History of L. Straus & Sons Recap

A lengthy article entitled “A Century of Cut Glass Making In America” was in the May 29, 1913 Pottery Glass & Brass Salesman. The portions relative to L. Straus & Sons are provided below. This article, with minor omissions, provides an excellent summary of the cut glass history of L. Straus & Sons:

Another prominent concern in the cut glass field, L. Straus & Sons, began operations in this particular decade to be exact, in 1888, their cutting factory being located at 14 Jay Street, in New York City. It was here that the exhibition pieces for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 which captured six awards, and which opened the eyes of hundreds of thousands of Americans to the wondrous beauties of American cut glass, were turned out. Here too, [technically Hoboken] were made the pieces exhibited in 1896 at the International Bazaar in St. Petersburg, Russia, and several of which were purchased for the Russian imperial household. …  

Reference has previously been made in this article to the concern of L. Straus & Sons. Yet so important a part has this concern played in the development of the cut glass industry of the United States, that other mention seems necessary. It was during the late 80s that this concern, even then an important factor in the china and glass importing business of this country, established in New York a glass cutting shop. Although a small shop was first maintained in Warren Street, the first real shop that the concern had was in Jay Street, to which reference has already been made. When this location was outgrown the plant was removed to Hoboken, N. J., where it remained for a number of years, but when the Hoboken shop was burned it was re-established in New York, in West 59th Street, where it remained until another fire destroyed the plant, when the business was once more re-established in the present location in Desbrosses Street. As previously noted, the Straus concern has done much for the cut glass industry of the United States, and not only made American cut glass famous in this country, but established a standing abroad. It is just about a score of years ago that the Straus concern furnished to the Imperial court of Russia a full set of tableware of cut glass, which was declared to be finer than anything it was possible to obtain in Europe. The furnishing of this service made good newspaper ‘copy,’ with the result that the Straus name and American cut glass gained a recognition not only in Europe but in this country that nothing else ever brought to it.”

Prologue

The sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912 had a dramatic impact on the future of both Macy’s and L. Straus and Sons because Isidor, the oldest son, and is wife Ida were among the victims of the ill-fated voyage. A year after their deaths, Nathan Straus agreed to sell his share of the Macy’s stock to his late brother’s three sons Jesse, Percy and Herbert if they agreed to throw in as a partial payment their half ownership of Abraham & Straus, as well as their interest in L. Straus & Sons. (Lazarus Straus had died on January 14, 1898 and Oscar Straus had previously given up his ownership in L. Straus & Sons because of his political career.) In his 1999 book on Bohemian Decorated Porcelain, Dr. James D. Henderson had this to say about the duration of L. Straus & Sons:

L. Straus & Sons continued as an importer of china, pottery, and glassware until 1924 when it became Nathan Straus & Sons. The business closed in the 1930’s.”

Jeffery A. Trachtenberg in his 1996 book, The Rain on Macy’s Parade provided this interesting final tribute to the Straus and Macy families:

“… Fittingly, however, the Straus and Macy families have remained linked even in death. Thirty minutes north of Herald Square, bordered by Van Cortland Park on the west, and the Bronx River on the east, is Woodlawn Cemetery, a resting ground of four hundred acres in the Bronx where New Yorkers have buried their dead since 1863. It is a beautiful but solitary landscape, a vista where white oak, weeping beech, and umbrella pine shelter solitary monuments and mausoleums. Some of these tombs, like fiancier Oliver Belmont’s replica of the Chapel of St. Hubert at Chateau d’Amboise in France, are intricate, dazzling constructions. Elsewhere the grounds are dotted with simple tombstones, weathered by decades of sun and hard rain.

Isidor Straus and other family members are buried here in a depressing, moss-covered U-shaped mausoleum. In the front, flanked by a bronze filigreed fence, is a seven-oared Egyptian funeral boat that sits atop a massive stone base. The name ‘Straus’ has been carved into the front facing, and on the back are these poignant words: ‘Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it.’ The verse comes from the Song of Solomon.

Only a few hundred yards away is the grave site of Rowland Macy. The retailer is buried high on a ridge, his family plot marked by a twenty-foot Victorian granite monument crowned with an urn and graced by icanthus leaves. Nestled close-by are his wife, Louisa Houghton Macy, and his sons and namesake, Rowland Hussey Macy Jr.

If, as Isidor Straus’s Egyptian funeral boat seems to suggest, life is a treacherous journey, the presence of these two families so close to each other suggests it can also provide a comforting sense of closure.”

Close in life and close in death. Each family founded a great company. Thanks to the trade journals and Macy catalogs of the times, these two great companies will now forever remain linked in the story of the Macy and Straus Cut Glass Connection.