Joseph Rodriguez, age 4, disappeared from Manhattan, New York, on September 6, 1936.
Joseph Rodriguez was the biological son of Dora Olivo, who lived at 1350 Fifth Avenue in the Spanish Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, New York. This neighborhood was also referred to as Little Spain.
For reasons unknown, Joseph was living with an aunt, Pauline Rodriguez, and had been given her surname since she had cared for him since he was an infant. Pauline and Joseph lived at 1668 Park Avenue, a short walk from where Joseph’s mother lived.
On September 6, 1936, Pauline dropped Joseph off with a friend and neighbor who lived at 1637 Park Avenue, while she went away for the day. The friend, who hasn’t been publicly named, took Joseph down to the street to play with other children shortly after noon. At some time later in the afternoon, the caretaker was unable to locate Joseph. The neighborhood was searched, and Joseph was not located.
On September 12, 1936, Pauline received a telegram which stated “Dear Pauline: Joseph will be back on Wednesday. Doctor won’t let me move him.”
Until very recently, I believed, since no source appeared to claim otherwise, that this telegram had been anonymous. Through a New York Times article dated September 13, 1936, I have learned that the telegram was signed, by someone unknown to Pauline. The name of the signer was not mentioned in the article.
I would love to know who the signer was – and where Joseph’s father was – and whether any surviving relatives are able to (or have) submitted DNA. I wonder if he had any siblings.
A search of the 1940 New York City census turned up a Pauline Rodriguez, born in 1911, living in the same neighborhood, but at a different address. Living with her, was a Pedro Olivo, born in 1881. I am guessing that Pauline was the sister of Joseph’s father, and that Pedro was their father. Pauline was listed as divorced.
I tried searching for Dora by name, and nothing came up. I also attempted to search for her 1936 address of 1350 Fifth Avenue, which was an apartment building, and seemed to find practically every surrounding address, but not 1350. That was frustrating.
I couldn’t find any additional records on any of them. Since I was unable to find Dora, I don’t know if she was married, divorced, or widowed. No father was mentioned in the newspaper article that referred to Dora Olivo as Joseph’s mother. I would think, in those days, that the father’s name would be more significant to mention than the mother’s, unless the father were not in the picture for whatever reason.
I wonder if Dora wanted her son back. I wonder if she ‘vanished’ from the city shortly after Joseph’s disappearance, explaining her being missing from the 1940 census.
I also wonder what the friends that he was playing with, young as they may have been, had to say about it at the time.
Not a whole lot to go on here, but I find it intriguing, particularly since the case is so old.
US Federal Census