(1845 - 1912)
Born in Bavaria in 1845, Isidor Straus came to the
United States at the age of 9, residing first in Georgia and then in New
York City. Together with his brother Nathan, Isidor started to sell
glassware and china in R. H. Macy's in 1873. By 1896, the enterprise was so
successful that the Strauses purchased the entire store, helping to build
what is now the largest store chain in the world.
Isidor Straus was a trusted advisor to President Grover Cleveland,
and he was elected as a Democrat to the fifty-third Congress to fill
the vacancy caused by the resignation of Ashbel P. Fitch, and served
from January 30, 1894, to March 3, 1895. He did not run for reelection
in 1894 to the Fifty-fourth Congress.
Straus resumed the mercantile business in New York
City and served as a member of the New York and New Jersey Bridge Commission.
He was also a founder of an endowment fund for the Jewish Theological
Straus sailed on the maiden voyage of the Titanic.
When the ship was sinking on April 15, 1912, because of his age (67),
Isidor was told that he would be allowed to depart with the women and
children. But he firmly refused any special treatment, saying he would
enter a lifeboat only with the other men. He urged his wife Ida to board
a lifeboat, but she also declined, reportedly saying, "We have
been living together for many years, and where you go, I go." Over
40,000 people attended the couple's memorial service, and their story
was told in a Yiddish song by Solomon Smulewitz.
The body was subsequently recovered and interred in
the family vault in Beth-El Cemetery, Fresh Pond Road, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Sources: Jewish-American Hall of Fame - Jewish Museum in Cyberspace;
Directory of the United States Congress