Cambridge Encyclopedia » Cambridge Encyclopedia Vol. 53

Nathan Straus

health president taft philanthropist

Merchant and philanthropist, born in Otterberg, Germany, the brother of Isidor and Oscar S Straus. His mother, Sara, brought the family to join her husband, Lazarus, in Georgia in 1854. They moved to New York after the Civil War and in 1866 Nathan joined L Straus & Sons, the family's crockery and glassware firm. In 1888 he and his brother Isidor became partners of R H Macy & Co, becoming its sole owners in 1896. Nathan established employee amenities such as restrooms, medical care, and a lunchroom, and together they developed Abraham & Straus, another department store. Nathan was New York City park commissioner (1889–93) and president of the board of health (1898), and by 1914 had retired from involvement with Macy's. An active philanthropist, he helped the poor acquire food, coal, and shelter through the winters of 1892–3 and 1893–4, and in 1892 he began a campaign for the pasteurization of milk, opening almost 300 milk depots around the country and abroad. He was President Taft's delegate to the Third International Congress for the Protection of Infants (1911, Berlin). In 1925 the League of Nations recognized him as a layman pioneer in public health. His other passion was the welfare of the Jewish people in Palestine, to which he gave nearly two-thirds of his fortune, building schools, public kitchens, and clinics. In 1927, the cornerstone to his last health centre in Jerusalem proclaims it for all the people of the land, ‘Christian, Moslem, and Jew’. Widely honoured, President Taft called him ‘a great Jew and the greatest Christian of us all’.

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or