David, eldest son of Morris and Esther Rosenfeld, was born in 1907 and died in 1994. Transcripts from Mystic Seaport’s Audio Visual library and tape transcripts from his daughter, Adelaide Rosenfeld Bialek, were used to create this biographical sketch.
“When I was a youngster I worked Saturdays and Sundays or whenever my father needed help. As time went by I started to get paid, fifty percent of my salary went to room and board. That was from 1920 when I was thirteen until 1931 when I got married. I paid my college tuition (New York University) from the 50% of my salary that I received.”
“When the office sent you out on an assignment, they figured the expenses before they sent you out, and they gave you trip money to the exact penny. ” Mr. Rosenfeld once said that if you had an unexpected expense, you were out of luck since his father would not send more money. Sometimes the thumb was the only way to get home.
“My father never gave me a new camera. I always got one he had used, that he had, in his words, broken in to work great. Unfortunately, on two occasions, broken in meant broken down, and I lost one important assignment, and a helping hand saved the other.”
(Image of David Rosenfeld acquired from Adelaide Bialek.)
David married Adelaide Rodstrom in 1931. Her family were neighbors of the Rosenfeld’s on City Island. Her brother Charlie Rodstrom was a close friend of David. Another friend of David’s was Henry Frapwell who had a younger brother Douglass who later married the Rosenfeld brothers’ sister Eleanor.
“In the late 1930s (1937) I began teaching photography at Metropolitan Vocational High School where I was Chairman of the Photography Department. The school schedule and location complimented my work schedule at Rosenfeld. Each day after school I worked at Rosenfelds Nassau Street office, spring and fall weekends I worked from City Island. During the summers I worked full time. My Father and I both lived on City Island, the FOTO was moored there, and we each had darkrooms in our homes.”
During World War II David was a teacher but at the same time also worked with Morris photographing projects for the Navy. He also took identification pictures for the shipyard workers who were cleared to build for the Navy on City Island. David’s daughter wrote, “I remember the dinette at the back of our home on Pell Place converted to a studio with a steady stream of men coming in to be photographed.”
Up through the 1960s David’s work would sometimes appear in Yachting, Life, Reader’s Digest, Popular Photography, Rudder, Motorboating, and The New York Times. This work included stories about, “going down the Mississippi on a cruise, the Pan-American games in Chicago and unusual construction of wooden hulls.”
In 1960 David transferred to the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan and became an Assistant Principal until 1971.
David spoke of the fact that Morris refused to allow anyone, including his own sons to publish anything under their own name. “My father was very jealous of the fact that all of the photographs taken went out under his name. He would never consider Morris Rosenfeld and Sons. It was a standard joke that we would look in a magazine and there were photographs taken in Florida, taken in Bermuda, taken in the Middle West, taken in Maine, all taken by Morris Rosenfeld. People used to comment, “He sure does get around.” And I said, “Very easy when you have three sons getting around for you.”
At one time David provided photographic illustrations for a number of art books and co-authored a book on photographic technique with Ben Clements, a teacher at New York University titled, Photographic Composition, published by Prentice-Hall, 1974.
David brought his expertise to the Collection through his excellence in darkroom work. In this area, he was a truly an artist.