Mary Miller Cohen and Yetta
attended the Mr. Bluebeard matinee at
the Iroquois theater together and their
families hired a common attorney to file wrongful
death suits on their behalf. They lived on Chicago's near west
side in a community of Jewish immigrants from
Eastern Europe. Yetta's husband was a junk
dealer named Morris.
(The photos above are representative only of period junk peddlers, none of them
1851) was born Merke Millenthaler and adopted
the name Mary Miller when she came to America. She
and her husband, Jacob J. Cohen (1855-1928), married
in Russia in 1873 and immigrated to the United
States in 1876, first settling in Pennsylvania and
moving to Chicago around 1886. In 1903 they
lived at lived at 222 Ogden Avenue in Chicago. Her body
was taken to Gavin's funeral home and was identified
by her oldest son, twenty-four-year-old Herman Cohen (1878- ). Mary gave birth to
ten children, of which eight survived as of 1900.
Her youngest child was eight years old at the time
of Mary's death. Jacob worked as a
In 1900 a
twenty-three-year-old Goldir Witkowsky
(1876- ) lived
with the Cohen family, identified
as a cousin. She was two years younger than Mary and
a seamstress who emigrated from Russia in 1885. One
of Jacob and Mary's daughters was also
named Goldir. One of Mary's
brothers also lived with the Cohen family in 1900:
Louis Miller (Millenthaler).
Yetta Millenthaler Witkowsky
(b. 1870) lived at 336 W. 12th Street. She was taken to Rolston's funeral home where
her body was identified by her
husband, Morris Witkowsky
Yetta had emigrated from
Poland in 1894, Morris in 1892. They married
in 1896 and had three daughters, aged three, five and eight
at the time of their mother's death.
Morris worked as a junk
dealer and operated a second hand shop in the Maxwell
Street area, home in 1903 to many immigrant peddler
and junk operators. The city collected roughly
$50 each from 137 licensed junk dealers in 1900,
many of whom were described as Jewish and from
eastern Europe. Witkowsky was
prosperous enough by 1910 to purchase his home.
Morris Witkowsky married again in March, 1905, to
Tillie Switt, with whom he had three children.
Mary and Yetta were the
daughters of Shmuel Ezekiel Millenthaler and Sara
Dwora Bat Wolf. Many thanks to Amy
Chesshire for helping to verify that Yetta and Mary
In the years after the
In November, 1904, the
suit against the theater owners for $10,000 each for
the deaths of Mary and Yetta.
John D. Casey was the administrator.
In May 1905 a Salt Lake
City newspaper reported that Jacob had come to the
city to post $150 bail for his son, William, who had
been charged with forging a check to a local
merchant. The story reported that the Cohen family
had had more than its share of troubles in recent
times. It cited the deaths of Mary and her sister
and stated that he had also lost two daughters. None
of Jacob and Mary's children died at the Iroquois,
however, nor did any of Yetta's, nor were there
other victims with similar last names.
Discrepancies and addendum
last name was spelled Cohn. Her maiden
name, Millenthaler, was Americanized as Miller.
Yetta's last name was
spelled as Witowsky,
Witkovsky, Witkofsky and
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