Knauss c. 1979
Sarah DeRemer Clark
September 24, 1880
|Died||December 30, 1999|
(aged 119 years, 97 days)
Allentown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Title||America's oldest person (1993–1999)
Oldest living person |
(16 April 1998 – 30 December 1999)
Knauss was the oldest person ever from the United States, and the second-oldest fully documented person ever. She was recognized as the world's oldest living person by Guinness World Records from April 16, 1998, until her death.
Sarah DeRemer Clark was born on September 24, 1880, to Walter and Amelia Clark in Hollywood, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. She married Abraham Lincoln Knauss in 1901; originally a tanner, who became a prominent Lehigh County, Pennsylvania Republican leader, and the recorder of deeds from 1937 until retiring in 1951. Their only child Kathryn was born in 1903 and died in 2005 at the age of 101 years. Sarah's husband died in 1965 at 86 years old.
In 1995, Knauss remarked that she enjoyed her life because she still had her health and could "do things." At age 116, Knauss was recognized as being the new United States national longevity record holder, then thought to have been Carrie C. White (reportedly 1874–1991). In 1998, she became the world's oldest person when 117-year-old French Canadian Marie-Louise Meilleur died. Before her death, there were six living generations in her family.
At 104, she moved in with her daughter Kathryn Knauss Sullivan. She died of natural causes on December 30, 1999, at the Phoebe Home in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where she had lived for the final nine years of her life.
A member of staff of the nursing home described her as "the friendliest person she had ever met among the home's residents". Of her death, state senator Charlie Dent, who had attended her 115th birthday party in 1995, said, "Mrs. Knauss was an extraordinary woman who pushed the outer limits of longevity. This is a sad occasion, but she certainly had an eventful life."
Verification and double-checking of her age
Specifically, Young found a 1900 US Census entry for Knauss (then known as Sarah D. Clark) that gave her age as 19, and that also explicitly gave her year and month of birth as September 1880. In addition, an August 28, 1901 marriage certificate for Sarah Knauss gives her age as 21, which roughly matches with a September 1880 birthday considering that, with such a birthday, she would have been less than one month short of age 21 at this time. Sarah Knauss is listed (as Sadie Knauss) as age 29 in the 1910 US Census and (as Sarah Knauss) as age 49 in the 1930 US Census (with her 1930 US Census entry listing her age at first marriage as 21, matching the information on her 1901 marriage record)—both of which also imply her birth date was in September 1880.
Later research resulted in the discovery of a US Census directory of Northampton County, Pennsylvania created by Joseph H. Werner in 1891 (the contents of which have been published online since at least 2008) that published the entire 1890 US Census results for this county—including Sarah Knauss and her family, who lived in South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (within this county; it became part of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 1917) back then. This 1891 directory states that the 1890 US Census listed Sarah Knauss (then known as Sarah D. Clark) as age 10, which is roughly consistent with a September 1880 birth date considering that she was just a couple of months short of her 10th birthday at the time of the 1890 US Census in June 1890 (indeed, her age could have simply been rounded up to the next-highest year in this census entry). (The 1890 US Census returns themselves were almost completely destroyed in a 1921 fire, but this 1891 US Census directory of the 1890 US Census results for Northampton County, Pennsylvania has survived.)
The entire entry for the Clark family in this 1891 directory (which, again, is a copy of their 1890 US Census entry from June 1890) included 41-year-old Walter Clark (with his job being listed as "carpenter"), his 33-year-old wife Amelia Clark, their 12-year-old son Charles H. Clark, their 10-year-old daughter Sarah D. Clark (later Sarah Knauss), and their 1-year-old son Foster E. Clark. This evidence further strengthens the case favoring Sarah Knauss indeed being born in September 1880.
- Merrill, Gary F. (February 3, 2015). Our Aging Bodies. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press. ISBN 9780813575261. Retrieved December 7, 2015.
- Newton, Christopher (December 31, 1999). "Sarah Knauss, world's oldest person, dies at 119". Athens Banner-Herald. Online Athens. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
- "Nothing Fazes Oldest Woman". Associated Press. April 19, 1998. Archived from the original on May 16, 2011. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
- "World's oldest person dies. She is the oldest verified American in history". The Guardian. London, England. January 1, 2000. Retrieved December 9, 2007.
- "Sarah Knauss, World's Oldest Person Dies at 119". The Nevada Daily Mail. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Associated Press. December 31, 1999. Retrieved December 5, 2015.
- "World's oldest person misses millennium". CNN via WebCite. Retrieved March 23, 2008.
As one of very few people who have already seen one century roll over to the next, she would probably not have made a fuss about the arrival of the year 2000.
- Harris, Timothy (2009). Living to 100 and Beyond. Winsted, CT: ACTEX Publications. p. 85. ISBN 978-1566986991. Retrieved December 6, 2015.
- "South Bethlehem 1890 Census". bethlehempaonline. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
- D., Ron (January 1, 2000). "Sarah's Century". The Morning Call. Retrieved April 17, 2017.
- Devlin, Ron (December 31, 1999). "Sarah Knauss, oldest person, dies at 119". The Morning Call. Retrieved February 18, 2013 – via Genealogy.com.
- Frassinelli, Mike (September 25, 1999). "Mrs. Sarah Knauss, the World's Oldest Person, Turns 119". The Morning Call. Retrieved January 23, 2019 – via GRG.org.
- Maier, Heiner; Gampe, Jutta; Jeune, Bernard; Robine, Jean-Marie; Vaupel, James W. (2010). Supercentenarians. Berlin: Springer. p. 298. ISBN 9783642115196.
- "South Bethlehem, PA A – C". Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
- "Review of Longevity Validations at Extreme Ages". Retrieved March 31, 2020.