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Ochs’s New York Times was more than a paper printing the daily news; it was a source, a document of prime importance for a study of American life indispensable for those students—social scientists—who concern themselves with the society in which they live. By the mid-nineteenth century, Jews had begun to turn to the social sciences. A member of the well-known Phillips family of Philadelphia, Henry Phillips, Jr. (1838-1895), was a lawyer by profession but he was recognized as a student of philology, folklore, numismatics, archaeology, and languages. He made translations from the German and the Romance tongues and served as secretary and later librarian of the American Philosophic Society. More and more Jews began to enter library work. The Courlander Abraham Solomon Freidus was the chief librarian of the Jewish section of the New York Public Library; Herman Rosenthal (1843-1917), another Baltic Russian, was chief of the Slavonic department. Rosenthal had played an important part in the attempt to put Russian immigrants on the soil as colonists. His interests were many; he was a civic reformer, an editor of a Hebrew journal and of an American Russian language paper, an authority on the Far East, and a contributor to the German American press. The diversity of Jewish cultural interests is reflected in their preeminence in chess. William Steinitz (1836-1900), who had become the first world chess champion while still in Europe, settled in the United States in the 1880’s where he edited a chess magazine and a chess manual.1


The knowledge of languages was a great asset to the European Jews who made their home here. Steinitz, Freidus, Rosenthal, and many many others were multilingual. Dr. Henry Marix, a Russian, taught languages in his native land till he settled here, in Washington, in the days before the Civil War. The State and the Treasury Departments employed him to make translations of European news items. His meetings with Lincoln made it possible for him to secure an appointment for his son Adolph to Annapolis. Years later the younger Marix became the first Jew to attain the rank of rear admiral. The Jews who succeeded in securing college appointments in languages taught German, the Romance tongues, Sanskrit, Hebrew, and the cognate tongues. One of the most interesting of academicians in this field was Leo Wiener a Polish Jew who came to the United States in 1882 and went to work as a day laborer, a fruit peddler, and a schoolteacher. After teaching German and the Romance languages at the University of Missouri he was called to Harvard as an instructor in the Slavonic field. This was the first such academic post in this country. Ultimately Harvard appointed him full professor although that school was loath to grant professorial rank to Jews even as late as the 1930’s. Wiener was an unusual linguist; he was interested in Arabico-Gothic, African, and Mayan cultures, and was one of the pioneers in the serious study of Yiddish. He edited a twenty-four volume translation of the works of Tolstoy. The career of Sir Charles J. Walston took a different direction. An American who finally settled in England, Walston served as a professor of the fine arts at Cambridge. As early as the 1880’s Walston, the author of several short stories and a book on The Jewish Question, was looked upon as one of the world’s great authorities on Greek art and archaeology.2


Men like Wiener and Sir Charles were in essence cultural historians. This is also true of the anthropologist Franz Boas, an eminent scholar in his field in the early twentieth century. Boas had experienced prejudice in his native Germany and bore scars incurred in duels fought to preserve his self-respect. In his later years the University of Bonn made him an honorary citizen. Had he remained in the Hohenzollern Empire it would have been exceedingly difficult for him to carve out an academic career for himself. He immigrated here in the late 1880’s and began to teach anthropology. In the next decade his relative Abraham Jacobi succeeded in getting him an appointment at Columbia; years later he was made a full professor. The name Franz was given him as a German Jewish approximate of Feibes, the name of his grandfather. Feibes is Phoebus, or Apollo, the God of light. It was Boas’s good fortune through his research to throw light on the relation between heredity and environment and to emphasize the distinction between race and racism. He was sympathetic to the Negro for he was no believer in the inherent inferiority or superiority of racial groups.3


Despite their small numbers as teachers in the social sciences there were at least one or two Jews who were preeminent in every area of social studies. There were two historians who were outstanding: George Louis Beer and Charles Gross. Beer (1872-1920) was the acknowledged authority of his day on the economic mainsprings of British colonial policy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. After World War I he was, as a social scientist, one of the influential members of the American delegation at the Versailles Peace Conference. Had the United States gone into the League of Nations he would have been appointed the head of the mandates division; in the connotation which it then assumed that word “mandate” was first employed by him. While Beer worked in early modern history, Gross, his contemporary, was engaged in studying medieval English history, especially the development of the gild merchant. His rise in the academic world was not easy. In the late 1880’s Gross struggled unsuccessfully to secure a position in an American college. He was ready to go back to Troy, New York, and work with his father in the clothing business when Eliot of Harvard, who had heard of him, offered him an instructorship. By 1901 he had become a professor of history at Harvard. Ultimately he was to become one of the great names in medieval English history, especially in the economic area.4


Jews were also beginning to make a name for themselves in the allied fields of economics and statistics. The Russian-born Isaac Max Rubinow (1875-1936) was a physician, actuary, economic statistician, historian, and pioneer in the study of social security insurance and legislation. His last job was to serve as executive secretary of the International Order of B’nai B’rith. Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman (1861-1939) of the banking family had been teaching economics at Columbia since 1885. An economist, political scientist, civic reformer, tax expert, and sociologist, he became chief editor of the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences in his later years. And why the name “Robert Anderson” for a Jewish Seligman? This immigrant family was nothing if not patriotic. Major Robert Anderson was the heroic defender of Fort Sumter whose defense ushered in the Civil War. That was in 1861, the year Edwin was born.

One of the younger contemporaries of Seligman was the brilliant and scholarly Jacob Harry Hollander (1871-1940). This political economist, one of the few Jews to become a full professor at Hopkins, gave the first seminar in political economy at that school. His reputation was such that he was called upon to reorganize the finances of Puerto Rico and of the Dominican Republic. Like his fellow-Baltimorean Fabian Franklin, his views were a curious admixture of liberalism and conservatism. Though a Republican, he encouraged the scientific study of organized labor, was sympathetic to unions, and served as an impartial chairman in the garment industry, yet he opposed the League of Nations and the liberal policies of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Another economist, Isaiah Lee Sharfman (1886-1969) was a native Ukrainian who succeeded in obtaining professorial rank at the University of Michigan not many years after his graduation from Harvard Law School. He wrote on railroads and their regulation by governmental authorities. Economic scholars like Sharfman, Hollander, and Seligman were in a way almost workers in the field of political science. One of the best known men in that discipline was Leo Stanton Rowe (1871-1946), a native of Iowa who was a recognized authority on city government. For many years Rowe was head of the department of political science at the University of Pennsylvania. Like Hollander he, too, had worked to bring reform in the Puerto Rico administrative system by compiling its laws. As a student of Latin American affairs he was eager to further good hemispheric relations. Rowe was probably America’s best-known protagonist of Pan Americanism, serving as chief of the Latin American division of the State Department and as director general of the Pan American Union. He was for many years president of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.5


Some families could boast of several members who were distinguished in the arts and sciences. Such were the Bloomfields, Fanny Bloomfield Zeisler and her brother Maurice, the Sanskrit scholar, the Damrosches, the three Waldstein brothers and the Jastrows. Marcus Jastrow, the father, was one of the most learned of American rabbis; Morris, a son, was a distinguished Semitist; Joseph, another son, was a psychologist. Another psychologist, a scholar widely acknowledged as one of the leaders in the field of psychology, was the Prussian Hugo Muensterberg (1863-1916), apparently a baptized Jew. Muensterberg was brought to Harvard by William James. Originally a physician, he was a brilliant researcher and a cultured scholar who wrote poetry and loved music. He settled permanently in this country in 1897 and a year later was elected president of the American Psychological Association. Interested in applied psychology he studied its relation to industry, medicine, education, and the arts. Though a loyal American he was also a fervent German and this devotion to his homeland and its people proved to be a source of annoyance and heartache for him during the early years of World War I.

Joseph Jastrow had early been in touch with the new developments in psychology that gave birth to psychiatry. Even before Freud and Jung, the founding fathers of psychiatry, lectured in the United States in 1909, Jastrow had already published a work (1906) on the subconscious. One of the Waldstein brothers, Louis, a physician and pathologist, had brought out a book on the subconscious self in 1897; over forty years earlier, Dr. Abraham Lopez of Mobile, vice president of the American Medical Association, had manifested his interest in mental health. Another early worker in psychopathology was the Russian immigrant Boris Sidis (1867-1923); more widely known was the American psychiatrist Abraham Arden Brill (1874-1948), one of the country’s first practitioners. This translator of the works of Jung and Freud and a founder of the New York Psychoanalytic Society and the American Psychoanalytic Society was widely acclaimed for popularizing the new science.6



Joseph Jastrow’s sister-in-law, Henrietta Szold, who has already been mentioned, was a symbol of the expanding role of women in American life. Were Jewish women more active than their Gentile counterparts in American cultural life and welfare work? In all probability they were not, certainly not in the middle and even the late nineteenth century, for the Jewish women, often foreign born, were not yet at home in American ways. On the whole the Jewish natives were cautious and conservative, hesitant to assert themselves in matters touching the community as a whole. Even in the second half of the century there was no Jewish woman comparable to a Harriet Beecher Stowe, to a Clara Barton. The one exception was the Polish-born Ernestine Rose. Thus although American Jewish women of the nineteenth century were not among the great, some did make their presence felt, primarily as followers. It was only in the new century that individual women began to act, to manifest their strong sense of responsibility to the larger communities into which they were now integrated. It is curious and significant and reflective of the often dismissive attitude toward Jewish women that when Lewis N. Dembitz wrote the article on “Women, Rights of” in the Jewish Encyclopedia in 1906, he dealt only with women’s legal status through the talmudic period. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia of 1943, recognizing Jewish women after 600, C.E., listed numerous American women as deserving of notice.

Middle-class Americans of the antebellum days tried to give their girls an adequate secular education. Major Noah sent his Sippy—Zipporah—away to a boarding school when she was eleven or twelve. There she studied the three R’s and some French and learned to play the piano. In his letters to her Noah stressed the importance of a fair hand. Writing in 1859-1860, I. J. Benjamin, the European traveler, deplored this type of education; he felt it was inadequate; American girls went to too many parties. The trouble with Americans in general, he wrote, was that they worshipped money and women, though the Jewish women were somewhat more disciplined. This no doubt reflected the Germanic influence. Interest in teaching Jewish daughters extended to higher education. In 1875 Wise was glad to welcome a girl in his first rabbinic class and in 1892 a Jewish journalist thought women rabbis might attract the young men who were noticeably absent from services. Was this a counsel of desperation or was this written with tongue in cheek.7


Benjamin said that the girls of the 1860’s were also taught drawing. Though Jewish women of affluent middle-class families appreciated art they were, in general, on the periphery of that world. Katherine M. Cohen of the aristocratic Philadelphia Cohens studied painting and sculpture both here and abroad, but she was not an artist of any distinction. The two Cone sisters of Baltimore, Claribel and Etta, conducted a salon for the cultured and collected French paintings. In this interest they may possibly have been influenced by Gertrude Stein. Ultimately their notable collection was bequeathed to the Baltimore Museum of Art; Florence Nightingale Levy (1870-1947) became its first director in the 1920’s. Miss Levy was a New York student of art known for her catalogues of museum shows, her art publications, and her desire to bring art to school children.8

If women as artists and would-be artists were new in American Jewish life, actresses were not. There is no good substitute for a woman to play the part of a woman, and there had been Jewish actresses in the United States since the first decade of the nineteenth century, if not earlier. Rose Eytinge (1835-1911) was the first to become a star. This Philadelphian who had begun her career in the 1850’s was a very versatile player, employed in all types of vehicles including Shakespearean parts. She played in Washington with Lincoln in the audience and in London where she was friendly with Dickens and Gladstone. She was not without literary gifts and wrote an autobiography, Memories of Rose Eytinge (1905). Before the end of the century Anna Held (1865?-1918) was starring in the Follies of Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., her non-Jewish husband, and singing in her own Anna Held Opera Company. She was a charming petite comedienne who, according to the solemn assurance of her press agent, bathed daily in gallons of milk. Another star in Ziegfeld’s revue was the inimitable Fannie (Fanny) Brice. When Anna Held first began her career she appeared, if only for a short time, as a Yiddish actress. One of the notable Yiddish actresses of that day was the Galicia-born Bertha Kalisch (1874-1939). By 1905 this great emotional actress and tragedienne began to appear on Broadway in English roles. She was not the only Jewish actress who starred on the legitimate stage in the early twentieth century. The Russian Alla Nazimova (1875-1945) was one of the most distinguished and successful actresses. After she came to the United States she, too, trained herself for English parts and appeared in plays by Ibsen, Chekhov, Andreyev, and O’Neill. Like Kalisch she was dramatic, exotic. After 1916 she became a motion picture celebrity in Hollywood productions.9


Anna Held and Fannie Brice were as much musicians as actors. Even Bertha Kalisch appeared at times in singing roles. In the post-Civil War period Jewish women began to perform as prima donnas, virtuosos, and conservatory teachers. Clara Damrosch, Leopold’s daughter, was a pianist and music educator interested in the same type of work that characterized Walter and Frank. She and her husband David Mannes, gave sonata recitals. David was the director of the Music School Settlement, concertmeister of the New York Symphony, conductor of the Metropolitan Museum of Art free concerts, and a founder of the Music School Settlement for Colored People. In 1916 Clara and David established a school of their own. One of the greatest pianists of her generation was the Chicagoan Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler (1863-1927), a cousin of Moritz Rosenthal, the virtuoso. Fannie was a sister of Maurice Bloomfield, the Hopkins Orientalist, who gave Fannie her first lessons in piano. She was trained by Carl Wolfsohn and gave a recital at eleven. After having studied abroad she began in the 1880’s to appear in recitals both here and in Europe. She was an interesting person, something of a skilled craftsman who did her own carpentry. Her home became a salon for Christian and Jewish elite. She was naive enough to believe that if she brought Jews and Gentiles together through common cultural interests she could dissipate anti-Semitism. Fannie evinced no interest in Judaism, gave her concerts on Friday and Saturday, observed Christmas as a day of gift giving, and was buried by Horace J. Bridges of the Chicago Ethical Society. Yet many of the family papers are deposited in the American Jewish Archives.10


That Jewish women became musicians was not unusual; music training for women was almost de rigueur in nineteenth-century middle-class homes. Medical training for women was much more unusual. There were not many women in medicine yet it was a profession that attracted a number for the women’s medical colleges made matriculation easy; the standards were not exacting. Less than a decade after the first woman, Elizabeth Blackwell, received a medical degree in the United States, a Jewish woman, Mary Anna Elson, was admitted into the ranks of Philadelphia’s physicians. That was in 1858. By the 1880’s, the number of Jewish women who turned to medicine had begun to increase. Claribel Cone became a professor of pathology though she was never to become a scholar of any repute; Martha Wollstein (1868-1939), who was a pediatric pathologist, worked with Simon Flexner and Samuel Meltzer of the Rockefeller Institute and contributed to the development of anti-meningitis serums. She was the first woman admitted to the American Pediatric Society.

When Governor Coleman L. Blease of South Carolina said that doctors were cranks he may have had Love Rosa Hirschmann in mind for she was invading the sacred privacy of the individual by appealing for medical inspection of school children. Love Rosa Hirschmann, a physician and public health worker living in Spartanburg, fought pellegra, sought medical help for the Appalachians, worked to combat delinquency among young girls, and found time to crusade for women’s rights. She married a Christian named Gantt but always remained an ardent Jew. Ida Henrietta Hyde (Heidenheimer, 1857-1945) was another medical scientist. Despite the fact that she frequently encountered roadblocks as a woman she persisted in her goal of becoming a physiologist. Hyde worked with Jacques Loeb at Bryn Mawr, studied at Heidelberg where she was the first woman to receive a Ph.D. degree, and later was permitted to do research in the Harvard medical laboratory. She was also the first woman member of the American Physiological Society. In 1905 she became full professor in her chosen field at the University of Kansas where she had been teaching for several years. Like other Jewish intellectuals of her day she affiliated herself with Adler’s Ethical Culture Society.11


Very few Jewish women received teaching appointments at colleges and universities. There were exceptions. Despite the opposition of her father who kept her at home for ten years Jessica Blanche Peixotto (1864-1941) of the gifted Peixotto family succeeded in securing an education at the University of California. At college, besides studying economics, she urged her fellow female students to shorten their skirts to the shoe tops; this type of agitation did not meet with the approval of the faculty. Miss Peixotto finally became a professor of economics and ultimately vice president of the American Economic Association. It was much easier for women to become schoolteachers and a great many Jews did, even before 1900. Others became librarians. These were both proper vocations for respectable young women. As early as 1857 Margarethe Meyer Schurz, the Jewish wife of Carl, had set up a small kindergarten in Watertown, Wisconsin, where she lived, though she did very little after this initial effort to further the kindergarten movement in this country. An important figure in the pedagogical field was Florence Eilau Bamberger who taught at Hopkins and other prestigious colleges.

Equally important was Julia Richman (1855-1912) of New York. Today there is a Julia Richman High School named for her. Richman started her career as a teacher in the 1870’s and by 1903 had become a district supervisor with responsibility for more than 600 teachers and 23,000 students. Of choice she worked on the East Side because of her eagerness to help immigrant children find their way emotionally and culturally in the American milieu. She was credited with having organized the first Parent Teachers Association in New York City and with having urged the establishment of special classes for the physically and mentally retarded. She wanted eye examinations for her young charges, lunches for them, and a social center in the school where the teachers could discuss their problems. She made enemies as she was something of an authoritarian; she was not always fully sensitive to the needs of that immigrant generation, but she did a fine constructive job.12


The nineteenth century was a man’s century and a man’s world. This is one of the reasons—the main reason—why women, Jewish women, too, did not advance very far in the economy, in communal service, and in the world of the arts and the sciences. Though recognition was slow, women pushed forward resolutely, especially in the field of literature. Eager to make a showing, Jews tended to exaggerate the importance of their women in the republic of letters. There were certainly many who made the race; they wrote for newspapers and magazines, they composed verses, they published children’s stories; they translated from the German, Italian, and French. One woman had a column of her own in a Buffalo newspaper. Most of these writers were competent; outstanding practitioners were not to appear till the second decade of the twentieth century.13

Southerners and Northerners

Like the Jewish men the Jewish women writers who survived the Civil War were the last outcropping of an antebellum secular culture; a number of them were members of the Harby clan. Octavia Harby Moses (1823-1904) published a volume of poetry including one dedicated to a soldier son who had been shot down, murdered, after he had surrendered. No wonder she was fiercely unreconciled to the fall of the Confederacy. Five of her sons had served in the Southern armies; one had volunteered at the age of fourteen. Octavia was Isaac Harby’s daughter; a granddaughter of Harby, Caroline Cohen Joachimsen wrote romances for Jewish journals and poetry for newspapers and the better magazines. Caroline’s sister Lee (Leah) Cohen Harby also wrote. She lived for a time in Texas writing verse and fiction for Southern and Northern papers.

Toward the end of the century as the national periodicals began to exploit The Jewish Question a number of women were invited to present the Jewish point of view. Rabbi Sabato Morais’s daughter, Nina Morais Cohen (1855-1918), wrote on anti-Semitism and women’s rights. Emma Lazarus, member of an old American family, had already begun publishing poetry in 1866. Though she hoped to be recognized as a litterateur of quality—she wrote prose and poetry, basked in the encouragement that Emerson gave her, translated Heine, published articles in the national magazines—still she remained a minor writer. Her Jewish period was ushered in by the Russian pogroms of the early 1880’s. Gertrude Stein was a younger contemporary of Emma Lazarus. The Stein family, Baltimoreans who had made money in the manufacture of clothing, saw to it that Gertrude was sent to Radcliffe. She became an expatriate spending most of her life in Paris where she presided over a salon. There she collected modern art, encouraged painters of the new schools, and wrote, producing an esoteric literature distinctly Steinian. She was convinced that she was “the creative literary mind of the century.” She was certainly controversial and not without influence on some writers such as Ernest Hemingway.14

It was not until 1910 that Jewish women writers began to appear who were to merit recognition in the histories of literature. They were not great but they were good. Among the East European immigrants were Mary Antin (1881-1949) and Anzia Yezierska (1880?-1970). Antin, a writer on immigration, had landed in Boston as a teenage child. In 1912 she wrote The Promised Land and later They Who Knock at Our Gates. Her presentation of the immigrants, sympathetic and understanding, was a healthy antidote to the pseudo-scientific claptrap of the racists, political economists, and sociologists. It was Antin who said: “What we get in the steerage is not the refuse but the sinew and bone of all the nations.” Yezierska who had also come here as a young girl went to work in a factory and as a domestic servant. She was a novelist who drew on her years of toil and disillusionment to describe realistically the trials of the newcomers. At the same time Antin and Yezierska were speaking for their generation, two Midwestern native Jewish women were also beginning to write. In the decades to follow their names would become household words: Fannie Hurst (1889-1968) and Edna Ferber (1887-1968). Both wrote short stories and novels that were eagerly read; Ferber, the more successful of the two, was awarded a Pulitzer prize; both wrote books and tales that were made into motion pictures.15


While some gifted Jewish women turned to literature, others, prompted by the desire to help their fellowmen, served as communal workers. As early as 1801, the young Rebecca Gratz became secretary of the Association for the Relief of Women and Children in Reduced Circumstances. Many years later even German immigrant Jews were active in the German Women’s Suffrage Association of New York. Far to the west, in Colorado, the Kentuckian, Frances Wisebart Jacobs, was the only pioneer woman depicted in the stained glass windows of the state capitol. She was called the Queen of Charity Work. In 1877 Felix Adler urged women to rise to the intellectual challenge of the day by going to college, engaging in politics, and entering professions. Adler’s and Brandeis’s sister-in-law, Josephine Clara Goldmark, endeavored to improve working conditions for women and to suppress child labor. She was very much interested in public health and the training of nurses.

Ambitious activist Jewish women moved in many directions to fulfill themselves and to help others. Hannah Bachman Einstein of New York was interested in women’s pensions; Sadie Strauss Rayner Altman of Buffalo wrote, painted, and presided over the City Federation of Women’s Clubs. She saw to it that a woman was appointed to the police force of Buffalo. Frances Stern of Boston (1873-1947), a social worker, was one of the country’s leaders in the field of dietetics. She worked to develop the visiting housekeeper program and, with slum dwellers in mind, trained physicians and others in the importance of a proper diet. The two Nathan sisters, descendants of a Revolutionary War militiaman, made a name for themselves in New York City. Maud (1862-1946), a civic reformer, publicist, and welfare worker, was a founder of the Consumers’ League of New York and a friend of the shop girl; her younger sister, Annie Nathan Meyers, a writer and dramatist, was the chief founder of Barnard College. The Nathan sisters, Hannah B. Einstein, Sadie Altman, and Frances Stem were born or lived in the tidewater; Jennie Franklin Purvin was a Chicagoan. In the early years of the century Purvin was primarily responsible for developing the bathing beaches in her city; she made sure that they were no longer to remain garbage dumps. One of the problems she had to surmount was the remonstrances of clergymen who objected to women wearing bathing suits that climbed above the knee. Many of the Protestant spiritual leaders of that still Victorian age were insistent that women remain modest in attire.

In the generation before 1920, the most effective woman communal worker and publicist was, so it would seem, Sophie Irene Simon Loeb (1876-1929). She probably did as much as any other woman of her time to secure social-welfare legislation. Loeb preferred foster homes to child orphanages, worked to secure penny school lunches, cheap milk and gas rates, more equitable taxation, public play streets, free maternity care for impoverished women, slum clearance, and the use of school rooms as civic centers for immigrants. Like Hannah B. Einstein she pleaded for pensions for dependent mothers. Sophie Loeb was also an author. She was a feature writer for Pulitzer’s flamboyant World and published a book in 1913 which she dubbed Epigrams of Eve. Its contents seemed hardly in keeping with the social task to which she had dedicated herself. The following is a typical example: “If a woman is a rag, a bone, and a hank of hair, at least there are many willing ragpickers.”16



By the early twentieth century increasing participation of Jewish women in social-welfare, literary, and cultural work was obvious. Some of them like Annie Nathan Meyer and Edna Ferber turned to play writing. American Jews had long been interested in the stage. Philadelphia Jews had been subscribers to the theatre in the 1790’s during the days when the city was the capital of the country. When only a teenager, Mordecai M. Noah and his friends had staged a play in that city and by the 1820’s Noah emerged as one of America’s most popular playwrights. A generation later the new Jewish literary societies and clubs had begun to produce plays and operettas. With the increasing prosperity of the nineteenth century came beautiful new theatre buildings for patrons of the stage. In 1859 when Cincinnati was still the largest city west of the Alleghenies a magnificent new opera house was dedicated there. With its 3,000 seats covered with crimson plush, it was one of the largest and finest buildings of its type in the country. This was the Pike Opera House named after Samuel N. Pike (Hecht, d. 1872), a German who had made a fortune in land and hard liquor. Pike was no uncouth whiskey salesman; he was a cultured gentleman who wrote poetry, loved music, and was himself a good musician. In 1868 he opened a second opera house in New York City but sold it very speedily to James Fisk, Jr., and Jay Gould.17


Though Pike’s Opera Houses devoted very many of their programs to opera, most of the so-called opera houses also served as regular theatres in the cities of this country. Even a small coal mining town like Trinidad, Colorado, could boast of a large well-built opera house erected by the enterprising Jaffa brothers. The typical theatre produced drama, tragedy, melodrama, musical shows, and served at the same time as the communal auditorium. Toward the end of the century these theatres produced vaudeville and burlesque shows and a few years later musical comedies, revues with chorus girls, skits by comedians, and dancing; they were all enhanced by beautiful costumes and elaborate stage settings. Among the stars in the second decade of the new century were singers like Al Jolson (Asa Yoelson), Eddie Cantor, and Fannie Brice. Off in a southern corner of Manhattan there was a unique Jewish theatrical world, the Yiddish theatre, patronized enthusiastically by thousands. It was an emotional world of pathos, tragedy, comedy, and buffoonery. It was folk culture at its primitive worst or best, for it gave release and comfort to the teeming East Side masses.18


In the beautiful make-believe world of the opera house and theatre the Jews had high visibility. They were entrepreneurs, producers, managers, directors, actors, and, of course, patrons, theatregoers. They organized circuits and booked plays; when necessary some managers even doubled as actors. Andrew Andrews (Isaacs) of Buffalo was a manager and actor and taught landscape painting to genteel ladies. Jacob Litt of Milwaukee may not be untypical of the showmen of the 1880’s and 1890’s. He leased or controlled theatres in and around Milwaukee and Minneapolis, put companies on the road, ran a Dime Museum with freaks, produced minstrel shows and comedies, but, contrary to established practice in the North, denied Negroes the right to enter one of his theatres. A local newspaper reminded him that Jews were then suffering the same kind of discrimination in the Manhattan Beach and Catskill hotels. Among the managers of that day was a man who had been a bricklayer, cigarmaker, journalist, music composer, lyricist, inventor, and German theatre entrepreneur; this was Oscar Hammerstein. The Aronson brothers, Edward and Rudolph, owned theatres and produced light opera. Rudolph, a composer, wrote over one hundred dance marches and other pieces for orchestra. The Casino which he built had the first roof garden in the country. It was he who presented the English operetta Erminie in this country; it ran for 1,256 performances. When U. S. Grant was invited to come and see it, he made his excuses: he preferred dramas or comedies. Before the rise of the theatrical “Syndicate,” one of the best-known impresarios was Marcus R. Meyer, a journalist who had once sat in the California senate. Meyer was an agent who shepherded such notables as Sarah Bernhardt, Edwin Booth, Ellen Terry, Lily Langtry, Henry Irving, and Adelina Patti. Nate Saulsbury was the manager and part owner of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. The following men who were in show business in the 1880’s have one thing in common besides their Anglo-Saxon names, they were all Jews: Messrs Brooks, Harris, Curtis, Nixon, Harrison, Greene, and Mordaunt.19

Along with the Syndicate magnates, David Belasco (1853/1854-1931) was one of the most important men in the legitimate theatre at the turn of the century. He was almost the industry in microcosm, a producer, actor, playwright, a developer of stars, and no mean businessman himself. Belasco had written and directed plays and managed a theatre in his native California before he was twenty; he came East to stay in 1882. In New York he wrote dozens of plays, with and without collaborators; he produced, it is said, hundreds, many of the romantic genre, some comedies of manners, sparkling with witty dialogue. His stage productions of Madam Butterfly and The Girl of the Golden West were made into operas by Puccini; Caruso sang and Toscanini conducted the latter presentation. Like many others before him Belasco produced Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice with a human Shylock. Departing from a stereotype that had not yet disappeared, Belasco, in The Auctioneer, offered his audience a Polish Jew who was not malicious. Like the Frohmans for whom he sometimes worked he is to be remembered for staging American plays at a time when European themes and writers were stressed on the American boards. Essentially Belasco was a brilliant technician, a superb craftsman. He was a complete showman even in his garb for he wore a clerical collar. He had become the Bishop of Broadway. He was known for his stage settings and his lighting effects; in arranging his scenic backgrounds, he was the tireless perfectionist. He appealed to the aesthetic in his audience; his productions were beautiful. He had no great social message to bring to his generation. His was an appeal to the heart; he wanted to amuse, to fill the house. With all this in mind he did a beautiful job.20


When Belasco came to the East he worked for a while as a hack dramatist and stage manager till he was employed by Daniel Frohman. Daniel was one of three brothers, Gustave, Daniel, and Charles, in the theatre business, sons of a Sandusky restaurateur, saloonkeeper, and owner of a small factory. Daniel became an experienced showman; he had been a reporter, an advance agent, an impresario, a booker of companies, and the director of a stock company. He brought the pianist Ossip Gabrilowitsch to America, managed Walter Damrosch’s New York Symphony for a time, and—this was no light thing—initiated a campaign to compel women to remove their hats in the theatre. He was one of the first of the theatremen to move into the world of the cinema. Of the three brothers Charles (1860-1915) was the most important. He, too, like Daniel, had run the gamut of theatre jobs and challenges, but he operated on a larger scale; he produced dozens of plays in the houses which he controlled in the United States and London. He presented some of England’s best writers—Wilde, Maugham, and Galsworthy—to American audiences. He also produced Ibsen and Shakespeare, nurtured famous stars, both American and European, and, in a sense, dominated the American stage for over a decade.

It was Charles who with Marc Klaw, Abraham Lincoln Erlanger, and others fashioned the “Syndicate” in the 1890’s. Klaw had much the same background in show business as the two Frohmans, but he was also a lawyer. Klaw and his partner Erlanger, another seasoned theatreman, had a booking agency before they joined with others in 1896 to establish the cartel which controlled theatres, stars, productions, and bookings. It was not a monopoly but it was very powerful. It was hard to fight the Syndicate as Abraham Judah found out. Judah was a Kansas City businessman who had come to the Missouri town from Cincinnati to exhibit the Wild Man from Borneo. After establishing a successful stock company he opened a beautiful theatre in 1891 and withstood the pressure from the Syndicate for many years before he was compelled to book their attractions. The public did not suffer; it paid more but saw the greatest stars. On Judah’s death in 1915 the house became a movie theatre; this was a fate which was to become common.21

The Syndicate did very well until the Shuberts appeared on the scene about the year 1910; by the end of that decade Klaw, Erlanger, and their associates were compelled to dissolve their consortium. They were facing problems; there were not enough companies and stars to satisfy the demands of the more than 1,000 theatres under their control. The actors resented the practices of the Syndicate and the rise of the rival Shubert chain made it very difficult for the cartel to maintain its hold on the industry. The interlopers were three brothers: Lee (Levi) Shubert, Sam S., and Jacob J., sons of a Syracuse peddler. Successful in their theatre ventures at home before they were twenty-one these aggressive young men led by Sam moved on to New York where they ran into the Syndicate. The Shuberts developed their own circuit; they were bookers, managers, and producers. The competitors patched up a peace, after a fashion, but in the course of time the Shuberts gained the upper hand.

With European traditions and precedents in mind, a German actor and later manager of the Metropolitan Opera set out to give America a “national” theatre. This was Heinrich Conried (Cohn). Hoping to establish an endowed theatre with a repertory company of skilled actors, he induced a number of New York’s rich to build the New Theatre on Central Park West. It failed for reasons that are not altogether clear; the location was poor and the audience, perhaps, was indifferent to the concept of a “national” theatre. In addition the Syndicate and Shubert productions left little to be desired. Though the monopolists were under constant attack they did bring good shows and great actors to almost any American town of size, wherever there was an “opry house.” The people saw the shows they wanted to see. Before these Jewish entrepreneurs had taken over there was anarchy in booking and the theatre business was wasteful, inefficient. These men organized the industry, and even though they were dollar-minded they developed mass distribution of a good product in a most efficient fashion. In this they patterned themselves on big business.22


Belasco was the most successful of the “Jewish” writers whose world lay behind the footlights. But there were dozens of other dramatists, many of them amateurs, who devoted their talents, such as they were, to local Jewish clubs. Only a few of these playwrights received more than a local recognition such as the Virginian, Sydney Rosenfeld, and the Bostonian, Benjamin E. Woolf. The latter wrote more than a dozen farces and dramatized East Lynne. Rosenfeld, the author of several plays and operettas, was very eager to further Conried’s national theatre; Monroe, his brother, wrote the song, “See That My Grave’s Kept Green,” one of the most popular ballads of that period. Popular songs had a tremendous vogue. With the exception of Belasco the most versatile and successful Jewish dramatist of that day was Charles Klein a member of a talented English immigrant family. One of his three brothers was a musician, a second a composer, another an actor. Klein wrote librettos for light operas and many plays, a number with Jewish characters. His most successful works were The Auctioneer, The Lion and the Mouse, and The Music Master. The last was performed over 500 times. The Auctioneer and The Music Master were produced by Belasco with David Warfield in the stellar role. In The Lion and the Mouse the author addresses himself to the theme of civic corruption; obviously he was not untouched by the muckraking tradition of the early 1900’s although he was not part of the new generation of Jewish playwrights who were beginning to appear. These socially-minded realists carried on where the cautious Progressives had left off. These early Jewish leftists were probably influenced by the political and social revolutions that tore Europe apart after 1917.23


Klein had begun his career in the theatre as an actor; actually Jews were far more successful as thespians than as playwrights. Some of the greatest of the European Jewish actors made appearances in this country, among them Rachel, Sarah Bernhardt, Bogumil Dawison, and Adolph Ritter von Sonnenthal. The latter two came over here to appear on the German stage. Another German actor, Daniel E. Bandmann, still a young man, remained in the United States to become a famous Shakespearean actor, frequently portraying Shylock. Jews appeared in many roles and guises on the American stage. Some of the most renowned magicians such as Carl and Leon Herrmann were Jews. These two were so famous that they appeared literally before the crowned heads of Europe. Three sons of a Philadelphia “rabbi” were circus performers as was Joseph M. Roblin of Buffalo. Roblin, a midget, worked for Ringling Brothers for years, and when John L. Sullivan, the world heavyweight champion, challenged him to a bout Roblin agreed if Sullivan could slim himself down to fifty-five pounds! Joe Choynski, one of the fine boxers of his generation, did spar with Sullivan in an exhibition match, and on occasion acted in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Choynski’s sparring partner in that production was the Negro pugilist Peter Jackson who played the star. Choynski, the son of a notable San Francisco book dealer, was a man of some education, abstemious in his personal habits, avoiding liquor and tobacco.

The most famous German dialect team in the latter part of the nineteenth century was Jewish. Weber and Fields—their full names were Joseph Weber and Lewis Maurice Fields (Schanfeld)—were sons of impoverished East Side Polish immigrants. The boys had to go to work before they were ten years of age. After several years of struggle, but still teenagers, they achieved success. Following a common practice of that day they gained a following by burlesquing contemporary dramas. Years later they had their own theatre where they appeared in musical comedy. Two other well-known actors who also played dialect roles were Samuel Bernard and Louis Mann. When they appeared in Washington in Friendly Enemies, a World War I play, President Wilson rose in his box to praise them and the vehicle in which they were starring. The most notable Jewish actor of his generation, David Warfield, also began as a dialect comic. After Belasco had taken him in hand and he appeared in The Auctioneer, The Music Master, and The Return of Peter Grimm, he was recognized as one of the country’s leading stage players.

Show business began to falter even before 1920 when the theatre seemed to be most prosperous. In part this decline was due to the high cost of productions; lavish expenditure did not always bring box office success. The competition from the cinema proved to be devastating. The movies were cheap, fascinating, conveniently situated in almost every neighborhood, exciting in the far-flung scenes as cowboys chased Indians and posses harried outlaws. The actors and the action were no longer limited to a stage that was no larger than an oversized drawing room.24



The American cinema industry had its beginnings in the 1890’s in peep shows in penny arcades, when the illusion of motion came with the kinetoscope. Even before the decade had come to a close, pictures were being projected on wall screens. With the turn of the century, pictures were shown in nickelodeons, vaudeville houses, and theatres; by 1903 the audience was able to gape at their first story of some length, The Great Train Robbery. Because of the equable climate and the proximity to Mexico where producers could disappear to avoid the court suits of patent holders, Los Angeles-Hollywood soon became the movie capital. Jews entered the industry early because, true to tradition, they crawled into the interstices of the economy, areas that required very little capital. Courageous entrepreneurs prepared to gamble, they were willing to take the risk. They took a five-cent business and in one long generation parlayed it into a billion dollar industry.

Among the pioneers was an East Side garment worker, a glove salesman, a bookkeeper, a cornet player, a real estate dealer, owners of a bicycle shop, a furrier, and a junk dealer. They became producers, directors, writers, and actors. In the decade after 1910 Jewish cinema enterprisers began to open large motion picture houses, produce features, and develop the star system. Among the stars of the silent days were two Jews, Pola Negri and Theda Bara. The latter was a vamp, buxom in the best Jewish and Howard Chandler Christy tradition. But it was not long before the producers—those at least with vision—began to employ famous actresses. Adolph Zukor and the Famous Players starred Sarah Bernhardt in Queen Elizabeth. The industry developed rapidly; far-sighted investors began to build chains of theatres; owners eager for new films became producers, and animated cartoons now made their appearance. The industry could count such pioneers as Adolph Zukor, Maurice Loew, Carl Laemmle, William Fox, the Warner brothers, and Louis B. Mayer. These men and others built great companies: Universal Pictures, Famous Players, Paramount, and Metro, which was later to become Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The movie world of 1920 was one largely dominated by Jewish businessmen.

The German-born Carl Laemmle had been a bookkeeper before he became a nickelodeon owner and film distributor in Chicago. In order to survive and meet the competition of the so-called film trust he turned to production. By 1914 his company, Universal Pictures, had established its studio, Universal City, in the Los Angeles area. Marcus Loew (1870-1927) was a furrier and real-estate operator who went into the penny arcade business with David Warfield; then, after opening motion picture houses, they, too, found it necessary to become producers. It was Loew who put together Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in the 1920’s and capitalized Loew’s, Incorporated, at $100,000,000. The company with its 300 amusement places was a far cry from the penny arcade. Adolph Zukor had also been a furrier. A graduate of the penny arcade era, he joined with Daniel Frohman to become a cinema producer. Their company, Famous Players, later joined Jesse Lasky in the Famous Players-Lasky Corporation. Lasky, a Californian, had been a cornet player, a reporter, an Alaska gold miner, a vaudeville producer before he went into business with his brother-in-law Samuel Goldfish (Gelbfisch, Goldwyn). The latter was a glove maker and salesman before he began producing feature films, pictures that were distinguished for their good taste and high quality. The Warner brothers struggled for half a generation before they saw light. There were four of them; two were born in Poland, one in Canada, and one in the United States. Two of them ran a bicycle shop in Youngstown, Ohio, before the family opened a nickelodeon in the early 1900’s. By 1913 they had become producers, and a few years later they filmed their first feature length picture. Their importance lay in their introduction of talking pictures in the next decade.

Almost as important as a good film is a good theatre in which to show it. Samuel Lionel Rothafel (Roxy) made a name for himself by his innovative presentation of films in the theatre. This former marine managed a theatre in his native Minnesota and then turned to New York where he became the world’s most celebrated movie palace manager. It was he who introduced excellent orchestras, precision dancing choruses, good singers, uniformed and courteous ushers into magnificent, lavishly decorated cinemas.


Despite its humble beginnings and its many poor and sordid films, despite the purely commercial motivation that prompted many of the pioneers—for it was a business, not an art—the cinema was a profound influence for good in the life of the average man and woman and child. The masses were amused, often uplifted; whole new worlds and scenes were opened up to them, and the glorious past in all its splendor was unrolled before their eyes. The beautiful artistic films that Goldwyn and others produced were aesthetic experiences that almost brought heaven down to earth. The movies hurt the legitimate theatre, but never killed it. There is no substitute for live human beings on a stage; the theatre survived. Good writers and new experimental trends produced theatre of ideas; sensitive aesthetes wanted genuine soul-wracking presentations that would reflect life realistically. They wanted a theatre to which they could relate in intimate surroundings. Thus the Little Theatre Movement was born no later than the second decade of the new century. It brought to the boards serious American playwrights and the best of the European dramatists. Many of its evangels were Jews; when the Theatre Guild was established in 1919 all but one of its board members were Jews.

Despite the paucity of their numbers in the land the Jews were certainly important in the history of the cinema. Following a century of activity in the theatre, Jews in the early twentieth century began to play an important role, a very important one, in the entertainment world as entrepreneurs and producers. Their essential contribution was a business one. A writer in the late 1880’s said that conditions in the theatre, administratively, were bad until the Jews began to take hold and put the theatre on a business basis. They brought in capital and management skills; they improved efficiency and the theatre stability. It became a viable national institution. Antebellum Cincinnati was much the better for Pike’s Opera House. It helped make it the Queen City of the West, a city of culture with its annual season of Italian opera produced by Max Strakosch and Jacob Grau. Samuel Pike never made any money out of his opera house; it was enough that he loved music even as in the next generation Otto Kahn and Felix Warburg were devoted to that which was beautiful and soul-satisfying. In the final analysis it is not important that the Klaws, the Erlangers, the Shuberts, and the cinema entrepreneurs were interested primarily in the black ink in the ledgers. What eventuated is more important. These men were not Philistines. They brought good shows to any town that had an auditorium.25



The theatre has a close relation to music. One has only to think of musical comedy, operettas, and the opera. The Jewish religion itself has never been without music in the Diaspora; the hazzan chants or sings the services. Here in the colonies upper-class Jews like the Levy-Franks clan played chamber music and joined music societies. By the 1830’s the place of Jews in America’s musical world was established. Not only had Lorenzo da Ponte already been hard at work for years in his efforts to popularize Italian opera, but it was in the 1830’s that Meyerbeer’s Robert the Devil and Mendelsohn’s Saint Paul were sung in New York; it was a decade when Americans throughout the land were singing Henry Russell’s version of “Woodman Spare that Tree.” Henry Russell (1812-1900), composer of nearly 800 songs, was an English Jew, a relative of the chief Rabbi Solomon Herschell. Russell lived for years in this country singing his songs but returned to England after he had made his fortune to become a bill broker and moneylender. Some of his songs were written with collaborators. His best known compositions are “A Life on the Ocean Waves,” “Cheer Boys Cheer,” and “To the West, To the Land of the Free.” Russell encouraged impoverished Englishmen to migrate to the United States and even helped some of them financially to make the Atlantic crossing. Socially motivated he wrote songs attacking slavery and private lunatic asylums. One of his sons was Sir Landon Ronald, the English conductor; another, also called Henry Russell, was the general manager of the Boston Opera Company; he helped make it one of America’s great musical institutions.26


Da Ponte and a German Jewish musician named Daniel Schlesinger both died in New York in 1838. The latter, a piano virtuoso and a lover of chamber music, was a man of considerable influence in the musical life of America’s metropolis. He was a harbinger of the German Jews who were just beginning to arrive and who would do so much for America in the domain of music. These newcomers were to be active in establishing opera and choral societies; they were composers, symphony conductors, and instrumentalists. They were particularly productive, important, in the 1850’s after the collapse of the 1848 revolutionary hopes in Europe.27


The impact of the Central European Jews on American music is most evident in opera. Many of these German-speaking Jews were Austrians and of course there was a close relationship between the Austrians and the Italians. As early as 1850 there was already talk here that Jews dominated the opera and this contention was repeated in the next decade. After Da Ponte, Bernard Ullman (d.1885?) was one of America’s first impresarios. Ullman was a Hungarian-born journalist and music entrepreneur who came here in 1846 and played an important role in America’s musical life until about 1862 when he returned to Europe. In 1846 Ullman presented the Parisian Jewish piano virtuoso Henri Herz to American audiences, and it was while Herz was on a tour of the western hemisphere that he composed the Mexican national anthem. Together with his partner Moritz Strakosch, Ullman managed an Italian opera company and a number of virtuosos. Like his predecessors, Schlesinger and Da Ponte, he developed America’s musical culture and taste, produced the first opera written by an American composer, and institutionalized that genre of music in this country making it possible for opera to survive here. He organized music as a commodity available to thousands. As late as 1860 he was, it would seem, the most important musical entrepreneur in the United States.

Among the opera troupe managers of the mid-nineteenth century were the two Moravian brothers Moritz (1825-1887) and Max Strakosch (1834/1835-1892). After he came to the United States in 1848, Moritz busied himself as a composer, piano virtuoso, stage manager, and impresario. As impresarios, the Strakosches guided tours here of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Christine Nilsson, and the Patti sisters. Adeline Patti had been concertizing under their tutelage since she was eight years of age. These two opera enterprisers are important in the musical life of this country in the period before the Metropolitan Opera House opened its doors. Like the Strakosch brothers, Max Maretzek (1821-1897) was a Moravian. Back in Austria Max started out to become a surgeon but turned to music and began writing operas when still a very young man. Here in the United States where he, too, settled in 1848 he was to have a lively and brilliant career as a conductor and impresario. In 1849 he conducted sixty performances of Italian opera; the following year he gave a benefit performance, an evening of music, for New York’s Young Men’s Hebrew Benevolent Society. Maretzek popularized grand opera in the United States, making it available to New Yorkers at modest prices. He introduced thirty-six new works to music lovers, including Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata.

Apparently the Moravian émigrés gravitated to opera management. The two Graus, uncle and nephew, also natives of that province, played an important role in opera management in the latter years of the century. Jacob Grau of New York City, a music entrepreneur, induced his nephew Maurice (1849-1907), a graduate of Columbia Law School, to forsake the bar and become a producer and impresario. In the third quarter of the nineteenth century, the Graus were probably America’s outstanding agents for virtuosos, operas, and operetta companies. Among those whom Maurice managed were Anton Rubinstein, Jacques Offenbach, Sarah Bernhardt, and Ellen Terry. From the 1880’s to 1903 Maurice and his associates managed the Metropolitan Opera House at various times. They provided lavish settings, introduced French, Italian, and German works, and raised production to a high level.

The Metropolitan Opera House, a cultural monument and a stronghold of the socially pretentious, nearly always ran at a loss; the rich were expected to make good the deficit. Invited to sit on the board, Schiff refused. He had no social ambitions; he was content to live among his own people, but he did suggest that his partner Otto Kahn be invited. This was in the early 1900’s. Fifteen years later Kahn found himself the chief owner of the opera house. This native German was a banker and a railroad financier but above all a man of culture. He could play the violin and the cello and was very much interested in art, music, the theatre, the ballet, and of course the opera. Kahn was a minority stockholder of the Met when Conried became manager (1903). Though originally an actor on the German American stage, Conried had a great deal of experience in production. Here in this country he had given his fellow Germans the opportunity to see the plays of Sudermann and Hauptmann; he did a beautiful job staging Wagner’s Parsifal at the Met. It was he who introduced Caruso, Geraldine Farrar, Chaliapin, and Mahler to New York audiences, but he was himself no musician. The Met did not prosper and it was for this reason that Kahn and William K. Vanderbilt bought out Conried and his friends and inaugurated a new regime.

Then in 1907 Kahn brought over Gulio Gatti-Casazza and Toscanini from La Scala to help the Met meet the stiff competition provided by Oscar Hammerstein who had opened the Manhattan Opera House in 1906. Hammerstein was determined to offer music to the masses, bringing them also French and Italian operas that they had not heard before. He forced the Met to improve its presentations. The financial load was more than one man could bear; Hammerstein sold out to Kahn, whose love affair with the Met was ultimately to cost him almost $2,000,000. Before the depression of 1929 almost destroyed him Kahn was one of America’s outstanding patrons of the arts.28


Though there were many excellent Jewish musicians in antebellum America, there was only one native virtuoso. This was Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), son of an English-born New Orleans Jew and his French Christian wife. Gottschalk was a pianist, organist, and composer; in the music he wrote he occasionally incorporated Creole and Negro motifs. After he made his debut in Paris as a teenager he concertized in Europe and throughout the western hemisphere. Here in the United States he helped make piano concerts popular. When he appeared in Cincinnati in 1861 the Israelite announced that he was an eminent pianoforte composer and that he would be assisted by Carlotta Patti “whose bird-like warblings have justly obtained for her the reputation of being the best and most delightful concert singer in America.” In 1888 the teenage violinist Fritz Kreisler first toured this country, appearing with Moriz Rosenthal, the pianist. Though Kreisler played here often in later years he did not become a citizen until World War II. He was completely dissociated from Jewry. By the second decade of the twentieth century new violinists were beginning to appear on the scene, prodigies who would astound the world with their techniques and their interpretative qualities. These newcomers were primarily East European immigrants like Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, and Efrem Zimbalist who was to marry the opera singer, Alma Gluck.29


As the nineteenth century drew to a close and America began to shelter a Jewish community of almost a million people, the number of men and women in music professionally increased perceptibly. Very many were violinists; a few were even concertmeisters in the important symphonies; the East European Jews favored the violin; families often found enough money so that one son could be taught by a “professor.” Irving Berlin recognized this preference for the violin in his early composition, “Yiddle (Little Jew) on Your Fiddle Play Some Ragtime.” The better musicians, especially those who played stringed instruments, joined together in ensembles—trios, quartets, quintets—which toured the country playing chamber music. Around the year 1900 there was hardly a good American string ensemble without a Jewish member. The women, more than the men, were attracted to the piano. A piano in the home had become a status symbol; often it had to be carted in before there was a railroad in town. The eminent Jewish pianists, Moriz Rosenthal and Rafael Joseffy, came here to concertize. The latter, a Hungarian, remained in this country where he introduced Brahms to American music lovers as well as editing the works of Chopin.

Jewish professional musicians were not content only being instrumentalists. Jews organized as well as played in orchestras; New York City Jewish immigrants founded a Russian Symphony Society which introduced the best and the most modern in Russian music to enthusiastic audiences who flocked to Cooper Union and Carnegie Hall. They led glee clubs, orchestras, and oratorio societies. Distinguished symphony directors began to settle in this country no later than the 1880’s. Most were of Central European origin and had made their mark before coming to America. Composers also abounded although few if any of these were to influence profoundly the course of American music. Some Jewish musicians founded schools of their own; others were invited to teach in the colleges and conservatories. Rubin Goldmark taught in a Colorado school of music before returning to his native New York City. In the 1920’s he was called to teach at Juilliard and among his students were Aaron Copland and George Gershwin. Important but ignored are the hundreds of music teachers who taught for fifty cents an hour in the cities, towns, and villages of the country introducing thousands to the fascinating world of harmony and melody.

Jews were also music critics and editors of music magazines; a few were even music publishers. The role which Jews played in bringing music to the masses in New York City is not insignificant. Edwin Franko Goldman conducted free concerts on the Columbia campus and in Central Park. The Lewisohn Stadium was built through the generosity of Adolph Lewisohn who also helped finance the concerts held there. By the 1940’s as many as 23,000 people would assemble in the stadium on a single night. There is a story that a Gentile at a concert in Carnegie Hall looked about him and enquired of his friend: “Where do the Gentiles sit?” There is more than a little truth in this anecdote.30

The New York Woolf Family

Music was but one aspect in the lives of cultured multifaceted people. The New York Woolf family is a case in point. Edward Woolf, an Englishman, came to the United States in 1837, settled in Mobile and married into one of the best Jewish families in town, that of Israel I. Jones. Woolf conducted an orchestra in that city and other towns before finally settling in New York in 1841. There he not only directed an orchestra and founded a philharmonic society but also composed a musical service for the synagog. This gifted man also wrote serials for a Jewish magazine and articles for a general paper, illustrating his work himself. In 1845 he established what may have been the first comic paper in the United States; he called it Judy. Woolf was the father of several sons who also displayed their talents in diverse modes. Benjamin Edward of Boston was an author, musician, composer, playwright, dramatic critic; Michael Angelo was a caricaturist and wrote books for children; Philip was a physician, a literary critic, a novelist, and an editor of a magazine; Solomon taught art; Robert Edward was an inventor; Albert Edward was a merchant, artist, medallionist, inventor and the chemist who introduced peroxide as a bleaching and antiseptic agent. Albert also pioneered in limiting the elements of putrification in sewage and garbage. Samuel (Johnson) Albert Edward, Albert’s son, was an author, special correspondent for the New York Times and a painter attached to the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I.31


There is no question that much of American Jewry’s musical activity took place in the New York metropolis but wherever there were Jews there was music. That was one of the amenities of the social class to which they belonged or to which they aspired. The following illustrations—taken from different cities—of their interest in music have been picked at random; they are not untypical. In Denver, for instance, they enrolled in the town band, joined the German Singers Society, sang in the local opera company, played chamber music, and could point to co-religionists as the concertmeister and the director of the symphony. In the early twentieth century the women in town joined a music club for amateurs; here they could display their talent as vocalists, pianists, and violinists.

In a way Mobile Jewry was exceptional for it sheltered two outstanding musical families, that of Jacob Bloch (1826-1903) and the two Schlesinger brothers. Bloch, member of a musical family, settled in Mobile in 1848 where he organized bands and supplied music for the local dances. His music jobs kept him busy for he also taught at the town’s Catholic academy and established Mobile’s first chorus and orchestra, opened a music store, and published sheet music. Bloch could play almost any instrument; his specialty was the flute, but he learned to play the cello in six weeks in order to make a fourth in a string quartet. Bloch was probably responsible for bringing the Schlesinger brothers Sigmund (1835-1906) and Jacob to town. Jacob, a singing teacher, arrived in Mobile in 1858; Sigmund, a composer, was there by the first year of the War for he composed a number of dances, polkas, waltzes, and gallopades most of which he dedicated to the “Young Ladies of the Sunny South.” His friend Bloch served as his publisher.

Bloch and the Schlesingers were German; the Germanic influence was even stronger in Milwaukee and that connoted music. Jews were among the town’s musical leaders. A Viennese refugee established a chorus and an orchestra whose programs included both older classics like Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, and some later composers. The leader of the Milwaukee Musical Society, Henry M. Mendel, a merchant, was also the president of the local conservatory and one of the men responsible for the erection of the Academy of Music Hall. He was elected head of the North American Saengerbund with its 100,000 members, and when this national congeries of singing societies met in Milwaukee in 1886 the guests listened to a chorus of 1,200 voices.32

Milwaukee’s big neighbor, Chicago, had blossomed out as a center of music by the late nineteenth century. By 1859 the local Germans and their Jewish Landsleute had organized a Beethoven Society presided over by Henry Greenebaum, the banker. Chicago music lovers of that decade also welcomed Max Strakosch and his opera troupe. From 1918 on Chicago’s Civic Opera Company was directed by Georgio Polacco, a competent musician who had conducted operas in Europe and South America before coming to Chicago. Louis Eckstein, a native of Milwaukee, succeeded in making Ravinia Park on the northern outskirts of Chicago a summer musical center for throngs of Americans who enjoyed opera. Eckstein was a millinery wholesaler, a railroad man, a real-estate entrepreneur, and a magazine publisher.

Chicago’s repute as a musical center was fixed firmly by two men who came to the city in the 1870’s; they were Emil Liebling and Carl Wolfsohn (1834-1907). Liebling was a concert pianist, teacher, critic, and composer; the piano virtuoso Wolfsohn, said to be a relative of August Belmont, lived for many years in Philadelphia till Greenebaum brought him to Chicago. There he helped develop the symphony, aided the lovers of chamber music, worked closely with the Beethoven Society, and continued to concertize and teach. His most illustrious pupil was Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler. By the 1880’s the city sheltered a number of other notable Jewish musicians, teachers, opera singers, and instrumentalists. Simon Elias (Eberhard) Jacobsohn was said to have been America’s outstanding violin teacher and in the 1890’s Leopold Godowsky, a Russian, taught piano at the Chicago Conservatory of Music. There were Jewish musicians to be found elsewhere in the country as well. Ossip S. Gabrilowitsch, Mark Twain’s son-in-law, became the conductor of the Detroit Symphony in 1918. As a concert pianist this cultured Russian had toured this country before he decided to settle here in 1914. As the second largest Jewish community in the United States, Philadelphia had a whole array of composers, vocalists, violinists, and orchestra conductors. In Boston George Henschel (Isador Georg), originally a singer, became the first conductor of the New Boston Symphony Orchestra; he later went to England where he was knighted. His successor in Boston was the Austrian, Wilhelm Gericke, who was reported by Markens, the historian, to have been a Jew. Gericke, a perfectionist, made the Boston Symphony one of the better American orchestras. He wrote chamber music and was the author of more than 100 songs. In 1905, a year before Gericke returned to Austria, impresario Henry Russell II, son of the famous songwriter, came to the United States from London in charge of an opera company; a few years later he was appointed director of the Boston Opera House.33


During this period there were two disparate worlds of music, the classical and the popular. No later than the middle of the nineteenth century, native American Jews began to write popular songs some of which were very well received. One of the more successful composers was James W. Johnson (1830-1889), a scion of a pioneer Cincinnati family. Another member of the clan, Edward, had died fighting for Texas independence at Goliad. During the last decades of the century Jewish songwriters began to be more numerous. One of the best known was Charles Kassell Harris (1865-1930), son of a humble tailor. Young Harris started to compose songs when only a teenager; later he was to become a music publisher and to write stage and cinema plays. Harris wrote sentimental, moralistic ballads which millions loved to sing, songs such as “Break the News to Mother,” “Hello Central, Give me Heaven.” His biggest hit was “After the Ball.” Thirty years after this song was published in 1892 it was still selling 5,000 copies a year. Harris, who made a fortune with “After the Ball,” used some of the money to buy new furniture for his mother’s home without informing her. When she entered the newly decorated and outfitted house—finding herself in unfamiliar surroundings—she walked out until convinced that she was in the right place.

The new century produced a number of very distinguished composers of popular songs. Among them were Jerome David Kern (1885-1945), Sigmund Romberg, and Irving Berlin. Kern’s most popular musical score was Showboat; the lyrics were written by Oscar Hammerstein II, grandson of the opera entrepreneur of the same name. Kern came from an antebellum family; his grandfather was a sensitive humble immigrant from Bohemia who was sympathetic to the plight of the Negroes. Writing to the abolitionist Gerrit Smith, the grandfather referred to himself as a “runaway white slave.” Sigmund Romberg, a Hungarian, came to the United States in the early 1900’s as an engineer, but after a few years turned to the writing of operettas such as The Student Prince and Blossom Time. He was very prolific writing over a thousand songs and about eighty shows. Irving Berlin, the most famous songwriter of them all, was still living in 1985. The original family name was Baline; “Irving” is an adaptation of a Jewish first name. Berlin, son of a Russian cantor and sexton, was brought to this country in 1893 at the age of five. Because of poverty at home he was given very little schooling and as a boy had to hustle for a living. Like Eddie Cantor he became a singing waiter. By 1911 he had already written “Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” his first national success; at Camp Upton, during World War I, Sergeant Berlin composed “Oh How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning.” He wrote the scores for many revues and ultimately became a publisher and theatre owner. Two of his most famous songs are “A White Christmas,” and “God Bless America”; the latter is almost a national anthem and brought him a Congressional Gold Medal. The royalties from some of his most successful compositions were dedicated to national youth and patriotic organizations.34


Max Maretzek once complained that the American people as a whole were not really interested in good music; he pointed out that the Astor Place Opera House and the Academy Hall of Music ended up with performances by learned dogs and trained horses. All this may be true but it is also true that many Jews were passionately fond of good music. If before 1920 they had made no impress on the literary scene, in the field of music they were of importance; their patronage, participation, and creativity is apparent in all areas of the boundless realm of classical and popular music.




The interest in music was common to almost all Jews, but there were very few American Jews during this period who were leaders in the graphic arts although a number were practitioners, after a fashion. If the Jews as a group evinced relatively little interest in the representational arts then in that respect they were typically American. Were the Jews deterred from making likenesses of anything that is in heaven or that is in the earth beneath because of the prohibitions in the Ten Commandments? Hardly. That thou-shalt-not was very often honored in the breach. For centuries Jewry employed animal figures in its religious art, mosaic floors, synagog murals, and illuminated manuscripts. Jews did not shy away altogether from graven images; however when there was talk of erecting a statue to honor Judah Touro traditionally-minded Jews remonstrated. The Reform rabbi of New Orleans brushed all objections aside. Although there were Jewish artists in many of the large cities, most were found in New York.

Jewish portraitists, craftsmen making a living by painting people, were not altogether uncommon in pre-daguerreotype days. Some of these skilled workmen had come to these shores even before the dawn of the nineteenth century. Individuals among them were very competent, otherwise men like Henry Clay and President Tyler would not have sat for them. Theodore Sidney Moïse, a Southerner painted Clay; Solomon Nunez Carvalho, the explorer and photographer, did a Lincoln portrait, but not from life; Constant Mayer, a well-known French artist famous also for his genre scenes, painted Generals Grant and Sheridan. Jacob Hart Lazarus, Emma Lazarus’s uncle, was an unusually fine painter. Henry Kayton (1809-1902), a German, may be typical of the best among the portraitists. He is the man who painted Tyler. This artist, who came to Baltimore in the 1820’s, lived in that city and in various towns of Virginia plying his trade. When commissions were poor he augmented his income by serving as a court interpreter and by teaching guitar. A picture of the Virgin Mary which he painted was presented by him to the sisters of a Richmond convent.35

Postbellum Interest in Art, 1860-ca. 1910

After the Civil War, as industry and wealth developed, as social and cultural horizons expanded, there was a constantly growing interest in the arts in American society and, consequently, among Jews, too. In the next two generations American Jewry produced painters, lithographers, illustrators, cartoonists, photographers, medallionists, sculptors, and architects. As early as the 1830’s the life insurance company executive Hyman Gratz, Rebecca’s brother, was an important board member and a treasurer of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. By the 1840’s there was a Jewish art dealer in New York City, Aaron Levy, a veteran of the War of 1812 and a former lieutenant colonel in the state militia. After the Civil War Louis R. Ehrich of the department store family, was known as a dealer in old paintings. Ehrich was not a mere tradesman for he was a leader in liberal politics and a publicist who wrote on fiscal and labor problems. Toward the turn of the century the Lithuanian immigrant, Bernard Berenson, Harvard 1887, left for Italy where in the space of a decade or less he became one of the recognized authorities on Renaissance art. Berenson was not the only American Jewish expatriate artist. A number of Jews who were to make a place for themselves in painting and sculpture left for Europe and remained there. Nineteenth-century America was not an important art center.

With the new century there came an increasing number of Jews who served as officers in art societies and achieved national distinction as collectors and donors. Some of them were probably influenced by the examples of such collectors as J. Pierpont Morgan, Henry Clay Frick, Andrew W. Mellon, and Henry E. Huntington, heroes of the Gilded Age. Among the New Yorkers were Benjamin Altman, Michael Friedsam, Jules S. Bache, and George Blumenthal. The latter served as president of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Edward C. Blum, was president of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences. Others who were noted collectors and generous givers were Max Epstein of Chicago and the Cones and Jacob Epstein of Baltimore. It is a tribute to America that a Russian immigrant like Jacob Epstein could start life as a peddler and end it with an art collection that included works of Van Dyck, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Hals, Holbein, Rembrandt, and Titian. It is not enough that this millionaire had the means to buy these pictures; he had learned to understand and enjoy them. Although the following judgment is relative is it too much to assert that the most important contribution of a Jew in this field was made by Simon Guggenheim when he created the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for creative study in the fine arts?36


One of the Baltimore Epstein’s contemporaries was the sculptor Ephraim Keyser (1850-1936) who studied abroad and worked in Rome for years before returning to his home. Keyser of Baltimore and Isidore Konti of Yonkers were both able artists but were in no sense comparable to the sculptor Jacob Epstein (1880-1959), no relative of the Baltimore magnate. Epstein, a native of New York’s East Side, studied art at a Jewish settlement house, the Educational Alliance, and did some modeling in a night class taught by George Gray Barnard. With the money he made illustrating Hutchins Hapgood’s Spirit of the Ghetto, Epstein went abroad, first to Paris and then to London where he developed into one of the greatest and one of the most controversial sculptors of the twentieth century. He embraced English citizenship and ended his life as Sir Jacob Epstein.37

Moses Ezekiel

Another American sculptor, not comparable to Jacob Epstein but cherished far more by the American Jewry of his day, was Moses Jacob Ezekiel, commonly called Sir Moses because he received an honorary commendation from the Italian authorities. He was a skillful sculptor whose work was typical of the commemorative or monumental school. Above all Ezekiel was a charming cultured Southern gentleman who came from a family that was very much interested in Jews and Judaism. This native of Richmond, an amateur musician and a voracious reader, had already turned to art as a boy. He had fought in the Civil War as a military cadet and had begun to study medicine when he decided to make a career of art. Influenced by the artist Henry Mosler of Cincinnati, where his family had settled, Ezekiel sold a diamond stick pin to raise enough money for study in Berlin. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out he served as a special correspondent for the New York Herald and then moved on to Rome after he received a Michael Beer Prize. This was accorded him for his basrelief of Jesus which he called Israel. It is the Jew, Israel, who has been crucified throughout the ages. In Rome he finally settled down in the Baths of Diocletian and remained in the city for most of his life. During the American centennial year, 1876, he finished his monument to religious liberty with its symbolic emphasis on the separation of church and state. Garibaldi who saw the statue in Rome and liked it noted ironically that it had been conceived in the very shadow of the Vatican. Toward the end of his life Ezekiel was commissioned to execute a work for the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The Confederate Monument in the Arlington National Cemetery represents the woman of the New South ready to make her peace with the North as she fashioned a new world for her generation. The inscription reads: “They have beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” It was unveiled in June, 1914. Twelve months later the good citizens of Marietta, Georgia, lynched Leo M. Frank.

Jo Davidson

With the twentieth century there came a new breed of sculptors, mostly of East European birth or parentage. Typical of this group was the Russian-born Jo (Joseph) Davidson (1883-1952) who studied both here and abroad and was recognized for his sensitive portrait busts. Among those who sat for him were Woodrow Wilson, Abraham Jacobi, Marshal Foch, and John D. Rockefeller. In 1913 Ellen Phillips Samuel left a large estate to establish an allee of sculptured monuments to symbolize the march of American history from colonial days to the present. This avenue of monuments includes several works by Jews, among them Maurice Sterne, Jacob Epstein, and Jacques Lipchitz. The Samuel bequest is believed to be America’s largest endowment for a sculptural project.38


Closely allied to sculpture was the art of the medallionist. The making of medals and seals was traditionally a European Jewish craft, one not monopolized by the anti-Jewish restrictive gilds. It was a skill allied to that of the silversmith, a trade to which many Jews turned in colonial and early national days. Moritz Furst (b.1782) landed here in 1807 on the promise of an appointment as the chief engraver and die sinker at the Philadelphia Mint. He remarked once, facetiously, that the United States was a land where gold grew on trees. Apparently he erred, for the authorities ignored the verbal contract made with him by the consul at Leghorn and gave the position to another. Furst stoutly maintained that at the time of his coming he was the best engraver in the country; he may have been right. Before his return to Europe about 1840 he cut many dies for medals in his Philadelphia and New York studios. The catalogue of his work includes medallic portraits of several presidents, other notable Americans, and practically all the army and navy heroes of the War of 1812. These latter had been commissioned by Congress. Some of his medals may still be purchased at the Mint. A contemporary of Furst, Joseph Simpson, enjoyed an enviable reputation as a very skilled seal engraver. This Baltimorean, who flourished from the 1820’s to the 1850’s, was an ardent Orthodox polemicist. Simpson, a bachelor, reared two Christian orphans, a brother and a sister, and saw to it that they received a good Christian religious training. Better known is Victor David Brenner (1871-1924), an East Side immigrant who worked as a die cutter after he landed here in 1896. Though he received some training in night classes at Cooper Union he was on the whole self-taught. In 1906 he was called in by the Treasury Department to design the Lincoln penny, the first coin with the head of a president. The first pennies that he made carried his initials V.D.B.; long before him Furst had frequently signed his medals with his surname or an abbreviation.39


As it has already been pointed out, Solomon N. Carvalho, the artist and explorer, was a competent daguerreotypist. His great interest in photography was shared by his son David, one of the country’s leading experts in handwriting. By the 1890’s there were a number of excellent Jewish photographers, some of them natives of Russia. The most famous man in the field, one who was to enjoy international recognition, was a native American of Central European background. This was Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), a scientific student of the art and the father of modern photography, in this country at least. Stieglitz was more than a great photographer. He was a pioneer in the field of modern literature, music, and painting; as owner of the Stieglitz Gallery he exhibited and encouraged the work of avant-garde painters, especially the abstractionists.40


It is a far cry from Stieglitz, the editor of several photograph magazines, to the art of the cartoonists, yet who can doubt that a nationally known cartoonist might well have a larger following than even the most innovative of photographers. There were several very competent Jewish cartoonists; for the most part they served as staff artists on New York papers. Among the best known was Hi (Henry) Mayer (1868-1954), a German-born caricaturist who had come here in the 1880’s. His drawings appeared not only in American magazines but also in papers published in Germany, France, and England. He was an editor of Puck. Unique was the work of Reuben Lucius Goldberg, familiarly known as Rube Goldberg, a comic strip artist. His drawings which appeared in New York papers were later syndicated nationally. Almost every one of his generation chuckled looking at his silly amusing contraptions; some of his characters like Bob McNutt and Lolla Palooza became household names. Frederick Burr Opper (1857-1937) also introduced a number of comic characters into American life. Almost every child of the early 1900’s knew all about Happy Hooligan, the tramp, and the two polite and deferential gentlemen, Alphonse and Gaston. But Opper was more than a comic artist; he was probably the leading political cartoonist of the late 1800’s. He created caricature types which are still employed, the bloated banker and the political boss. He worked for William Randolph Hearst’s Journal where he employed his cartoonist talents to flay the trusts. He shared his political interests with his uncle who was Europe’s most flamboyant if not most famous journalist. This was Adolphe Opper, better known as Henri de Blowitz.41


Frederick Opper was a man of parts for he also illustrated the works of Mark Twain. Illustrating was a realm which attracted a number of Jewish artists; by 1900 some of the most recognized men in the field were Jews. Probably the best known of the Jewish illustrators was Louis Loeb (1866-1909), one of the few American artists who merited mention in the Jewish Encyclopedia of the early 1900’s. Loeb was also an acknowledged lithographer and painter; his “Temple of the Winds” was purchased by the Metropolitan Museum. Another illustrator of that generation was Max Rosenthal (1833-1918) who was employed to do the drawings for some of Longfellow’s poems. Rosenthal, a Polish immigrant, came to the United States in 1849 and studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts though he had already received some instruction as a youngster in Paris. Primarily he was a lithographer, an American avant-courier in chromolithography and facsimiles of watercolor paintings. It was he who made the plates for the United States Military Commission to the Crimea of which Major Alfred Mordecai was a member. All told Rosenthal produced about 200 lithographs of noted men in American history.

The most distinguished Jew in the world of American lithography was Julius Bien (1826-1909) who was also president of the B’nai B’rith for many years. Bien, a Forty-Eighter, came to this country in 1849 after studying art in Europe. His father was also something of an artist. Here in the United States he established what was to become one of the finest lithography and map engraving businesses in the country. He served as a lithographer for the government for whom he printed atlases, charts, and thousands of maps; included among them was the standard map of the West. Bien published one of the first prints of an American football game and executed numerous plates for Audubon’s Birds of America. This man who served for a decade as president of the National Lithographers’ Association is largely responsible for raising the scientific standards of American map making.42


Art, it has been pointed out, is a widely diversified discipline; there are many methods for producing aesthetic objects creatively and imaginatively. Jews were etchers, lithographers, engravers, scene painters, portraitists, mural and landscape painters. Some worked in oil, others in watercolors. Henry Wolf, an illustrator, reproduced paintings of great artists, engraving among others the works of Joseph Pennell. There is no record that Pennell, who was known to be anti-Jewish, expressed any objection to the employment of Henry Wolf. These artists were versatile; the same individual, as in the case of Wolf, often worked in more than one area of the pictorial arts. The Rosenthals, father and son, Max and Albert (1863-1939), were not only lithographers but also etchers and painters. Max did a Jesus at prayer. There were many Jewish artists like Rosenthal who were fascinated with the Jesus theme. Did they wish to show their catholicity? Or like Moses Ezekiel did they believe that Jesus is the symbol of the eternal Jew “who is despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”(Isa.53:3). George Da Maduro Peixotto (1859-1937) painted John Hay and President McKinley. Leo Mielziner, a poet and sculptor, was also a fine portraitist for whom Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson sat. One of his best efforts is the painting of his father Moses, the talmudist, who was acting president of the Hebrew Union College for a number of years.

A study of the Jews who had espoused art as a profession reveals that their numbers had grown substantially by the early twentieth century. This increase does not necessarily evince a sharp turn to the arts but can be explained in part by an unusually large growth in the size of the Jewish population. Individuals, however, were fascinated by the appeal of this new aesthetic world; among its recruits were a peddler, a traveling salesman, a watchmaker, and a retired businessman.43

Better Known Artists and Painters

The Silesian, Henry Mosler (1841-1920), who was brought here as a child, was sent back to Europe to study art. During the Civil War he worked for Harper’s Weekly on special assignment. Much of his life was spent in Munich and Paris; the Luxembourg Gallery in 1879 purchased his “Prodigal’s Return.” Yet he was sufficiently Americanistic to paint pictures of Indian life and later traveled out West to study the Indians and to sketch them. Toby Edward Rosenthal (1848-1917) spent much of his life in Munich. He was one of the best of the American Jewish artists, admired by many in the United States and in Germany. Like Mosler he, too, was a genre painter; his sentimentality brought him a large following. Rosenthal, son of a tailor, was born in New Haven and grew up in San Francisco. In order to help out he sold newspapers on the streets and received his first introduction to art by painting “black eyes” with flesh-colored paint.

These artists of the old school were skilled technicians for they had been well-trained in European ateliers, in London, Paris, Berlin, Duesseldorf, Munich, and Rome. The ability to paint beautifully is reflected, for example, in Rosenthal’s “Elaine,” a picturization of the line from Tennyson: “And the dead steered by the dumb went upward with the flood.” Yet neither Mosler nor Toby Rosenthal was to be reckoned among the immortals despite their proficiency as draftsmen. By the early decades of the new century, however, there was a new generation of pictorial artists and sculptors, men of vivid imagination and creative spirit, who threw off the shackles of tradition. The incoming flood of East Europeans provided a reservoir of talent in the arts and sciences, as in literature and music. These men were to become relatively more important in the new schools that now appeared reflecting the radical departures of challenging European artists. By 1920 there was already a handful of these innovators among the Jews, men who were just beginning what were to become notable careers. Among them was the Latvian, Maurice Sterne (1877-1957), painter and sculptor, whose later works were to be found in some of Europe’s best collections. Another Russian was Max Weber (1881-1961) painter, lecturer, and writer on the history of art.44


Architects who are good draftsmen and have studied in Paris at the Beaux Arts are artists in their own right. Such men are interested not only in function but also in form, line, and beauty. Since there were no Jewish architects in the early nineteenth century the Jews acceded to the suggestions of their Gentile draftsmen who followed the herd, using the building styles that prevailed during the period. Thus nineteenth-century Mikveh Israel had neo-Egyptian intimations. From the 1840’s on the Jewish sanctuaries reflected the Romanesque style and it is in that period that the Shield of David, the hexagram, made its appearance in Baltimore. Though appearing as a geometric design occasionally in early synagogs back to Roman times, the Magen David does not become typically Jewish until modern days when it begins to appear on facades and interiors. Romanesque gave way to the neo-Gothic style in the 1850’s which in turn was succeeded in the 1860’s by the Moorish which held its own into the 1890’s. The Moorish style was cherished because it was thought to be Oriental, and the Jews, now more secure, were ready to document their Jewishness. They identified with this new type of structure with its dome, its minarets, and its very ornate interior. During the last decade of the century something of a reaction set in; the Reformers turned to classical designs, influenced by the classical revival. Is it possible that the Reform leaders wanted no style of their own, that they did not seek high visibility as they acculturated? As students trained in historiocritical research were they convinced that Jews in the Diaspora had never had a uniform synagogal style?

The first Jewish architects appeared on the scene in New York in the 1840’s. Much of their work had no relation to the Jewish community and its institutions, but on occasion they did design synagogs, homes for the aged, and orphan asylums. A few of the early men were self-taught; most of them were professionally trained; some had even gone abroad to study. They did not limit their activity to New York City; they are found almost anywhere, as far west as the Pacific Coast. The Bohemian, Leopold Eidlitz (1823-1908), an autodidact, was one of the earliest architects; by the 1840’s he had already built a synagog. Eidlitz and Henry Fernbach were the architects for the beautiful 1868 Emanu-El whose cross-like interior annoyed some Jews. He designed Catholic and Protestant churches. When Charles Kingsley saw Eidlitz’s Episcopal Cathedral in St. Louis—Christ Church—he said it was the “most churchly” sanctuary in the United States. Eidlitz’s brother Marc and the latter’s sons were very popular architects. They built some of the best known public buildings and residences in New York: the old Metropolitan Opera House, the home and library of J. Pierpont Morgan, and the New York Stock Exchange. In 1908-1910 Arnold William Brunner, a native American, served as president of New York’s Fine Arts Federation. This graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had drawn the plans for the Lewisohn Stadium and for a number of Jewish synagogs.45

More important than the Eidlitzes, Fernbach, and Brunner—at least from the point of view of the development of modern architecture—was the work of the Chicagoan Dankmar Adler (1844-1900). He was the son of Rabbi Liebman Adler and came to this country as a ten-year-old. During the Civil War he served in the 1st Illinois Artillery and for a while enjoyed the two stripes of a corporal. His service record also revealed that he was a draftsman with the topographical engineers. In the last quarter of the century Adler became a notable architect. One of his employees and a later partner in the 1880’s and 1890’s was Louis Sullivan. Frank Lloyd Wright worked in the office. The firm looked askance at some of the classical traditions, rejected eclecticism, and moved toward the modern. As it built some of the first skyscrapers, it was concerned with form and function, attempting to reconcile beauty and utility. In 1891 the partners designed the Anshe Maariv synagog; it is not unattractive; it may have been functional. Adler was a good engineer.46


The line between art and technology is often a thin one. Lithographers, photographers, medallists, are often chemists and metallurgists, scientists of a sort. Thus Max Levy of Detroit (1857-1926), a member of the Michael Heilprin clan, was an architect, draftsman, and the perfecter of a process for making half-tone screens. Associated with him was his versatile older brother Louis Edward Levy (1846-1919), a meteorologist, journalist, writer, publisher, translator, and one of the inventors of a method of photochemical engraving (Levytype).

It is almost impossible to discuss even the truly important Jewish inventors who contributed to the making of a better society. What is important? On March 30, 1858, Hyman L. Lipman of Philadelphia secured the first patent for a pencil with an attached eraser. Lipman did not even merit mention in Morais’s voluminous Jews of Philadelphia, but imagine the inconvenience of working with a pencil without an attached eraser? Isador Kitsee invented more than 2,000 devices and processes including a refrigerator car; Louis Benedict Marks helped perfect the arc lamp; David Belais, a jeweler, developed the untarnishable platinum-like “white gold”; Otto Eisenschiml (1880-1963), the Civil War buff who attempted to demonstrate that Lincoln was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by his Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, was the man who invented rustproof barbed wire and transparent window envelopes. Conrad Hubert (Akiba Horowitz, 1855-1928) made the modern flashlight possible; the millions he made were divided on his death between Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish institutions. The career of the highly-cultured, self-taught Edmund Louis Gray Zalinski (1849-1909) is touched upon in Rudyard Kipling’s story, The Captive. Zalinski, a Civil War veteran, was commissioned lieutenant on the battlefield when only fifteen years of age. He remained in the army where he invented a torpedo gun, a telescopic sight for artillery, and range-finding devices. It might well be questioned if a torpedo gun is a contribution to society; certainly, however, there could be no question about the work of Emile Berliner (1851-1929) of Washington. Like many of the Jewish inventors, Berliner was a native German. He attended classes at Cooper Union Institute, eked out an existence as a traveling salesman and dry goods clerk, and in his spare time worked on a telephone transmitter, a microphone. By 1877 he had developed one that worked; a decade later he invented the gramophone which was an improvement on Edison’s phonograph. His later efforts were concentrated on the development of a helicopter.47



The accomplishments of dozens of ingenious American Jewish inventors manifest scientific interest and capacity. As far back as the 1820’s a writer of a Jewish apologia declared that Jews have a respect for the scientific approach. Isaac Israel Hayes (1832-1881), the meteorologist, was an Arctic explorer in the 1850’s; young Edward Israel (1859-1884) was the astronomer on the ill-fated A. W. Greeley expedition to Lady Franklin Bay, and by 1903 Frank Schlesinger (1871-1943) was director of the Yerkes Observatory of the University of Chicago. The American Astronomical Society later elected him as its president. The paleontologist, geologist, and explorer, Angelo Heilprin, was recognized in the 1880’s as a scientist of repute. Like his father, Michael, he was a savant; he adorned his learning by a devotion to the fine arts for he was both a painter and a pianist.

A writer of the 1880’s made the bald statement that his fellow Jews were making very little headway in the field of learning. This is not correct. By the 1870’s and 1880’s individual Jews were beginning to make their mark in the arts and sciences despite their small numbers. The Jewish Forty-Eighters were in the main professionals and intellectuals who were often at home in the sciences. Jewry on this side of the Atlantic owes them much even as America is indebted to the learned Germans who found asylum here. The last third of the century was to witness the rise of Jewish scientists in physics, chemistry, and mathematics. The American-born children of the German refugees, fortified by the Germanic cultural tradition, the Jewish thirst for knowledge, and the open road to opportunity in this land began to make a name for themselves in the natural sciences.48


It was during the 1870’s that Jews began to hold teaching positions in a few of the better schools. It has already been mentioned that Sylvester was at Hopkins and young Albert A. Michelson (1852-1931) was teaching physics at the Annapolis Academy. Later Michelson traveled to Germany and France for further study; though he never earned an academic degree he was to head the department of physics at Chicago and to become president of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His specialty was light and like the Good Lord himself he “meted out heaven with the span” (Isa.40:12). His research measuring the velocity of light and studying optical interference proved useful when Einstein propounded his theories of relativity. Like some other great men he was versatile; he was a violinist, an artist in watercolors and in oil, and a world famous physicist, indeed the first American to become a Nobel laureate in science. A Jew? A good Jew? He was born a Jew but he never identified with the Jewish community.49


As the native-born children of the affluent immigrants grew up, some of them began to leave the countinghouse for the scholar’s study. Morris Loeb, a son of a founder of Kuhn-Loeb, taught chemistry at New York University in 1891. These Americans of the older migration were later reinforced by Russian émigrés who moved into the field, but Julius Stieglitz (1867-1937), Carl Lucas Alsberg, and Lafayette Benedict Mendel were descendents of Central Europeans. Stieglitz, professor of chemistry at the University of Chicago, was one of the first to emphasize the importance of that science in medical therapy. The American synthetic dye industry owes much to him as one of its founders. His book, the Elements of Qualitative Analysis, went through twenty-two printings and was used in more than 200 colleges, and his colleagues elected him president of the American Chemical Society. Like his brother Alfred he was an excellent photographer but he was also interested in chamber music and sports. Alsberg (1877-1940), a son of a founder of the New York Chemical Society, pioneered in the field of nutrition, a discipline in which Mendel of Yale (1872-1935) also specialized as he demonstrated the importance of vitamins in combating disease. The word “vitamin” was coined by the Polish biochemist, Casimir Funk (1884-1967), who, after working for many years in Europe, migrated to the United States where he continued to study the relation between vitamins and nutrition.50


A number of Jews were involved in the study of medicine, a field closely related to biological research. Jews had turned to medicine ever since the early Middle Ages, often with notable success. In modern times they have cultivated this science which gives them status and affords this highly mobile people an opportunity to make a living. Among the researchers who were to make a name for themselves were four Jews in the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research. One was the Russian-born Samuel James Meltzer (1851-1920), a distinguished physiologist and pharmacologist; another was Phoebus Aaron (Theodore) Levene, a chemist; a third was Simon Flexner (1863-1946), a member of the distinguished Louisville family. Flexner studied and taught at Hopkins, and named a son William Welch after the famous Johns Hopkins pathologist whom he admired and whose biography he was to write. After studying abroad, Flexner worked as a bacteriologist and pathologist before becoming director of the laboratories and, later, of the Rockefeller Institute itself (1903-1935). He is known for his contributions to the treatment of epidemic cerebral spinal meningitis, infantile paralysis, and encephalitis. The fourth and most famous of these men at the Rockefeller Institute was Jacques Loeb (1859-1924), a German physiologist who immigrated here in 1891. Loeb taught at Bryn Mawr, Chicago, and California before joining the Rockefeller laboratories. He was acknowledged in his own day as one of America’s most eminent biologists and physiologists and was a prolific writer in his chosen field. Loeb was a determinist believing that chemistry could explain much of the development of life. The human being was a chemical mechanism though Loeb was inclined to believe that man could pursue ethical goals, that altruism was innate in his nature. Loeb’s concept of a universe that could afford to dispense with Deity was a shock to religionists.51


There was hardly a city of size where Jews did not make their presence felt in all phases of medical science. They were internists and surgeons, specialists in all the branches, literally from A to Z, from anatomy to zoonosis. Many were distinguished in their specialties, for they were creative, innovative, often leaders. They were teachers, inventors of instruments, founders of medical societies, publishers of standard texts. After America became one of the great world centers of Jewry in the early 1900’s, and as American educational standards began to rise, brilliant European Jews, physicians and scientists, came to this country to take advantage of its many opportunities. Coevally, native Americans, Gentiles and Jews, flocked to the European universities, especially those in Germany and Austria, in order to perfect themselves in various medical specialties. They returned to make America, within a generation, the greatest medical center in the world.

Even in antebellum days there were a number of outstanding Jewish practitioners of the medical art; Isaac Hays of Philadelphia was one of the best known American ophthalmologists; Joshua I. Cohen of Baltimore (1801-1870) had established an eye and ear clinic in his city in 1840. He also taught mineralogy and geology, found time to collect a fine Jewish and Hebrew library, and fought courageously to emancipate Maryland Jewry politically. The Bohemian, Dr. Simon Pollak (1814-1903), helped organize a school for the blind in Saint Louis in 1850; during the Civil War he inspected hospitals for the United States Sanitary Commission and then established the first eye and ear clinic west of the Mississippi. Pollak who had come to the United States in the 1830’s was well educated, a student of Hebrew and Greek. He renounced his faith to become a devout Catholic. He was not the only Jewish physician involved in the Civil War; quite a number of Jewish physicians and surgeons served in the armed forces of both the North and the South. Jonathan Phineas Horwitz (1822-1904), when still a very young man, was a director of a naval hospital in Mexico during the war with that country. His brilliant career in the Civil War earned him a vote of thanks from Congress and appointment as chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. His grandfather, Haym Salomon, the Revolutionary War bill broker, had once written that there was little Jewishness in the United States. This was exemplified in the life of Dr. Horwitz who married out and whose descendants include some very distinguished Gentiles.52

Bernard M. Baruch’s father Simon served with the South as a surgeon. After the War this South Carolinian moved to New York and helped make medical history by diagnosing a perforated appendix. He laid a great deal of emphasis on physical therapy, especially hydrotherapy, and was one of the leaders in urging the establishment of free municipal bathhouses. Dr. Jacob da Silva Solis Cohen, of the Philadelphia Solis Cohen clan, had served as a surgeon with the Northern forces. In later years he became a nose, throat, and chest specialist whose writings were read even in Europe. Young Emil Gruening (1842-1914), Posen-born, had fought as a soldier with the 7th New Jersey volunteers and did not become an ophthalmic and aural surgeon till after the War and after a period of study in Berlin. In New York, where he was a professor at the Polyclinic, he performed one of the first mastoid operations and demonstrated that blindness could ensue from drinking wood alcohol. His son Ernest (1887-1974) followed in his footsteps, studying medicine, but later turned to journalism and politics. He served as governor and later senator from Alaska.53

Abraham Jacobi

Few men were more important for the history of American medicine during its emergence as a scientific discipline than Abraham Jacobi (1830-1919); fewer still were more colorful. Jacobi was a German revolutionary who found his way here and practiced medicine on the Lower East Side; he charged twenty-five to fifty cents a visit. He was an internist and obstetrician but he was to make his name as a pediatrician. Even in his own day he was acclaimed as the father of pediatrics in this country and was invited back to teach his specialty in Berlin. As a tribute to the man and his work his colleagues elected him president of the American Pediatrics Society and the national American Medical Society and honored him, too, with a festschrift. Though he had once seriously studied Oriental languages and gave the New York Jewish welfare institutions a great deal of his time, he did not evince much interest in the Jewish community as such.

One of Jacobi’s contemporaries was the Philadelphian, Dr. Jacob Mendez Da Costa (1833-1900), of Spanish-Portuguese ancestry. Da Costa, a grandson of the Florida colonizer, M. E. Levy, was an outstanding teacher and diagnostician; his Medical Diagnosis went through many editions and was translated into foreign languages. The distinguished Dyer family of Baltimore, Galveston, and San Francisco also gave birth to a physician of note. This was Isadore (1865-1920), the country’s foremost leprologist and founder of the national leprosarium in Louisiana. Two Chicago doctors who stood out were Isaac Arthur Abt (1867-1955) and Joseph Boliver De Lee (1869-1942). Abt taught pediatrics at Northwestern University Medical School; De Lee, an obstetrician, also taught there and at the University of Chicago. De Lee founded a lying-in hospital in Chicago and wrote a standard work on obstetrics. By 1913 it was already in its seventh edition. In his early days his aseptic methods were not always understood. Once making a delivery in a humble home he vigorously scrubbed his hands and so alarmed the apprehensive father that he said: “Mr. Doctor, your hands too dirty; we will get another doctor.”54

By 1939 Dr. Solomon R. Kagan of Boston had issued the second edition of his 792-page Jewish Contributions to Medicine in America. Most of the men he discussed were prominent in their field. It is obvious therefore that only a very few of the hundreds of physicians, surgeons, and medical researchers whom he described can be mentioned. Among these notables were Arthur Steindler (1878-1959), the professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Iowa, Albert Ashton Berg (1872-1950), the New York surgeon, Emanuel Libman (1872-1946), the diagnostician, and Milton Joseph Rosenau (1869-1946), the sanitarian. Berg, who specialized in abdominal surgery was a bibliophile. His important library of rare books and manuscripts was given to the New York Public Library which he served as a trustee; his colleague at Mount Sinai in New York, Emanuel Libman, was one of the country’s most notable internists and consultants. Rosenau, who taught at the Harvard School of Public Health, wrote Preventive Medicine and Hygiene, the standard work on the subject. It even merited a translation into the Chinese. Rosenau was often called to foreign lands to help fight cholera, smallpox, and yellow fever epidemics.

The Russian emigrant, Dr. George Moses Price (b. 1864), was also a sanitarian but in a much more limited area. His concern was better apartments, (tenement) houses, and factory hygiene for New York City’s garment workers; he worked hard to eliminate the sweatshop. In 1939 he became the director of the Union Health Center which served as an ambulatory clinic for many of the clothing operatives. Another East European emigrant who made his mark in the fight for better living conditions for the city’s workers was Charles David Spivak (1861-1927). A revolutionary compelled to flee Russia to avoid exile to Siberia, he went to work in this country as a railway hand, a textile worker, a typesetter, and a farmer. This autodidact studied and taught medicine in Philadelphia and Denver. It was in the latter city that he organized the Jewish Consumptives’ Relief Society (1904) and established a sanitarium to shelter and heal impoverished garment workers. His life was devoted to the eradication of tuberculosis. Joseph Goldberger, a Slovak who worked in the field of malaria and typhus, discovered the cause and treatment of pellegra. A fellow Austrian, Carl Koller (1857-1944), was a cultured educated gentleman. Koller in 1884 pioneered in introducing cocaine as a local anesthetic for operations on the eye. His dear friend Sigmund Freud who was also experimenting with the quality and nature of that drug, wrote an article on the subject and inscribed a copy to “Coca Koller.” After fighting a duel and severely wounding a man who had berated him as a Jew, Koller found his career in Austria blocked. On the advice of a friend he left for New York where he made a name for himself on the staff of Mount Sinai as a distinguished eye surgeon.55

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