Straus family


Straus family
German-U.S. merchandising family that distinguished itself in public service and philanthropy.

The family originated in Bavaria, and the patriarch, Lazarus Straus, immigrated to the U.S. in 1852, followed by his wife and three sons: Isidor (1845–1912), Nathan (1848–1931), and Oscar Solomon (1850–1926). They established a merchandising firm that allowed them to gain an interest in Macy and Co., which led to complete ownership in 1896. Isidor established the department store chain of Abraham & Straus, served briefly in the U.S. Congress, and engaged in philanthropic works; he and his wife perished aboard the Titanic after giving Mrs. Straus's place in a lifeboat to their maid. Nathan was noted for his philanthropy; he distributed food and coal in New York and supplied pasteurized milk to children in 36 cities during the 1892 depression, built the first tuberculosis preventorium for children (1909), and provided food for New York's poor during the harsh winter of 1914–15. He devoted the last years of his life to public-health work in Palestine. Oscar was appointed Secretary of Commerce and Labor by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, becoming the first Jewish Cabinet member (1906–09); he also served as emissary to Ottoman Turkey and as an adviser to Pres. Woodrow Wilson, and he was a strong advocate for the protection of Jewish minorities in Europe.

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▪ American family
      Jewish-American immigrant family whose members prospered as owners of Macy's department store in New York City and distinguished themselves in public service and philanthropy. The Straus family originated in Otterberg, Bavaria (Germany), from which Lazaras Straus, the patriarch, emigrated in 1852. He settled at Talbotton, Ga., U.S., where he was joined by his wife and three sons, Isidor, Nathan, and Oscar Solomon.

      During the American Civil War the family aided the Confederacy, but, following its defeat, they resettled in New York City. There they established L. Straus and Sons, a merchandising firm that in 1888 Isidor and Nathan parlayed into a part interest in R.H. Macy and Company. By 1896 they had acquired full ownership of the department store. Isidor served for a short time in the U.S. House of Representatives (1894–95) and in later years engaged in philanthropic works. He and his wife perished aboard the liner Titanic in 1912. Their son Jesse Isidor Straus became president of Macy's in 1919 and was succeeded in that office by his son Jack Isidor Straus, who served as company president from 1939 to 1956.

      Nathan Straus (Straus, Oscar Solomon) gained distinction for his philanthropic efforts to improve the health and nutrition of needy children. His brother Oscar Solomon was the first Jewish U.S. Cabinet member and represented the United States in Turkey under three administrations.

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Universalium. 2010.

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