THE JEW IN THE GENERAL COMMUNITY, 1841-1920
THE PROBLEM OF IDENTITY
Perspective must always be maintained as to the significance of the American Jews in the life of the land. Economically aggressive and successful, they were not unimportant; the country found them useful, and benefited from them. On the other hand they were in no sense indispensable; just before the closing of the immigration gates, Jews constituted fewer than 3½ percent of America’s millions. But they were not an isolated body, certainly not before six o’clock in the evening; as an urban bourgeois group they were in constant touch with their Gentile neighbors. Very few made a living taking in each other’s washing. It was inevitable that the Christian world of their neighbors would influence America’s Jews profoundly. In the decades before and after the Civil War the Jews, many of whom were Central European immigrants, had a problem of identity. They lived in three cultures: the German, the Jewish, and the American. Back in Europe, still a continent of disabilities, oppression, and rejection, the Jewish cultural factor was pronounced. Here in the United States Jews were given a choice; they had to come to terms voluntarily with Germanism, Judaism, and Americanism. This most of them did, successfully, comfortably. The secretary of Madison, Wisconsin’s congregation was active in the turnverein and in the German Masonic lodge and ran with Engine Company No. 2 of the volunteer firemen.
The German Jews could not and did not throw their German heritage into the garbage can with their German boots. The culture of the Fatherland was inbred in them; emotionally, intellectually they could not divorce themselves from the past. In matters academic Central Europe of the first half of the nineteenth century had a great deal to give them; America was still a cultural satellite of Europe to which many here looked for guidance in the arts and sciences. German culture was to persist here into the twentieth century; even the native-born youngsters could not escape its influence. Young Israel, a children’s magazine of the 1870’s, published a German supplement, Libanon. Parents were determined that their offspring not forget the rock whence they were hewn.1
IDENTIFICATION WITH GERMAN CULTURE
Immigrants from Germany, Austria, and Hungary were bent on pursuing a German Jewish way of life. This gave them a sense of security even as a later generation of émigrés from Eastern Europe insisted on retaining their Yiddish and its allied cultural institutions. Since the early eighteenth century many of the thousands of German Christians who came here had found comfort in close settlements and colonies; the Jews attained the same goal by huddling together in urban ghettos. Yet the Jews were not intensely separatist; they did not reject their new home. Some New York state Hollanders were still speaking Dutch two hundred years after the English had occupied New Amsterdam and even today the Pennsylvania “Dutch” give lip and heart loyalty to their beloved patois. At the insistence of German Americans the German language was taught in the public schools of several large cities of this country as late as World War I.
The first generation of Jewish Central European newcomers who lived till the end of the nineteenth century could not, would not, surrender the language of their fathers. Their club and lodge minutes were written in that almost holy tongue; American Jewish devotees wrote and published German poetry. The American-born artist, Toby Edward Rosenthal, who was to live most of his life in Munich, wrote his memoirs in German; Ernst Troy (Treu) wrote a bilingual autobiography; the years in his homeland were recorded in German, but he switched to English when he began to recite his American experiences. Even the Americanizers did not reject the idiom that they had brought with them. Only four years after his arrival, the young and eager Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise had gone to Washington where he was privileged to chat with Seward, Webster, and President Taylor. He identified completely with this land and its ethos yet he wrote his reminiscences in German and his ardent love letters to his second wife-to-be in the tongue that he would never forget.2
A great deal of the preaching in mid-nineteenth century American Jewish synagogs was in German; some of the members could not follow an English address. German preaching was to continue if only occasionally into the early twentieth century. If Rabbi Raphall of New York was drafted to pray for Congress it was because the local Washington hazzan knew little English. The notable trio, Rabbis David Einhorn, Samuel Adler, and Samuel Hirsch rarely, if ever, preached in English, and when the Gettysburg hero, General Edward S. Salomon addressed the B’nai B’rith in Chicago in 1866 he, too, spoke to the members in the language that they knew best. As late as the 1890’s one of the groups in the National Council of Jewish Women devoted itself to a study of the literature of the Vaterland in the original. Many of the Central European immigrants held on stubbornly to their ancestral German long after they were, it seems, completely Americanized. They taught it in the Sunday Schools, insisted on its use at congregational meetings, wrote synagogal constitutions in that language, and in a few towns they demanded, as late as the twentieth century, that the minutes be kept in that language. In general, however, the shift was made to English after one generation, in some instances a long generation. By the 1870’s and 1880’s pulpit addresses and congregational sessions were in English; the new generation of natives would not have it otherwise. The fashionable New York Die Harmonie still calls itself the Harmonie Club.3
Many immigrants from Germany, Jews and Gentiles alike, believed that their fatherland was much farther ahead than the United States in literature, the arts, and the sciences—to say nothing of table manners—and a good case could be made for their contention. Jews supported German schools and taught in them; for postbellum American Jewry German was a status language and it was intent on furthering it. There was no question that Germany was culturally outstanding, indeed the greatest center for general and Jewish scholarship in the mid-nineteenth century. After a fashion the new Johns Hopkins of the 1880’s was an educational satellite of that land. The Jewish Forty-Eighters, for the most part political radicals and religious agnostics, were steeped in the best European traditions; the educated rabbis who migrated here from the 1840’s to the 1860’s were men of erudition; most of them were deeply rooted in German learning and classical scholarship. As late as 1889 Felix Adler and Bernhard Felsenthal corresponded in German; Adolph Lewisohn gave his library of German books to City College of New York; Jacob Schiff made a liberal contribution to Cornell to further Germanic studies.4
JEWS IN GERMAN SOCIETIES IN THE UNITED STATES
In spite of the prejudice in Germany against Jews, a prejudice which was rarely absent, the Jews here felt close to that land and its culture. Thus it was that they became members of German societies in all parts of this country as far west as the Pacific Coast cities. As late as the twentieth century Central European Jews everywhere, men and women, were members and leaders of German clubs and organizations devoted to music, dancing, Masonry, philanthropy, politics, and athletics. Many were members of turnvereins. Out West, in Los Angeles, a turnverein was organized by Emil Harris, a peace officer noted for his capture of a notorious bank robber. In 1878 Harris became Los Angeles’s chief of police. Because some of the older American pioneer societies would not accept Germans, Jews joined with others in establishing and maintaining pioneer clubs of their own. The German theatre was another favorite domain of American Jews. They stood out as patrons, producers, actors, and writers, and when they stopped going it entered its period of decline. It was the American German theatre that brought over Bogumil Dawison, a Polish Jew, for guest performances. Dawison was considered by many to be Europe’s foremost actor. In their own social clubs Jews produced German plays and operettas. The intellectuals among them joined the many German literary organizations; a society of German writers was formed as late as 1906 and included in its roster such notables as Hugo Muensterberg, Dr. Simon Baruch, Herman Rosenthal, and Carl F. Hauser.5
THE GERMAN PATRIOTISM OF THE AMERICAN JEWS
American Jews came to the aid of the refugees who fled Europe after the failure of the 1848 revolutions. The subsequent emergence of the new German empire and its defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War revived the dormant German patriotism of American Jewry eager to identify with the new Germany in the hour of its ascendancy. By 1870 most, not all, Jews had forgotten the old disabilities from which they had fled and were still apparently unmindful of the new anti-Semitic sentiment in the old homeland. Jewry was now emancipated in Germany and the émigrés were ready to forget the past. German American Jewry rejoiced in the military successes of 1870-1871 and in the flush of patriotism rushed to help the German widows and invalids who were victims of the war. They marched proudly in the victory parades of 1871. The Christian members of the formerly anti-Jewish Arion Society, in need of additional relief funds for Germany, opened their doors once more to the Jews. An American Jewish entrepreneur eager to cash in on the Franco-Prussian War enthusiasm published a colored lithograph showing massed German Jewish soldiers conducting High Holy Day services in an open field near the city of Metz. It is a touching genre scene reflecting Jewish religiosity and German patriotism, but the picture is, probably, imaginary. It seems that there was no such service.6
JEWS AND AMERICAN GERMAN NEWSPAPERS
Some Jews owned or edited secular German newspapers. The publication of such papers was hardly a patriotic or cultural-ethnic gesture. The men who established these organs had strong political convictions, it is true, but for the most part they were probably motivated by the desire to make money. Building a German newspaper empire was a goal to which Dr. Edward Morwitz of Philadelphia dedicated himself, successfully. He owned and published dozens of periodicals, most of which were German; one at least was English and one was an American Jewish periodical. Morwitz also controlled a Newspaper Union, a news and advertising service supplying hundreds of papers throughout the country. A number of the publishers, editors, and reporters in the German newspaper field were men of influence and great ability. Among them were Lewis (Ludwig) N. Dembitz, Charles Louis Bernays, and Henry Boernstein. The latter two, both from St. Louis, were connected with the Anzeiger des Western, the oldest German paper west of the Mississippi. Bernays served as editor, Boernstein as owner and publisher. They were strong pro-Union men, Republicans, politicians, supporters of Abraham Lincoln.
A number of Jews who began as reporters or editors for German papers later made careers for themselves in the English press. Joseph Pulitzer was the most distinguished of these. This young Hungarian immigrant began his work as a journalist on a daily owned by Carl Schurz; earlier Pulitzer had served under him as a cavalryman in the Civil War. Another Hungarian of lesser stature but very well known in his day was Carl Frank Hauser, the Jewish Mark Twain. For many years he was on the staff of Puck but worked also for the New York Herald. Like the East European badhan, the minstrel or jester, Hauser read poems at weddings and funerals and lectured to appreciative audiences. At one of his talks a woman seeking to disconcert him, presented him with a doll. Unperturbed he looked at the doll critically, turned to his auditors and said: “This child seems to be suffering for want of nourishment. Perhaps some lady in the audience will be kind enough to oblige.”
The Jews here published German Jewish newspapers, generally weeklies, for their specific needs as a distinct community. The papers were all in German or were English papers with German supplements. They were really part of the religious press, not truly secular, because for Jews there is little distinction between the mundane and the religious. They appealed to the immigrant in his mother tongue in order to help make the transition to the American way of life relatively painless. Frequently these journals provided a medium for the leaders, the editors, to vent their personal philosophies; they were instruments not only to educate but to gain power, a following. Indirectly they served to perpetuate German culture.7
THE DAMROSCH CLAN
In the area of music the impact of German culture on America is well documented in the influence exerted by the immigrant Damrosch family which came here in 1871. Though not typical, the lives of Leopold Damrosch, his two sons, Frank and Walter, and his daughter Clara, reflect what the German Jews at their best did for this country. Leopold (1832-1885) was very probably born with the name Blutkopf, Bloody Head, which translated into Hebrew became Damrosch. After studying medicine he turned to music and enjoyed a successful career in his homeland as a solo violinist, as a leader of a choral society, and as a symphony conductor. He married a Christian, converted to Lutheranism, and then sailed for the United States to accept a post with the Arion Society. In New York, in a day when the Italian opera was dominant, he furthered the German opera, established an oratorio society and a symphonic orchestra, and produced a great music festival conducting an orchestra of 250, and a chorus of 1,200 singers. Among the works he composed was an opera Sulamith. Curiously, just about the same time, Abraham Goldfaden, the playwright and musician, still in Europe, wrote a Yiddish opera with the same title. There can be no question that Damrosch did much to raise the musical standards of New York in the decade of the 1870’s and 1880’s.
Leopold’s two sons, Frank and Walter, both natives of Breslau, carried on his work. Like other “Jewish” boys Frank studied at New York’s City College and then moved to Denver where he clerked and worked as a pianist, organist, and as supervisor of music in the public schools. Returning to New York he organized a workmen’s chorus, became director of music in the public schools of the metropolis, led symphony concerts for young people, and encouraged the musical education of the boys and girls of the Lower East Side. In 1905 James Loeb gave $500,000 to further the Institute of Musical Art, a conservatory directed by Frank, which provided training of a high quality for the youth of the city. Frank’s brother, Walter, followed closely in the footsteps of his father, for he led oratorio and symphony societies and promoted an appreciation of Wagnerian opera. He composed operas and music for orchestras, traveled with the New York Symphony throughout the United States, and for the first time brought an American orchestra to Europe. With the advent of broadcasting he gave radio concerts, using this medium to introduce good music to children, thus becoming one of the important music educators of his generation. Frank and Walter were not raised as Jews. Clara, their sister, married the Jewish musician David Mannes. Their son, Leopold Damrosch Mannes, and a son of Leopold Godowsky, the pianist, were the inventors of the Kodachrome process for making colored photographs.8
If the Damrosches were completely assimilated and acculturated “Jews,” they differed from other Jews in that they were nominally Christian. All Jews in all lands were acculturated and always had been ever since they left the Palestinian homeland. Actually acculturation, adaptation, is the secret of their survival. The process of becoming one with the larger outside world was often fraught with difficulties; these difficulties in turn were exacerbated by intramural conflicts particularly as each wave of Jewish settlement—natives and older immigrants—confronted newcomers. There is some reason to surmise that even as early as the seventeenth century there were hostilities here in the colonies between different strata of immigrants which may have reflected different acculturational attitudes. Antagonisms may have been furthered by differences in secular cultural backgrounds; as a rule, the Sephardim had a better general education than the German and East European Jews. Yet despite these conflicts newer immigrants did pattern themselves on those who had preceded them. The old-timers were their exemplars, whether in the seventeenth, eighteenth, nineteenth, or even the twentieth century.
The Germans who came here in the mid-nineteenth century found earlier settlers who stimulated them to integrate themselves. Despite the attachment of the new arrivals to the mother tongue and their traditional way of life, they, like all immigrants, were very much influenced by American modes, by the dress, food, language, economic activity, and by the typical American gumption, bravura. It was not long before the newcomers began to neglect the older ceremonies and ritual. They became active in the larger communal and political world about them, an area of expression which in a large measure had been denied them in the land whence they had come. Here in America, the Gentiles with whom they lived and with whom they worked influenced them very much. Emotionally at least the Jews were less ghettoized than they had been in Europe. This free world with its minimum of Jewish ecclesiasticism and social controls was most attractive. They were eager to become Americans; integration was the best guarantee against anti-Jewish prejudices—so they thought. Self-effacement, low visibility as a separate group, was an aim they zealously pursued.
The impact of the American environment was not to be denied; it was overwhelming. By the early 1850’s the Independent Order of B’nai B’rith, the German Jewish fraternal order, already included an English-speaking lodge. The drive of the German Jew was toward integration if only as a strategy to effect a comfortable survival, even though the process brought some degree of dejudaization. Jews conformed to the prevailing political, cultural, economic, and social patterns. Social intercourse, however, was on a superficial level. Despite their membership in German-speaking orders and militia companies and in English-speaking lodges such as the Odd Fellows, Masons, and Redmen, Jews found that the doors to intimate social relations were closed to them. The Gentiles wanted to be with their own and this, too, the Jew could understand. He, too, was often equally determined to seclude himself in a private world limited to Jews with common traits and interests.
No one was immune from the assimilatory push although the degree of adaptation varied with the individual. In only one area was there no complete surrender for the Jew as Jew; this was in the area of religion. Assimilation in the sense of defection from Judaism and Jewry was rejected summarily by most Jews. Thus far but no farther! Disturbing, confusing, for the historian or the sociologist is the fact that the dividing line between assimilation and acculturation is often invisible. Emile Berliner, the inventor, wanted to abolish circumcision which he said created barriers between Jews and Christians, and he hoped that the Jews would acknowledge the ethical eminence of Jesus. Yet he was no assimilationist; he was active in Jewish organizations. Major Louis Gratz who, so it seems, associated with Jews for business reasons only, married out and reared a family of Christians. He had assimilated.
All in all the Central European newcomers of the nineteenth century effected a happy synthesis of Germanism and Americanism. They attacked the crudities of American social behavior but exulted in American liberties; they praised German culture but condemned German political reaction. In the postbellum period those Germans who had already been exposed to American ways for a decade or two distanced themselves rapidly from Europe. Their children certainly speeded up this process. By the late 1870’s the typical American of German Jewish origin was clearly acculturated. There is good reason to believe that the children of the immigrant were ready to forget their German background; some, possibly many, were even prepared to negate, certainly to neglect their Jewish mores. The public schools made Americans of the children; the youngsters were steeped in American and English literature, in Anglo-American history and folkways. Most, however, like their parents, never foreswore allegiance to Judaism despite the ever-present temptation. An immigrant child, Miriam, found Christian Endeavor meetings attractive and proudly wore the CE button. Queried by her parents as to its meaning she ingenuously told them that it stood for Evening Circle, but when they discovered that she was consorting religiously with Protestants they yanked her out of the club. She loved to march through the streets with the Salvation Army band bravely singing Onward Christian Soldiers and enjoyed pounding the tambourine in the mission hall. The native-born or Americanized children had problems adjusting themselves to their foreign-born religious teachers and in turn these immigrant teachers, set in their European ways, could not relate to the youngsters. This problem of the gulf between the spiritual leaders and their flocks was even wider and deeper in the Catholic Church. Many of the priests and prelates, foreign-born, too, did not even share a common ethnic background with their parishioners. The Jews were spared this difficulty though on occasion the Germans sneered at those religious functionaries who had come from Poland.
For Jews, and this is probably true of many Gentile newcomers, the problem of adjusting to the new way of life was not a severe one. The parents wanted the children to Americanize themselves. There can be no question that the appearance of the Russian Jews in the 1880’s in massive numbers pushed the earlier German immigrants farther into the American ambit; they did not want to be identified with the incoming aliens. World War I completed the process of Americanization; many of the Germans began to change their names by adopting Anglo-Saxon equivalents. A few of the older Germans even became Germanophobes.9
THE CHANGING OF NAMES
How speedy was acculturation? It began almost immediately on landing, superficially at least. Leaders like Wise urged their people to integrate: “Be Americanized . . . be Jews in the synagogue and Americans everywhere outside thereof.” Don’t join any ethnic club, not even a Jewish one unless it has religious and philanthropic aims. Identify yourselves with the general institutions in town. A common sign of integration was the change of names. Early in the nineteenth century European Jews had been compelled to take family names. Many sported German names redolent of romance: sweet-smelling flowers, mountains, valleys, precious metals, and jewels. A generation later as their children came to the States many changed their names once more to conform to the new setting. Jews now appear with the names of Rice and Jones. The Arnolds, Allens, and Phillipses were leaders of Philadelphia Jewry. There were California Israelites who called themselves Barnes, Haines, Cole, Ross, and Brown. McDuff Cohen was a cavalryman in the Confederate Army. The Julius Brooks family bore the name Bruck in Germany. After crossing the plains by muleteam to a placer mining camp in California, the family decided to turn eastward, becoming pioneer Jews in Salt Lake. Family members boasted that they had tracked in one of the first pianos that graced the territory. A son went to Harvard. Samuel Gelbfish (Yellow Fish) became Goldfish, and finally emerged as Goldwyn, the movie magnate.10
FORMS OF ACCULTURATION
Jews rarely hesitated to drop the mannerisms, dress, or customs that set them apart. They adhered to American mores especially in the smaller towns and villages; they had to conform or be isolated and perhaps even suffer economic boycott. Slavishly many adopted the American way of life. They played poker, they hunted, and became expert riflemen; they trained as prizefighters in order to gain status and if they lived in the South they learned to disdain the Negroes. An editor of an Atlanta Jewish newspaper disapproved of lynching but not in a case of rape. Negroes, he wrote, were to be well treated but there was to be no social equality. Did this journalist speak for Atlanta Jewry? Very probably. As late as the 1870’s Jews dueled in the South and died on the field of honor. As soon as Jews rose in the world, they began to give balls and dinners, to organize social and literary societies, to join the fashionable cavalry troops, and to sit for their portraits. They dropped out of the German clubs and societies to become members of English organizations and as the public schools improved they abandoned their own inferior parochial schools. The liturgies they read were nearly always accompanied by an English translation. As early as 1848 Temple Emanu-El printed a marriage certificate with an English translation on the reverse side. Jews subscribed to the general press as well as to American Jewish newspapers. In turn, some of these American Jewish journals began to follow the pattern of the daily papers, for they introduced book reviews, theatrical criticism, and musical notices.11
Acculturation in the area of religion spells deculturation. If more and more the Jews began to identify with the Christian majority religiously it was in the externals and not the essentials of religious thought and conduct. The synagog borrowed the Christian word “congregation”; as early as 1810 Philadelphia’s Rodeph Shalom identified Passover with Easter. The observance of Christmas by Jews in the nineteenth century was very extensive even among the Orthodox. Noah, a member of Shearith Israel, allowed his children to hang up Christmas stockings; Jews traded gifts on that day and put up trees despite the reproaches of the rabbis. Even some of the children of the new Russian migration would not be denied the pleasure of hanging up their stockings in the kitchen, stuffing them with food, and then stealing back to have a feast. But all this after the parents had gone to bed.
By neglecting traditional practices Jews came that much closer to their Christian neighbors thus appearing less and less different. Congregations began to drop the use of Hebrew dating, anno mundi, and to adopt the secular anno Domini; the dietary laws fell into neglect; Sabbath observance declined, the home ceremonies were neglected, and few went to synagogal services except on the High Holy Days. Pious women no longer wore the prescribed wig; circumcision was scoffed at by the sophisticated, and when the Savannah synagogal board refused to bury an uncircumcised member, it was overruled by the congregation. Despite the campaigns urging businessmen to close their shops on the Sabbath most Jews kept them open and relaxed on Sunday, the national day of rest.
American Jews tended to reject congregational controls and admonitions. Religion meant less to many; believers declined. There were numerous non-religionists, atheists, agnostics, Deists. Most, if not all of them were welcomed in the B’nai B’rith; no questions were asked. The unsynagogued could always find a burial society that would be happy to accept them. In the new world of science and secularism religion went on the defensive; the emancipated skeptics, the intelligentsia brushed ritual aside. (Christmas observances might well be an exception.) Men like Senator Simon Guggenheim were proud Jews but were in no sense active religionists. There were even liberals among the Reform rabbinate who in the 1890’s left the synagog to become secular leaders. They addressed themselves to literary and historical themes; they preached the gospel of humanitarianism, reason, civic virtue, evolution, biblical criticism, and comparative religion—on Sunday. At best they were tenuous Jews.
Well aware of this irrepressible drift to the far left, the Reform leaders worked to come to terms with the critical challenges of the century. They did not become reactionaries. Pleading for religious universalism and integration into America’s cultural and ethical world, they insisted, too, on an unquestioned loyalty to Judaism. In this insistence Orthodox and Reform were one. Intelligent religionists wanted to reconcile the old traditions with the new values in science and literature, with the new emphasis on social ideals. Thus all Jewish religionists, centrists, rightists, or leftists, but especially the Reformers, embarked on a program of adapting religion to the American scene and reducing the distance between Americanism and the Jewish spiritual heritage. American Jewish Reform documented this effort on the surface level by the introduction of decorum, the vernacular prayer book, the American-trained rabbi, modern music, Christian type Sunday schools, and even the Christian clerical garb. Far more critical and far-reaching was their tacit rejection of the rabbinic codes and their deference to almost all the implications of modern critical thought.
The confluence of the two elements, Americanism and Judaism, was not unmarked by conflict. In a way this encounter between Jewish survival and integration into the larger American life is the history of Jewish-Christian relations. The pull of acculturation in a free America was almost irresistible, spurred on as it was by the resentment which the immigrant generation nursed against an unfree hostile Europe and to a degree against Jewish traditionalism which it did not always find viable, useful, or rewarding in this new world.12
THE EDUCATIONAL BACKGROUND OF THE IMMIGRANTS
WHAT THEY BROUGHT WITH THEM
When the “German” Jews began arriving here in the 1830’s and on what education, secular training, did they bring with them? It would seem that very few were illiterate; most had sufficient learning to carry on their modest businesses as shopkeepers. Many were multilingual; all were or became bilingual of course for they were learning English and already spoke German or Yiddish. In addition most of them could read Hebrew though few could translate the prayers they so devoutly rattled off. A substantial minority was well-educated. This was true of the Forty-Eighters and special families like the Heilprins, a number of whom were or soon became polymaths, encyclopedists. As early as 1869 Franz Lieber had written to J. K. Bluntschli in Switzerland that the German Jews were intelligent and read better books than the other Germans. This may be true, for many of the immigrants from Central Europe were peasants. Franz Boas, a Westphalian, became a university professor shortly after his arrival; the numerous rabbis who were invited to these shores from the 1850’s on were often university trained; a few held Ph.D. degrees.13
EDUCATION AND THE AMERICAN JEWS
Did the first native-born generation of Jews or the children who accompanied their emigrating parents flock to the schools? The typical American Gentile had but modest schooling. Until the twentieth century at least one-third of the states did not even require compulsory attendance in the elementary schools. Fewer than half of the youngsters in this country attended school. At best boys and girls, Jews as well as Gentiles, did not go beyond the first eight grades. They had to stop and go to work. This was certainly true until the end of the nineteenth century; after that some, certainly the Jews, started sending their youngsters to the high schools. Only a few Jews and Gentiles went to college; a very limited number found their way abroad to study art, music, and especially medicine. American Jews started studying at European schools after the Civil War when their parents had attained a modest degree of affluence. By the second half of the century American Jews, especially the women, started teaching in the public schools of the larger towns. Some Jews served on school boards. One of the Seligmans, De Witt, a commissioner of education in New York City in 1884, urged the introduction of manual training into the public schools.14
COLLEGE TRAINING FOR THE AMERICAN JEWS
Though few Jewish boys and girls went beyond high school even after the turn of the century, individual Jews had matriculated at schools of higher learning as early as colonial times. Isaac M. Wise had attempted to establish a Jewish secular college, Zion college, in 1855; a Jewish lad, Jacob P. Solomon won highest honors at Notre Dame in 1858, and before the Civil War had run its course there were eighty Jewish youngsters in the Free Academy, the later City College of New York. College-trained men were needed in the 1860’s to meet the demands of an expanding commerce and industry. There was a need for university-trained lawyers, engineers, and architects; people were eager to secure better medical and dental care. By the 1880’s Jews in numbers were turning to law and medicine and a few had begun to do graduate work at Harvard and Johns Hopkins. In 1887 Cyrus Adler, a future leader of American Jewry, received his Ph.D. degree at Hopkins in Oriental languages. Ambitious Jews were going to Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Virginia no later than the 1860’s, and the numbers increased as the century drew to a close. At Harvard Jewish students were found on the class teams playing baseball and football; they rowed on the crew and wrote for the Crimson and the Harvard Advocate. Young Russian-born Bernard Berenson was on the board of the Harvard Monthly.15
EAST EUROPEAN STUDENTS GO TO COLLEGE
The increase in the number of Jews who began to go to college in the 1880’s was in no small measure due to the desire of the metropolitan ghetto youngsters to improve themselves. As early as the 1870’s the East Side boys of New York’s City College sought exemption from examinations on Jewish Holy Days; by 1878 over 40 percent of the school’s students were young men who hailed from Lower Manhattan. (Some of these students were of course children of the older immigrant generation. The East Side had always been a Jewish “ghetto”.) The push for higher education became even more visible by 1900 as the younger “Russians,” immigrants and natives, began to enter the professional schools. By 1904-1905, 74 percent of the student body at City College of New York and over 32 percent at Columbia was Jewish; 39 percent of all medical students in the city were Jews. It is believed that in 1918-1919 almost 10 percent of the students in 106 large American colleges were Jewish. By that time American Jewry could point to the fact that its percentage in the schools of higher learning was more than twice its incidence in the general population. This thought so frightened President A. L. Lowell of Harvard that he attempted to impose a quota on the number of Jewish students who sought admission to its halls of learning.16
Thus by the beginning of the twentieth century there was a substantial increase among Jews of college-trained men and women; only a few of these succeeded in securing positions as teachers in the schools of higher learning. Jews in very small numbers had been teaching in the so-called colleges—often just academies comparable at best to the better high schools of the twentieth century—since antebellum times. One of these instructors was a Dr. Julius Friedlaender, a Berlin bookseller who came over here before the War to teach mathematics. He later returned to Germany and became one of the chief suppliers of scientific works to Harvard, Yale, and New York’s Astor Library. By 1864 there were two Jewish instructors in the Free Academy (CCNY); one of them, Adolph Werner, professor of German language and literature, served twice as Acting President of the College and as head of the New York Teachers Association. The first “Jewish” college president was the convert to Christianity Ephraim M. Epstein (1829-1913), Baptist preacher, surgeon, and founder of the University of Dakota in 1882, in territorial days. At first he was the only member of the faculty, teaching sixty-nine students for a salary of $700 a year.17
The teaching of medicine was a field to which a number of Jews turned as far back as the early decades of the nineteenth century. After the Civil War, at a time when the standards of instruction and training were altogether inadequate, many held lectureships and clinical professorships in the medical schools of the country. By the fourth quarter of the century better schools, some of which were comparable to the European medical colleges, had developed. Individual Jewish medical men were occasionally recruited for professorships but in general they were ignored. Anti-Jewish prejudice certainly motivated these discriminatory practices on the part of the tightly knit Gentile professorial cliques. It is interesting to note that Joseph Erlanger left a low echelon assistantship in Hopkins in 1906 to become the head of the department of physiology at the University of Wisconsin and ultimately was crowned as a Nobel laureate in medicine. Apparently, Hopkins saw no reason to promote him, but in 1947 the university was prompted to give him an honorary LL.D.
When Hopkins opened in 1876 it brought the Englishman James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897) back to the United States to take the chair of mathematics. Sylvester, whose original family name was Joseph, had studied at Cambridge in England but could neither secure a degree nor teach there because he was a Jew. However he did secure a post at the University of London in the 1830’s and then taught at Jefferson’s University of Virginia in 1841-1842. He resigned when the faculty refused to expel a student who, apparently, had referred slightingly to him as a Jew. Failing to secure an appointment at one of the better American schools he returned to England till Hopkins summoned him. It was during his stay here that he founded the American Journal of Mathematics and furthered research in the science in which he was such a distinguished practitioner. He was one of the great mathematicians of the nineteenth century. In 1883 after Oxford had already removed its restrictions on Jews, Sylvester was offered a very prestigious appointment there. He was succeeded at Hopkins by another Jew, Fabian Franklin. Sylvester was an eccentric but an unusually gifted man for he was a fine Latinist, a translator, and a musician of parts.18
The prevalent racism and its concomitant conviction that good jobs were the prerogative of native-born white Anglo-Saxon Protestants not only prevented Jews from rising in the medical school hierarchies but kept them from advancing in nearly all university posts. This was to be true till—at the earliest—the second quarter of the twentieth century. There were always exceptions. Young Joseph Jastrow (1863-1944) was given a professorship in psychology at Wisconsin in 1888. Jastrow was a native of Warsaw from where his father, a German-born rabbi, had been expelled because of his sympathy for the Polish rebels. Joseph was probably the first or one of the first men in this country to receive a Ph.D. degree in psychology. His wife was a daughter of Benjamin Szold, the Baltimore rabbi; her sister was Henrietta, the actual editor of the Jewish Publication Society and the founder in later years of Hadassah, the American women’s Zionist organization. In his early days Jastrow was an experimental psychologist; later this felicitous writer became a very successful popularizer in his chosen field to the dismay of the university authorities who would have preferred that he continue his research work. He was the first secretary of the American Psychological Association and eventually its president. Like the University of Wisconsin, Hopkins, Harvard, Pennsylvania, Chicago, and New York University all had two or three Jews who occupied chairs; but only men of superb talent, national repute, or wealth and social connections could hope to receive recognition in American schools before the dawn of the new century.
If talented Jews had begun to receive appointments in the neutral areas of science, languages, and foreign literature in the nineteenth century very few were welcomed into the more “sensitive” areas of American history and English literature until the twentieth century. Here, too, there were of course always exceptions. Brilliant thinkers like the immigrant Morris Raphael Cohen (1880-1947) and Horace Meyer Kallen (1882-1974) were given grudging recognition. Cohen was a rare intellect, a scholar in the field of mathematics, law, and philosophy. Kallen was an educationist, philosopher, and psychologist. Shortly after he graduated from Harvard he was invited to teach English at Princeton but was dropped after two years; rumor had it that his colleagues did not know that he was a Jew when they hired him. He taught for many years at Wisconsin as an instructor but was not advanced. He finally made a career for himself in New York City at the New School for Social Research.19
THE CONCERN OF JEWS FOR EDUCATION AND CULTURE
Although this country gave birth to relatively few great men in culture and knowledge in the second half of the nineteenth century, many Americans were interested in books, learning, art, music, and the stage. This avid interest in education was bound to influence the Jews if indeed they required any stimulus. It was traditional among them to study, to know. In essence Jews of the last 1,000 years have been a literate people. Here in the United States in a land of rising culture, expanding technology, and economic opportunity, they turned to the arts, the sciences, and the professions. Their interest was a very gradual not a sudden growth. As early as the middle 1850’s the younger generation started organizing literary societies; fifteen, twenty years later it was increasingly evident that Jews were moving into the fields of literature, the sciences, and the professions. More than 100 Jews were already practicing law in New York City. American Jewry, hardly a quarter of a million strong, published and read about fifteen American Jewish papers; Jewish lads were more than well represented in the high schools and colleges. As early as 1882 ex-President Hayes had expressed the opinion that the Jews, for their number of course, sent more children to school than any other American group. This observation may well be correct.20
THE CULTURED INDIVIDUAL
The generalization that Jews were interested in learning is justified; it becomes incarnate through a few examples. Adolf Kraus, the international head of the B’nai B’rith order, Henry Greenebaum, the Chicago banker, and Simon Wolf, the dedicated Washington lobbyist for American Jewry, were all immigrants who came here with little schooling. All three educated themselves; Wolf built up an unusually fine library. Isaac Henry Weil (1823-1890) of Philadelphia, another autodidact, became a learned man, a literary and music critic, and a good chess player. The Philadelphia Jewish businessman, Simon Adler Stem, who was steeped in the knowledge of French, German, and English literature, still found time to translate the works of Heine and Auerbach and to become an excellent violinist. Samuel Rosenthal of Baltimore went to work at fourteen, succeeded in becoming a clothing manufacturer and banker, wrote articles on law and business for some of the best American magazines, and collected a fine library of poetry, science, and philosophy. There were dozens of other Jews in middle and late nineteenth century America whose lives are equally interesting and illuminating.
In the field of education two men stand out for achievements of national significance. They are Henry Marcus Leipziger (1854-1917) and Abraham Flexner (1866-1959). Early in the 1880’s Leipziger induced a number of wealthy New Yorkers to establish the Hebrew Technical Institute where he could train the newly arriving East Europeans in trades and crafts (1884-1891). After serving as an assistant superintendent of public schools he became supervisor of an adult educational system—the Leipziger Lectures—that brought knowledge and enlightenment to literally millions of the city’s men and women. He also organized a vast lecture series for the New Yorkers in their public schools, turning them into a veritable People’s University in the first decade of the new century. Very few men, if any, have had a greater influence on adult education in New York City than Leipziger.
Flexner, from Louisville, worked on an entirely different level. Leipziger worked with the many, Flexner with the few. Despite the ravages of the panic of the 1870’s his family sent him to college giving him the training that made it possible for him to run a very successful private school. Then, dropping his teaching, he went to Harvard and abroad in order to secure a truly good education. With the help of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching which employed him, Flexner helped raise the standards of American medical schools through a report which he published in 1910. When implemented his recommendations did much to prepare the way for the country’s present-day schools of medicine; there are few better. A few years later (1913) he joined the Rockefeller General Education Board and helped raise the millions of dollars needed to support the type of school which his report had envisaged. In 1930 this eminent American was chosen to direct the new Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton. He remembered for his emphasis on research and sound scholarship, and his autobiography, I Remember.21
In 1845 a New Yorker reporting to a German-Jewish newspaper said that most of the city’s Jews were uncouth and unlearned; seventy-five years later American Jewry could boast of numerous scholars, born Jews, who were men of national and even of international import. The Jews had come a long way. Yet even as late as 1920 they were only beginning to make themselves known on the larger literary stage. They had learned much but they were certainly not among the great; the mid-nineteenth century American, avid though he was for knowledge, was in no sense a cultural exemplar. This was particularly true in the postbellum South where the primitive rural economy and the continuing impact of the older slave culture crushed inspiration and advance. What there was of worth in American literature and cultural aspiration was primarily Northern whence came people like Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Longfellow, Whittier, Thoreau, Bancroft, Lowell, Motley, Bryant, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The Jews, humble immigrants, did not figure in this pantheon. As late as 1860, at most 150,000 strong, they were still struggling to make a living.
Writers, human beings, are inconsiderate in that they do not automatically fit into chronological schemata. There were a number of postbellum survivors of the cultured Jewry of antebellum days. Penina Moïse and other Southern women continued to write poetry for a generation after the fall of the Confederacy. Jacob Clavius Levy, a Charlestonian who had moved southward to Savannah, was well read in Christian theological literature. His erudition—and confusion—is amply registered in his unpublished anti-Christian polemic Vindiciae Judaeorum (Defense of the Jews). He also wrote an extensive review on current Jewish works and religious thinking for the Southern Quarterly Review in 1844. Jacob’s son Samuel Yates Levy was a playwright. Also difficult to pigeonhole chronologically is Thomas Cooper De Leon (1839-1914) who, though he wrote his books in the days after the War, was still a child of the old South, deeply rooted in South Carolina’s tradition. One of President Jefferson Davis’s secretaries, Thomas De Leon was probably Alabama’s first professional writer as the author of Four Years in Rebel Capitals. He was a soldier, a poet, an author, essayist, mystery play writer, director of public pageants, journalist, theatre manager, newspaper editor, and translator from the French—all in all the complete litterateur.22
THE POSTBELLUM GENERATION OF JEWISH WRITERS, 1860-1900
In 1890 the impresario Max Maretzek wrote a volume of memoirs called Sharp and Flats. It was a sequel to Crotchets and Quavers (1855). Charming, breezy, amusing, the work is an embroidered autobiography of his experiences. Maretzek was an Austrian but the Jewish literati of the postbellum world were in the main native Americans some of whom were college trained. Most were minor figures who have merited no mention in the standard histories of literature. Among these craftsmen were writers of short stories, dramatists, humorists, poets, novelists, and translators from the French and German. One man wrote a landmark history of New York City that went into several editions. A wealthy Southern pharmacist assembled the largest collections in the United States of the poetry of Bums.
Literary and drama criticism was a field that attracted a number of very competent men. The Civil War surgeon Dr. Nathan Mayer wrote critical reviews for the Hartford Times. George Jean Nathan (1852-1958), the later editor of The American Mercury with H. L. Mencken, became one of America’s most distinguished dramatic critics. Others were Ludwig Lewisohn whose articles appeared in The Nation and Montrose Moses (1878-1934), an anthologist and biographer, who wrote for The Independent. Possibly the most influential of all the critics around the year 1900 was Alan Dale (Alfred J. Cohen), a native of England who wrote for several of the most important New York papers beginning in 1887.
Two men may be used as exemplars of the talent that distinguished the more cultured Jews of the Gilded Age. The English-born father of Barnet Phillips had settled in Philadelphia as an agent of the Rothschilds; as a banker he realized the importance of European training so he sent his son to study in Germany and France in the days before the Civil War. On his return home young Phillips served as a soldier under the Southern flag. He was a chemist, an archaeologist, an ichthyologist, a commodity broker, a writer of novels and short stories, and a student of the fine arts; above all he was a journalist. When he died in 1905 he was editor of the Book Review section of the New York Times. Dr. Rodrigues Ottolengui (1861-1937) was another talented figure. He was a well-known New York dentist, a grandson of the early Charleston dentist, Dr. B. A. Rodrigues who had invented an artificial palate and been active in organizing a national dental association. Ottolengui wrote books on dentistry, edited a professional magazine, and was a pioneer in using x-ray and hypnotism in his practice. He was also a learned entomologist, a fine photographer, and a recognized writer of detective stories, one of which was translated into French, German, and Polish.23
WRITERS OF THE EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY
By the early 1900’s a generation of American Jews with considerable formal education had come to maturity. Thus it was at this time that American Jews—continuing to read—now also began to write. Among the million or so Jews in this country there were a number who achieved some distinction in the world of literature. James Oppenheim wrote poetry, Robert Nathan, stories, novels, and plays, and Waldo David Frank (1889-1967), cultural history and novels. Gustavus Myers published his History of the Great American Fortunes (1910) as part of the literature of social protest, attacking the economic pirates of that generation. The poet, literary critic, and horticulturist, Joel Elias Spingarn (1875-1939) taught comparative literature at Columbia till 1911 when the president Nicholas Murray Butler pushed him out; Spingarn was a crusader for good causes, a soldier in the battle for academic freedom, and a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of the Colored People. He was also a founder of the house of Harcourt, Brace & Company which published some distinguished writers and thinkers. This brilliant and erudite man had written his History of Literary Criticism in the Renaissance (1899) when he was only twenty-four years of age. Spingarn was a complete Renaissance man in the best sense of the term.24
THE PRESS, JOURNALISTS, AND PUBLISHERS
In one area of intellectual activity, publishing, the Jews had an unbroken line going back to the last decade of the eighteenth century when Benjamin Gomez and Naphtali Judah of New York City began putting their names on the books they issued. There were never many Jewish publishers but there were always some. Generally these Jewish publishers were not important entrepreneurs; they combined bookselling with publishing and operated on a small scale. Moses Polock of Philadelphia issued text-books, drama, and fiction including the writings of the first American novelist. After he had made some money he became a rare book dealer and a collector, especially of Americana and works for children. On his death his business was carried on by his nephew Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach, probably the most distinguished rare book dealer in the United States in his day. Other Jewish publishers included Adolphus Solomons of Philip and Solomons who published Gardner’s Photographic Sketches of the War and Selmar Hess who pioneered in the production of massive illustrated works on art, nature, and history which he sold on a subscription basis. The Austrian August Brentano began in antebellum days as a bookseller and stationer in New York City; after his death the business, carried on by his nephew, assumed international proportions. It was this firm that published the works of Shaw in this country.
In the early twentieth century enterprising men in the publishing business, men of imagination and courage, began to bring out the best in Europe’s and the world’s literature. They were dedicated to this task; for them, as one said, publishing was not a profession, it was a way of life. The man who said this was Benjamin W. Huebsch, a rabbi’s son. Young Huebsch had been a lithographer, a violinist, a music critic for the New York Sun before he began putting out the works of Strindberg, Hauptmann, Chekhov, Gorki, James Joyce, and Sherwood Anderson. Alfred Knopf was another innovator who was very much interested in European literature. Aided by his Polish-born father, an able businessman, Knopf published the influential American Mercury, the mentor of America’s liberal college youth, and brought out the works of such writers as Henry L. Mencken, Joseph Hergesheimer, Floyd Dell, and Carl Van Vechten. In 1918 Alfred Boni and Horace B. Liveright of the firm of Boni and Liveright began publishing the Modern Library which not only reprinted the best in the world’s literature but also encouraged contemporary writers like O’Neill, Dreiser, Ben Hecht, Lewisohn, and Waldo Frank.
The Modern Library made good books available at a modest price, but the real pioneer in bringing the world’s good literature within the reach of almost anyone was Emanuel Haldeman-Julius of Philadelphia. This son of an educated Russian Jewish immigrant, a craftsman, a book-binder, went to work at the age of thirteen. As a socialist freethinker he had no sympathy for organized religion. It was while he was editor of a socialist weekly in Girard, Kansas, that he began to publish a series of paperback booklets. These were the Little Blue Books. By 1920 he had issued 350 titles and had sold more than 30,000,000 copies; by 1941 his sales exceeded 200,000,000 copies of man’s best writings. He educated a whole generation for a few pennies a booklet. These Jewish publishers were truly influential educators and in a sense humanitarians. They furthered internationalism. They were cultural intermediaries, translators of the world’s thinking, exactly as their ancestors had been in the Middle Ages when they aided in making the great classics of antiquity available in translation. In a way they helped to make all Americans and Europeans culturally kin. Wherever they went they carried with them the “pollen of thought.”25
NEWSPAPERS AND NEWSPAPERMEN
As a cultural medium in a democracy newspapers are more important than books. More accessible than books they influence the thinking and the voting of vast numbers. With the advent of the cheap newspaper in the 1840’s the press began to carry a great deal of weight; it exerted an influence that was reinforced on a higher plane by the rise of numerous academies and colleges. No later than the second decade of the nineteenth century Jews began to make their appearance as reporters, editors, and owners of papers. Tradition has it that Major Noah as a teenager reported the proceedings of the Harrisburg legislative sessions; for decades to come he and his uncle, Naphtali Phillips, edited and owned newspapers. Jacob N. Cardozo, the economist, was editor and later owner of The Southern Patriot in Charleston. Other editors of some distinction in the years before the War were Edwin De Leon who was at the helm of The National Democrat in Washington and Thomas, his brother, who for many years was in charge of the Mobile Register. The Sephardic Naars of New Jersey established a dynasty that published papers from 1853 into the twentieth century. They were also active in politics.26
After the Civil War Jewish editors made their appearance in many of the major cities of the United States. In the late 1870’s one able writer and author was even on the staff of a English language paper in Peoria. The career of the Bavarian-born journalist, Adolph Delisle Straus is unusually interesting. Straus, a newspaperman at the age of sixteen, reported the Lincoln-Douglas debates and ultimately went to work for the New York Times. He served as an officer in the Confederate Army and as a general in Nicaragua. Papers in New York and New Orleans employed him as a correspondent in Havana and in the middle 1860’s he was the only reporter in Mexico City who was permitted to be present at the execution of the Emperor Maximilian. In 1893 at the time of the Columbian Exposition this Jew was awarded the Spanish Royal American Order of Isabella, the Catholic queen in whose day (1492) the Spanish Jews were driven out. Chicago Jewry could hardly have been elated at this honor bestowed upon Straus; the Jewish community had objected unsuccessfully to the erection of a statue of Isabella on the Exposition grounds.
William Frisch, the managing editor of the Baltimore American, was one of the first newspapermen to write a weekly political review and to exploit City Hall as a source of news; Jacob A. Cantor, a reporter on the New York World, climbed the political ladder till he reached Congress; the Englishman Morris Phillips, a good newspaperman, bought the New York Home Journal and pioneered in emphasizing social news; Horace Traubel, socialist and free-lance journalist, worked closely with Walt Whitman and edited his works. August Kohn, the South Carolinian, was not only a fine journalist but also a successful businessman. During the prohibition or dispensary riots in Darlington this probing reporter so annoyed dictatorial governor Ben Tillman that the latter told one of his militia officers: “Muzzle Kohn or put him outside the lines.” Gustav Pollak, Michael Heilprin’s son-in-law, was a publicist like his kinsman Fabian Franklin. Pollak wrote for the better papers and magazines as a literary critic, an authority on the Austrian drama, and on foreign affairs. Franklin left Johns Hopkins to edit the Baltimore News and then went north to work for the New York Evening Post. As an internationalist and humanitarian he fought for a low tariff, world peace, women’s rights, and civic reform, yet he was strongly opposed to prohibition and survived to voice his disapproval of the New Deal.27
TWENTIETH CENTURY JOURNALISTS
With the new century, the twentieth, came brilliant columnists, publicists, foreign correspondents, and roving editors. Among these Jews were a number of executives and administrators in very responsible positions especially in the newspaper empire of William Randolph Hearst. It was during this period that “F.P.A.,” Franklin Pierce Adams began his career, through his humorous and satirical column, “The Conning Tower.” Columnists like Adams had far more readers and admirers than the distinguished Pulitzer Prize winners in journalism. In later years F.P.A. and other Jewish newspapermen were heard by millions on radio. Frederic William Wile, son of a La Porte businessman and lay reader, was the Berlin correspondent for London and American newspapers during World War I. It was said that he was the first newsman to broadcast on the transatlantic radio. Isaac Frederick Marcosson (1877-1961) interviewed statesmen and notable politicians of many lands for The Saturday Evening Post introducing American magazine readers to Trotsky, Mussolini, and Lloyd George.
Other Jews had successful careers in journalism. David Lawrence was the Washington correspondent for a New York paper, moving on to take charge of a national feature service, and finally assuming the editorship of the very influential United States News and World Report. The war correspondent Herbert Bayard Swope was the 1917 winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In later years he became the executive editor of the New York World and was widely acclaimed for his exposure of the latter day Ku Klux Klan. Another Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism was Arthur Krock, the Washington correspondent of the New York Times. He was highly respected as one of the country’s most distinguished publicists. President Theodore Roosevelt once dubbed two journalists “uncircumcized Jews.” They were Walter Edwin Weyl and Walter Lippmann. Weyl, one of the brilliant men associated with The New Republic, was a liberal writer in the line of the creative muckrakers, men who stressed the dangers inherent in monopoly. Walter Lippmann was far more important, exercising a tremendous influence; there can be little question that he was the most prestigious American journalist in the years after World War I. In a way Lippmann was a successor of the “personal journalists,” men like Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, who were so highly respected in the mid-nineteenth century. Lippmann, a scholarly publicist who had been well-trained at Harvard, began life as a socialist and slowly moved to the right. He had been one of the founders of the Harvard Socialist Club. When one of his Jewish classmates at school spoke to him of Jewry and Judaism he evinced no interest; he was not concerned, so it would seem, in the people who had given him birth. During World War I he was an assistant to Newton D. Baker, the Secretary of War, and helped prepare data which were used at the Paris Peace Conference. His column, the prime source of his influence, was syndicated in more than 150 cities and was religiously studied by the powerful minority who determined the fate of this country.28
Most Jewish journalists worked on daily papers purveying news, but there were a number who published trade magazines catering to a special clientele such as insurance underwriters, jewelers, theatre people, musicians, and the like. Some of these journals were dominant in their particular field. This was true of the Musical Courier and of Variety, the bible of “show business.” Sime Silverman, the man who built Variety, introduced and popularized a theatrical language that was all his own. When the paper announced the Great Depression with the phrase: “Wall Street Lays an Egg,” the American people all knew what he meant. Two youngsters who had come from the Middle West and had settled in San Francisco worked for a time as compositors on a Jewish weekly. Then they branched out and built a great newspaper out of a theatre program which had been distributed free. The two brothers were Charles and Michel Harry De Young. The newspaper they established was the San Francisco Chronicle which was ultimately to become the most influential journal on the Coast, respected, and admired for its crusade against political corruption. At one time Bret Harte and Mark Twain were numbered among its contributors. Publishing a paper was not without its hazards: Charles De Young was assassinated in a political feud. Newspapers owned by Jews could be found throughout the country. The Rosewaters, Edward and Victor, father and son, owned and edited the Omaha Bee; from his headquarters in Davenport Emanuel Phillip Adler controlled a number of newspapers on the Middle Border, while Paul Block and J. David Stem each started to build separate chains of papers that stretched from New Jersey to the Pacific Coast. Yet the influence of these chain builders and their papers seemed to be of little import compared to that exercised by such men as Joseph Pulitzer and Adolph Simon Ochs.29
Contrary to what the biographers say, Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911) was a “full-blooded” Jew, though one of his grandmothers was a convert to Judaism. He himself had no interest in the ancestral faith though as a young man he was called Joey the German or Joey the Jew. This adventurer came to the United States as a teenager. He fought for the Union in the Civil War; later he married a relative of Jefferson Davis. He studied law, ran for office, and served briefly in Congress before resigning. In 1870 he shot and wounded a lobbyist. Pulitzer also worked as a reporter on a St. Louis German paper before establishing the successful St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1878. Five years later he took over the New York World and made a fortune which he generously shared. Interested in furthering culture and the arts he made large gifts to the Philharmonic Society and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also endowed a school of journalism at Columbia and founded prizes and scholarships to encourage literature, education, public service, and public morals. These are the present-day Pulitzer Prizes. Despite the fact that the ideals which he cherished for his fellow-citizens were of the highest order he never hesitated to stoop in order to conquer. To increase circulation he resorted to sensationalism. His Sunday paper published colored comics and used political cartoons. His penny newspaper was tailored to appeal to the masses. It was full of scandal, thrills, lurid headlines; there was sex and crime and special columns to attract women. In order to win more readers and compete with Hearst he outjingoed his rival during the Cuban Crisis. His editorial pages were of a higher order; like the muckrakers he attacked ruthless corporations, urged the investigation of unscrupulous insurance companies, assailed corrupt police and politicians, and fought valiantly for civic reforms. He supported free speech, pleaded for income and inheritance taxes, and was sympathetic to labor. He was a Progressive Age humanitarian.30
Adolph Simon Ochs
Adolph Simon Ochs (1858-1935) had little in common with Joseph Pulitzer. The liberal Pulitzer made his mark by appealing to the masses. The fabulous success of the conservative Ochs is a commentary not only on his ability but also on the nature and psyche of the typical middle-class and upper-class American businessmen to whom he appealed. They wanted what Ochs had to sell. Pulitzer was in essence no “Jew”; Ochs was a good though a somewhat fearful Jew. He was cautious in publishing news about Jews and their affairs; he was aware, so it was rumored, that Times spelled “Semit” backward. If, as it appeared, Ochs sought low visibility in his paper for Jews, then for once he was not the good businessman; his descendants, wiser, catered to Jewish readers knowing that about 25 percent of the population of New York City was Jewish and, on the whole, middle class. These readers wanted a good paper which kept them abreast of happenings in the Jewish community. Ochs was a proud Jew. When attacked as a Jew by the editor of the Commercial in Chattanooga he answered that he gloried in his race, his religion, and his people. “His narrow and malignant enemy could bestow on him no greater compliment” than by calling him a Jew. Ochs wrote that he accepted as a proud distinction what was intended as a stigma.
Ochs was born in Cincinnati, son of a cultured German immigrant who was not, however, successful in business. The boys in the family had to go to work at an early age. When only eleven Ochs was already an office boy in Knoxville where the family had then settled. Later he became a newspaper carrier for the Chronicle working from five to seven in the morning. At thirteen, completely on his own, he was living in Providence, Rhode Island, clerking in a grocery store. To make a little extra he was glad to peddle lemonade at public affairs. Repairing once to the post office where he gave his name and asked for the mail from home, he was told by the sarcastic attendant at the General Delivery window that there was nothing for “A. Ochs” or “A. Cow.” From that time on he used the name A. S. Ochs. His rise was not rapid; he returned to the South where he became a reporter and an assistant business manager on the Knoxville Chronicle. In 1883 he married Effie Miriam Wise, the daughter of Isaac Mayer Wise; some members of the Wise family did not think Effie had made a very good match. (How wrong they were.) In 1878 Ochs had purchased the Chattanooga Times for a pittance, made it successful, and then went to New York to buy the almost bankrupt Times with borrowed money; in 1902 he purchased the Public Ledger of Philadelphia and held on to it to 1912.
Ochs succeeded if only to validate the pious dictum “virtue pays.” He avoided the sensationalism of Pulitzer and Hearst as he would the plague; his appeal was to the thoughtful, the aspiring, the respectable. The phrase “all the news that’s fit to print” was a dig at his rivals. There was no sex, no colored comics, no suspect advertisers in Ochs’s Times. Not for him were entangling alliances with large advertisers and politicians; he was impartial, accurate, comprehensive; his readers were introduced to the world of science, foreign affairs, finance. He was independent; he was successful; other publishers made more money and carried more ads but his was the most prestigious journal in the country. His, too, was a Horatio Alger story.31