Louis Bamberger

Department Store Innovator and Philanthropist

Linda B. Forgosh

Louis Bamberger

Linda B. Forgosh

Distributed for Brandeis University Press

296 pages | 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
Cloth $29.95 ISBN: 9781611689815 Published September 2016
Louis Bamberger (1855–1944) was the epitome of the merchant prince as public benefactor. Born in Baltimore, this son of German immigrants built his business—the great, glamorous L. Bamberger & Co. department store in Newark, N.J.—into the sixth-largest department store in the country. A multimillionaire by middle age, he joined the elite circle of German Jews who owned Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Filene’s. Despite his vast wealth and local prominence, Bamberger was a reclusive figure who shunned the limelight, left no business records, and kept no diaries. He remained a bachelor and kept his private life and the rationale for his business decisions to himself. Yet his achievements are manifold. He was a merchandising genius whose innovations, including newspaper and radio ads and brilliant use of window and in-store displays, established the culture of consumption in twentieth-century America. His generous giving, both within the Jewish community and beyond it, created institutions that still stand today: the Newark YM-YWHA, Beth Israel Hospital, and the Newark Museum. Toward the end of his career, he financed and directed the creation of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, which led to a friendship with Albert Einstein. Despite his significance as business innovator and philanthropist, historians of the great department stores have paid scant attention to Bamberger. This full-length biography will interest historians as well as general readers of Jewish history nationally, New Jerseyans fascinated by local history, and the Newarkers for whom Bamberger’s was a beloved local institution.
Contents
Acknowledgments • Introduction: “One of New Jersey’s Most Enlightened Personalities” • Baltimore Roots, 1855–1887 • Building an Empire, 1892–1911 • The Great White Store, 1912–1921 • One of America’s Great Stores, 1922–1929 • “A Record of His Benefactions”: Bamberger as a Philanthropist • Bamberger, the Face of Newark’s Jews • “Maecenas of All the Arts” • Bamberger, Einstein, and the Institute for Advanced Study, 1930–1944 • Epilogue: A Life Well Lived • Notes • Index
Review Quotes
Jewish Historical Studies
“Forgosh’s book on the department store proprietor Louis Bamberger, the first full-length biography of the iconic businessman and philanthropist, is a welcome addition to the field. Forgosh’s study treats Bamberger and the retail empire he created as above all a New Jersey story, and her lively narrative brings to life early to mid-twentieth century Newark, a city whose recent troubles have largely occluded its important past as a manufacturing and retail centre, a hub of high culture, and a key site of Jewish acculturation.”
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