Isidor Straus was born 6 February 1845 in Otterberg, Rhenish, Palatine. His father, Lazarus Straus found that, after the political reaction in 1848, his native Bavaria was unsympathetic to his democratic views, and so in 1852, he made his way to America. He settled in Georgia, and in 1853 moved to Talbotton, where he ran a general store. A Year later he was able to bring his family from Germany to America. In September of 1854, he was joined by his wife Sara (who was also his first cousin.) and his children, Isidor, aged nine, Hermina, aged seven, Nathan, who was six, and Oscar, a lad of three and a half years.
1860 United States Federal Census
Talbotton, Tabot, Georgia
|Lazarus Straus||50||Merchant||Bavaria, Germany|
|Sara Straus||36||Bavaria, Germany|
|Isidor Straus||15||Clerk||Bavaria, Germany|
|Hermina Straus||13||Bavaria, Germany|
|Nathan Straus||12||Bavaria, Germany|
|Oscar Straus||8||Bavaria, Germany|
The Straus children were trained in Judaism by their father, who was a lover of the traditions of Jewish life.
Isidor attended Collinsworth Institute and prepared for the West Point Military Academy, however due the Civil war, he did not enter.
When the civil war came, Isidor and his brother Nathan, started to help with the running of the store. The boys were very creative, for example, because of the war, face powder had become scarce, and so they would roll talcum powder into balls, and sell that instead of face powder.
During the Civil War, the Straus family moved to Columbus, Georgia. By the end of the war, the family were left poor.
In 1865, They moved to New York, where Lazarus was able to earn enough money to pay off his creditors. He then established the firm "Lazarus Straus & SOn" who dealt in pottery and glassware.
United States Federal Census, New York
|Lazarus Straus||60||Crockery Dealer||Germany|
|Isadore Straus||25||Crockery Dealer||Germany|
|Nathan Straus||23||Clerk in Store||Germany|
|Oscar Straus||19||At School||Germany|
In 1871, Isidor married Ida Rosalie Blun, also a native of Germany.
New York City Marriages, 1600s-1800s
Name: Ida Blun
Marriage Date: 1871
Marriage Place: Manhattan, New York, New York
Ida Blun was born 9 February1849 in Worms, Germany. She later came to America with her family. Together they had seven children, Jesse, Clarence,Percy, Sara, Minnie, Herbert and Vivian.
The following table shows Ida and her family in the 1860 Census.
Ward 16, District 2, New York, New York,
By 1874, the firm has rented the basement of the famous Macy store for a crockery department. In that same year, Isidor and his Nathan became partners in the Macy firm, and in 1887, they were the sole owners of the business.
The magnificent growth of this enterprise was down to the executive ability of Isidor, and the daring vision of Nathan.
1880 United States Census, New York, New York.
|Name||Age||Relation||Occupation||Birth Place||Father's |
|Isidor Straus||35||Head||Importer of China||Bavaria||Bavaria||Bavaria|
|Jesse Straus||8||Son||Attending School||New York||Bavaria||Hesse|
|Percy Straus||4||Son||New York||Bavaria||Hesse|
|Sarah Straus||2||Dau||New York||Bavaria||Hesse|
|Minnie Straus||3m||Dau||New York||Bavaria||Hesse|
In June, 1890, Isidor was a member of the committee of fifty New York importers, who went to Washington to protest against the McKinley bill. Mr. Carlisle, who was then a senator, declared that the speech made by Isidor Straus was the best made by an opponent of the McKinley Bill.
In 1892, he became a partner in Abraham & Straus, a dry goods firm in Brooklyn. He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, president of the Pottery & Glassware Board of Trade, a director in the Hanover National Bank and the New York County National Bank, Vice President of the Birbeck investment, Savings & Loan company, and a member of the Manhattan, Reform, Commonwealth, Nineteenth Century and Free Trade Clubs.
Isidor was also elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-Third Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Ashbel P. Fitch and served from 30th January 1894, to 3rd March 1895.
In 1900, Isidor and Nathan moved their firm R.H Macy & Co. from 204 Sixth Avenue between 13th and 14th Streets to Broadway and 34th Street.
In November of 1905, Isidor received a letter from Andrew Carnegie. attached to the letter was a check for $10,000 for the relief of the Jews in RUssia. ( Isidor had been raising money for the Russian Jews who were being massacred.)
The letter read:
"I am only too glad to send you the enclosed as a contribution to the fund for the relief of your co-religionists in Russia. The terrible crimes being committed there are such as might lead one to lose faith in humanity, had not the history of the past shown as scenes equally demoniac.
"Do not be discouraged, however, under the law of evolution we must steadily, though slowly, march upward and finally reach the true conception of the brotherhood of man."
1910 United States Census, Manhattan, New York
In April 1912, Mr. and Mrs. Straus boarded the new steamer, RMS Titanic.
On the night of the sinking, Mrs. Straus ordered her maid, Ellen Bird to enter one of the lifeboats. Mrs. Straus, however refused to leave without her husband, and he would not leave until every woman and child was off the ship, and so together they died.
The Syracuse Herald 19 April 1912
Mrs. Straus Refused to Go.
"As the officers were loading the women of the first cabin list into the boats, they came to Mrs. Isidor Straus, the elderly wife of the noted philanthropist. She started to get into a boat but held back, waiting for her husband to follow. Mr. Straus tenderly took her in his arms, bade her farewell and explained that he must abide by the inexorable rule of the sea which says women and children must be saved first.
"If you do not go, I do not go," explained the devoted wife. She clung to her husbands arm and, despite his efforts and the efforts of officers to persuade her to get into the boat, she refused. The devoted couple went to death together."
The loss of the thoughtful and gentle Isidor in the sinking of the Titanic affected many people, as did the death of his kind and loving wife:
The Gettysburg Times, 27 April 1912
"JERUSALEM MOURNS FOR ISIDOR STRAUS
Merchant's Wife Included in Their Lamenting.
Sixty thousand Jews in Jerusalem are fasting and mourning for Isidor Straus and Mrs. Straus, who went down with the ill fated liner Titanic.
According to a message from Jerusalem during their recent stay in that city, Mrs. Straus visited the Ghetto, and later told her husband of the misery and squalor she had witnessed.
She suggested that something be done for the relief of the miserable: Where upon Mr. Straus immediately responded: "Establish a soup Kitchen at once."
He then sent a letter to the Jewish authorities guaranteeing $10,000 annually for three years to support the kitchen. Since then between 500 and 600 persons have been fed daily through his charity."
Ida's body was never recovered, Isidor's, however was. His body was taken to Halifax and from there was transported by train to New York where he was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.
The courage of Mrs. Straus, left an impression on many women. On 21 September, 1912, Mrs. Jane Stone had her letter published in several newspapers. it read:
Mrs. Isidor Straus.
"Every day we hear of some new form of memorial either to Mrs. Isidor Straus, to her husband or to both of them, And there can't be memorials too many. But I think...Well, I think that Mrs. Straus deserves a memorial bigger than any yet suggested. I think her death - and her life should be commemorated by the women of the earth, women of every class, every creed, every nation. Mrs Straus' courage was the courage of a woman, of a wife. Her action sprang from the primary instinct of woman-kind, which is love for a man. It was the eternal feminine, the eternal woman in her, that made her go down to death as she did. It is the eternal woman in us that should raise the most fitting memorial to her. - Jane Stone. "
Death of Mr. and Mrs, Straus
With their minds filled with the last actions of brave men such as these, there was one scene, pathetic beyond all others which seems to have remained uppermost with not one, but many survivors. It was the deaths of Mr. and Mrs Isidor Straus. The sight of the devoted couple disappearing beneath the waves together, hand in hand. After Mrs. Straus had refused to yield to the entreaties of her husband to leave him, was one that few could describe to the reporters without emotion, though they had carried it vividly away with them. The strauses had mingled with those on board the ship very much, and their fellow passengers had had many oppertunities in the days that preceded the tragedy to witness their devotion. Apparently in that awful scene which those looking back from the boats had impressed upon their minds, this couple stood out most conspicuously.
While the stories regarding the others who died then differ somewhat those regarding the strauses all seem to agree, showing the accuracy with which the impression had been made. many of those who told this story had been close to the Strauses while the work of launching the boats was in progress. Everyone of them agree that during this scene Mr. Straus was strangley calm and remained so until the end. In only one small respect do the stories differ as to what then occured.
According to Mrs. J Murray Brown, who had been playing bridge with Mr. and Mrs. Straus, Mrs. Straus did actually get into one of the boats, but when she founf that Mr. Straus would not follow her, she stepped out again. other accounts are that Mrs. Straus from the first refused to step in a boat without Mr. Straus and that the latter, after trying tof orce her into one for a minute, then gave it up. This scene, harrowing inits details is described by H. F Stephenson, an attache of the Swedish embassy, who stoof by this particular boat and who only a minute before had seen Colonel Astor part with his wife.
"During the Excitement I heard some one say "Mrs Straus, you must go" Turning arounf, I saw the Strauses standing together. The men were talking to Mrs. Straus, 'No, no, I will not go"' She cried to her husband. 'I cannot leave you' Then someone said 'You both can go. There's room for both' 'As long as there is a woman on this vessel,' said Mr. Straus, 'I will not leave, they are the first who must be looked after, when they are safe, then come the men. But not until all the women are in the boats will I put my foot in a lifeboat.'
'You are an old man, Mr. Straus' somebody said.
'I am not too old to sacrifice myself for a woman.' was his reply.
The struggled which ensued when Mr. Straus tried to force his wife into the boat is a picture which I shall never forget. It was more than pitiful. Mrs. Straus stuck to the end for she, I learned, went down with her husband when the Titanic sank."
Others who saw this scene, among them Colonel Gracie and R.W Daniel, remember that the Strauses stood hand in hand while this was going on...
... Hugh Wollner said that once a sailor actually seized Mrs. Straus, but she held out her hands towards her husband, and then clung to the rail to stop herself being put in the boat. When She was let go of, she stood by her husband and tightened her grip on his arm, and patted it, smiled at him and then at the other passengers.
Helen Dick remembered that while her boat was being lowered, she could clearly see Mr. and Mrs. Straus.."We could plainly see Mr. and Mrs. Straus standing near the rail with their arms around each other. The lights of the Titanic were all burning and the band was playing. To me, the most affecting episode of the whole disaster was that final glimpse of this elderly couple, hand in hand, awaiting the end together."
Biography by Beata. 1 December 2006.
1. Lazarus Straus b 28 April 1809 in Rheinland, Pfalz, Germany. d 14 Jan 1898 in New York.
+ Sara Straus Born: 14 Jan 1823 in Otterberg,Germany Died: 21 Jul 1876 in New York,New York
2 Karoline Straus b 1838
2. Isidor Straus b 6 Feb 1845 in Otterberg, Rhenish, Bayern, Germany d 15 April 1912
+ Rosalie Ida Blun b 9 Feb 1849 in Worms, Rheinhessen, Hessen, Germany d 15 April 1912
3. Jesse Isidor Straus b 25 June 1872 in New York, New York
+ Irma Nathan b 1874
4. Son Straus b 1896 d 1896
4. Beatrice Nathan Straus b 17 September 1897 d 31 August 1967
4. Jesse Isidor Straus b 13 Jan 1900
4. Robert Straus b 22 October 1905
4. Son Straus b 28 Feb 1913 d 28 Feb 1913
3. Clarence Elias Straus b 27 August 1874 in New York, New York d 16 August 1876
3.Percy Selden Straus b 24 June 1876 in New York, New York
+ Edith Abraham b 30 April 1882 d 7 Feb 1957
4. Ralph Isidor Straus b 11 October 1903 d 5 Feb 1996
4. Percy Selden Straus b 17 September 1906
3. Sara Straus b 16 May 1878 in New York, New York d 10 April 1960
+ Alfred Fabian Hess b 19 October 1875 d 5 December 1933
4. Eleanor Straus Hess b 5 April 1906
3. Minnie Straus b 19 Feb 1880 in New York, New York d 1940
+ Richard Weil b 1876 d 1918
4. Evelyn Straus Weil b 19 Sep 1906
4. Richard Weil b 1907
3. Nathan Straus b 2 Nov 1881 in New York, New York d 6 April 1933
+ Therese Kuhn b 20 July 1884
4. infant girl Straus (twin) b 5 April 1908 d 5 April 1908
4. infant girl Straus (twin) b 5 April 1908 d 5 April 1908
4. Edward Kuhn Straus b 12 November 1909
4. Oliver Herbert Straus b 5 May 1914
3. Vivian Straus b 29 August 1886 in New York, New York d 1974
+ Herbert A Scheftel b 1875 d 1914
4. Herbert A Scheftel b 14 November 1907
4. Stuart Scheftel b 1910
2. Hermina Straus b 16 June 1846 in in Otterberg, Rhenish, Bayern, Germany
2. Nathan Straus b 1848 in Otterberg, Rhenish, Bayern, Germany d 1931
+ Lina Gutherz
3. Nathan Straus b 27 May 1889
3. Hugh Grant Straus b 1890
3. Sara Straus
3. ROland Straus
2. Oscar Soloman Straus b 23 Dec 1850 d 3 May 1926
+ Sara Lavanburg b 3 Jun 1861 d 1945
3. Mildred Straus b 23 December 1882
3. Aline Straus b 13 November 1883
3. Roger William Straus b 14 December 1891 d 1957
+ Gladys Eleanor Guggenhein b 15 Aug 1895
4. Oscar Soloman Straus b 1905
4. Roger William Straus b 3 Jan 1917 d 25 May 2004
4. Florence Guggenheim Straus