Straus, Isidor

Straus, Isidor

(1845–1912) merchant; born in Otterberg, Germany (brother of Nathan and Oscar S. Straus). His mother, Sara, brought the family to join her husband, Lazarus, in Georgia in 1854. Isidor clerked in his father's Atlanta store, and then traveled to Europe (1863) on commission to purchase supplies for the Confederacy. Stranded in Liverpool, England, with southern ports blockaded, he sold cotton shares and Confederate bonds and returned to New York (1865). There, he and his father formed L. Straus & Sons, a crockery and glassware firm that in 1874 bought into R. H. Macy and Company. In 1888 Isidor and brother Nathan became partners of Macy's and in 1896 its sole owners. They also developed Abraham & Straus, another department store. Active in civic affairs, Isidor was an influential friend of President Grover Cleveland on whom he prevailed to pursuade Congress to adopt a gold standard. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives (Dem., N.Y.; 1894–95) but declined renomination. His philanthropies included the Montefiore Home and the American Jewish Committee, and he was president of the Educational Alliance (1893–1912), a settlement house on New York City's Lower East Side. He and his wife, Ida Blun, were aboard the S. S. Titanic; both drowned when Ida refused to be separated from her husband of 40 years, and he refused a seat on a life boat while women remained aboard the ship.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.