Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Gratz Sisters & Solomon Moses

Solomon Moses would seem to have been an ideal beau for Rachel Gratz. His parents, Isaac and Reyna Moses, had lived in Philadelphia in the 1770's and 1780's and were old friends of Michael and Miriam Gratz. Solomon himself was actively involved in business with his father in New York, was seven years older than Rachel (a five-to-ten-year age difference between husband and wife was the norm in the Gratz's social set), Jewish, not bad looking -- and yet--.

The Gratz sisters were most appreciative of the hospitality offered by Mr. and Mrs. Moses whenever they visited New York, and especially grateful for the way the Moses family had taken their friends the Fenno's under their wing immediately after Maria and her siblings had moved to the city. But the affection and respect they felt for the parents, and also for Solomon's older sister Richea Levy, did not extend to Solomon.

In the Gratz letters, as usual discreet about male admirers, not much is said about Solomon until 1804, when he came to Philadelphia for a stay of several months. Rachel was away at her sister Fanny Etting's in Baltimore, leaving Sarah (called Sally) and Rebecca to entertain him. After about two months of his presence, Rebecca wrote to Rachel that he had "not gone yet...he waits to see you." (Rebecca in the letter underlines the portion which is reproduced here in italics.) Underlining was not characteristic of Rebecca's writing style, and I interpret it to indicate that even patient, tactful Rebecca was getting tired of Sol's prolonged presence. Rachel replied, in reference to him: "You must be having a charming time of it. At least Sally must." Sally was indeed having a "charming time." She wrote that the stupidity of Sol's conversation rendered her stupid.

This seems to be the situation vis-a-vis Solomon and the Gratz sisters in 1804: Solomon was in love with Rachel and Rachel indifferent to him, at best. Meanwhile, Rebecca found him wearisome and irritable Sarah could not stand him. Matters would remain so until the spring of 1806.

For more, see "Rachel's Romance."

(Rebecca's and Sarah's letters are from the Gratz Family Collection, Manuscript Collection No. 72, the American Philosophical Society, and Rachel's response is in the Gratz Collection at the American Jewish Historical Society. Thanks to the Gilbert Stuart blog at gilbertstuart.blogspot.com for the use of the image of the painting of Solomon Moses by Gilbert Stuart.)

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