Samuel Rubel – The Fabulous Career of a Not-So-Nice Coal & Ice Mogul – Rubel Coal & Ice Corp – Rubel Bros Inc – Brownsville, Brooklyn

© Vincenzo Aiosa

© Vincenzo Aiosa

Samuel Rubel (1881-1949) was an immigrant from Riga, Latvia in 1904. - Wikipedia Commons

Samuel Rubel was a celebrated entrepreneur and a man obscured by controversy. In 1912, he pressed charges against his then fiancée, Dora Nachumowitz, whom he later married and fathered two daughters. Here is an excerpt of the New York Times article (February 4, 1912, Sunday).

HAS GIRL WHO SUED JAILED.; Coal Dealer Accuses Employe to Whom He Had Been Engaged. - - - New York Times - February 4, 1912, Sunday

Hailed for Rubel’s business acumen, Arthur Brisbane of the Milwaukee Sentinel wrote in 1925:

Young gentlemen, it pays to save even a LITTLE.

Milwaukee Sentinel - Google News Archive

On Monday, Apr. 11, 1927 – Time Magazine labeled Rubel as the Iceman and reported the following about his business practices:

An Iceman. Twenty-one years ago one Samuel Rubel, immigrant from Riga (Latvia), peddled ice in Brooklyn. Now he is president of Rubel Coal & Ice Co. and worth $25,000,000. But withal he is not a nice man, declared sundry petty ice peddlers, when Mr. Rubel tried to freeze them out of business the past year by giving free ice to their customers. For that, the Kings County grand jury last week indicted him, and 28 people sued him for damages.Time Magazine

From a New York Times obituary (April 30, 1949):

The career of Samuel Rubel verged on the fabulous… His first route was the north side of Watkins Street, in the East New York section. He covered it with a horse and wagon… Up the tenement stoops Mr. Rubel personally carried his cakes of ice and bags of coal. His next move was to a coal platform, with an office on Pitkin Avenue. ‘That year I started selling to other peddlers,’ he said later… In 1925 he bought the majority stock of the Ice Service Corporation and also two other firms… Two years later his firm was merged with the Commonwealth Fuel Company and the Putnam Coal and Ice Company. The new concern, the Rubel Corporation, of which he became head, then had thirty-five coal pickets, forty ice factories and fifty coal and ice stations in the greater city. The same year Mr. Rubel bought the Ebling Brewery then in trouble with prohibition authorities for the manufacture and sale of beer. He planned to convert it into an ice-cream factory.Wikipedia

According to Walter Grutchfield:

Rubel was still president of Ebling Brewery at the time of his death (undoubtedly it reverted to legal production of beer with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933) and his net worth was estimated at $8,000,000. A 32-room home in Roslyn, Long Island, was destroyed by fire in 1946. Rubel died at a later mansion called Sunset Hall in Ridgefield, Conn. The Rubel contents of Sunset Hall were sold at auction by the Parke-Bernet Galleries, 980 Madison Ave., Oct. 1950. An interesting history of Sunset Hall can be found at Apparently it was once considered as a site for the United Nations headquarters.

Sunset Hall Mansion - Ridgefield, CT - Site of Samuel Rubel's Death - Acorn Online dot net

The life of Samuel Rubel is steeped in the mythology of the American Dream: a penniless immigrant comes to New York to find his fortune – but at what cost? Rubel’s unscrupulous business practices and conflicted and icy personal life is ripe for a torrid Hollywood screenplay. Although Rubel’s story has long been out of the public eye, his legacy continues through his progeny and property. Below is an example of how the quest for the American Dream can still inspire through art and an unwitting lens.

Very reminiscent of the Diana Coal & Oil photo © Ivan Koota

Fading Ad Campaign © Frank H. Jump

Topless Diana Coal Oil - © Frank H. Jump

Previous Rubel Coal & Ice postings:

Other Rubel Internet postings:

7 responses to “Samuel Rubel – The Fabulous Career of a Not-So-Nice Coal & Ice Mogul – Rubel Coal & Ice Corp – Rubel Bros Inc – Brownsville, Brooklyn

  1. Oh my God, I took a simple picture of a sign and a building name, and you Frank turned it in to a research project. Bravo!

  2. …full marks Mr jUmP!
    Mystery and history combined…we want more, more, more!

  3. I certainly learned a lot about my painting…the one you reproduced. I painted it simply because I was struck by the aesthetics of the image and, of course, its location namely Brooklyn. Actually the preliminary image was of the actual Rubel “factory” which I found in one of my many books that I use as a basis for most paintings of subjects “before my time.” It was exciting to see that you found it and used it. Thanks. And congratulations on your work.

  4. Ivan- Love your painting. Definitely reminds me of the Diana Coal & Oil silos that were once on the corner of Atlantic Avenue near South Conduit exit.Glad you were on the net to illustrate this scene pictorially. Hope you get some hits and sales because of this. Is this one still for sale? Best, Frank

  5. Thanks Frank. I guess many of these silos were part of similar businesses and so they all look just about the same. And yes, the painting is still for sale. Regards, Ivan

  6. I live in Brooklyn and have all my life..Today I looked up at an old building which has been there since I was a young child but definitely it is still of an era of bygone a Rubel Coal & Ice Co. carved in stone sign…I think in the 60’s this former factory became a drug rehab center, still I decided to google the name because I was curious of the history ..who or was was Rubel Coal and Ice. The building is on Fulton Street / Wavely.