Monday, March 7, 2016

Harry and Bessie Tepper Nitt

Bessie Tepper and Harry Nitt, about 1917
     Rebecca, or Bessie as she was commonly known, was one of the children of Meier David and Lena Tepper about whom I have posted off and on over the past year.  Bessie was born in Miropol, Ukraine, around 1892.  She moved with the family to Baranivka, then travelled with her parents and many of her siblings to the U.S.,through Libau, Latvia,  arriving in New York on December 22, 1907 aboard the SS Lituania[1].  The family then travelled by train to Philadelphia to join the siblings already established in that city.  
     By 1910, Bessie was working in a shirt factory in Philadelphia, and living with her parents at 312R Front Street[2].  On February 1, 1914, 22 year old Bessie married Joseph Stanley Blender[3].  Joseph was also born in Russia, had come to the US in about 1902, and had served in the US Coast Artillery from December 1909 until May 13, 1912, when he was discharged for disability[4].  The marriage did not last long, and by the time he registered for the draft for WWI in 1917, he listed himself as single and living with his parents[5].
     I'm not sure what Bessie did for the next few years as I haven't been able to find her 1920 census record, but by 1924 she had met the love of her life, Harry Nitt, and on August 6, 1924 Bessie and Harry had travelled to York (Toronto), Ontario, Canada, where they were married[6].  Harry was tall, rangy and handsome, He was somewhat exotic as well, a Lutheran, raised in the American West, and a bit of a rolling stone.
     Rhinehalt Gustav "Harry" Nitt was the son of a German immigrant, Pauline Mampel, and her husband Gustave Nitt a first generation American.  Pauline came to the US in 1885 destined for Detroit, MI[7].  She worked as a domestic[8]. S  In August 1889 she married Gustave Nitt, a blacksmith[9]. A son, Rheinhalt Gustav, was either born in June 1889 or in June 1890 according to various records.  By 1894,  Gustave had moved to the town of Denver Colorado where he continued to work as a blacksmith[10]. Denver had benefited from a "silver boom" and was growing rapidly, attracting workers to support new industries.  The boom ended suddenly in 1893 with a financial panic, leaving Denver and the country in the grip of a severe depression.  Denver did not begin to recover until 1897.  Gustave had died in Denver in 1896, leaving his young wife and son[11]. In the 1900 census of Denver, Pauline is listed as a widow, and 9 year old Harry is still in school[12].  Sometime around 1909, Harry married a woman named Hildred Josepha (last name unknown.)  They are listed in the 1910 census as living in Sterling, Colorado where Harry worked as a cement worker[13].  In the 1911-1912 Business directory for Sterling, Hildred is listed as working for the New Method Laundry and living at 528 Walnut St[14].  There is no mention of Harry.
     When Harry registered for the WWI draft on June 5, 1917, he was living in Salem, New Jersey, not far from Philadelphia, and working as a munitions worker at the DuPont Powder Company.  He declared himself to be married, although I have found no record of Hildred at that time in New Jersey or elsewhere[15].  Based on the clothing from the photo above, it is likely that Harry and Bessie met at about this time.
     I have not been able to find either Bessie or Harry in US or Canadian records until August 6, 1924, when Rhinehalt Gustav Harry Nitt, 34, a salesman, son of Pauline Mampel, and Bessie Rose Tepper, 32, daughter of David Tepper and Lena Zelbsman signed a marriage record in Toronto, Canada.  They both listed themselves as widowed, although I don't believe that their ex spouses were dead, but this designation was not unusual at a time when divorce was not approved of in many places[16]. (I have spent some time trying to determine the fates of Hildred and Joseph with no success so far.)
     Although Harry and Bessie had no children, they were welcoming to Bessie's nieces and nephews.  They moved to San Luis Obispo, California, sometime in the 1920s.  There is a family story that Bessie's nephew Hy Cohen (of whom more in another post) took has Bar Mitzvah money and travelled from Philadelphia to California in about 1925 to live with Bessie and Harry there.   Another of Bessie's great nieces told me that her mother and baby brother lived with Bessie and Harry during WWII when her husband was stationed on the West Coast.
     By 1930 Harry was a clothing salesman[17].  By 1935 they had moved to Santa Monica, where they rented various homes near the Santa Monica Pier[18] and took in boarders, one of whom was a friend of the (then little known) Desi Arnaz, who used to call the house often.  Harry was still a salesman, and Bessie had a concession on the pier[19].  Bessie's great niece told me that Bessie was a nurse during the war.  Harry had gone gray, and standing at 6' 1/2" 225 pounds was no longer rangy by the time he registered in the "Old Man's draft" in 1942.  He still worked "In and around Santa Monica"[20].  Harry died on July 17, 1953[21].
     Sometime after Harry's death, Bessie moved to Atlantic City, New Jersey,[22] where her sister Jennie lived.  According to one of her great-nieces, she worked as a "shill" at an auction house on the boardwalk.  Later, after the death of her sister-in-law Ida Tepper in 1963, she moved to Miami, Florida, to help her brother.  She continued close contact with her family in Philadelphia area, visiting often for family occasions, anniversaries, Bar Mitzvah's and the like, and entertaining family who visited Miami.  I remember her as warm and funny.  Bessie died in Miami in August, 1966[23].

1., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2010),, Year:1907; Arrival: New York; Microfilm serial : T715, 1897-1957; Microfilm Roll: 1064; Line 15, Page 133, Record for Riwke Teper.
2., 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2006), database online. Year 1910; Census Place: Philadelphia Ward 11, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Roll T6254_1390; Page 6B; Enumeration District 159; Image:13. Record for David Japper.
3.  Philadelphia City Archives. Philadelphia, PA. Marriage Record for Joseph Stanley Blender and Bessie Tepper. Filed Jan 8, 1914.  License No. 306833 copy held by Mary-Jane Roth
4.  U.S. Army Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2007), Database on-line.  Record for Joseph S. Blender
5., U.S. World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2005). Registration State: Pennsylvania; Registration County; Philadelphia; roll: 1907647; Draft board 27. Record for Joseph Stanley Blender.
6. and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1926 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2010) Database online.  Record for Rhinehalt Gustav Harry Nitt.
7., New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2006),, Database online. Year:1885; Arrival :New York, United States; Microfilm serial: M237; Microfilm roll: M237_490; Line:29; List Number: 1241. Record for Pauline Mampel.
8., U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2011), Record for Pauline Mampel. Detroit, 1888.
9., Michigan Marriage Records, 1867-1952 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2015) Ancestry. com, Record for H.H. Gustav Nitt.
10., Ballenger & Richards twenty-second annual Denver city directory containing a complete list of the inhabitants, institutions, (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2005). Record for <No Name>.  Gustave Nitt
11., U.S. Find a Grave Index, 1600-Current (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2012),,  Record for Gustave Nitt.
12., 1900 Unitred States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2004),, Year: 1900; Census place: Denver, Arapahoe , Colorado; Roll:119; Page:10B; Enumeration District: 0102; FHL Microfilm: 1240119. Record for Pauline Nil.
13., 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2006), Database online. Year:1910; Census Place: Sterling Ward 3, Logan, Colorado; Roll;; Page; Enumeration District: Iname: Record for Hildred Joseh Nitt.
14. Hoffhine's Sterling Colorado directory for 1911-1912 containing an alphabetical arranged list of business firms and prove (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2005)., Record for <no name> Hildred Nitt.
15., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Provo, UT, USA Operations, Inc., 2005),, Database online.  Registration Location: Salem county, New Jersey; Roll: 1754437; Draft Board: 1; Record for Harry Rhineholt Gustave Nitt.
16. and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), Ontarion, Canada Marriages, 1801-1926 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010), database online.  Record for Rhinehalt Gustav Harry Nitt.
17., 1930 United States Federal Census (Provo, Ut, USA, Operations, Inc., 2002) Database online. Year: 1930; Census place: San Luis Obispo, San Luis Obispo, California; Roll: 213; Page: 8A; Enumeration District:21; Image: 364.0; Record for Rhinehalt G. Nitt.
18. 1940 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2012) Year: 1940; Census Place: Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California; Roll: T627_256; Page 1B; Enumeration District: 19-761. Record for Harry G. Nitt.
19. California Voter Registrations, 1900-1968 (Provo, Ut. USA, Operations, Inc., 2008). Database online.
20. U.S. World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2010).  World Wat II Draft Cards (4th Registration) for the Sate of California; State Headquarters: California; Microfilm Roll: 603155.  Record for Rhinehalt Gustav Nitt.
21. U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index. 1936-2007) (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2015). Record for Rhinehalt G. Nitt.  And California Death Index, 1940-1997. (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2000). Database Online. Place: Los Angeles; Date 17 Jul 1953: Social Security: XXXXXXX Record for Harry Gustav Nitt.
22., U.S. City Directories, 1922-1995 (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc. 2011), Record for Mrs. Bessie Nitt.
23.  Social Security Death Index (Provo, UT, USA, Operations, Inc., 2009). Database online. Number XXXXXXXXXX; Issue State: California; Issue Date: Before 1951. Record for Bessie Nitt.