Jesse Isidor Straus
Jesse Isidor Straus (1872-1936) was born in June 25th, 1872 at 28 West 38th Street in New York City. He attended Harvard and graduated in 1893 with an A.B. degree. Jesse married Irma Nathan (1874-1970) on November 20th, 1895. After graduation, Jesse began work as a clerk at Hanover National Bank and then went on to work for Abraham and Straus in Brooklyn. In 1896, he joined R.H. Macy & Co. Jesse and his brothers Percy and Herbert assumed sole senior partnership at Macy’s in 1912. They were called a “triumvirate” and “Merchant Princes” by the press. He was a Macy’s partner until 1919 at which time he was elected the President.
Jesse was active in the Democratic Club. He also was a member of the Founders’ Committee of the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. Jesse was elected president of the National Retail Dry Goods Association for 1922. He was elected to the Board of Trustees of the United Hospital Fund on February 1, 1924 and to the active committee to raise funds for the Hampton-Tuskegee Institute in March 1925. The same month he gifted the Atlanta Art Museum 5,000 annotated photographs of paintings, mostly by old masters of the Italian Renaissance School.
Jesse was part of a delegation of the New York State Chamber of Commerce that went to Cuba as guests of Cuba’s President Machado in January 1928. He was a member of the New York State Commission for the Revision of Tax Laws. The commission became operative April 23, 1930. Jesse was also the chairman of the notification committee of the Independent Citizens’ Committee for the re-election of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lieut. Governor Herbert Lehman of New York in October 1930. Jesse was elected to the Board of Overseers of Harvard University in 1925 and chairman of the Visiting Committee in 1930. He was a director of the New York County National Bank, the Lincoln Trust Company and the New York Life Insurance Company. He was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, the Educational Association of New York, the National Economic League and the Business Historical Society to name just a few of his affiliations.
He took his appointments seriously, learning everything he could about each organization and its purpose and then acted accordingly. He personally gave the award to graduates of the Brooklyn Junior High School No. 109. He supported the Isidor and Ida Straus Scholarship at the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute in Hampton, VA. He gave generously to the American Red Cross, the National Committee on Prisons and Prison-Labor, the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association, Mt. Kisco Police Department, the Boy Scout Fund and countless other causes. With all of his business, civic and philanthropic activities, Jesse Isidor Straus was a devoted family man. He tried to be home each evening for dinner. Although he couldn't prevent his mind from wandering to the problems of the day, he was always available to his wife and children. He was a serious man who still found it possible to bring humor and music into his world. Jesse Isidor Straus was a merchant, public servant and philanthropist. And in each he excelled.
In 1931, Jesse was appointed as head of New York State Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (T.E.R.A.). He left that position in 1932 after realizing it had become a full time position. Although he resigned as chair of T.E.R.A., Jesse continued his civic work. He was a member of the executive committee of the Chamber of Commerce. Jesse also served on the Salvation Army United Appeal general committee. In 1933, he was nominated and appointed the United States Ambassador to France, a position he held until 1936. He died on October 4th, 1936 surrounded by family.
“Jesse Isidor Straus 1872-1936” Straus Historical Society Newsletter Vol. 6 No. 1 (New York: August 2004); pp. 3-7.
“Jesse Isidor Straus 1872-1936: Part Two” Straus Historical Society Newsletter Vol. 6 No. 2 (New York: February 2005); pp. 1-7.
“Jesse I. Straus ‘Businessman for Roosevelt’ and Ambassador in Paris” Straus Historical Society Newsletter Vol. 14 No. 2 (New York: February 2013); pp. 8-9.
Source: The Straus Historical Society