I am a retired Star-Ledger reporter who stays busy and enjoys researching important events in Newark’s history. Of current interest to me is Newark’s worst fire, which occurred on Nov. 26, 1910, and claimed the lives of 26 women and girls who were making cotton nightgowns on the top floor of a factory building on High Street at the time.
Saddest of all the stories I’ve come across in the newspaper accounts of the fire were the deaths of three sisters: Dora, Minnie, and Tillie Gottlieb of East Orange. Dora was 29; Tillie, 21, and Minnie, 19. The three were buried in the Congregation Anshe Russia cemetery on Grove Street in Newark, with their last name spelled “Gotlieb” on the headstone.
From what I’ve found so far, the women lived at 74 S. 16th St. in East Orange where, according to East Orange city directories, the family operated a hardware store at 201 Main St. Their father’s name was listed in various records as Maurice, Morris, or Maens; their mother’s first name might have been Rose.
Also living at 74 S. 16th St. was a Moses Gottlieb, who’s listed as having had a home furnishings store at 203 Main Street in East Orange.
The directories noted further that there was a brother of the victims, Benjamin. The 1910 Census lists other sisters: Rose, 24; Ida, 22, May, 14, and Estel, 12. Benjamin was listed as 16 years old.
By 1918, the East Orange directories noted that the Gottliebs had moved to Newark. A Benjamin Gottlieb appears in the 1920 Newark city directory as a grocer at 27 Liberty, but he’d moved to Philadelphia by 1925. There are no listings for the family in Newark or East Orange after that.
I realize it’s a long shot, but if anyone knows anything more about these women or their family, I’d very much appreciate hearing from them.
On Nov. 16, I will be moderating a program on the fire for the Newark History Society at the New Jersey Historical Society in Newark and will be sharing as much information about each of the victims as I can.
Of equal, if not greater, importance is a commemorative ceremony that will be held at the site of the fire on its 100th anniversary on Nov. 26. The current owners have graciously agreed to erect an historic marker on the property to remember the fire and its victims. We’re hoping to locate as many relatives of the victims as possible so they can join in the service.
Together with the famous Triangle Shirtwaist Co. fire in New York four months later, these two tragedies paved the way for some of the most significant labor reforms in U.S. history and should not be forgotten.
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