Oscar Solomon Straus was born on December 23, 1850 in Otterberg, Bavaria (now Germany). At the age of two, he immigrated to the United States with his family. Straus's family moved to New York City in 1865, and he attended Columbia University for both undergraduate studies and law school.
From 1887 to 1899 he served as United States Minister to Turkey, being only the second Jew to ever reach a position of that caliber in U.S. history. Under the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt Straus became the first Jew to ever hold a cabinet position in U.S. government, serving as the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor from 1906 to 1909. When William Taft became president, Straus became the U.S. Ambassador to Turkey from 1909 to 1910. In 1910, he ran unsuccessfully for New York Governor.
In 1922, Straus published his autobiography, Under Four Administrations: From Cleveland to Taft. He died in New York City on May 3, 1926. The Oscar Straus Memorial in Washington, D.C. commemorates the statesman.
Sources: “Oscar Straus (1850-1926).” American Jewish Historical Society, American Jewish Desk Reference, (NY: Random House, 1999) pg. 174, Wikipedia, Picture by: Department of Commerce Photographic Services