Rammensteins. And, when he died, Julius was buried in a Lutheran cemetery in Kings County, NY.
I wonder if, like the musical Hamilton, "In New York you can be a new man"--an American assimilation story. In the new land, Julius became a Christian, and Marie a countess.