With this posting we begin an occasional look into the businesses and their owners that were part of the neighborhood where the Serrapede family lived.
In posting 67-Serrapede Family in Brooklyn-Raising Baby, 1938 we featured the “Our Baby’s Book” where Josie recorded details about Gerry’s first 8 months of life. The book was provided courtesy of the Benson Drug Company located on 11th Avenue near 65th Street.
The owner of the Benson Drug Company was Gaetano N. Rinaldi. The information we gleaned from census records and directories provide an outline of the achievements his family made during the first and second generations in America.
Josie and Sam also used the services of businesses outside of Dyker Heights. We have featured them in:
53c-Serrapede Family in America: Emily Leatrice’s first studio portrait, 1932 presents some details about photographer Albert Della Monica and his studio in Gravesend, Brooklyn, NY.
54c-Serrapede Family in America-Emily Leatrices Studio Portrait 1935 features highlights from the life of photographer Joseph Weise. He had photo studios in the Bensonhurst and Boro Park sections of Brooklyn.
By learning something about the business owners and their families we get a peek into the wide array of talents the immigrants brought to America as well as the communities where they settled.
Josie Muro was born in Agropoli, Italy. Her parents immigrated to America and settled in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania. She came to Brooklyn, NY in the late 1920s. In 1930 she married Sam Serrapede, also from Agropoli. In 1931 their daughter Emily Leatrice was born. Their second child, Gerry, was born in 1938.
Josie and Sam were:
-EmilyAnn’s maternal Grandparents
What the word Neighborhood Means To Us
You may be wondering why we are including the community where we grew up as part of our family history. What could be exciting or even important about avenues, side streets, stores, apartment houses, schools, playgrounds, private residences and all the other aspects of the world in which Josie and Sam lived in Brooklyn?
The answer may be unique to a mentality developed throughout New York City and its boroughs. Or perhaps it is a mindset that at a deeper level is universal. For us, our neighborhood was as much a living entity and member of the family as it was a place on the map. It will always be the place where we grew up and even though the demographics have changed, it still is part of who we were and who we are. The physical make-up and inhabitants will change whether we want it to or not. That is part of the inevitable passage of time. What is sure is that the neighborhood leaves a mark on us long after we leave for other parts of the borough, the city or the country.
In other words, our neighborhood was once a part our world and today remains with us in spirit.
Antonio and Porzia Rinaldi: From Italy to Manhattan
Antonio Rinaldi immigrated to New York with his wife Porzia circa 1897. They were both 20 years old. Antonio worked as a day laborer. The Rinaldi family were part of a wave of immigrants who moved from Manhattan between 1910 through the 1920s to escape the crowding and poor living conditions.
In 1920 Antonio owned his own company. The 1920 Federal Census states that the company product was “paper stock”. This could mean that Antonio Rinaldi owned a stationery store or was a supplier of paper to other businesses. He and Porzia were living in Dyker Heights at 1362 64th Street. They owned the two family home and were carrying a mortgage.
Antonio and Porzia were the parents of:
Frank 19 b. 1901
Joseph 15 b. 1905
Charles 12 b. 1908
Pasquale 10 b. 1910
Gaetano 6 b. 1913-2003
Ellena 0 b. 1920
Their eldest son, Frank, worked as a pharmacist for a Drug Store.
By 1940, the only child remaining at home with Antonio and Porzia was their daughter Ellena. The 1940 Federal Census records Antonio’s education as having only gone as far as the 2nd grade. It’s hard to gauge if this is accurate or not. What is evident is that Mr. Rinaldi achieved a standard of living in the middle class. His younger son Gaetano followed in the example of his elder brother Frank by going to college and becoming a pharmacist. Such progress speaks of the opportunities that were available to both the first and second generation in America.
Gaetano N. Rinaldi, Pharmacist and Entrepreneur
When Gaetano was in his third year of college in 1940, he’d been married for three years. His wife was the former Rosalie L. DiSalvo. Their wedding day was September 12, 1937. Not only was Gaetano a college student and husband, he was the father of two children. Anthony was born in 1939. Phillip was born in 1940.
Gaetano and Rosalie were living in Bensonhurst. They rented an apartment at 1646 80th Street. In 1944 Gaetano and Rosalie became parents of another boy. This one they named Raymond.
Raymond passed away in 1981. From the records at FindAGrave it looks like Raymond’s parents are interred with him. I have located a record for Raymond Rinaldi (1944-1981) who is laid to rest with his parents Gaetano (1913-2003) and Rosalie (1914-2006).
The Rest of The Story
The “Our Baby Book” which Josie received compliments of The Benson Drug Company started this search to know a little more about the owner, Gaetano Rinaldi. Taking the time line of events in his life as told through the Federal Census records a few questions arise:
• How could Gaetano be the sole owner of The Benson Drug Company at the age of 18?
• Is it possible that his older brother Frank was a co-owner with him?
• Did Gaetano buy his brother out? If so that might be why he is listed as the owner when he ran a series of ads in “The Brooklyn Daily Eagle” in 1953.
The accomplishments of the Rinaldi family over a 40 year period contributed to the growing acceptance of Italian-Americans by the larger society.
Discussion with Uncle Sammy on Sunday, August 7, 2016, 4:45-5:30 p.m.
The achievements of the diverse immigrants that lived in our neighborhood and borough were not given the kind of awards and news coverage we see today. Uncle Sammy and I do not have any memories of learning about successful immigrants of any community while we were growing up. There also was little in the way of celebrations of anyone’s ethnicity or ancestral country. The main focus was on getting the first and second generation assimilated into the American mainstream.
After the 1960s things began to change. TV, radio and newspapers began to give more coverage to the challenges immigrants face in the workforce and their new communities. There also was more acknowledgement given to contributions each makes locally and nationally.
The achievements of the Rinaldi family, like the families of our relatives and neighbors featured in previous postings, are a testament to the combination of talent and opportunities that came together in the early-mid 20th centuries. There are more challenges today but the fact that all communities receive more thoughtful treatment and recognition for individual achievements and community milestones is a mark of some progress in showing respect and appreciation by the public and the media.
1900 Federal Census for Antonio Rinaldi
DetailYear: 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Roll: 1080; Page: 8B; Enumeration District: 0017; FHL microfilm: 1241080
Title1900 United States Federal CensusAuthorAncestry.com
1920 Federal Census for Antonio Rinaldi
DetailYear: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 16, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1169; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 952; Image: 108
Title1920 United States Federal Census
1937 NYC Marriage Index for Gaetano Rinaldi and Rosalie DiSalvo
Ancestry.com. New York, New York, Marriage Index 1866-1937 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
1940 Federal Census Index for Gaetano N. Rinaldi
DetailYear: 1940; Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: T627_2591; Page: 6A; Enumeration District: 24-1759
Title1940 United States Federal CensusAuthorAncestry.comPublisherAncestry.com Operations, Inc.Publisher Date
1940 Brooklyn Telephone Directory
New York Public Library
Direct Me NYC 1940/Brooklyn
Benson Drug Company listing