Thursday, December 22, 2011

This Day in History December 23, 1850

Since we are now into Hanukkah, I thought it would be quite fitting to pay tribute to a Jewish person in history, and so I am.  It was on this date in 1850 that the man pictured above, Oscar Solomon Straus, was born in Otterberg, Bavaria (Germany).  His brother, Nathan Straus, was also well-known as the owner of Macy's (and he went down with his wife on the Titanic).  Oscar Straus was the first Jewish U.S. cabinet member amongst other things, but let us examine how this occurred.

He was the youngest of a family of four children, and they immigrated to the U.S. in 1854, and they settled in Georgia.  Following the Civil War, they moved to Philadelphia and then New York in 1866.  He graduated from law school which was different than the business path of his father and Nathan, but they always supported his decision.

Due to the popularity of the YMCA, he and a group of civic leaders created the Young Men's Hebrew Association in 1874.  That same year, he also founded L. Straus and Sons Employees Mutual Benefit Association which served as a model for similar organizations.  He even gave a bond so that Armenians in 1896 who were being murdered in their country would not be hindered from coming to this country (these refugees had been denied entry).

He was somewhat involved in politics throughout the latter part of his life.  From 1887 to 1889, he served as U.S. minister to Turkey.  Under President Theodore Roosevelt, he served as the United States Secretary of  Commerce and Labor (1906-1910).  Under Prresident Taft, he served as the U.S. ambassador to Turkey (1909-1910).  He also ran an unsuccessful campaign for governor (1910).  Under President Wilson, he helped with the League of Nations (1919).  An in 1922, he published his autobiography: Under Four Administrations: From Cleveland to Taft.  He died May 3, 1926.

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