By Jared Olar
Local History Specialist
The 1870-71 Sellers & Bates Pekin City Directory has a duplicate entry for a certain “G. Bloom” who ran a downtown tailoring and clothing store at the northeast corner of Third and Court. The two entries say:
“Bloom, G., clothier, res ne cor Ann Eliza and Capitol.”
“BLOOM, G., dealer in ready-made clothing, gents’ furnishing goods, hats, caps, etc., ne cor Third and Court; res ss Caroline 1 d e 6th.”
It’s notable that the directory listed G. Bloom twice, giving two different home addresses. Most likely when William H. Bates began to compile the directory, G. Bloom was living in one place but moved to a different house in Pekin, and Bates didn’t catch that he’d entered him in the directory twice. In any case, census records indicate that in 1870 there was only one clothier named G. Bloom in Pekin, so there is no doubt both entries are of the same man.
G. Bloom does not appear in the 1861 Root’s city directory nor in the 1876 Bates city directory, nor in any subsequent Pekin directories, so he must have left Pekin by 1876. (In fact the Blooms left Pekin for San Francisco in 1873.)
U.S. Census records show that “G. Bloom” was Gershon or Gerson Bloom, a Jewish immigrant who came to America from Poland in 1850. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in Chicago on Feb. 23, 1858.
Gerson Bloom first appears in census records in 1860, when he was living in Peoria’s First Ward. The census that year enumerates him and his family as “Garrison Bloom” (sic), 30, a clothing merchant, “Sarah Bloom,” 28, and “Thomas Bloom,” 10 months. Living right next door to Gerson and his family was the household of his father-in-law Israel Bennett, clerk, also a Jewish immigrant from Poland. A few years later, the Illinois State Census taken in July 1865 shows “G. Bloom” as the head of a household in Peoria consisting of three males and four females.
Gerson and his family had moved from Peoria to Pekin by 1870, when the U.S. Census enumerated his household as: “Gersen Bloom” (sic), 38, clothing merchant, “Sarah Bloom,” 36, keeps house, “Henry Bloom,” 11, “Rebecca Bloom,” 8, “Hattie Bloom,” 5, “Celia Bloom,” 4, “Moses Bloom,” 2, “Solomon Bloom,” 3 months, “Amelia Newman” (sister of Gerson’s wife Sarah), 33, “Moses Newman,” 6, and “Julia Newman,” 4.
By the time of the 1880 census, Gerson and his family had moved to San Francisco, Calif., where he found work as a “huckster” or peddler. The census record that year shows that he had adopted the Americanized name “George.” He and his family are listed as “George Bloom,” 50, huckster, wife “Sarah Bloom,” 45, keeping house, daughter “Rebecca Bloom,” 18, sales lady at a dry goods store, daughter “Hattie Bloom,” 16, daughter “Selia Bloom” (sic), 14, son “Moses Bloom,” 12, and son “Solomon Bloom,” 10. The children Hattie, Celia, Moses, and Solomon were all attending school.
In the course of this immigrant family’s peregrinations across America, by the 1890s they found their way back to Chicago, where Gerson’s wife Sarah died on Oct. 24, 1898, and was buried in the old Jewish cemetery section of Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery. The 1900 U.S. Census enumerates Gerson and his family as “Garrison Bloom” (sic), 74, widower, born Dec. 1825 in Poland, immigrated to the U.S. in 1850, daughter “Hattie Bloom”, 31, born Aug. 1868 (sic – 1865) in Illinois, music saleslady, and daughter “Cecelia Bloom,” 27, born Sept. 1872 (sic – 1866) in Illinois, occupation “music.”
The story of Gerson Bloom’s life as told by the U.S. Census and other records shows that he does not seem to have ever enjoyed financial success, and was on the move almost every decade. In many ways, Gerson Bloom and his family seem to have followed an immigrants’ path in America, struggling to make a life in the first generation, but finding or making a good life in the second generation. And that is just what we see in the life of Gerson’s son Solomon, who rose from humble beginnings as the child of immigrants to scale the heights of a prominent and influential life.
Solomon, who was commonly known by the nickname “Sol,” was a Pekin native, born March 9, 1870, when his father Gerson was a clothier on downtown Court Street. As we have seen, however, the Blooms left Pekin in 1873, when Sol was 3 years old. (Sol was probably named after his mother’s brother Solomon Bennett.)
Solomon appears in the 1900 U.S. Census in Chicago as “Sol Bloom,” 30, born March 1870 in Illinois, music publisher, with his wife “Evelyn Bloom,” 24, born May 1876 in California, and their daughter “Vera Bloom,” 2, born May 1898 in Illinois. Also living with them were Evelyn’s parents “Lee Hechheimer,” 56, born Oct. 1843 in Germany, a “capitalist,” immigrated to America in 1857, and “Matilda Hechheimer,” 44, born May 1856 in California, as well as Sol’s niece “Natalie Abraham,” 16, born May 1884 in California. (Sol and his wife Evelyn had married in Chicago on June 23, 1897.)
Sol Bloom’s Find-A-Grave memorial supplies the following biographical sketch of his life and career:
“He began his career as a sheet music publisher in Chicago, moved to New York City in 1903, where he engaged in the real estate and construction business. During World War I, he served as a Captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve. In 1923, he was elected as a Democrat to the Sixty-eighth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Representative-elect Samuel Marx and reelected to the thirteen succeeding Congresses, serving until his death at age 78.”
Among Sol Bloom’s notable achievements were serving as chairman of the House of Representative’s Committee on Foreign Affairs during World War II. He was also named director of the George Washington Bicentennial Commission in 1932 and was director-general of the U.S. Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission in 1937.
Bloom also was a delegate at the 1945 convention that established the United Nations, and the opening words of the UN’s Charter, “We, the Peoples of the United Nations . . .,” were proposed by Bloom, a fact of which he was justly proud. “No! It couldn’t be!” he said in his autobiography, “Why, I was nothing but the child of penniless immigrants who had come from Poland . . . I was only the little Jewish boy who peddled violets on Market Street.”
Sol Bloom died before completing his final term in Congress, on March 7, 1949, in Washington, D.C. He is buried in Mount Eden Cemetery in Hawthorne, N.Y.