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ABRAHAM FRANKEL
1891 ~ 1959



Abraham Frankel, born April 7, 1891, New York, New York, left,
Robert Frankel, born July 23, 1898, Austria, right.
Photo take between 1901 to 1903.


*****This page is undergoing major editing. What is here is correct, but I have been able to find more pieces to Abraham Frankel's life before his marriage to my mother, Leila Elizabeth (Davis) Whitted. I am still compiling information gained from the availability of new online information and vital records. Please take this into note. If you have any information to share with me, I would be extremely grateful.

A lot of information has come to me by way of being able to find out more information about his parents, which is still extremely limited. 

Thank you.  February 23, 2012.




braham Frankel a.k.a. Don Leon (his stage name), was born April 7, 1891, New York, New York to Ella (Rubinstein) Frankel and David Frankel, Jewish immigrants from Austria/Poland, of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, New York. Ella Rubinstein, arrived in New York on March 7, 1890 aboard the ship Lahn. David Frankel arrived in New York on September 2, 1889 aboard the ship Servia.  David Frankel's occupation was noted in the 1900 census as a “Cloak Maker”, and by the time of his death in 1929, he was a Real Estate Investor.  Ella and David had a son Robert, born on July 23, 1898, in Austria.  It would appear that Ella traveled back to Austria once or twice before the outbreak of World War I. The 1900 and 1910 census records indicate that Robert, immigrated from Austria to the United States in 1900. As far as I know Ella and David were the only members of their families to ever immigrate to the United States. The rest of their families stayed in Europe.  See photos of Ella and David Frankel Here.

As a very young child Don (Abraham) studied at the The Institute of Musical Art in New York, which was founded in 1905, later to become the Juilliard School of Music in 1924. At  the age of 18 Don (Abraham) went to Vienna, Austria, to study the violin, composing and conducting, at the Conservatory of Music there until 1910. He stayed on to conduct and compose a symphony and returned to New York, in 1912. 

When Don (Abraham) returned from Austria, at age 20 he was one of approximately six “Maestro Violinists” in America at that time. He was offered the post as symphonic conductor in Riga, Latvia, which he accepted. He was in Riga, about 1911, 1912 and/or 1913. He had returned to the United States at some time prior to World War I. During World War I Riga, was occupied by the Germans from 1917 to 1918, when it became the capital of independent Latvia.

When the United States joined the allies in World War I, he enlisted in the military as did friend and contemporary, Paul Whiteman, who was made a conductor for one of the Navy bands after joining the Navy during World War I.

Don was a Sergeant in the Army and appointed Master Signal Electrician, 145th Aero Squadron, Regular Army of the United States, April 1, 1918, at Kelly Field, So. San Antonio, Texas, by Capt. Edwin H. Frith, Commander of the 145th Aero Squadron.

The first pilots were trained at Kelly Field. They became the first Air Force pilots. The Air Force branch of the military was established there.

He was also made head of the Flying Department band with the first ever Air Service Band. Before this appointment he served as director of the Kelly Field band, San Antonio, Texas, and assistant to John Weber leader of the Kelly Field Band.

After the World War I, Abraham "Don Leon", was either a member of an orchestra, had his own orchestra, played violin accompaniment for prominent classical singers including Madame Shuman Heink, performed on radio and played music for silent movies. From 1924 through 1930, Don Leon and his Petite Orchestra appeared at prominent theatres and ballrooms in San Francisco, California. In early February, 1933, Don was with the Oklahoma Federal Symphony Orchestra, with Conductor, Ralph Rose. On March 19, 1935, Don as conductor started a new series of programs on WKY Radio station, Oklahoma City, sponsored by the Oklahoma Gas and Electric Company.

Don married Corrine Tayloe, The daughter of Judge Samuel G. and May W (Callahan) Tayloe, April 14, 1919 in New Orleans, Louisianna, born about 1899, Texas.  No children were born of this marriage. They divorced after January, 1920.

He married Sallie Anderson, abt. 1923, born March 17, 1903, in Texas, and died December 18, 1976, Collin Co., Texas. By  about 1923, they were living in California and had a daughter Lorraine, who was born April 20, 1924, California, and died May 9, 1999, Berrien, Michigan. Lorraine married William E. Connor, born August 11, 1917, died February 11, 1993, Berrien, Michigan. They also had a son, Donald Leon, born May 23, 1931.

They lived in California, where the entertainment industry flourished during the 1920’s. By October, 1929, the family was living in San Francisco when on October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday, the day the stock market crashed.  Mr. David Frankel, Don's father, committed suicide it is said by throwing himself out of a window leaving his wife Ella alone. The 1930 census shows that by April 7, 1930, Ella was widowed and living with Don, Sallie and their daughter Loraine in San Francisco. Ella Frankel, died of Leukemia in New York State between 1940 and 1945.

From about 1932 to January, 1934, Don was Chief Musician/Conductor of the band aboard the steamer the Santa Rosa of Grace Lines, sailing cruised from Vancouver, BC to Seattle, Washington and San Francisco, California as well as routes from Cristobal, The Canal Zone and Mazatlan, Mexico. The Santa Rosa sailed other routes around South America.

Some time about 1933 Don and Sallie were divorced.

Don met Leila Elizabeth (Davis) Whitted and they were married on August 31, 1935, Cherokee Co., Columbus, Kansas. By 1936, Don had given up his musical career to enter the business world.

In addition to Leila Dale Whitted, Leila's daughter from her previous marriage, she and Don had three children; Janice Raachel, John David and Elizabeth Louise. The only time Don played the violin was when he accompanied Leila when she sang at Sunday church services.

Don and Leila were divorced in about 1957, after 23 years of marriage and he had remarried before he died June 24, 1959, Wheat Ridge, Colorado, of lung cancer. He is interred in the Tower of Memories Mausoleum, Crown Hill Cemetery, Jefferson Co., Wheat Ridge, Colorado.

For more information on Don and Leila's life and children see Leila Elizabeth Davis Here.



"Thank You" to my sister Janice Rieks, for sending me many new clippings, posters, pictures and other memorabilia of our father Abraham Frankel.  The image of Abraham and his brother Robert was scanned from a photo that Janice had restored from an old negative that was seriously degraded and unrecognizable.

See these links for more pictures and documents regarding Abraham Frankel:

Frankel, Abraham - As a young boy age 6 or 7
Frankel, Abraham - Certificate of Completion from Conservatory of Music, Vienna, Austria
Frankel, Abraham - Musical America Clip
Frankel, Abraham - Air Service Band Clip
Frankel, Abraham - Show Bill
Frankel, Abraham "Don Leon" - Orchestra

Abraham Frankel in tree . . .

Last Updated  ~  August 28, 2013


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