Scope and arrangement
The Straus Family Papers consist of personal and business correspondence, scrapbooks, photographs, and other items pertaining to Lazarus, Oscar, and Isidor Straus, and Isidor's sons and grandsons. Materials range from the 1810s to the 1970s, with the bulk originating in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
The Straus family papers are arranged in five series:
Box 1 contains a chart of the descendants of Lazarus and Sara Straus, compiled in 1954, and a two-volume family history by Robert K. Straus, a grandson of Isidor Straus, written in the 1970s. Box 2 contains various family papers: what appear to be financial records of Isaac Straus, Lazarus's father, from the 1810s through the 1850s; an obituary for Lazarus Straus; and scattered correspondence.
Of the twelve boxes in this series, only one, Box 3, contains materials that originally belonged to Oscar Straus. These include letters from contributors to his campaign for governor of New York, 1912; letters of condolence he received after the deaths of Isidor and Ida Straus; a copy of a letter from Henry Ward Beecher to Grover Cleveland, 1887, advocating Straus for U. S. ambassador to Turkey; and family correspondence, including Isidor's last letters to Oscar. (How these items became part of the Macy's archives is unclear.) There is also a copy of a biographical article on Oscar Straus that appeared in the Jewish Tribune in 1927, a year after his death.
The remaining eleven boxes in Series 2 are papers of Isidor Straus. Boxes 4 through 7 contain family and business correspondence (including four folders of letters from Oscar Straus, 1889-1912, in Box 4). Box 8 holds speeches and writings by Isidor Straus, 1894-1911, chiefly commencement addresses and talks before the boards of charitable organizations. In Box 9 are account books, memoranda books, pocket calendars, and other notebooks of Isidor Straus, 1887-1912, and undated.
Boxes 10 through 12 contain scrapbooks compiled by Isidor Straus: telegrams and letters congratulating him on his election to congress, 1894 (Box 10), obituaries and letters of condolence received after the death of Lazarus Straus, 1898 (Box 11), and newspaper and magazine articles that mention Isidor Straus, 1893-1901.
Boxes 13 and 14 contain posthumous material: in Box 13 are a short autobiography by Isidor Straus, privately published by his family in 1955; and an M.A. thesis on Straus's political career by Saul Viener of the University of West Virginia, 1947. Box 14 contains memorial tributes to Isidor and Ida Straus, and materials relating to the sinking of the Titanic, including clipped articles from 1953 and 1962.
Series 3 consists of personal and business papers of Isidor Straus's three sons, Jesse (1872-1936), Percy (1876-1944), and Herbert (1881-1933). Box 15 contains several letters to Jesse from his father and his uncle Oscar, business correspondence, vouchers, and canceled checks, ca. 1903-1923, and scattered news clippings from the 1920s and 1930s. Box 16 holds a wide assortment of materials, including documents concerning Isidor Straus's estate and the powers of attorney shared among his sons; correspondence and letters of condolence received by them after the deaths of their parents; speeches by Percy Straus; and clippings on the deaths of Herbert and Percy; and a few items pertaining to Jesse's son Jack, and Percy's son Ralph. Box 17 contains a scrapbook compiled by Percy of telegrams sent to him following his parents' deaths.
The contents of Box 18 concern the partnership formed by Lazarus Straus and his sons and son-in-law, and the operations of their business. Items include the articles of co-partnership, 1874 and 1912; legal and financial records on the importation of china, 1876-1898; lists of employees, dating approximately from the late 1870s to mid-1880s; and "journals;" that is, account books, also from the 1870s and 1880s.
Most of this series consists of photographs, many in frames, of Jack Straus and members of his family. These include pictures of a party for his mother, Irma, his son Ken's wedding, and the family home in Talbotton, Georgia (Box 19); Jack Straus at various public meetings and events, 1930-1945 and undated (Box 20); and formal portraits of family members (Box 21).
Boxes 22 through 24 contain a mixture of framed items—letters and clippings as well as photographs—that apparently hung in Jack Straus's office. Box 25 holds oversized items: a scrapbook of Jack Straus's stock certificates; a scrapbook commemorating his forty years at Macy's; and a memorial scroll for Isidor Straus from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.