Isidor Straus

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Isidor Straus
Isidor Straus 1903.jpg
Member of the U.S.HouseofRepresentatives
from New York's 15th district
In office
January 30, 1894 March 3, 1895
Preceded by Ashbel P. Fitch
Succeeded by Philip B. Low [1]
Personal details
Born(1845-02-06)February 6, 1845
Otterberg, Palatinate, then ruled by the Kingdom of Bavaria
DiedApril 15, 1912(1912-04-15) (aged 67)
Sinking of the RMS Titanic
Political party Democratic
Rosalie Ida Blun (m. 18711912)
  • Jesse Isidor Straus
  • Clarence Elias Straus
  • Percy Selden Straus
  • Sara (Straus) Hess
  • Minnie (Straus) Weil
  • Herbert Nathan Straus
  • Vivian (Straus) Dixon
OccupationCo-owner of Macy's department store

Isidor Straus (February 6, 1845 – April 15, 1912) was a German-born American Jewish businessman, politician and co-owner of Macy's department store with his brother Nathan. He also served for just over a year as a member of the United States House of Representatives. [2] He died with his wife, Ida, in the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Titanic.

Macys Department store chain in the United States

Macy's is an American department store chain founded in 1858 by Rowland Hussey Macy. It became a division of the Cincinnati-based Federated Department Stores in 1994, through which it is affiliated with the Bloomingdale's department store chain; the holding company was renamed Macy's, Inc. in 2007. As of 2015, Macy's was the largest U.S. department store company by retail sales. As of February 2019, there were 584 full-line stores with the Macy's nameplate in operation throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Its flagship store is located at Herald Square in the Manhattan borough of New York City. The company had 130,000 employees and earned annual revenue of $24.8 billion as of 2017.

Department store Retail establishment; building which offers a wide range of consumer goods

A department store is a retail establishment offering a wide range of consumer goods in different product categories known as "departments". In modern major cities, the department store made a dramatic appearance in the middle of the 19th century, and permanently reshaped shopping habits, and the definition of service and luxury. Similar developments were under way in London, in Paris and in New York.

Nathan Straus American businessman

Nathan Straus was a German-born, American merchant and philanthropist who co-owned two of New York City's biggest department stores, R.H. Macy & Company and Abraham & Straus.


Early life

Isidor Straus was born into a Jewish family in Otterberg in the former Palatinate, then ruled by the Kingdom of Bavaria. He was the first of five children of Lazarus Straus (1809–1898) and his second wife Sara (1823–1876). His siblings were Hermine (1846–1922), Nathan (1848–1931), Jakob Otto (1849–1851) and Oscar Solomon Straus (1850–1926). In 1854 he and his family immigrated to the United States, following his father, Lazarus, who immigrated two years before. They settled first in Columbus, Georgia, and then lived in Talbotton, Georgia, where their house still exists today. He was preparing to go to United States Military Academy at West Point when the outbreak of the American Civil War prevented him from doing so [3] . In 1861, he was elected an officer in a Georgia military unit but was not allowed to serve because of his youth; in 1863, he went to England to secure ships for blockade running. [4]

Otterberg Place in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Otterberg is a town in the district of Kaiserslautern in the German state of Rhineland-Palatinate with about 7,350 inhabitants. It is situated approximately 7 kilometres (4 mi) north of Kaiserslautern.

Electoral Palatinate Historical territory of the Holy Roman Empire

The County Palatine of the Rhine, later the Electorate of the Palatinate or simply Electoral Palatinate, was a territory in the Holy Roman Empire administered by the Count Palatine of the Rhine. Its rulers served as prince-electors (Kurfürsten) from time immemorial, were noted as such in a papal letter of 1261, and were confirmed as electors by the Golden Bull of 1356.

Kingdom of Bavaria kingdom in Central Europe between 1806–1918, from January 1871 part of the German Empire

The Kingdom of Bavaria was a German state that succeeded the former Electorate of Bavaria in 1805 and continued to exist until 1918. The Bavarian Elector Maximilian IV Joseph of the House of Wittelsbach became the first King of Bavaria in 1805 as Maximilian I Joseph. The crown would go on being held by the Wittelsbachs until the kingdom came to an end in 1918. Most of Bavaria's present-day borders were established after 1814 with the Treaty of Paris, in which Bavaria ceded Tyrol and Vorarlberg to the Austrian Empire while receiving Aschaffenburg and Würzburg. With the unification of Germany into the German Empire in 1871, the kingdom became a federal state of the new Empire and was second in size, power, and wealth only to the leading state, the Kingdom of Prussia. In 1918, Bavaria became a republic, and the kingdom was thus succeeded by the current Free State of Bavaria.


After the Civil War, they moved to New York City, where Lazarus convinced Rowland Hussey Macy, founder of Macy's, to allow L. Straus & Sons to open a crockery department in the basement of his store.

Rowland Hussey Macy American businessman

Rowland Hussey Macy Sr. was an American businessman who founded the department store chain R.H. Macy and Company.

Isidor Straus worked at L. Straus & Sons, which became the glass and china department at Macy's. In 1888, he and Nathan Straus became partners of Macy's. By 1896, Isidor and his brother Nathan had gained full ownership of R. H. Macy & Co. [5]

Marriage and children

In 1871, Isidor Straus married Rosalie Ida Blun (1849–1912). They were parents to seven children (one of whom died in infancy):

Ida Straus Titanic victim

Rosalie Ida Straus was an American homemaker and wife of the co-owner of the Macy's department store. She and her husband Isidor died on board the RMS Titanic.

Jesse I. Straus businessman, diplomat

Jesse Isidor Straus served as the American ambassador to France from 1933 to 1936.

Abraham Abraham businessman

Abraham Abraham was an American businessman and the founder of the Brooklyn department store Abraham & Straus, founded 1865. The chain, which became part of Federated Department Stores, is now part of Macy's.

Alfred Fabian Hess was an American physician known for his work on the role of nutrition in scurvy and rickets and for describing the Hess test.

Isidor and Ida were a devoted couple, writing to each other every day when they were apart.

His great-great granddaughter is singer, King Princess.

Political career

He served as a U.S. Congressman from January 30, 1894, to March 3, 1895, as a Democratic representative of New York's 15th congressional district. Also, Straus was president of The Educational Alliance and a prominent worker in charitable and educational movements, very much interested in civil service reform and the general extension of education. He declined the office of Postmaster General which was offered him by U.S. President Grover Cleveland. [10]

When the newly formed Mutual Alliance Trust Company opened for business in New York on the Tuesday after June 29, 1902, there were 13 directors, including Emanuel Lehman, William Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and Straus. [11]

Death on the Titanic

The gravesite of Isidor Straus in Woodlawn Cemetery Gravesite of Isidor Straus.JPG
The gravesite of Isidor Straus in Woodlawn Cemetery

Traveling back from a winter in Europe, mostly spent at Cape Martin in southern France, Isidor and his wife were passengers on the RMS Titanic when, at about 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912, it hit an iceberg. Once it was clear the Titanic was sinking, Ida refused to leave Isidor and would not get into a lifeboat without him. Although Isidor was offered a seat in a lifeboat to accompany Ida, he refused seating while there were still women and children aboard and refused to be made an exception. According to friend and Titanic survivor Colonel Archibald Gracie IV, upon seeing that Ida was refusing to leave her husband, he offered to ask a deck officer if Isidor and Ida could both enter a lifeboat together. Isidor was reported to have told Colonel Gracie in a firm tone: "I will not go before the other men." Ida insisted her newly hired English maid, Ellen Bird, get into lifeboat #8. She gave Ellen her fur coat, stating she would not be needing it. Ida is reported to have said, "I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die, together." Isidor and Ida were last seen on deck arm in arm. Eyewitnesses described the scene as a "most remarkable exhibition of love and devotion".[ attribution needed ] Both died on April 15 when the ship sank at 2:20 am. Isidor Straus's body was recovered by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett and taken to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it was identified before being shipped to New York. He was first buried in the Straus-Kohns Mausoleum at Beth-El Cemetery in Brooklyn. His body was moved to the Straus Mausoleum in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx in 1928. Ida's body was never found, so the family collected water from the wreck site and placed it in an urn in the mausoleum. Isidor and Ida are memorialized on a cenotaph outside the mausoleum with a quote from the Song of Solomon (8:7): "Many waters cannot quench love—neither can the floods drown it." [12]


Isidor and Ida Straus, victims of the ship Titanic - Yiddish Penny Song Isidore and Ida Strauss, sacrifices of the ship Titanic.jpg
Isidor and Ida Straus, victims of the ship Titanic - Yiddish Penny Song
The Ida and Isidor Straus Memorial Plaque mounted in the Manhattan Macy's Ida and Isidor Straus Memorial Plaque.JPG
The Ida and Isidor Straus Memorial Plaque mounted in the Manhattan Macy's
Isidor and Ida Straus Memorial in Straus Park, on Manhattan's Upper West Side 4.15.12StrausPark100thTitanicAnniversaryByLuigiNovi9.jpg
Isidor and Ida Straus Memorial in Straus Park, on Manhattan's Upper West Side
PS 198, on Third Avenue between East 95th and 96th Streets Isidor & Ida Straus PS 198M 1700 3d Av jeh.jpg
PS 198, on Third Avenue between East 95th and 96th Streets

In addition to the cenotaph at Woodlawn Cemetery, there are three other memorials to Isidor and Ida Straus in their adopted home of New York City:

Straus Hall, one of Harvard's freshman residence halls in Harvard Yard, was given in honor of the Strauses by their three sons. [15]

The couple is portrayed in the 1953 film Titanic, the 1958 film A Night to Remember , and in the musical Titanic, in scenes that are faithful to the accounts described above. In the 1997 film Titanic , the Strauses are briefly depicted kissing and holding each other in their bed as their stateroom floods with water. A deleted scene shows Isidor (played by Lew Palter) attempting to persuade Ida (played by Elsa Raven) to enter a lifeboat, which she refuses to do.

See also

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  1. "Isidor Straus Biography". History, Art and Archives. Office of the Historian, United States House of Representatives. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  2. "STRAUS, Isidor - Biographical Information".
  3. The Encyclopedia Americana: A universal reference library ..., Volume 14 1905
  4. Jewish Encylopedia Isidor Straus; for details of his brief service see Kurt Stone's "The Jews of Capital Hill.."(p.54)
  5. Straus, Isidor. Autobiography of Isidor Straus. Independently published by the Straus Historical Society, 2011. p. 117-150
  6. "Straus, Percy Selden, 1876-1944". The Frick Collection - Archives Directory for the History of Collecting in America. Retrieved June 4, 2018.
  7. Harvard College Class of 1897 Fourth Report. Forgotten Books. February 6, 2018. p. 197. ISBN   9781334712180.
  8. or empty |title= (help)
  9. Lyons, Richard D. (January 21, 1994). "Stuart Scheftel, 83; Executive Took Part In Many Civic Posts". The New York Times. New York Times.
  10. Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Straus, Isidor"  . Encyclopedia Americana .
  11. "Mutual Alliance Trust Co.", The New York Times, New York, p. 35, January 23, 2017, retrieved September 28, 2017
  12. Straus, Isidor. Autobiography of Isidor Straus. Independently published by the Straus Historical Society, 2011. p.168–176
  13. Straus, Isidor. Autobiography of Isidor Straus. Independently published by the Straus Historical Society, 2011. p. 175-176
  14. Thrasher, Steven (February 23, 2010). "Inside a Divided Upper East Side Public School: Whites in the front door, blacks in the back door". The Village Voice . Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  15. "Harvard Gazette: This month in Harvard history".

Further reading

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Ashbel P. Fitch
Member of the  U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 15th congressional district

Succeeded by
Philip B. Low