Isidor Straus

Isidor Straus

[strous; Ger. shtrous]

Isidor Straus (February 6, 1845April 15, 1912)—also known as Isadore Strauss—, a German Jewish American, was co-owner of the Macy's department store with his brother Nathan. He also served as a Member of Congress in the United States. He and his wife, Ida, died on board the RMS Titanic.


Early life

Isidor Straus was born in Otterberg, Germany. He was the first of four children of Lazarus Straus (1809 - 1898) and his wife Sara (1823 - 1876). His siblings were Hermine (1846 - 1922), Nathan (1848 - 1931) and Oscar Solomon Straus (1850 - 1926). In 1853, he and his family immigrated to the United States where they settled in Talbotton, Georgia. After the Civil War, the Straus family moved to New York City, where Isidor and his brother Nathan brought their family crockery and glassware business, selling their merchandise in the R. H. Macy and Company department store.

Later life

In 1871, Straus married Rosalie Ida Blun (1849 - 1912). They were parents to seven children (one of whom died in infancy):

  • Jesse Isidor Straus (1872 - 1936) who married Irma Nathan (1877 - 1970)
  • Clarence Elias Straus (1874 - 1876) who died in infancy
  • Percy Seldon Straus (1876 - 1944) who married Edith Abraham (1882 - 1957)
  • Sara Straus (1878 - 1960) who married Dr. Alfred Fabian Hess (1875 - 1933)
  • Minnie Straus (1880 - 1940) who married Richard Weil (1876 - 1918)
  • Herbert Nathan Straus (1881 - 1933) who married Therese Kuhn (1884 - 1977)
  • Vivian Straus (1886 - 1974) who married Dr. Herbert Adolph Scheftel (1875 - 1914)

The couple was inseparable, writing to each other every day when they were apart. He served as a U.S. Congressman from January 30, 1894, to March 3, 1895 as a Democrat. By 1896, the Straus brothers had gained full ownership of R. H. Macy & Co.

Death on the Titanic

Travelling from Germany back to the United States, Isidor and his wife were passengers of the RMS Titanic when, on April 14, 1912, it hit an iceberg. Ida reportedly would not leave Isidor and refused to get in a lifeboat. The officer filling up the boat told Isidor that he could get into the boat with his wife, but he refused to before other men and instead sent his wife's maid, Ellen Bird, into the boat. Ida refused to board the half-full boat, saying "We lived together, so we shall die together". Isidor and Ida both died on April 15 when the ship sank. Isidor Straus's body was recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. Ida's body was not recovered.

In the 1997 film Titanic, the Strauses are briefly depicted comforting each other as their stateroom floods with water, along with a deleted scene showing earlier Isidor (played by Lew Palter) attempting to persuade Ida (Elsa Raven) to enter the lifeboat.


There are four memorials to Isidor and Ida Straus in their adopted home of New York City.

  • A memorial plaque can be seen on the main floor of Macy's Department Store in Manhattan.
  • The Isidor and Ida Straus Memorial is located in Straus Park, at the intersection of Broadway and West End Avenue at W. 106th Street (Duke Ellington Boulevard) in Manhattan. The park is one block from 105th St. and West End Avenue, where they resided. An inscription reads, "Lovely and pleasant they were in their lives, and in death they were not divided." (2 Samuel 1:23)
  • New York City public school P.S. 198 in Manhattan is also named after the Strauses.
  • Isidor Straus's remains were recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and were buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx. His gravestone also serves as a cenotaph for his wife.

Straus Hall, one of Harvard's freshman residence halls in Harvard Yard, was given in honor of the Strauses by their three sons.


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