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Saturday, January 3, 2009

Lazarus Straus and Macy’s

Lazarus Straus and Macy’s [1,2,3]

Lazarus Straus was born in Otterberg, Bavaria, in 1809. His grand-father, who bore the same name, was one of the most prominent Jews on his day in the Rhenish Bavaria. When in 1806 Napoleon conceived the idea of according the Jews emancipation in the territory of which he has assumed control, he appointed Mr. Straus’s grandfather, who was known as Reb Lazar, a member of the Sanhedrin, or council, which was entrusted with the preparation of a plan for emancipation.

Mr. Straus’s father was identified with large farming interests, and the son also devoted himself to this vocation during his early manhood. He was eminently successful and accumulated a comfortable competence. His leisure time was devoted to study, and more especially to the acquisition of Hebrew learning and knowledge of the Jewish literature.

When the revolution of 1848 stirred Germany, Lazarus Straus championed at once the cause of liberty and emancipation. While not actively engaged, he did his utmost to raise recruits and gave largely of his means to aid the cause. Notwithstanding his ardent devotion to the ends for which the revolutionists fought, Mr. Straus was not exiled with the other prominent leaders. He remained at his home for the next five years, but then he became dissatisfied with the existing order of things and resolved to emigrate to the USA.

He landed in 1853 and proceeded to Talbotton, Ga., where he started a general merchandise business. There he remained until the first year of the war, when he removed to Columbus, Ga. The close of the war found him considerably poorer, and the general depression which followed induced him to come East and try his fortune anew. He had made up his mind to move to Philadelphia, but his son Isidor prevailed upon him to come to New York instead.

Mr. Straus arrived in New York in 1865 and he established with his son Isidor the firm L. Straus & Son. The business prospered from the start and soon the other sons were drawn into it, the firm eventually becoming L. Straus & Sons, and at the same time one of the most extensive importing houses of glassware and crockery in the country.

When R. H. Macy, the head of the firm of R. H. Macy & Co. died in 1874, L. Straus & Sons acquired an interest in that concern. In 1893, R. H. Macy & Co. was acquired by Isidor Straus and his brother Nathan Straus. In 1902, the flagship store moved uptown to Herald Square at 34th Street and Broadway.

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