Will the Real Janet Sobel Please Stand Up?


more than two thousand containers of acids, paint thinners, and solvents that were later found and removed from Sobel Brothers’ inactive production facility in Perth Amboy. This factory was named a Superfund emergency site, requiring a cleanup at the cost of $610,000 between October 30, 1990, and December 27, 1991.71

            When Waylande Gregory interviewed Janet Sobel, he disclosed an important fact in his resulting article: that Janet and her family had immigrated to America and New York City before Max and his family had.72 My research of U.S. immigration records revealed that Max Sobel (identified there as Mendel Cibulsky) and his father, Chaim Cibulsky, arrived in New York City on the SS Campania on July 14, 1906. Sol Sobel told me that his mother had probably arrived in this country in 1908, because that is the year that the Museum of Modern Art acquisition records—created when William Rubin put Sobel’s work into MoMA’s permanent collection—had said that she had arrived here. Sol did not seem to see how citing MoMA’s acquisition records as the source of his mother’s date of arrival here was clearly an instance of putting the cart before the horse and just as illogical. A possible source for claiming that Janet Sobel came to America in 1908 may have been a statement in the brochure of Janet’s first solo exhibition, in 1944, at the Puma Gallery. Levin accepts 1908 without question as the year of Sobel’s arrival in America, yet there are also good reasons for believing that Janet had arrived earlier, in 1905 or 1906. One reason was the just-mentioned interview of Janet Sobel by Waylande Gregory in which she apparently told him that she and her family had come to America before her future husband’s family had.73 Another reason was the 1910 U.S. census report, whose data were collected on April 16, 1910, just before Max and Jennie’s marriage two months later, on June 9, 1910. The census had reported that both Max H. Zebulsky and Jennie Wilson were boarders living in the Gottsdanker family’s apartment at 130 Second Street in Manhattan, and the two boarders had told the census enumerator that they both had come to the United States in 1906.74 On Max Zebulsky and Jennie Wilson’s marriage certificate, in contrast to the census, the bride’s address is is given as 182 Second Street and the groom’s address is given as 1567 Lexigton [sic]



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All texts copyright © Libby Seaberg, 2009