|Isaak Bernstein (1849-1911)|
|3509 W. Douglas Boulevard, Chicago|
We don't know when Louis Bernstein passed the bar exam, but when he registered for the draft on June 5, 1917 he said he was a self-employed attorney with the law firm of Bernstein and Bernstein. He listed his home address as 3146 Douglas Boulevard. Unfortunately, 3146 W. Douglas Boulevard is also a vacant lot today:
|3144-46 W. Douglas Boulevard, Chicago|
Although Louis Bernstein had not found the right girl to marry yet, his future was bright as well. He was in partnership with his brother and they shared a thriving legal practice. They were both successful enough to have some spare time, and became involved in the Zionist movement in Chicago. Yes, the future was bright for Louis Bernstein when he entered that fateful autumn of 1918.
Before we look at what happened to the Bernstein Brothers, let's take another quick look at the Spanish Influenza. An excellent resource for those wishing more information about this catastrophe that changed so many American families can find it at DePaul University's website: http://condor.depaul.edu/lincoln/dischi/flu.html
From the website: "The Spanish Influenza was one of the deadliest epidemics in history, lasting from 1918 to 1919. More than one-fifth of the world's population suffered from some of the disease's deadly symptoms, including aches and fevers. The Spanish Influenza claimed the deaths of more than 21,000,000 people worldwide, including 600,000 in America alone. Of those, 8,500 of the victims lived in Chicago. Although people of all ages were susceptible to influenza, a majority of the people who died as a result of influenza were between twenty and forty years old. The Spanish Influenza took the country by storm during another time of crisis- World War I. This factor aided the spread of the disease considerably. As soldiers traveled from port to port, they brought with them influenza germs as well as their weapons. Red Cross units were already organized for the war effort, but they turned their attention to aiding flu victims as well. Although the epidemic originated in Kansas, it quickly spread to other cities in the United States including Chicago."
Although Louis Bernstein was the younger of the two brothers he came down with the flu first. Each of the brothers only lasted four days after they became ill. Louis got sick October 2, the doctor was called in on October 5, and he died at home at 6:00 PM on October 6, 1918.
Benjamin got sick on October 14, but consulted a doctor on the same day. Unfortunately this did not make a difference and Benjamin Bernstein died at his home at 10:45 AM on October 18, 1918.
Benjamin died just one day after October 17, 1918, the day known as Black Thursday, when 381 people died in Chicago and nearly 1,200 more contracted the illness in a single 24-hour period.
Louis was 29,
Benjamin was 30.
Here is Louis Bernstein's obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 8, 1918:
The family decided to bury the brothers side-by-side at Gate 15 - B'nai Moshe at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park. Their impressive monument is adorned with Hebrew and Masonic symbols.
Ben and Louis' mother, Rose Aronson Bernstein died in Chicago on August 20, 1924 at the age of 74.
Unlike his brothers, Jacob Bernstein remained in the printing business, eventually working for the Cuneo Press in Chicago. We don't know if he had the Spanish influenza - but if he did, he recovered. Jacob Bernstein died in Chicago in September of 1968 at the age of 77.
Benjamin Bernstein's widow Perle remarried, to Leonard Judah Krane on June 14, 1920. They went on to have three children of their own. Perle Goldberg Bernstein Krane died June 21, 1985 in Chicago at the age of 88.
Shirley (Shirlee) Hope Bernstein died in Chicago in 2006, also at the age of 88.
What would have happened to the Bernstein family if the Spanish Influenza had never happened? It is safe to say that Louis would probably have married and had children. Benjamin Bernstein would probably have had a larger family than his one daughter. His brilliant legal mind might have taken him to the judicial bench - possibly to the U.S. Supreme Court following Justices Cardozo and Brandeis - who knows?
The Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918-1919 affected more families worldwide than even were affected by World War I. It certainly devastated the Bernstein family of Chicago.
May Benjamin and Louis Bernstein rest in peace.