Utah's Jewish History - by Rochelle Kaplan
The Earliest Utah Jews
Jews in Utah in 2012 numbered about 5600, not much different from
its population in 1899 of 5000, but Jews have been in Utah since the
Among the first Jews to spend time in Utah was South Carolina-born Solomon Nunes Carvalho, who, as the official
photographer and artist, accompanied Colonel John Fremont on his 1853-1854 expedition from Missouri across the Rocky
A fire later destroyed most of Carvalho's plates and prints, but his
journal chronicles the trip. Fremont's group, exhausted after a winter
in the Wasatch Mountains (which you can view from downtown), stumbled
into the Mormon community of Parowan, where residents nursed Carvalho
back to health.
The artist then traveled to Salt Lake City where he befriended and
painted portraits of Brigham Young and other prominent citizens. In
1857, he accompanied Brigham Young on a peace mission and painted
Native American leaders such as Wakara.
Carvalho only hints at his Judaism in his journal about the Fremont
expedition, describing a porcupine with its quills burned off, looking much like pork, revolting Solomon, who sat hungry, looking at his comrades enjoying it.
Carvalho later lived in NYC, with two businesses, one for
photography and the other for steam-heating systems, for which he held
several patents. He was a founder of the Hebrew Benevolent Society of
Los Angeles and helped establish a Sephardic congregation, Beit Israel,
An early former Jew, Alexander Neibaur, trained as a
Rabbi and dentist, converted to Mormonism in England, and was on the
first ship carrying Mormons to the US in 1841.
He taught Joseph Smith Hebrew and German in to Nauvoo, Illinois, was in the battle of Nauvoo, and was driven out by the mob in September 1846. He joined Brigham Young's camp to travel to Utah, arriving in September 1948. An article dealing with the early history of medicine in Utah also contains an account of Mr. Neibaur as a pioneer dentist in this area.
Perhaps spurred on by Carvalho's account and those of other
pioneers, Jews migrated west. Lured by adventure, religious and
personal freedom, and economic opportunity, some people traveled
overland from Independence, MO across the plains, among them Julius and
Fanny Brooks, the Ransohoff brothers, the Kuhn brothers, Gumpert
Goldberg and Meyer Cohn. Others took ships south around the Atlantic
Coast, around Cape Horn to the Pacific Ocean, and then north to San
Francisco, before heading inland to Utah; these included Abraham
Watters, Aaron Greenewald and Charles Popper. Still others traveled
south along the Atlantic to Panama, trekked across the jungle to the
Pacific, and booked passage to San Francisco. There they joined wagon
trains headed to Utah.
Among this group were the Auerbach brothers,
Moses Hirschman and Ichel Watters.
Jews lived all over Utah then- in Alta, Bingham, Brigham City,
Castledale, Corinne, Echo, Eureka, Gunnison, Logan, Ogden, Ophir, Park
City, Provo, Richfield, Salt Lake City, Silver City, Silver Reef,
Tooele and Vernal.
Because Brigham Young long felt that the only suitable vocation for
Mormons was agriculture, business opportunities opened for Jews and
other Gentiles (non-Mormons).
A February 1865 article in The Hebrew mentioned twenty
Jewish men and two families living in Salt Lake City, who did good
business there and closed their stores for the High Holidays. Later
that year, Jewish business leaders in town called for a meeting of
Israelites and soon thereafter bought prayer books, a Torah and
Brigham Young offered a hall gratis for religious services. On
the High Holy Days that year, 50 Jews attended services, including some
from Bozeman, in Montana Territory. That fall, seven Jewish families
lived in SLC. The first formal congregation was established in 1873,
but the articles of incorporation of B'nai Israel were filed in 1881,
an early synagogue built in 1883 and a new synagogue was dedicated in
1891, on Fourth East, operating as a reform shul.
The first wave of Jews came from Prussia and Germany.
brothers, Frederick, Samuel and Theodore, established dry goods and
clothing stores in California's mining towns and then moved to Great
Salt Lake City in 1863.
Auerbach, aided by Brigham Young, found a store
location and then expanded operations to Corinne and Ogden. By 1883,
the Auerbach brothers' outlets reached $500,000 in sales and real
The SLC department store, one of the largest in the West, closed in
1977. Beatrice Fox Auerbach, herself the granddaughter of the founder
of a successful dry goods firm, married Samuel's son, George. From
1938 to 1965, she became president of the Fox Department Store in
Hartford, CT, introduced a number of retail innovations and grew the
business into the largest privately-held store in the country. She also
instituted important labor reforms, such as a 40-hour, 5-day work week,
retirement plans, and advancement opportunities for African-Americans.
Prussian-born, the Ransohoff brothers, set up shop in SLC in 1858.
Nicholas belonged to Utah's first Masonic Lodge, based at Camp Floyd.
He lent Brigham Young $30,000 to buy the camp's entire pork supply
when the US Army left in 1864.
He was one of the first to freight goods across
the Plains from the East.
And he helped found Congregation B'nai Israel,
Utah's first synagogue, and the Liberal Party. At their height, The
Ransohoffs had stores in SLC, Ogden and Corinne. In the 1880 census,
N.S. Ransohoff is listed as a liquor dealer; his sons were born in PA.
Leopold Ransohoff, N.S.'s son, in 1900, was a partner in a lace house
N.S.'s brother, also
named Leopold, founded San Francisco's esteemed Ransohoff Department
Store, featured in Hitchcock's classic film, Vertigo. Another liquor
dealer in Salt Lake City (and later dry goods merchant) was Nelson
Boukofsky, whose tallis is now in the LDS Museum.
Bohemian-born Charles Popper is listed on the 1860 Placer, CA Census
as having $200. Ten years later, in SLC, Popper is a butcher, married
with 2 servants and assets of $30,000. In 1865, he organized Utah Lodge
#1, of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization.
(The IOOF Building, built in 1891, was moved in 2009 to 26 Market
Street, across the street from where it had stood.)
Popper's name lives on in Popperton Park, located where his animal stockyards once stood.
Popper was Utah 's first Jewish rancher, with vast holdings on the
UT-CO border. He supplied beef to Federal troops stationed in Utah, at
9 3/4 cents a pound.
When he closed his shop on High Holy Days, the Mormon butchers
closed their shops out of respect for him; he reciprocated by closing
his shop on Pioneer Day.
During the winter season, the shop dressed its meats, whole
carcasses of deer and bear, decorating them with ribbons of colored
paper. An 1879 article in American Israelite cites Popper as the most
influential Jew in Utah Territory, when there were between 30-40 Jewish
families. On the 150 acres of land he squatted on outside the city,
Popper built a slaughterhouse and soap and candle factory.
The general at Camp Douglas appropriated Popper 's land but he
fought back. He lost two rounds in the general lands office and his
appeal to the Secretary of the Interior. But he persevered, bolstered
by his development of an Idaho mine that paid him $60,000 a month.
He moved his family to DC and laid siege to Congress for 11 years,
regaining title to the UT land by a special congressional act! Later
moving his family to NYC, he and business partners devised a plan to
build an entertainment/hotel complex in Chesapeake Beach, MD and
develop a railroad to take folks there. Popper became the mayor of
Chesapeake Beach and owned much of the boardwalks ' features, including
the carousel. The resort failed during the Depression, long after
Popper died, but ironically is again a resort.
Popper visited SLC in 1906, as he did almost each year, and
reminisced in an article about Main Street being the common race track,
with Brigham Young and his wives taking great interest. Like other
mining towns, SLC was raucous, with drinking, gambling, chewing tobacco, spitting and smoking, and fast women.
Moonshiners made 'Valleytan' whiskey, which was 90% alcohol. Valleytan was also the nickname of Brigham Young 's signed paper currency, because it too was homemade.
Popper died in NYC in 1909, surrounded by his 5 children, but in
1906 he told his SLC friends, he'd always be a Utah resident, have been
since 1864. My heart and interests are here and always will be.
The 1870 Census shows Polish-born Louis Cohn, 29, a retail merchant with his brother Alexander, owning a home worth $18,000.
He was elected to the city council in 1874 and
re-elected in 1882; he also served as fire and police commissioner, was
a member of the Alta Club (still going strong) and an active Mason.
Alexander was elected President of Congregation B'nai Israel in 1896.
He and his brother married two Lippman sisters.
The Siegel brothers,
born in Bavaria, owned two clothing stores in SLC by 1866. Before that,
they had followed the railroad west, selling goods in the Dakotas and
Henry, the eldest, was an incorporator of B'nai Israel and its first
president. A 1896 article in the Salt Lake Tribune mentions Henry
Siegel, clothier, being the locator of the Mercur Mine in 1871, and
worked it for its mercury. Joseph was one of four signers of an 1866
appeal in the Jewish newspaper, Occident, circulated in Eastern states,
asking for help establishing a Jewish cemetery for SLC.
Sol Siegel, 20 in 1870, was a clothing merchant who owned an estate worth fifteen grand.
Another set of
Prussian-born brothers, the Watters, were jewelers who went first to
California. Two of three brothers, Ichel and Abraham moved to Utah.
They were active Masons and Odd Fellows. Other Jewish Odd Fellows
were Fred and Theodore Auerbach, James Ellis, Nelson Boukofsky, Simon
Bamberger, Henry Cohn, Louis Hyams (Salt Lake City recorder), Samuel
Levy, Elias Siegel and Moss Wolf.
The current Salt Lake City mayor, Ralph Becker, who is not Jewish,
is a descendant of Ichel Watters. Ichel served as treasurer of the
Hebrew Benevolent Society, established in 1866; his wife Augusta was
President of the Ladies' Hebrew Benevolent Society. Ichel was a charter
member of B'nai Israel and often led services there with Moses Caspar
Phillips, who like Ichel went to CA and then to UT. (A plaque outside
the Peery Hotel downtown notes the site of B'nai Israel Congregation).
Abraham Watters divided his time between UT and CA, and was actively
involved in the Jewish community in both states. Ichel in 1880 was a
His son Leon became a celebrated scientist, professor and
writer of Jewish history (The Pioneer Jews of Utah), and was friends
with Albert Einstein. His inventions helped in both WWI and WWI. An
endowed chemistry prize in his name is awarded annually at the
University of Utah.
Julius Gerson and Fanny Brooks (nee Bruck),
born in Silesia, are reported as being the first Jewish family to
settle in Utah, arriving in 1854 but settling down in 1857. Julius was
Fanny's uncle. The family took in boarders, owned a millinery shop and
real estate. Eveline Brooks Auerbach, a daughter, built the Brooks
Arcade, a stately building which survives downtown. Eveline wed Samuel
Another set of brothers, Samuel and Emanuel Kahn (pronounced Kane),
settled in SLC where they wed two daughters of Briner Cohen, while
Louis, their sibling, remained in Philadelphia. Samuel became a partner
in Ransohoff and Co, and later joined George Bodenberg in a grocery
distribution firm active in UT, ID and MT. He later joined forces with
his brother Samuel in the grocery distribution business.
appointed to the Governor's staff, and was a financial backer of Peep
o'Day, perhaps the first magazine published west of the Mississippi.
Active in civic affairs and in B'nai Israel, The American Israelite, in
1885 published a long resolution of condolence on his death. Emanuel
served as an officer of B'nai Israel.
He raised $2500 to establish
the Masonic Library in 1874, Utah's first non-Mormon library, open to
The Simon brothers, Fred, Louis, Joseph and Adolph, were active in
civic and religious affairs and leading manufacturers and wholesalers
of millinery. Louis and Adolph established the fabulous Paris Millinery
Store, while Joseph kept a wholesale dry goods business.
brothers also settled in the city and were active. They advertised dry
goods in the Union Vedette in 1864. James was a charter member of the
Masons and President of the Odd Fellows (1865).
Nathan Ellis was
president of the SLC Israelites (Telegraph, 1866) and signed a petition
of prominent Jewish and other Gentile merchants to LDS leaders during
difficult times between the two faiths in 1866.
Census lists Jacob Bamberger, in mining, and his family, and Jacob's
brothers Simon and Louis. Simon later built railroads, public
transportation and the Lagoon Amusement Park (still standing nearby but
renovated). He served as a state senator and then Governor of Utah,
during the Progressive Era.
Louis Reggel, in the Corinne Daily Record (1871), advertises
clothing, fancy dry goods, boots and shoes and general merchandise. His
firm was one of only two purchased for incorporation into the Mormon
ZCMI; the other was Ransohoff.
- Reggel's Row, built in 1872, was the first multi-family house built in SLC.
- By 1900, Reggel is the proprietor of a gambling house.
- Salt Lake County filed charges against Reggel in 1869 for selling
obscene pictures and in 1891 for gambling, and he was wanted in
Pennsylvania for obtaining goods under false pretenses.
- By 1910, the Reggels had moved to Los Angeles, a city more
tolerant of their lifestyle. Reggel had been a charter member and
trustee of both Congregation B'nai Israel and the Hebrew Benevolent
Isidor Morris, Russian-born and a civil war veteran, and his family
lived in the city. His wife, Annie, converted from Mormonism to
Judaism. A grocer, lawyer and miner, he contributed gold dust to help
raise funds for the city's second synagogue, the conservative
Congregation Montefiore, whose members were disgruntled former members
of the reform B'nai Israel.
Because he helped free convicted
polygamists, he was loved by Mormons, whose leaders donated funds for
Montefiore's construction. In 1903, LDS President Joseph Smith gave a
A prominent brewer, German-born Jacob Moritz, founded the Salt
Lake Brewing Company which supplied the intermountain west with the
good, wholesome beverage, beer. He had earlier worked for the Schaefer
Brewing Co in NY and the Anheiser¬¨Busch Brewing Co. in St. Louis,
before heading further west.
- In 1885, he was on a grand jury when the prosecutor sought new
indictments for unlawful cohabitation for two men already in prison.
Moritz objected to being tried multiple times for the same offense and
was dismissed by the judge. For this he won the respect of Mormons,
despite his involvement in the alcohol trade.
- Ads for the company noted that beer contained less alcohol than
apple cider (which was commonly fermented in America at the time). By
1908, the company produced over 41 million bottles of beer. Moritz also
bought a large downtown tract to develop a new business district.
Moritz served a term in the state legislature, was a member of the
Constitutional Convention, a director of a mine, president of B'nai
Israel, and member of the Alta Club and Liberal Party. He chaired
committees to advance Utah's mining industry, and raised money to build
the first Salt Palace. When he died in 1910, his estate was appraised
at $327,000 (in today's purchasing dollars, about $8 million). His
wife, Lahela (Hawaiian for Rachel), was the first Jewish woman born in
Hawaii; she remarried to Joseph Lippman, a widowed attorney in SLC,
also active in the Liberal Party.
The Baer brothers were wholesale liquor distributors who began their
business in Leadville, CO before moving to SLC. They were founding
members of B'nai Brith in Leadville, officers of the Hebrew Benevolent
Society there and helped build Temple Israel.
Alexander Stiefel, a drayman born in Germany, was a founding member
of B'nai Israel in 1881. He officiated with Ichel Watters and Moses
Phillips at the synagogue's first service in 1883 where he blew the
shofar. He was the resident shofar blower for years afterward. He was
also an Odd Fellow. When he died in 1904, the Deseret News ran a front
page story on his life.
Corinne: Gentile Capital of Utah
See also Back to the Soil: The Jewish Farmers of Clarion, Utah, and Their World on Amazon, etc.
"In 1911, eighty-one families left eastern cities to farm the Clarion tract. Jewish families funded the venture, the governor of Utah en-couraged it, and the Mormon Church financially aided the community. Despite these efforts, Clarion died as an organizational entity in 1916, with the dozen remaining families departing by the mid-1920s"
Corinne, now a small rural community, from March 1869 to 1880, was the Gentile capital of Utah.
As the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads approached their
meeting place at Promontory Summit in Utah, to complete the
Transcontinental Railroad, a group of former Union army officers and
non-Mormon merchants founded a community, due north of SLC, believing
it could compete economically and politically with the Latter Day
Saints. Known as the Burg on the Bear (River), Connor (for a Union
General) and Bear River, it eventually became Corinne, after the
daughter of a founder, General Williamson.
Corinne would be the
transfer point for shipping goods and supplies to the mining towns of
western Montana, along the Montana Trail.
By May 1869, Corinne was home to 1000, none
Mormon, and it became Utah's second largest city, with over 500
buildings including 28 saloons, 24 gambling houses, 16 liquor stores,
houses of prostitution, commission and supply houses, a cigar factory,
a flour mill, a brickyard, hotels, two theaters, an opera house, five
newspapers and a town marshal to try to keep order. A tract was set
aside for what town leaders hoped would become a state university.
Corinne's wealth and population gave it power and the American Liberal
Party, comprised of non-Mormons and ex- Mormon Godbeites set up shop
- Initial Liberal Party members included Samuel Kahn, Gumpert
Goldberg, Julius Malsh, Nicholas Ransohoff, Fred Kiesel (later Ogden
mayor) and Simon Bamberger (later governor). Utah's Liberal Party
existed from 1870 to 1893.
Political leaders in Corinne, with the
support of some DC politicians, tried to break the political and
economic monopoly of the LDS Church.
- The leaders petitioned Congress to have the state capital moved
to Corinne and when that failed, to move the northern one degree of
latitude of Utah Territory (including Corinne) to Idaho.
A plan to install Williamson as territorial governor also failed. I
believe these efforts fizzled in part because the Mormon-dominated
Territorial Legislature awarded voting rights to the territory's women,
ensuring that Mormon voters outnumbered Gentile ones. This right of
suffrage was revoked, in 1887, by the U.S. Congress. Women's suffrage,
while progressive, was designed to maintain Mormon supremacy in the
- Among Corinne's residents were Abraham Cohn, clothing merchant,
and John Cohn, who drove a team of horses. George Goldburg and his
family ran an outfitting house. David Auerbach, Jacob Livingston, N.S.
Ransohoff and Adam Kahn were merchants, as was Emanuel Kahn, then worth
- Aaron Greenwald and his partner Julius Malsh owned the Metropolitan Hotel; an 1871 ad in the Corinne Daily Reporter read: This
is a first class hotel, centrally located, commodious and
well-arranged. The rooms are neatly and comfortably furnished. The
tables are always supplied with the best the market affords. Fresh
Oysters always on hand and served up in any style on short notice. The
Bar is stocked with the finest Wines, Liquors and Cigars.
- Sam Auerbach recalled: Our store consisted of a wooden frame
with canvas stretched over it, and carried a sign... The Uintah Hotel
was the main hostelry of Corinne and consisted of a wooden frame
covered with canvas. A hall extended down the center with ‚€œrooms‚€�
on either side. These rooms were mere stalls divided off by canvas
sheets, and each contained a small, crudely built bed. The floor was a
dirt floor, but beside each bed lay a splintery board to serve as a rug
for tender feet. Merchants Auerbach remembered in Corinne were Fred Kiesel, Mr. Farmer, A Kuhn and Brother, George Lowe and Gumbert Goldberg.
- Goldberg has businesses in Ogden and Corinne; Joseph Farmer had
stores in Idaho, SLC and Corinne. Farmer served on the board of B'nai
Israel before his untimely death by drowning in 1882.
The Mormons, determined to maintain power, and consolidate the northern
Utah Mormon settlements and provide a market for their products,
proposed a narrow-gauge railroad connecting Brigham City with Ogden,
Logan and Franklin, ID. By 1874 the Utah Northern RR was completed,
cutting off Corinne as a link for the shipment of goods to Montana.
- With financial ruin forecast, most merchants abandoned Corinne
for Ogden and other rail centers. Only the arrival of Mormon farmers
saved Corinne from extinction.
- An 1879 letter from Mamie Keller of Corinne in the Sabbath Visitor reads: Notwithstanding
my sister has left for CA, where she will remain for some time, I am
determined not to be deprived of your valuable Sabbath-school Visitor,
too. I wish I could be somewhere in the States, where I could regularly
attend the Sabbath-school. I have no opportunity now, because there are
only three families here, and we have no teachers, so I am obliged to
be content with your valuable paper.
Ogden lies between Corinne and Salt
Lake City and remains home to Utah's oldest operating synagogue, Brith
Sholem (1916), although it has no rabbi. Prominent early Ogden Jews
included Fred Kiesel, merchant born in Wurtenburg, who was elected
mayor in 1889 and later donated land for an Ogden school and a park in
ID. Other Jewish citizen salesmen and merchants of Ogden in the 1870
Census were: L. Levy, Samuel Auerbach, William Cohen, J. Plonsky, D.
and Julius Mendelsohn, Lewis Gross, Jacob Levi, H. Cohn and other
Auerbachs- hailing variously from Prussia, Germany and Russia, and with
children born in California, Montana and Utah. Ogden was also home to
Ad and Abraham Kuhn, perhaps its most famous Jewish inhabitants,
cousins of the banking Kuhns of NYC.
Abe Kuhn, on his 90th birthday, and still working, purchasing hides
in the winter and selling them in other seasons, told of his adventures
to the Ogden Standard Examiner in 1927.
Born in Bavaria, he came to New Orleans at fifteen and settled in
Ogden in 1865 after 16 years out west. When he heard of the CO gold
fields, he headed west with his brother, rigging up a wagon and
supplies. In the 1860s, he operated two mercantile stores in Denver but
would also buy gold dust in Montana and sell it in Denver. Loaded with
the precious dust, the two brothers, after months in Montana, took
stage to Denver, acting the part of penniless travelers to avert any
suspicion of their riches. More than once they went without food and
begged 50 cents of fellow travelers for victuals. They paid the highest
price for dust in Montana, $17.75 an ounce, and sold it for $40 an
ounce in Denver.
Mining began in earnest in Utah in 1870, prompting a new wave of
settlers. Jews such as Charles Popper and Samuel Newhouse, moved from
respectively CA and CO, to become involved in mining and other
businesses. Fred Auerbach noted that Auerbach's Store had been
economically threatened by ZCMI, and survived because of the new mining
industry and the business it brought. By the 1880s, miners became
capitalists, engaged in mining, smelting or becoming bankers and
suppliers of services and equipment.
A founding group established the Alta Club in 1883 (it still
functions today as a social business hub in downtown), modeled on the
Union Club of San Francisco. Among the Jewish organizers were Fred
Auerbach and Abraham Hanauer, a smelter owner also involved in
ranching. By the 1890s, other wealthy Jewish members included Jacob
Bamberger (representative of the Guggenheim mining and smelting family,
later known for collecting art) and Simon Bamberger, and Hartwig Cohen,
grandson of a SC rabbi. Simon Guggenheim and Newhouse were colorful
Alta Club members and philanthropists, although Simon never lived in
When Simon Guggenheim wed in NYC, the Guggenheims provided Thanksgiving dinner to 5000 poor Manhattan children.
In 1907, Guggenheim was elected a Colorado Senator. Afterwards,
he moved to NY and joined the ASARCO board and became its president.
Simon began the Guggenheim Fellowships that exist to this day.
Newhouse is the father of copper mining in Utah. President of the
Denver, Lakewood and Golden RR, Boston Consolidated Mining Company,
Newhouse Mining Company, Newhouse Mines and Smelters and Nipissing
Silver Mines Company, he controlled the Highland Boy Mine in Bingham
Canyon, UT. Newhouse built Utah's first skyscrapers, The Boston and
Newhouse Buildings (still standing), donated land for the Commercial
Building and the Stock Exchange Building with the intent of building an
alternative business district to that dominated by Mormons.
- Elsewhere, Newhouse built the celebrated Flatiron Building in
NYC, owned a Long Island estate, a chateau outside Paris and mansions
in London and SLC.
- The NY Times reported in 1904 that Newhouse uncovered $85 million worth of ore at Utah's Great Cactus Mine.
- Newhouse said he would share annually the profits with the miners
and would build a city near the mine for their use, with each miner to
have a house on a lot. In 1908, the Utah delegation to the Democratic
Party nominated Newhouse as vice-presidential nominee but he declined.
In 1909, he again made the NY Times when he beat a train record from
Chicago to NY so he could make the Lusitania crossing to visit his
brother, dying in Europe.
- He also began construction on the Newhouse Hotel but financial
problems prevented him from completing the project. A joke on the
vaudeville circuit said he had the best ventilated hotel in the West
(because the glass was not yet set in the windows). Profligacy,
overextension of credit, legal costs, a financial panic and the looming
Great War which made it hard to get credit, all contributed to
Newhouse's bankruptcy in 1915.
- His wife Ida, from whom he was separated, gave him back her
jewels to be sold to help him. Ida remained in Salt Lake City, at the
Belvedere Hotel, for years, helped by Lester Freed and other friends,
and died in Los Angeles. Samuel died in 1930, at his sister's chateau,
Henry Siegel, first president of B'nai Israel,
managed the Siegel Consolidated Mining Company. The Bamberger family
was involved in coal mining and owned the Bamberger Coal Company before
branching out into transportation. Jacob Bamberger controlled the Daly
West Mine and when he retired, his sons took the reins. H. A. Van Praag
was a wool dealer and mining capitalist, member of the Alta Club and
B'nai Israel. Charles Popper, already discussed, discovered and
developed the Queen of the Hills Mine in ID. M.S. Ascheim developed
Park City's first smelter, and had a mercantile store there. Moses
Hirschman, born in Werttemberg, Germany, then moved to W. VA, CA, NV,
MT and finally to SLC in 1871. He was involved in several UT silver and
lead mines and owned a shoe store in SLC.
Anna Rich Marks was
born in Russia Poland, went to England and there married Wolff Marks.
After living in NYC, they traveled to SLC and opened a store. In 1880,
they moved to Eureka in the rich Tintic mining area. A historian
recalls: In Tintic's early days, two men claimed the land near
Pinion Canyon, placing a toll gate in the narrow part. Anna was in the
lead in a buggy followed by many wagons loaded with everything
necessary to open a store.
She refused to pay the toll. A verbal war
ensued, the air turning blue with Anna's cuss words. She summoned her
bodyguard and with guns drawn, they tore down the toll gate and went on
to Eureka. She was soon in business. When Pat Shay contested her right
to the property, Anna first relied on cuss words and then she pulled
her guns. He went flying and so did the bullets.
From them on, no one
crossed Anna Marks. Anna also carried on a historic battle with the
Denver and Rio Grand, holding up the building of a railroad at gunpoint
until the company met her price to cross the section of her land.
Other mining towns thrived throughout Utah, if briefly, during the
boom years, among them Alta and Silver Reef, the latter unique because
the silver intruded into a sandstone outcrop. Alta is now a ski resort
and Silver Reef a ghost town.
At its height, Silver Reef had 2000
residents and housed a hundred businesses, among them grocery stores,
dry goods stores, restaurants, saloons, dance halls, drug stores, a
bank, racetrack, billiard hall, brewery and Chinatown. It had a daily
newspaper and a brass band.
Jewish residents included Leopold Goldberg,
Isaac Marks, Isador Schwartz, Abraham Levi, Moses and Simon Woolf and
Six silver mines operated, averaging one million
dollars per year in output. In 1879, a fire swept through town, silver
prices dropped, labor disputes erupted and water flooded the mines. By
1890, only 177 inhabitants remained.
Second and Third Waves
The second wave of Utah
immigrants included poorer Russians and Eastern Europeans seeking new
opportunities in America, those who had already come to America but
sought an escape from eastern slums and some from other surrounding and
western states, seeking new ventures.
Among this group were the McGillis family, originally Margulies,
whose descendents founded the McGillis School, a private school with
Jewish roots. The family moved from Russia to Colorado, and then to
SLC, where Charles got involved in newspaper distribution. His
newspaper stand, which stood outside the Salt Lake Tribune Building, is
now in the Smithsonian Institute.
Leon and Arthur Sweet moved their confectionary
operation from Oregon to Utah because of its sugar beet production.
This once robust industry became defunct as sugar cane came to
dominate. Beet sugar production was an important part of Utah's economy
for a century, beginning in the1880s, sponsored by LDS Church.
- In 1919, the per capita consumption of sugar in Utah was the highest of any state.
- In 1922, due to the increased demand for chocolate, the 4-story factory doubled in size.
- Sweet's landed a US government contract to supply troops with candy in both World Wars.
- In 1900, 17 sugar beet factories operated but by 1980, there were
none. The Sweet Candy Company still operates in Utah, although they
have moved the site of production.
- The original building downtown now is an office building. Corinne
Sweet, in 1941, was a co-founder with Esther Rosenblatt Landa (still
going strong here at 101) of the National Council of Jewish Women, Utah
A group of Jews from
Philadelphia and NY tried to establish a Jewish agricultural colony in
Clarion, Utah (now a ghost town), a suburb of Gunnison, under
the leadership of Benjamin Brown, nee Lipschitz, as part of a back to
the land movement, in 1911. Articles in the NY Times detailed the
Prominent Jews and the LDS Church in SLC gave financial aid
for the effort. But the problems mounted. Work on a promised canal to
bring water was slow. Sanpete County had only two Jewish merchants
among 17,000 people, and the colonists felt isolated culturally.
Secular and observant Jews in Clarion clashed over values and land.
They were mostly urban dwellers who lacked farming know-how and were
cursed by poor soil, a short growing season, snow, floods and drought.
Brown's leadership was tainted by an out of wedlock child and by his
refusal to help observant Jews maintain their traditions.
- Finally, as WWI approached, the Jewish Agricultural Society
discouraged further outside funding and philanthropists diverted their
donations to Europe's struggling Jews. Clarion failed.
- Benjamin Brown, however, went on to found successful poultry and
produce businesses in the intermountain west, then moved back east and
led a successful industrial/farming cooperative experiment, NJ
Homestead, in Hightstown. He still sought to lead a Jewish farm
cooperative effort in the 1930s.
A child of Clarion, Maurice Warshaw,
born Samuel Warshawsky, founded a grocery store chain later bought out
by Smith's, and later became a philanthropist.
Nathan Rosenblatt came to the US at 14 from Russia, first going to Denver and then to SLC,
where Fred Auerbach gave him a pushcart to sell items. Nathan would go
to various mining towns like Alta and Park City; not wanting to come
back with an empty cart, he started collecting scrap metal.
dealer in 1889 hosted Congregation Montefiore services in his home.
With his sons Simon, Morris, and Joseph, Nathan bought mining
machinery, opened an iron foundry and machinery business.
By 1920, he
was the proprietor of a steel mill and Simon was the manager of the
iron foundry. Simon later ran American Foundry and Machine. Morris
headed the Structural Steel and Forge Company and Joseph presided over
the Eastern Iron and Metal Company, changing its name to EIMCO in the
Joseph, a lawyer, also helped found the James White Jewish
Community Center. EIMCO revitalized mining operations with its patents.
- For many years, EIMCO was Salt Lake City's largest employer. The
company expanded internationally. Joseph sold it in 1957, staying on as
CEO another 6 years. After that, he served on company boards and on the
Federal Reserve Board.
- He helped start the University of Utah Medical Center, endowed
the Rosenblatt Prize at the university, served on SLC Airport
Commission and supported the Rowland Hall School. Morris helped start
the Utah Symphony, while Simon helped build Shriner's Hospital.
Izzy Wagner grew his parents' modest bag business into a mega
business and ultimately sold it. He then became a philanthropist but
had long been active in civic affairs, beautifying downtown. He joked
that his mother Rose, born in Latvia, retained her thick accent and on
the radio, when asked what she did, said she was in the sex (sacks)
business. He urged her to say bags instead.
- He developed the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center and named it
for her; it is built on the site of the adobe home where he was born.
- He also developed parking lots downtown. He said the parking lot
replaced two bordellos, but the businesses were related because both
depend on short-term parking.
- His aunt had been madam of a downtown brothel and his mother was
the bookkeeper; Izzy's first job was delivering sandwiches to the women
who worked there.
Maurice Abravanel, for whom the symphony hall is named, was its
long-time conductor. Born in Greece, Abravanel studied in Germany under
Kurt Weill, conducted throughout Europe. At 33, he began conducting
NYC's Metropolitan Opera. He conducted all of Weill's American
productions on Broadway and won a Tony. An arts promoter, he brought
ballet and opera to Utah.
Synagogues and Jewish Organizations
are the first and second synagogues in SLC (B'nai Israel and
Montefiore). The B'nai Israel synagogue was designed by Phillip Meyer,
nephew to Fred Auerbach. Meyer returned to Germany and subsequently
died in a concentration camp. Montefiore is now a Russian-Orthodox
Church. A third synagogue, the short-lived Shaarey T'zedek, made up of
more Orthodox, primarily Russian born Jews, existed from 1919 to 1932,
at 833 S. Second East and Utah's Jewish Governor Bamberger laid the
cornerstone. Shaarey T'zedek's members in 1932 then rejoined
Disbanded in 1935, the Shaarey T'zedek building was later
sold to VFW Post 409, which still occupies the bottom floor, while the
architectural firm Dixon and Associates occupies the main floor.
congregation had separate cemeteries. Brith Sholem in Ogden was
organized as Ohab Shalom in 1890. High Holy Day religious services were
held in the IOOF Hall on Grant Avenue, between 24th and 25th Streets.
The congregation reformed in 1916 as Brith Sholem and later dedicated a
synagogue at its present location on August 21, 1921.
of Montefiore and B'nai Israel merged in 1972 to form Congregation Kol
Ami, which is Utah's largest Jewish congregation, serving over 300
families, now housed not far from Mill Creek Canyon, on Heritage Way.
Its current rabbi is Ilana Schwartzman. It's recently retired cantor,
Lawrence Loeb, is also a professor of anthropology at the University of
In Park City, in 1995, a group of Jews decided to form
the Park City Jewish Center, and in 1999 reformed as Temple Har Shalom.
A new building was dedicated in 2008.
As to other Jewish organizations, the Hebrew Relief Society was
established in 1865, B'nai Brith in 1892, the Jewish Community Center
in 1923, the James White Jewish Community Center opened in 1959 and the
Jeanne and Izzy Wagner JCC opened its spectacular doors in 2000, on the
site of the Ft. Douglas Country Club which once barred Jews, and is
open to all, Jews and non-Jews. The National Council of Jewish Women
began here in 1941 and Hadassah in 1943. Hillel operates in Utah but
the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity at the University of Utah is long defunct.
Political figures include Louis Hyams, SLC Recorder, Simon
Bamberger, Utah governor and Fred Kiesel, Ogden mayor, all previously
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Louis Marcus was SLC Mayor from 1932-36
and died while in office. He refurbished the Orpheum Theater and
renamed it the Capitol Theatre. He owned movie theaters in the
Intermountain West, and was involved in real estate and banking. As
mayor he was concerned about water conservation issues and government
born in Lithuania, married Fannia Frank in 1904 and then moved to
Murray, Utah, in 1908. He entered the clothing store business and
earned enough to bring his family to Utah. He maintained his clothing
store business until 1954. (Arthur Frank, Fannia's brother, owned two
clothing stores). Throughout his life, Selvin served in various
political and community capacities. He served in the Utah State
Legislature and State Senate, was mayor of Tooele, was on the Tooele
County Welfare Board, and was involved in many other civic concerns.
Herbert Schiller was a district judge, Julian Bamberger, a state
senator, Irwin Arnovitz, a state legislator, Patrice Arent, former
state senator and current state house representative, David Litvak,
former state legislator.