You never know where to find the story, let alone the forgotten stories of the Jews of St. Louis of the Old West.
In August, we began researching possible Jewish ties to legendary Western Wild shooter Bill Hickok. During this research, we discovered the story of Solar Star, one of the Jewish men who helped tame the Old West and whose story ends right here in St. Louis.
In more recent Star research, we further uncovered the stories of many other St. Louis Jews from the time, inside a virtual museum called The Jewish Museum of the American West.
Western States Jewish History Association
the Western States Jewish History Association (WSJHA) is dedicated to discovering, collecting, and disseminating articles and information regarding the pioneer Jews of the American West, and how and why they were so successful.
In 2013, WSJHA launched the Jewish Museum of the American West to tell the story of Jewish participation in the development of the American Wild West.
“This is the story of what happened when a group of people, persecuted for 2,000 years, were unleashed in a vast new region – the American Old West – where hardly anyone cared about their religion. , and where they were free to explore seemingly endless possibilities for a living and raising a family, ”writes Jonathan L. Friedmann, museum director and president of the WSJHA.
The Jewish Museum of the American West consists of ever-expanding exhibit halls for regions, states, and cities west of the Mississippi River that were considered part of the American Wild West.
Each room presents a variety of stories about the region’s early Jewish settlers, their families and historic sites, how and why they settled there, and what they were able to accomplish.
The exhibits are enriched by the association’s archives with over 4,000 photographs, many of which are featured in two recent museum books, “Jewish Gold Land” and “Jewish Los Angeles», Both published by Arcadia Publishing in 2020.
The museum regularly receives documents, photographs and family stories from visitors, which complement existing exhibits and sometimes inspire new ones.
And because St. Louis was the gateway to the West, much of that long history runs deep here in our hometown.
The role of St. Louis in the Old West
St. Louis has played an important geographic and cultural role in WSJHA’s mission, both by defining the scope of their research – primarily the 24 states west of the Mississippi River – and by explaining how American Jewish history with a western accent differs from the more conventional northeast view.
“The skills, character traits and motivations found among the Jewish pioneer settlers in St. Louis during the first half of the 19th century were also present among the Jews who continued further west in pursuit of the rush. to gold and other economic opportunities, ”said Dr. Friedmann. “The majority of the individuals we highlight were traders and traders whose success depended on their integrity, ingenuity, mastery of multilingualism, family networks, risk-taking and, perhaps above all, , their ability to find compromises between their Jewish identity and the demands of mobility on the American border.
“St. Louis is not only a gateway to the West, but also a gateway to a certain Western Jewish personality. This role in the development of the West and in American Jewish identity is certainly something to be proud of, ”said Dr Friedmann.
The museum currently has 18 virtual exhibitions on individuals and institutions from Saint-Louis; the newspaper published 8 articles focusing on the Jewish community of Saint-Louis.
In partnership with Dr. Friedmann and the Jewish Museum of the American West, The St. Louis Jewish Light launches a series of stories detailing the rich Jewish past found inside the virtual museum Missouri Showroom. Here, we’ll trace Jewish history starting with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, when Jews from Schwihau, Bohemia, began settling in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Troy, and Perryville. We will then discover the men and women behind the creation of the first synagogues in Saint-Louis, including the B’nai El Congregation and the Shaare Emeth Temple.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the stories we hope to tell:
A snapshot of the Jewish history of Saint-Louis
The first known Jewish settler was Ezekiel Block.
Pioneer Jews mainly engaged in merchandising and invested in other businesses.
Most of the early Jewish settlers married Christians. One married the Philipson family, the first Jewish family in Saint-Louis.
1841 was the founding year of the first congregation in St. Louis, when there were less than 100 Jews living there.
In 1850, there were approximately 700 Jews living in Saint-Louis.
Some of the early Jewish settlers in St. Louis, Missouri, 1840-185o’s
Adolph Klauber was born in Bohemia in 1816. In 1840, at the age of 24, he established an iron and metal manufacturing company in St. Louis, Missouri. Adolph Klauber was a founding member of the B’nai El Congregation. Adolph Klauber married Betty. They had a son, Daniel (born in 1858).
Adolph Meyer opened the Phoenix Livery Stable in the 1850s.
Meyer was the unofficial Jewish undertaker and conducted funerals for about thirty years.
Jonas Meyerberg was born in Westphalia, Prussia.
In the 1850s, Meyerberg came to America, joining his brother in St. Louis in a small milliner business.
Jonas Meyerberg bought out his brother and created a new company called Meyerberg & Rothschild.
Jonas Meyerberg died in 1905. Meyerberg was described by the Voice as “one of the moving spirits of the Jewish community of Saint-Louis”.
Robert and William Goldstein
Robert Goldstein and William Goldstein were brothers born in Prussia.
As teenagers, they traveled to America, settling in Natchez, Mississippi.
In 1853, after surviving the yellow fever epidemic, the Goldstein brothers headed for Saint-Louis.
They worked for a clothing company.
Then, in 1858, the brothers founded R. & W. Goldstein, their own wholesale clothing business.
William Goldstein helped found and served as Shaare Emeth Temple.
He also helped establish the Hebrew Free and Industrial School and the Alliance Evening Schools.
Solomon Marx (1826-1890) moved to Saint-Louis in 1853.
In 1855, Solomon Marx opened a clothing business.
As business picked up, Marx moved the business several times, from North Third Street to Main Street, Fifth Street, Seventh Street, Tenth Street and, finally, to Thirteenth and Washington.
In 1893 he founded the company as the Marx & Haas Clothing Company.
- Walter Ehrlich, Sion in the valley: the Jewish community of Saint-Louis, Volume 1 (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 1997).
- Ellen Jane, friend of Schwartz, Chronicles of the Freund family (St. Louis, MO: 1992).
Samantha Silver is the curator of this exhibition of the early Jewish pioneers of Saint-Louis.