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Straus

Straus (strous) [key], family of American merchants, public officials, and philanthropists. Isidor Straus, 1845–1912, b. Rhenish Bavaria, emigrated (1854) with his brothers to the United States in order to join their father, Lazarus Straus, who had already settled in Talbotton, Ga. The family moved (1865) to New York City, and there Isidor took a large part in forming and directing the importing firm of L. Straus & Sons. Isidor, with his brother Nathan, became associated with R. H. Macy & Company in 1874, became a partner in 1888, and by 1896 had acquired ownership of the firm. As a Representative (1894–95) in the U.S. Congress, Isidor aided in drafting nonprotectionist tariff legislation. He later devoted his attention to philanthropy and reform. He and his wife were lost when the Titanic sank. His brother Nathan Straus, 1848–1931, b. Rhenish Bavaria, joined Isidor in business but was especially outstanding for his philanthropy. He established pasteurization stations to supply sanitary milk to the poor, made his milk stations relief depots in the Panic of 1893, and was a leader in the field of child health. He was a prominent Zionist leader and contributed generously to the general improvement of conditions in Palestine. Another brother, Oscar Solomon Straus, 1850–1926, b. Rhenish Bavaria, grad. Columbia (B.A., 1871; LL.B., 1873), was a diplomat and author. He practiced law in New York City until 1881 and then went into business with his brothers. He was minister to Turkey (1887–89) under President Grover Cleveland and again (1898–1900) under William McKinley and was ambassador to Turkey (1909–10) under William H. Taft. He was appointed (1902) to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (the Hague Tribunal) and was (1906–9) Secretary of Commerce and Labor under Theodore Roosevelt. He was candidate for governor of New York on the Progressive party ticket in 1912. He wrote several books, including Roger Williams (1894), The American Spirit (1913), and Under Four Administrations (1922). A son of Isidor Straus, Jesse Isidor Straus, 1872–1936, b. New York City, grad. Harvard, 1893, became president of R. H. Macy & Company in 1919 and served (1933–36) as ambassador to France. Nathan Straus, 1889–1961, b. New York City, son of the elder Nathan Straus, was a journalist and public official. He served (1921–26) in the New York state legislature and headed (1937–42) the U.S. Housing Authority. He wrote Seven Myths of Housing (1944) and Two Thirds of a Nation (1952). Family members ran the company until 1968, and the family held a large block of shares in the company until 1985, when the department store chain was sold in a leveraged buyout to a group of Macy's executives.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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