IRA SCHNAPP: His Life, Work and Family, Part 2

IraSchnappbyAdlerIra Schnapp by Jack Adler, 1960s

1915 census BlogWe left the family of Max Schnapp, Ira Schnapp’s father, in 1910 in Part 1 of this series, which you can find HERE. New York State did their next census in 1915, and some things have changed by then. The family now lived at 483 West 170th Street in the Bronx, much closer to Moses’ school. (There is a 1960s housing development, The Morris Houses, at that address today.) Jacob is now Jack, Samuel is Sam, Joseph is Joe, and Moses is Murry, so in at least some cases more informal names were recorded. Minnie makes the family roll call this time. Israel (Ira) is still listed under that name, and his age is given as 21. He has an occupation listed: Salesman. Max’s job is Grocery, Sadie’s is Housework, Jack is Grocery, Sam is Salesman. Joe is listed as at school, perhaps college or some further training at age 23. Murry and the girls are all at school. The family has a different servant again, Carrie Kessy (I think), age 20 from Bohemia. A note about that: Max’s family was far from wealthy, but in those days, without the modern appliances we take for granted, housework for a family was a huge task, and immigrant women were willing to take housework jobs in homes in exchange for room and board and modest wages.

IraBirthdayIsrael/Ira Schnapp’s actual birth date and year is a thorny problem because it varies a lot among all the documents we have, and even Ira himself seems to not be so sure of it. Most sources, aside from Max’s Naturalization Papers, give his birthday as October 10, but the year varies from 1892 through 1895. Ira is always listed as younger than Joseph/Joe, whose birth year is usually 1892 and older than Moses/Mo whose birth year is always 1895, so that leaves only two choices. Family information we have points to 1894 as the most likely birth year, and that’s what I’m going with, though 1893 is also possible.

1917_06_05 Israel Schnapp WWI Draft CardBlogThe next document we have is a very important one because it’s filled out by Ira himself, his World War One draft card dated June 5th, 1917. The Selective Service Act of 1917 resulted in many cards such as these, required from all men between the ages of 21 and 31. This was recently discovered by Alex Jay, misfiled under Schapp, and you can see why if you look closely at the top line. Unfortunately, Ira seems to have been pretty careless or rushed when he wrote here, leading to more uncertainty and errors! Yes, Ira spelled his own last name wrong. It’s correct on the last line, his signature, and all the writing on the front of the card is by the same hand. Ira’s age is 23. His home address is 483 East 170th Street, NY (his parents’ home in the Bronx). He gives his date of birth as September 10th, 1894! Is it possible Ira had a hard time remembering his own birthday? Ira says he’s a naturalized citizen, which would be correct if he was given citizenship under his father’s naturalization. For place of birth, what he wrote looks like Sasilv in the state of Galacia, country of Austria. I’m guessing he meant to write Sasow or Sasiv.

115E23rdNYCToday115 East 23rd Street, New York, image from Google Maps

The most puzzling entry for me is after “What is your present trade, occupation or office?” Ira has written something that I can’t decipher, though the first word is probably Letter, and I suspect the second was meant to be Artist, but that’s just my guess, and perhaps wishful thinking. On the other hand, it seems appropriate! For employer he’s written W.T. Slide Co. at 115 East 23rd Street, NY. Above is that building today.

PathefromThe Editor6-2-17From “The Editor” magazine, June 1917

We haven’t found any record of this company, but we did find a “Novelty Slide Company,” a maker of Stereopticon cards, at the same address in 1918.  Also there in 1917, see above, was the Pathé Exchange, Inc., one of the American offices of the Pathé film company of France. The Pathé Exchange would have distributed or helped distribute their own and other films from Europe in the United States. These were silent films often with hand-lettered title cards, and of course new title cards in English would have been needed for the U.S. market. It’s not hard to guess that the W.T. Slide company was making photographic slides of those title cards, perhaps some lettered by Ira Schnapp, to be filmed and added to the foreign movies. There were other film-related companies in the area, too, and probably other film distributors that might have needed title cards.

PerilsPaulineTitleCardAbove is a title card from the very popular movie serial “The Perils of Pauline,” 1914, that was produced by a Pathé studio in Fort Lee, NJ and could have used title slides from the W.T. Slide Company, though that’s only a guess. And these cards are probably typeset, rather than hand-lettered.

EdisonMovieTitleCardsWhile much of the American film industry was in Hollywood by this time, the Edison Film Company was still making silent films in their New Jersey studios, like the ones above, and might also have used Ira’s title cards. We have no evidence of this, but it’s possible. These cards look like hand-lettering to me.

Getting back to Ira’s draft card, he’s listed Mother and Father as dependents, and that he’s Single, Caucasian, and had no military service. I think his income was contributing to the family’s livelihood. Whatever that Salesman job was that was listed in the 1915 census, by 1917 he was doing lettering and art again, or still. On the back of the card, the draft registrar describes him as medium height and slender with brown eyes and hair. That’s the only physical description of young Ira we’ve yet found. We don’t know why he wasn’t called up for active service, perhaps they just didn’t get to him. When the war ended in November, 1918, selective service was quickly cut back.

GLS05101GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES #51, Dec. 1957, logo and lettering by Ira Schnapp, © DC Comics, Inc.

The next major event in Ira Schnapp’s life happened on Sept. 30th, 1918. That’s when he and Beatrice Schwadron were married, as listed in the New York Marriage Index, 1866-1937. The wedding took place in the Bronx, New York, but it doesn’t say specifically where. There were a few Jewish Synagogues in the Bronx at the time, or it could have been held at the home of Beatrice’s parents, perhaps. Ira’s first name is incorrectly spelled as Isereal.

Alex Jay has done a lot of research on Beatrice and her family. I’m only going to give a summary here. Three Schwadrons came to America together in 1901 on a steamship from Hamburg, Germany: mother Rosa, age 30, and two children, Regina, age 5, and Jakob, age 4. Their nationality was Austrian. In the 1905 New York State census, the trio shows up as Rosa Schwadron, age 33, Rebecca (not Regina), age 10, and Jake, age 8. Also in the household is a Sam Schnapp, age 16, the same age as Ira Schnapp’s brother Samuel! He’s listed as a nephew of Rosa, and we believe he is a different Sam, possibly also a cousin of Ira and his siblings. (More on this later.) The family lived at 116 Suffolk Street, New York, a few blocks from the Schnapp home at 86 Ludlow Street. Some time between 1905 and 1910, Rosa Schwadron married a man named Harry Wander, her second marriage, and in the 1910 census, they lived at 81 Ludlow Street, very close to the Schnapp home. In that census, Rebecca is 14, Jacob is 12, and their last name has become Schwander, probably an error by the census-taker. In the 1915 New York census, everyone’s last name was listed as Wander, probably by mistake, but Rebecca has become Beatrice Wander, 19, with the job of a Bookkeeper. At that time they lived on 1516 Charlotte Street in the Bronx, not far from the Schnapp home on 170th Street. So Ira and Beatrice lived close to each other for a number of years in two different parts of New York City, and the families probably knew each other well and may even have been related. By 1917, the draft cards of Beatrice’s brother and step-father show the family had moved a few doors down to 1522 Charlotte Street. Beatrice’s brother Jack used the last name Squadron on his draft card and later his naturalization papers. One could simply take on a new name to seem more American, and many immigrants did. This was easier to manage at the time, I think.

HarryWanderPhotoBeatrice’s step-father, Harry Wander, above (later in life), was a pioneer member of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and served as Vice President for 33 years until his death in 1951. He was also born in Galacia, Austria, and was a member of the Sasower Society, which could indicate he came from Sassow, though no town of birth is listed for him in census records.

1920CensusBlogThe 1920 federal census, excerpts above, shows Ira and Beatrice now in their own home at 1510 Boston Road, the Bronx, NY, close to the homes of both their families. This was a rented apartment, but that’s true of everywhere Ira had lived in his life, his family were always renters, not home owners. There seems to be a single family home at that address today rather than an apartment building. In this census, Ira’s name is incorrectly given as Irving. The most interesting entry is for Occupation. Ira’s is Artist – Moving Pictures, and he earns wages. This may still have been for the W.T. Slide Company, or some similar job, we don’t know. It’s possible by this time Ira had begun other kinds of graphic design work for movies like main title cards, lobby cards, and posters. Again, much of that work was done in Hollywood, but some may have come from New York for smaller film companies. The fact that he earns wages suggests that Ira was going to an office somewhere, and not yet a self-employed freelance artist, but that’s a guess. If he was still working on 23rd Street in Manhattan, it was a fairly easy commute on the IRT Lexington Avenue subway line.

PrintIra was not the first son of Max Schnapp to marry and move to his own home. Ira’s oldest brother Jacob (or Jack) married Theresa Glassner on Jan. 26th, 1913. By the 1915 NY State census, they were living at 865 East 172nd Street in the Bronx, not far from Jack’s parents, and they had a daughter, Selma, born in 1914. A son, Irving, was born in 1916. Jack’s occupation is grocer, and it seems likely he worked with or near his father. Samuel (Sam) Schnapp, the second oldest son of Max, married Imogene, born in Iowa, around 1919, and in the 1920 census they are living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Sam is a clothing salesman. Sam was the first child of Max to move away from New York, and he stayed in the mid-west for many years.

JosephSchnappPassport1919Joseph (Joe) Schnapp is not listed in Max’s household in 1920 because he was out of the country. He applied for a passport, photo above, in 1919 stating he was planning to travel to Japan and China to buy for import and sell for export for a period up to three years. We don’t know what items he was buying and selling, his occupation is listed as Manager. He sailed from Seattle on April 18th, 1919.

In the 1920 census, Moses (called Mo by his family) was still living with his parents, but had found work as a printer, after training in that occupation at his special school. He continued to work as a printer for decades. He and his three sisters lived at the family home on East 170th Street, the Bronx. Lena (Lee to her family), 17, is a stenographer. Sarah, 16, has become Shirley, and her occupation is housework. Minnie, 14, is a jewelry maker, showing some artistic talent.

1925 Israel Schnapp New York State CensusBlog2305GrandAveBronxNY2305 Grand Avenue, the Bronx, NY today, from Google Maps

Back to Ira and Beatrice, on Dec. 12, 1922 their daughter Theresa was born. Theresa was often called Teddy by her family. In the 1925 New York State census, above, Ira, Beatrice and Teddy are living at 2305 Grand Avenue in the Bronx, about 2 miles north and west of their previous apartment, but still fairly close to family. Ira’s occupation is Artist, and he works for wages, so probably not yet self-employed.

LoisLane23Lois Lane #23, Feb. 1961, image © DC Comics. The Lois Lane logo and the large block letters in the caption box are examples of Art Deco style in Ira Schnapp’s work.

We haven’t found anything else about Ira’s family in the 1920s, but in his lettering, we know Ira liked the Art Deco style that began in this decade and flourished in the 1930s and 1940s. It became a favorite influence, and one that he would use often through the rest of his career.

TerryMarty1935BlogTheresa and Martin Schnapp, 1935 (Teddy and Marty ages 13 and 5), photo courtesy of Martin Schnapp.

1455SheridanAveBronxNY1455 Sheridan Avenue, the Bronx, NY today, from Google Maps

On March 28th, 1930, Ira and Beatrice’s son Martin was born, known in the family as Marty. The 1930 census shows the family now living at 1455 Sheridan Avenue near 171st Street, and again closer to the homes of both parents. The census information was taken in April, and Marty’s age is given as 1/12th year. Theresa’s age is 7. The family is doing well enough to employ a maid, Josephine Sherman, born in Pennsylvania, age 17. Ira’s occupation is artist – commercial art. He is still listed as working for wages, but at this point I’m guessing he had begun to work as a freelancer for various companies and businesses.

KingKong1933Artist Neal Adams reported to me that Ira said he was doing lettering for movie theater lobbies, including show card lettering promoting specific films, and even huge lobby displays for films like “King Kong” (above) at the March, 1933 premiere in Radio City Music Hall. Artist Murphy Anderson has been quoted as saying, “There were periods in the thirties when practically every movie house in Times Square had Ira Schnapp lettering on display somewhere!”

Next time, more on Ira’s family and freelance work, including a nearly unknown series of newspaper features on classic art. Other articles you might enjoy can be found on the COMICS CREATION and LOGO LINKS pages of my blog.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *