• Insider dealings in the French jewelry trade • Swank cocktail parties for the Nazi elite • A rough-cut Jewish jeweler and his ebullient new wife • Where Henry Kissinger met Le Duc Tho
Here is the story of one prestigious Parisian address over 75 years of history.
When I was eight years old in the summer of 1961, my family traveled in Europe on the way to spending a year in Israel. (My father, a scientist, would be on sabbatical there.)
In Paris, we visited my mother's glamorous Aunt Hilda, who lived with her second husband, Joseph Liebman, a jeweler, in a grand villa near the Seine in the suburb of Neuilly.
My most vivid recollection of the house is all of the marble surfaces. Also, the potency of the rum cake served after dinner, which caused me to tip over in my chair.
Hilda was the younger sister of my grandmother Elly Ringel, daughters of the Wohlgemuth from Danzig. Hilda and her first husband traveled with Elly and my mother in their difficult escape from Europe between 1939 through 1941.
That's a different story. Hilda split from her husband after arriving in New York. While Elly took up millinery work—hatmaking—to support her daughter, Hilda became a chambermaid in the Catskills, on the lookout for an eligible new husband.
She found one in Joseph Liebman, the Russian-born French jeweler who was waiting out the war in the U.S. Later he would maintain a base in New York after recovering his holdings in Paris and Monte Carlo.
Joe and Hilda lived a fabulous lifestyle in the 1950s and '60s, with lavish apartments in New York and Monte Carlo as well as the villa in Neuilly.
As children, we saw them a few times in New York and we would get gifts from Hilda regularly. Very often, the package would be a ski sweater sent from Chamonix or St. Moritz.
That 1961 stay in Paris gave us a glimpse into the Liebman's lifestyle. We visited the iconic Clerc jewelery store on the Place de l'Opera, the centerpiece of Joe's empire.
But it would be many more years until we understood more about his business and life story.
Joseph Liebman died in 1968, and from what we heard from our mother, the lion's share of the estate went to Arnaud Clerc, Joe's son by a previous marriage.
Hilda was left with resources to maintain a lifestyle. Arnaud took possession of the villa and Hilda lived in the apartment at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo.
Our family members got to see her on European visits. I saw her a few last times when she came to New York for cancer treatments in the late 1970s. She died in 1983.
All of that faded into the recesses of memory until 2010 when my sister Joanne was in Paris and wanted to go by the address of the Neuilly villa. I looked online to see if I could figure out the location.
There I discovered a French-language jewelery blog giving a history of the founding and early years of the Clerc jewelery business. The blogger, one Jean-Jacques Richard, recounted that founder Remy Charles Clerc expanded from an original location to add two adjacent storefronts on the Place de l'Opera.
He meant to leave one store to each of three heirs, but one son died in World War I and the other two ended up in a dispute over the inheritance.
According to the blog, the founder's son Charles assumed control of the company in the 1920s but met with losses and took on outside partners.
In 1932, a syndicate led by Antwerp diamond merchant Joseph Liebman took over control of the Clerc brand, inventory and real estate, including the store leases and the residential villa in Neuilly.
Later during the Nazi era, one of the original Clerc brothers would try to reclaim ownership of the business. That case is the main reason that we know what happened with the Clerc business and property during the years of the Occupation.
After the German invasion of the Low Countries in May 1940, Joe made hurried preparations to close his affairs and flee from Paris with his wife and two children.
He arranged for a non-Jewish associate to assume token ownership of the business, and left the villa in the hands of an Italian friend.
He departed Paris with jewelry stock worth close to 4 million francs, about half of which he left on deposit in a bank in Perpignan. The remainder he carried on his person on his voyage to America.
The attempted recovery of the Perpignan assets would become a prime obective of the "aryanization" proceedings to come.
It was Nazi policy to "aryanize" Jewish-owned businesses in its occupied territory. In Paris, an office headed by Dr. Blanke was in charge of economic aryanization of French businesses.
Seized businesses were placed under the control of an administrator, who could either sell it off or run it as a business under new management.
Armand Biney was appointed as the administrator of the Clerc Bijouterie. He brought in new management and found an appropriate tenant for the property in Neuilly.
Instead of selling the property, he rented it to the politically connected Walter Kleinknecht, a German businessman and intelligence operative.
Kleinknecht's wife was a former French cabaret singer Laure Dissard, though their relationship was more of an arrangement. Laure had numerous liaisons among the French collaborationists and new Nazi elite.
She held soirees at the Neuilly villa where Occupation and Vichy power brokers engaged in political intrigues. She became an informant herself, reporting against Resistance activities.
In 1948, Der Spiegel reported that Dissard met Adolf Hitler in Berlin in the aftermath of the July 22, 1944 assassination attempt against him. Others in her circle were implicated in the plot. Walter Kleinknecht was arrested and summarily executed.
Dissard was spared. She returned to Paris in time for the Liberation, and was able to pass herself off as a Resistance member on the basis of her husband's demise.
She went on to work with American intelligence after the war and established several business enterprises. But her days as the salon mistress of Neuilly were finished.
Joe was able to reclaim his property after the war. The French blog has two citations from 1946 and 1960 of cases in which Joe makes claims for restitution.
But we know that by the 1950s, he had resumed operation of the Place de l'Opera store and also of the jewelry concession at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo. He and Hilda also resumed occupancy in Neuilly.
Joe's two children, Arnaud and Helene, both married and raising families, remained in the United States.
Hilda loved to share her extravagant lifestyle with her practical older sister.
We have my grandmother Elly's collection of photos and letters from Hilda through the years.
Here they are in 1965 during one of Elly's visits to Neuilly. The dining room is the same salon where Laure Dissard entertained.
Arnaud and Hilda came to an agreement after Joe's death in Monte Carlo in 1968. Helene must have been a part of that, too, but she lived with her American family in the unlikely location of Birmingham, Ala.
Hilda received a generous income from the Liebman estate but no substantial inheritance.
Arnaud assumed control of the business and of the house in Neuilly. He set about establishing himself as a personality.
In 1972, Arnaud Clerc was in the news when his villa in Neuilly served as a venue during the Henry Kissinger Paris peace talks.
Arnaud was active in the American community in Paris and was connected at the U.S. embassy. He offered to make his home available for unofficial negotiating sessions between the American and Vietnamese ministers.
A first meeting between Henry Kissinger and Lee Duc Tho took place at 31 rue de la Saussaye in June of 1972. It was kept secret from the press corps and went unreported at the time.
Like his father, Arnaud divorced and married a younger glamorous wife, Anita, in 1968. She bore him a son Gerald, half sibling to the two children from the first marriage.
Madame Clerc, as Anita was called, presided over a literary awards dinner that Arnaud hosted for many years.
The author Michel Clerc (no relation) was honored there in 1974 as reported in the fashion magazine l'Officiel.
When Arnaud died in 1989, with Helene Mack predeceased, that left five grandchildren to divvy up the Liebman estate.
The youngest, Gerald, was the one with an interest in the Clerc business and brand. But he was just 20 at the time and things took their course.
The jewelery store location was sold to Maty and the villa in Neuilly was sold in a private transaction.
In 1996, Gerald Clerc revived the Clerc trademark and brand in the U.S. and Europe. He worked on high-tech watch designs and sells his creations under the brand of Clerc Watches, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
When I became involved in the story after reading the French blog, I was able to correct Jean-Jacques Richard's misunderstanding about Gerald's rights to Clerc brand. I could prove Gerald Clerc is the son of Arnaud Clerc, and that Arnaud was the son of Joseph Liebman.
Since there is no ongoing dispute over the legitimacy of the original business transfer in 1932, Gerald has every right to do business under the Clerc brand.
After I found the address of the Neuilly villa in one of M. Richard's archive documents, Joanne was able to walk up to the villa gate in June 2012.
She was unannounced but the wife of the current owner let her snap a photo of the house in its current condition. The woman told Joanne that she knew a bit about the history of Joseph Leibman.
This was now her private home and she did not wish to invite Joanne inside or share any recent developments.
Still we are sure of one thing: If walls could talk, the plasterwork at 31 rue de la Saussaye would have interesting tales to tell.
In July 1940, consular officials from three countries conspired to open an escape route for Jews, including my family, into Portugal. Why did they do it?
In the aftermath of the German invasion of the Low Countries and France in May 1940, a wave of refugees descended on the southwestern region of France.
Homeless hordes from Holland, Belgium and the north of France joined uprooted residents in the newly created Vichy puppet state in the south.
For the refugees, and especially the Jews among them, getting out of France before the Nazis exercised full control could be a matter of life and death.
The German Jewish widow Elly Ringel and her daughter Helga had been living in Nice since fleeing Berlin in 1938. Now they would have to flee again.
Elly was officially stateless but she carried with her a document proving her late husband's origins in a city, Rzeszow, in Poland.
Before leaving Nice, Elly had Hermann Ringel's Polish domicile document translated into French.
Along with Elly's sister and her sister's husband, the Ringel party went first to Lyon, gateway to the Swiss frontier, but reversed course after recognizing a Gestapo agent there.
In Marseille, they found the Polish consulate closed until further notice. After several days, they heard rumors of people obtaining visas in Bordeaux, on France’s Atlantic coast.
Needing mobility, they stored their luggage at a station near Marseille. Later they would have the bags forwarded
For desperate refugees, one of the few ways out of Europe was first to reach to the neutral city of Lisbon, in Portugal on the other side of hostile Spain.
In Bordeaux, the Portuguese Consul General Aristides de Sousa Mendes conducted a remarkable campaign of compassion by issuing more than 10,000 Portuguese visas to trapped Jewish refugees.
The Ringel party arrived in the Bordeaux region on June 22, after Sousa Mendes had departed the city for Hendaye on the Spanish border.
Sousa Mendes was officially recalled by the Portuguese President Antonio Salazar days later in Hendaye. The Ringels arrived too late to benefit from his historically selfless actions.
A week later, in early July, the Ringel party was in Toulouse among the throngs of refugees crowding city squares and clamoring at consulate gates.
Portugal's consulate was particularly besieged, where Vice Consul Emile Gissot (a Frenchman) was under orders to issue transit visas only to those holding a visa and ticket to a final destination.
Perhaps it was Wozniak who advised Elly to go next to another consulate on the Avenue Strasbourg to request a visa for a certain Caribbean island. Or maybe it was a rumor she picked up on the street.
But days later, on July 11, she obtained from the consulate of the Netherlands' government-in-exile a visa to travel to the Caribbean island of Curaçao—and presumably not for a holiday vacation.
With the Curaçao stamp, she was then able to go to Portugal's consulate and secure from Emile Gissot the really critical credential, a transit visa to Lisbon, the last open port in mainland Europe.
Things were no less hectic at the consulate of the Republic of Polish government-in-exile, where the appointed consul had himself taken flight.
On July 5, Elly Ringel presented her husband's Polish citizenship documentation to acting consul Stanisław Wozniak.
On the basis on the domicile document, Wozniak issued a Polish passport to the widow Ringel and her daughter Helga.
But it was just the first of a series of documents they would need to acquire.
Emile Gissot, a retired French foreign service officer, issued visas as the Portuguese vice consul for Sousa Mendes in Toulouse. Later he took the initiative to establish the Curaçao connection.
A.J. Van Dobben and G.P. Pichal, the Dutch honorary consul who was a Philips Company executive and his career officer deputy, authorized tourist visas to scores of refugees in July 1940.
Stanislaw Wozniak carried on the functions of the Polish consulate in Toulouse after the premature departure of Consul Stanislaw Dygat, later a prominent cultural figure in Poland.
The Heinrich Freudmann family obtained the first known Curaçao visa, as documented by the Aristides de Sousa Mendes Foundation.
Otto Strasser, the incognito former Nazi leader then on the run from Hitler, was advised by Emile Gissot to obtain a Dutch Curaçao visa.
Zbigniew Kowalski, a Polish freedom fighter, used a Curaçao visa to escape to England.
Sally Noach of the Dutch resistance Engelandvaarder movement described the role of A.J. Van Dobben in the affair.
The Irwin Schiffres family got to Lisbon from Marseilles with a visa for a different Dutch possession.
With Gissot's transit visa in hand, the Ringel party was able to obtain permits to exit France and cross Spain.
They laid over for several days in Perpignan, where they collected their forwarded luggage. They entered Spain by rail on July 23, routed through Barcelona and Madrid, and crossed into Portugal at Biera Marvao on July 28.
Their exact itinerary from Toulouse to Lisbon is documented by the visa stamps in Elly's Polish passport.
The Ringels then spent nine months living in Lisbon, while seeking further visas to North and South America. They never intended to go to Curaçao.
Another celebrated instance of Dutch Curaçao visas occurred two weeks later on the other side of Europe, in the city of Kovno in German-occupied Lithuania.
The Dutch honorary Consul in Kovno, Jan Zwartendijk, a local Philips executive, notated on hundreds of Jewish passports that tourists to Curaçao needed no visa.
With that notation, Japanese Consul Chiune Sugihara issued visas for Lithuanian Jews to travel to Shanghai, crossing the Soviet Union by rail.
Zwartendijk and Sugihara are recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for their life-saving collaboration.
Since Curaçao visas were issued in Toulouse and Kovno within a two-week period in July 1940, both involving honorary Dutch consuls who were local Philips executives, could there have been a connection?
Detailed accounts of the Zwartendijk case provide a plausible independent origin for the Curaçao idea in Kovno. Despite the influence of the Philips Company on Dutch government policy, it is most likely the idea arose independently in the two cases.
A survey of practices in the Portuguese foreign services reveals a pattern of humanitarian responses to the Jewish refugee crisis, counter to Salazar's government policies.
The Ringels sailed from Lisbon on April 1, 1941 aboard the SS Guine, bound for a stopover in New York on the way to South America, where they held a residence permit in Ecuador.
In New York, Elly and her sister got shore leave while Helga and her uncle were held at Ellis Island. Elly found an unrelated American, Judge William Ringel, to sponsor her entry into the United States.
With that assurance, the party was able to leave the U.S. and re-enter in another port. They sailed to Havana, Cuba, and entered the U.S. on May 23 in Miami as legal immigrants.
Although many Curaçao visas were issued, only a few Jewish refugees actually went there.
One group arrived on the SS Cabo de Hornos in November 1941 when the Dutch government gave sanctuary to 83 refugees who had been turned away in Brazil and Argentina. At the end of the war, 19 of the Cabo de Hornos passengers were still living on the island.
The SS Cuba arrived in Curaçao from Santa Domingo sometime in 1940 with the families Anholt, Mendels and Perlman on board.
Suzanne Perlman, originally of Vienna, settled in Curaçao, raised a family and became a successful artist known for her paintings of Curaçao scenes and Jewish subjects.
Aristides de Sousa Mendes and Jan Zwartendijk are recognized diplomatic saviors for their independent actions in saving tens of thousands of Jews in the summer of 1940.
How, by contrast, should we evaluate the actions of Emile Gissot and the other consuls of Toulouse?
It is likely that Gissot (and possibly Van Dobben) accepted bribes from those that they helped. We know that Gissot was later disciplined by the Portuguese government, and that Van Dobben's tenure also ended under a cloud.
Wozniak's participation may have been more purely motivated. Dygat's role in the affair is unacknowledged in his biography.
More research on each of these points remains to be done.
When and why did Walter Rabinowitz take on our abbreviated surname Ruby?
He was 23 years old in 1917, and his world was about to be transformed.
Walter Rabinowitz had been raised in the traditional ways of his Russian immigrant family in New York City's Jewish Harlem, the youngest of nine children.
But he felt an urge to assimilate into the mainstream of American culture.
He qualified to attend a prestigious high school, Dewitt Clinton, but could not afford to pursue college. That would not hinder his ambition, though.
Unlike his older brothers who had gone into the heavily Jewish garment trade, Walter was preparing himself for a career in sales.
He was shaping his identity as a second-generation Jewish American.
Walter first worked in an office job after finishing school in 1910, but found his true talent in his gift of gab. He was a natural salesman.
Within a few years, he began his career with the Lenox Novelty Co., a downtown Manhattan maker of wooden jewelry and silver-service cases and other custom wooden designs.
Walter represented the company's products to the many independent silversmiths in upstate New York and New England.
When in town, Walter would have enjoyed spending some of his money going out on the town.
Nickelodeon theaters were a popular form of entertainment. Some of the more prominent Nickelodeons did more than screen films; live performers entertained between shows.
In 1912, a fresh new act, Ruby and Edwards, was playing at the most popular Nick in the Bronx.
It was actually just two guys named Harry, a piano player and male vocalist, performing hit songs while the lyrics projected on the screen.
One can picture Walter taking notice of the intermission performer, the debonaire piano player about his own age.
He was named Harry Rubinstein but called himself Ruby. The other Harry—"Edwards" in the act—was Harry Cohn, who went on to found Columbia Pictures.
Harry Ruby's local celebrity grew, and by 1917 he was on the cusp of a storied career as a popular songwriter and motion picture composer.
By this time, Walter may have already begun using the Ruby name in certain situations, but would not do so officially while his father was living.
It would have been as if he was renouncing his family history and values.
In March 1917, Joseph Rabinowitz passed away at age 62. It was a sorrowful time for the family, but it was also the opportunity Walter had been waiting for.
Now he could reinvent himself with a fully American persona that had nothing to do with Russia and religious ritual.
In that spring of 1917, America was on the verge of entering into the First World War.
Walter was in Boston on June 5, either on business or as a short-term resident, and he reported to the local draft board.
The name he gave on that day—three months after Joseph’s death—was Walter Ruby Rabinowitz.
Soon enough, he would make it even simpler.
The other big news for Walter in 1917 is he had met a girl, a vivacious 18-year-old from a Russian-Jewish family in Albany.
It may not have been unusual for him to strike up romances in different cities on his salesman’s rounds, but this one was different.
Selma Ratner was no floozy, but a charming and witty, well-bred young lady.
They met when Walter was invited to the Ratner home in Albany. She was both lovely to look at and projected a modern style of Jewishness that appealed to him.
Walter called on Selma again when next in Albany. When he came a third time, Abe and Rose Ratner tried to slow down the romance.
But the impetuous young couple decided otherwise, running off to Chicago to be secretly married. It was said they stayed in the Palmer House on their wedding night.
No marriage record has turned up yet, so we don't know the date of their union. It was very likely before the end of 1917, because we know she became pregnant sometime during the last weeks of December.
Why would Walter and Selma elope to Chicago instead of involving their families in a joyous Jewish wedding?
Maybe the Ratner parents didn’t approve of the liaison. Maybe Walter thought he could defer military service by taking a wife. Or was it that Selma was pregnant?
This was not the first elopement in the Ratner household. In October 1916, Selma's brother George, called Peyser, had run off to Detroit to marry a non-Jewish wife.
Peyser never fully reconciled with his father, but Selma and Walter later did. That leads to the interpretation that Selma's elopement probably preceded the pregnancy.
However, the surprise marriage in Chicago might have happened anytime up until mid-May of 1918.
On May 27, 1918, Walter was inducted into the U.S. Army in Boston. Though he was married, Selma was not considered dependent since she could rely on her parents or own earning power. Walter did not receive a deferment.
He had a few weeks of basic training and shipped out for Europe on July 5, 1918. He served in Company H of the 163rd Infantry. His war experiences are another story that will be covered here.
Selma Ruby gave birth to a daughter Joan on September 28, 1918 in Albany.
One imagines Walter, maybe in a trench, receiving the happy news weeks later via military mail. He would have passed out cigars if he had them.
The fighting was brutal but the tide turned quickly. The Armistice of November 11, 1918, ended the war.
Walter returned home from overseas on February 12, 1919, and two weeks later was discharged from the Army. He was back in Albany with his wife and daughter, ready to start life anew openly under his chosen name.
None of those would have happened in the same way had he not first reimagined his identity as an American Jew during his transformational years of 1917 and 1918.
One later episode is relevant to mention.
Sometime in the mid-1930s, Walter and Selma are entertaining in the grand living room of their elegant suburban New York home.
According to the memory of Walter’s niece Sandy Brenner, sitting at the baby grand piano and entertaining the guests was the famous songwriter Harry Ruby.
The account is not verified but it is not a stretch to think that Walter Ruby cultivated a relationship with Harry Ruby and possibly gave him credit as the inspiration for his own name.
Harry Ruby had derived his assumed name from his birth name, which was Rubinstein not Rabinowitz.
Other notable Rabinowitz name-changers have preferred to become Robbins, such as famous choreographer Jerome Robbins. Two children of Walter’s brother Julius chose the name Robbins.
On the other hand, one of Walter’s sisters, Blossom Rabinowitz, became Blossom Ruby in the 1920s before she married and took her husband’s name
When weighing his decision, Walter might also have considered the gemological meaning of the word.
Ruby is not an exclusively Jewish name, but there are plenty of Jewish Rubys.
It is consistent with other Jewish surnames evoking precious stones and metals—Diamond, Pearl, Saphire, Gold and Silver.
We know that Walter admired luxury accoutrements. He may have felt that the association with the rich, red mineral to be a positive one.
Whenever I meet someone and am asked if I'm related to this or that Ruby (usually an infamous one who is covered here), I can immediately answer "no."
Because my grandfather chose the name, my only Ruby relatives are immediate family members. (We have some surviving cousins who descended from Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz, but none of them uses the Rabinowitz name today.)
Of the related Rubys:
The best hope for extending the Ruby name for another generation is probably through Eugene Ruby, the son of my brother Walter Ruby (the younger) and his former wife Lyudmila Ilishaev (of Persian Jewish ancestry).
Gene is also unmarried and so far without children, but maybe he will be the one to carry his great-grandfather’s vision into the future.
The grandchildren of a family legend learn the shocking truth about his death. It was right there on his desk calendar
We got the first inkling while sitting shiva for my aunt Joan in January 1999.
At her Long Island apartment, the table piled high with delicatessen, I examined a knick-knack on a shelf. It was a news clipping preserved under glass—an account of my grandfather's death in 1939.
It reported the facts as we had always heard them: Walter Ruby, businessman, died of an apparent heart attack in his New York City office at Rockefeller Center.
I showed the item to my brother, also named Walter Ruby, as he spoke with our cousin Wendy, the eldest child of Joan. "Oh, that was just a cover story," Wendy blurted out. "Don't you know he was a suicide."
A what? No, we had no idea, but even as she spoke it sort of made sense. Walter and I registered the shocking information, then simultaneously looked across the room at our father, Joan's younger brother Stanley, wondering what did he know?
We didn't ask—not then and not before our father passed away five years later. But Walter, a reporter, went to the municipal archive on Varick Street, where he was able to access the death certificate and attached medical examiner's report.
It confirmed what Wendy said: Walter Ruby was found dead in his office in Rockefeller Center. The cause of death was cyanide poisoning.
Next Walter did a record search with the New York Police Department and eventually received an official letter that no homicide investigation had been conducted.
That left just one possible explanation for what had happened.
Our father Stanley Ruby was 15 years old at the time of his father's death. What he knew or suspected about the circumstances of the tragedy we don't know. We know that he perpetuated the heart attack cover story throughout his life.
Now in his late 70s, there was no justifiable reason for us to possibly disturb his state of mind by probing his deepest memories. We let it rest.
But the questions resurfaced—and with it my interest in genealogy—after first Stan and then our mother Helga passed away in 2004 and 2005.
In the years since, I have been able to learn a great deal about our family history, including coming to understand one reason why Walter Ruby may have made the tragic decision to take his life.
The trigger was the proverbial box of treasures that we found in the attic when my sister Joanne and I cleaned out the townhouse after Helga's death.
Inside were photos, documents and artifacts that we never knew existed—home movies from Stan's youth, the travel papers my grandmother and mother used to escape Europe, birth and death certificates, and several personal items belonging to Walter Ruby.
One heartbreaking item in the box of artifacts was this desk calendar—with a hinged leatherette cover stamped with Walter's name and a hole cut out for a clock, and calendar pages inside with the hours sectored off from the clock face. It is designed so each page is torn away to display the current date.
This must have been on his desk on the day he died, since the pad is torn off to July 22, 1939.
A few years later, I started looking deeper into Walter Ruby's life, including his career as an advertising and marketing executive for the American Spirits liquor company, importers of Carioca rum among other brands.
I wanted to check out the bit of family lore that claimed he was the originator of the rum and coke cocktail. That was an exaggeration as libations such as the Cuba Libre were well known previously. But it turned out that he did devise a variant of the drink under the name Carioca Cooler.
Searching online, I found numerous images of Carioca artifacts—souvenir bottles, recipe book, advertisements, bar coasters—and various intriguing document citations.
Here is a page of Carioca marketing slogans that American Spirits took the trouble to copyright in 1936. They read like modern-day tweets.
My favorite: "Wanted. Name of bon vivant who discovered new rum drink." Walter Ruby, natch.
But there was trouble brewing. Pasting together snippets of a Google books excerpt of a 1941 compendium of U.S. trademark appeals court decisions, I learned that American Spirits had been sued for trademark infringement by the Coca-Cola Company.
It seems that both American Spirits and its competitor Puerto Rico Rum Co., maker of Ronrico Rum, courted Coca Cola's endorsement for a rum and coke product, but that the soft-drink company rebuffed both companies.
For a time, American Spirits actively marketed its association with Coke, as is plainly seen in this promotional bar coaster.
Possibly Carioca had a relationship with Coke's New York bottling company but not with the beverage maker itself. We know that in late 1937, Walter left American Spirits abruptly.
It appears that he was made the fall guy for the trouble with Coca Cola and was suddenly dismissed from the company.
For the next 18 months, Walter pursued new projects related to the beverage industry. One of them was manufacturing a barman's tool, a combination opener-corkscrew-pen, which may be why the death certificate shows his occupation as manufacturer.
He maintained a private office at Rockefeller Center, where American Spirits was also quartered.
July 22, 1939 was a Saturday. As was not especially unusual, Walter had work to catch up on even over the weekend.
He left Long Beach on LIRR and arrived at his Rockefeller Center office by mid-morning.
Like every day, the first thing he did was tear off the top sheet of his desk calendar, setting it to the day's date.
What happened then we can only guess.
Later that Saturday afternoon, police arrived at the Ruby home in Long Beach. Selma Ruby received the devastating news at the door while Stan listened from the bathroom off the entry hall. "We regret to inform you...."
Then followed all the rituals: the service and burial at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Queens, and then the endless saying of kaddish for all the next year.
We can only speculate what professional and financial pressures he may have been under. If he left American Spirits under a cloud, perhaps he found it difficult to recover his reputation and business prospects.
All we know is that he left for the office on Saturday morning, July 22, 1939, and he didn't come back.
He left his widow Selma and two children well provided for. They stayed on in the Long Beach home until Selma remarried and Stan left for college.
Stanley Ruby, physicist and dreamer, died at age 80 in Los Gatos, Calif on October 18, 2004. Helga Ruby, survivor and reformer, died at age 80 in Los Gatos, Calif. on April 25, 2005.
Their three children visited the Walter and Selma Ruby grave site in 2006, an early stop in a journey that has since led us to many unexpected discoveries.
The secret behind our grandfather's desk calendar is not a source of shame but a ray of enlightenment upon our own past, present and future.
More stories about 'family secrets'
Among the five Lewi siblings were a composer, a painter and a mathematician—exemplars of a cultured German Jewry that stayed true to the bitter end.
The five Lewi siblings were the heirs of a grand German Jewish cultural tradition. Born into a Danzig merchant family in the 1870s, the Lewi children were drawn to education, science and the arts.
Three of them who followed their muse epitomized the heights of cultural achievement attained by this generation of acculturated German Jews.
The pity of it all, in the phrase of scholar Amos Elon, is that such shining achievements could be snuffed out so readily in the aberration of history that followed.
Two of the female siblings married and they each had one child. The other siblings—a musician, a painter and a mathematician—never married and stayed true to their art, and their country, until the bitter end..
Of the five siblings, only Rosa Lewi Feidt survived the cataclysm that ended Jewish existence in Germany and Prussia.
Except for a brief 'robel tobel' on holiday, Minna resisted marriage lest it interfere with her professional life as an artist.
Minna had her studio in Berlin-Wilmersdorf at Achenbachstrasse 5. We still hve her painting of the snow-covered scene, the view from her window in winter.
Another view from a window, the one from the alcove in the Feidt residence above the Kaufhaus, is shown on the cover of the book.
Minna Lewi's work was shown in major exhibitions in Hamburg (1910) and Bermen (1912).
Her painting Houses in a rural setting at Lüneberg was sold to a collector in 1995. A sculpture Male Nude with Ball sold at auction in 2003.
Her portraits and scenes in which she specialized, as well as her sculpted bronzes, leave no doubt as to her talent.
Long before the general emancipation of women, Hedwig distinguished hersef by gaining a doctorate and then working under the physicist Max Planck at the University of Berlin.
Planck taught in Berlin from 1889 to 1928; it was Planck who first evolved the quantum theory, which was further developed by Albert Einstein working with Planck.
We do not know the exact extent of Hedwig's involvement with quantum theory but she was certainly part of it and these must have been exciting times.
Gustav suffered terribly from asthma, the reason he never married.
He was apprenticed to his mother's brother, uncle Theodor Kleemann, to learn the tea and coffee import business.
But he would secretly write music under the lid of his desk until he was allowed to give up a business career to concentrate on music.
Gustav's career brought him considerable prosperity, evidenced by his residence on the elegant, tree-lined Kurfürstendamm.
In May 2018, a concert of his music was broadcast from Vienna and Berlin.
Two other sisters followed more conventional paths.
Rosa Lewi married Moritz Feidt, an entrepreneurial department store owner in the mold of Rosa's merchant family members. Their son Gerhard Feidt later took over the business.
Rosa escaped Germany in 1938 to live out her years as a emigre in London.
Franziska Lewi married her cousin Alfred Lewi, from a branch of the family that had converted as Protestants. Neither cousin marriages nor inter-religion marriages were outside the norms of the time.
Religious conversion and intermarriage were of little concern to the Nazis. Alfred, Fränze and their daughter Annie were equally subject to the racial laws.
Fränze and her husband were deported in 1942 and perished at Theresienstadt. Annie made it out and later married in the United States.
Within days of his election, Hitler set about dismantling all the constitutional safeguards of democracy in Germany. The repressions hit home on every Jewish family in ways large and small.
For the artistic Lewi siblings, their professional opportunities were severely restricted.
• We don't know about Hede's career at this point, but she would no longer have been able to hold a university position.
• Minna lost her representation by a Kurfurstendamm art gallery and later sold her paintings only through a Jewish dealer.
• Gustav could not perform or publish under his Lewi name, so he continued to work under an alias—Gustav Leonhardt—for several more years.
The Lewi siblings were all in their sixties now. Except for Rosa, who followed her son to England, the others declined to seek a new life abroad.
They felt too old, too weak and simply not prepared to face the upheavals of emigration and the rigors of starting over.
Rosa said goodbye in 1938, months before the tragedy of Kristallnacht and the ensuing desperation for Jews still left behind in Berlin.
She lived out her days among other Jewish refugees in a district of London.
Alfred Lewi and Fränze owned a flat at Berlin-Charlottenburg 4, Mommsenstrasse 31, around the corner from the Wilmersdorferstrasee where they lived for most of their married life. They were recorded on Mommsenstrasse in the 1939 census.
Sometime after that, seeking security, Gustav and Hede moved in with them there. But it was only to be a temporary respite. In May 1941, Alfred and Fränze moved on to Bambergerstrasse 41, the address from which they would be deported the following year.
Minna had given up her longtime studio on Achenbachstrasse and retreated to an address at Berlin-Schöneberg, Courbierestrasse 1 with a family by the name of Polke. First Hede and then Gustav moved in with her there.
But Gustav fell ill and was cared for over a period of months in the Jewish Hospital in Berlin. He passed away of natural causes on September 30, 1941. Rosa received the news three months later In London, relayed from Annie in America.
The deportations of Jews from Berlin to ghettos and killing centers in eastern Europe began in October 1941. By the following year, elderly Jews from Berlin were included among those deported to Thereseinstadt and elsewhere.
Thousands of Jews remained in Berlin, mostly those who had gone into hiding and also part-Jews and Jews with a non-Jewish spouse, who were initially excluded from deportation.
Almost all of those deported were killed. Hundreds of Jews committed suicide rather than submit to the deportations.
By June 1942, Minna and Hede Lewi had already seen many of their friends sent away. Now they received an order themselves.
Minna and Hede received notification at Courbierstrasse that they too were to be deported to Theresienstadt concentration camp.
On July 3, 1942, the birthday of their beloved sister Rosa, they both took an overdose of Veronal (atropine) sleeping tablets, a barbiturate that was given to them by a sympathetic pharmacist.
They were found dead on their beds, having poisoned themselves rather than obey the summons to get on the cattle cars.
Fränze and Alfred were among 1000 other elderly Berliners on the August 17 transport to Theresienstadt. They survived there a few months, perishing the following January and March, respectively.
Rosa did not receive the news of her siblings' deaths until 1948 when a survivor tracing service turned up the truth of their fate.
The Jewish community of Berlin, still functional in July 1942, took responsibility for the burial of the Lewi sisters.
They are interred in a double grave in a section of Weissensee cemetery used during the deportation years, 1941-1943.
As many as one-third of the burials during this period were for suicide victims.
Minna, Hede and Gustav Lewi are representative of the intellectual and artistic culture that took root and flourished in Germany over several centuries, reaching its height in the pre-Nazi Weimar period.
Assimilated German Jews embraced the highest values of German culture and made immeasurable contributions in every area of the arts, science, and intellectual life.
The pity of it all is not just what was lost but also what might have been.
Two educators with Yankee roots married in an Iowa farm town in 1879—one milestone in a multi-generational saga of western migration
I: Out of Massachusetts
II: The moving frontier
III: Twenty years in Earlville
Theme: Westward Expansion
Captain George Henry Haskell
Josiah T. Stetson
Ruth Putnam Haskell Daggett Brooks
Martha Haskell Smith
Herbert E. Stetson
Hattie Smith Stetson
Isetta Stetson Bennett
Herbert Stetson and Harriett (Hattie) Smith both had roots in the Massachusetts Plymouth colony. It was the starting place for 150 years of family westward migration.
Herbert was a distant cousin to the famous Western hat maker John B. Stetson, but this story is not about him.
The first stops on their families' western journey were in northern New England—Maine for the Stetsons, Vermont and New Hampshire on Hattie’s Haskell side.
Herbert was born and raised in Sumner, Maine, the son of upright Congregationalist deacon Josiah T. Stetson. Josiah was the grandson of Revolutionary War veteran Hezekiah Stetson.
Josiah and Cynthia Cobb produced nine children on the farm in East Sumner. Herbert was the sixth.
The family practiced its Protestant values in support of the civic improvement, favoring emancipation, temperance and, eventually, women's suffrage.
They deeply valued the social benefit of a common education.
Herbert and one of his brothers studied to become educators at the newly formed Normal school in Farmington, Maine. A third brother pursued his vocation at Bowdoin College.
After graduation, Herbert taught for a few years in Maine schools and then expanded his horizons, seeking career opportunities in the ever-expanding American west.
In 1878, he accepted a position as school principal in Earlville, Iowa, a farm town on the Dubuque & Sioux City Railroad that made it a center for agricultural distribution.
Herbert Stetson was 27 years old and about to embark on his life adventure.
Hattie Smith’s family had deep New England roots—to New Haven, Connecticut on her father’s side and way back to the Mayflower on her mother’s Haskell side.
Hattie’s grandfather, Captain George Haskell, produced 15 children by three wives between 1796 and 1832.
The second one, born in 1800, was Ruth Putnam Haskell, and we will follow her story.
Ruth was born near Worcester, Massachusetts in the first year of the nineteenth century, but George Haskell relocated his family to Vermont.
They lived in several rural communities and then settled in Middlebury, Vermont.
George served with the Vermont militia in the War of 1812, earning his nickname, the Captain.
George married his third wife, Eliza Knapp, in 1814.
The middle name of a son born the next year, Charles Daggett Haskell, suggests a family relation to a Daggett family.
In 1819, Ruth Haskell married Otis Daggett of Londonderry, Vermont.
The couple immediately joined with the Haskell clan in a move into newly opened territory in the Holland Land Purchase of western New York State.
The Haskells homesteaded in Chautauqua County, New York, during the decade of the 1820s, producing eight more children including Martha Haskell, born in 1822.
The young marrieds, Ruth and Otis, remained in Chautauqua for a time, and then resettled 100 miles further west in Trumbull County, Ohio, part of the Western Reserve settlement.
They settled in Bloomfield Township and reared three Daggett sons there.
By 1832, the whole Haskell family had followed the Daggetts to North Bloomfield, Ohio.
The Captain’s brother Thomas Haskell maintained the family presence in Chautauqua after the Captain moved on.
Sadly, Otis Daggett died in 1832 and the Daggett boys were raised among the Haskell clan.
In 1839, Ruth remarried the wealthy local farmer Amadeus Brooks.
At 18, her eldest son Thomas Daggett was already on his own, settling first in Greene County, Illinois, where he married and started a family
Captain George Haskell died in 1840 and age 67 and his wife Eliza passed two years later.
A few months later, 20-year-old Martha Haskell wed Josiah T. Smith, the son of a Yankee family that had come to Ohio from the town of Cheshire, Connecticut.
They would raise seven Smith children in North Bloomfield.
The fifth born in 1854 was Harriet Eliza Smith. Everyone called her Hattie.
In the 1840s, Iowa was the new territory that settlers were flocking to.
The two younger Daggett boys, Joseph and Otis Jr., were of age to go out on their own.
The older brother, already in Illinois, scoped things out, and settled on Delaware County west of Dubuque as a site for a Daggett family homestead.
Ruth provided the resources for all three sons to get started in Iowa. Thomas brought his family from Illinois, while Joseph and Otis set up a second home nearby.
We know that Ruth herself visited because she was recorded there for the 1850 census
The Thomas Daggett family returned to Illinois for a time but the two younger sons remained in Earlville.
Joseph was in the livestock trade, and owned shares in the Texas and Iowa Cattle Co.
Otis was educated at Iowa College, then in Davenport and later renamed Grinnell College. He was ordained as a Methodist minister and served a year in an eastern congregation.
His untimely death in Iowa in 1859 cut short a promising career.
Amadeus Brooks died that same year, leaving an inheritance to his widow Ruth.
She then made the permanent move to Earlville to live with Joseph Daggett, who was unmarried.
Back in Ohio, Hattie Smith grew up and excelled in her schooling. She could have gotten to know her aunt Ruth from Iowa when Ruth came to Ohio on visits.
At 18, after the death of her mother, Josiah Smith sent her away for college, and she became the first woman in the family to gain a higher education.
Seeking employment after her graduation, she apparently learned from her aunt in Iowa that a new high school was to open in Earlville.
A farm town in Iowa may not have been Hattie’s dream job destination, but it was a place to get a start in the teaching profession. She could live with her aunt while gaining career experience.
Hattie probably did not expect to find her life mate in little Earlville, Iowa. But the new principal at Earlville High was Herbert Stetson, the serious young man from Maine.
They taught together for a full school year and in June 1879 Herbert and Hattie wed. She moved out of the Daggett place into quarters at Herbert’s rooming house.
Their first child came in 1883 followed by four others including Isetta M. Stetson, the ancestor of Bennetts and Eilertsens to come in future generations.
Hattie stepped down from teaching to raise her young children, and Herbert also moved on from his career in education, driven by the need to earn more to support the family. He became an accountant, store manager and, for a time, county auditor.
Joseph Daggett the cattle dealer died in Earlville in 1875 at age 65, leaving no family other than his elderly mother. Ruth stayed on in the Daggett home and both Hattie and Herbert helped her to manage.
Four years later, at age 89, Ruth Putnam Haskell Daggett Brooks, passed away in Earlville.
Herbert was the executor of her estate, and Hattie Stetson was a primary beneficiary, inheriting four home lots in Earlville and a farm section near to town.
Ruth’s grandchildren by Thomas Daggett, already deceased, some now settled in Kansas but one daughter still in Earlville, were the other beneficiaries.
A new century turned when Herbert and Hattie were in their late 40s. The children were all in school now. Ralph was about to graduate.
They had been in Earlville for more than 20 years. The call of the West beaconed.
Too young to retire, Herbert looked for a suitable opportunity and sometime around 1904 he found what he was looking for—a position as financial manager of the Bonner Mercantile store in a Montana mining town.
And so began a new chapter of the Stetson family in Montana, the next stop on a multi-generational family westward migration across the map of American history.