Brandeis, Louis D.


Justice Brandeis sends well wishes to fellow Zionist, merchant-philanthropist Nathan Straus


Type: Letter
Description: (1856-1941) Kentucky-born lawyer, Associate Justice 1916-39, 1st “Jewish Justice.” Son of   Bohemian Jewish immigrants, he was raised in a secular home. Graduated from Harvard Law at 20 with the highest grade average in school history. Settling in Boston, he founded a law firm and became recognized for his work on progressive social causes. From 1890, he helped develop the “right to privacy” concept, writing a Harvard Law Review article with that title. He later published “Other People’s Money and How the Banks Use It”, suggesting ways of curbing power of large banks and money trusts. He fought powerful corporations, monopolies, public corruption, and mass consumerism, which he felt were detrimental to American values and culture.

He was an active Zionist, seeing it as a solution to European and Russian anti-Semitism and a way to “revive the Jewish spirit”. Dubbed the “People’s Lawyer”, he devoted his time to public causes, bringing actions against railroad monopolies, defending workplace and labor laws, helping create the Federal Reserve System, and presenting ideas for the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC). He achieved recognition by submitting a case brief (the “Brandeis Brief”) which relied on expert testimony from people in other professions to support his case, setting a precedent in evidence presentation. In 1916, President Wilson nominated him to the Supreme Court, his nomination bitterly contested because of his positions on social justice as well as his religion. He became one of the most famous and influential figures ever to serve on the Court.

ALS while Associate Justice, letter of sympathy on his 4 ½ x 7 ½ grey, blue-imprinted “Stoneleigh Court/ Washington, D.C.” letterhead, May 3 1918, to Zionist-merchant-philanthropist Nathan Straus.  Justice Brandeis was sorry to hear of Straus’ accident and hopes as reported that he was not seriously injured. In a nice tribute to Straus, he adds: “The world could ill afford to lose for long your generous inspiration.”  With portrait for matting and framing. Nice association and content!

Nathan Straus (1848-1931) German-Jewish born American merchant and philanthropist, co-owned 2 New York City department stores, R. H. Macy & Co. and Abraham & Straus.

His family moved to Georgia in 1854, lost all in the Civil War, moved to New York City where his father formed L. Straus & Sons, a crockery and glassware firm. Straus and his brothers sold crockery to R. H. Macy & Co., became partners in Macy’s 1888, co-owners 1896. In 1893, he and brother Isidor (died on the Titanic) bought Joseph Wechsler’s interest in Brooklyn’s Abraham and Wechsler dry-goods store, renamed Abraham & Straus.

From the late 1880s, Straus engaged in philanthropy and public service. He  was NYC Parks Commissioner 1889-93, president of the Board of Health and Commissioner of the Department of Health 1898. In 1892, he and his wife funded the Nathan Straus Pasteurized Milk Laboratory to provide pasteurized milk to children to combat infant mortality and TB. He opened the Tuberculosis Preventorium for Children at Lakewood, New Jersey 1909. Their book, Disease in Milk: The Remedy Pasteurization: The Life Work of Nathan Straus records that unclean, unpasteurized milk fed to infants was the chief cause of TB, typhoid, scarlet fever, diphtheria and other diseases, main cause of a 25% US infant mortality rate in 1890, 15% in 1903 (7% in New York in 1900, where pasteurized milk was the norm). President Taft appointed him US delegate to the 1911 Berlin International Congress for Protection of Infants, and he was a delegate to the 1912 Rome Tuberculosis Congress. Straus retired in 1914 to devote his time to charity.

In 1904, the couple visited Palestine and became staunch Zionists. He built soup kitchens for the aged, blind, and disabled 1912-17 and supported workrooms so unskilled laborers could find employment. He built health stations for victims of malaria and trachoma. A strong believer in palliative care, he provided $250,000 to establish the Jerusalem Health Center, made possible the founding of a Pasteur Institute, and supported the Hebrew University. The Israeli city of Netanya, founded 1927, was named in for him as was Jerusalem’s Rehov Straus (Straus Street).

Condition: Very good

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