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Isidor Straus (February 6, 1845 – April 15, 1912)—a German Jewish Americanmarker — was co-owner of the Macy'smarker department store with his brother Nathan. He also served briefly as a member of the United States House of Representatives.. He died with his wife, Ida, as a result of the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Titanicmarker.

Early life

Isidor Straus was born in Otterbergmarker, Germanymarker. He was the first of five children of Lazarus Straus (1809–1898) and his second wife Sara (1823–1876). His siblings were Hermine (1846–1922), Nathan (1848–1931),Jakob Otto (1849-1851) and Oscar Solomon Straus (1850–1926). In 1854, he and his family immigrated to the United Statesmarker and settled in Talbottonmarker, Georgiamarker where they opened a general store. After the Civil War, the Straus family moved to New York Citymarker, where Isidor and his brother Nathan set up their family crockery and glassware business in the R. H. Macy and Company department store.

Later life

In 1871, Isidor Straus married Rosalie Ida Blun (1849–1912). They were parents to seven children (one of whom died in infancy):
  • Jesse Isidor Straus (1872–1936) who married Irma Nathan (1877–1970)
  • Clarence Elias Straus (1874–1876) who died in infancy
  • Percy Seldon Straus (1876–1944) who married Edith Abraham (1882–1957)
  • Sara Straus (1878–1960) who married Dr. Alfred Fabian Hess (1875–1933)
  • Minnie Straus (1880–1940) who married Richard Weil (1876–1918)
  • Herbert Nathan Straus (1881–1933) who married Therese Kuhn (1884–1977)
  • Vivian Straus (1886–1974) first married Herbert Adolph Scheftel (1875–1914) and second, in 1917, married George A. Dixon, Jr. (1891-1956)

The couple were inseparable, writing to each other every day when they were apart. He served as a U.S. Congressman from January 30, 1894, to March 3, 1895, as a Democrat. By 1896, the Straus brothers had gained full ownership of R. H. Macy & Co.

Death on the Titanic

from Germanymarker back to the United States, Isidor and his wife were passengers of the RMS Titanicmarker when, on April 14, 1912, it hit an iceberg. Ida reportedly would not leave Isidor and refused to get in a lifeboat. The officer filling up the boat told Isidor that he could get into the boat with his wife, but he refused to before other men and instead sent his wife's maid, Ellen Bird, into the boat. Ida refused to board the half-full boat, saying "I will not be separated from my husband. As we have lived, so will we die together". Isidor and Ida both died on April 15 when the ship sank. Isidor Straus's body was recovered by the cable ship Mackay-Bennett, brought to Halifax, Nova Scotiamarker where it was identified before being shipped to New York. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemeterymarker in the Bronxmarker. Ida's body was not recovered.

The couple are portrayed in the 1958 film A Night to Remember, in scenes that are faithful to the accounts just cited. In the 1997 film Titanic, the Strauses are briefly depicted comforting each other as their stateroom floods with water, along with a deleted scene showing earlier Isidor (played by Lew Palter) attempting to persuade Ida (Elsa Raven) to enter the lifeboat.


Isidor and Ida Straus Memorial, Upper West Side, Manhattan
There are four memorials to Isidor and Ida Straus in their adopted home of New York City.

  • A memorial plaque can be seen on the main floor of Macy's Department Store in Manhattan.
  • The Isidor and Ida Straus Memorial is located in Straus Parkmarker, at the intersection of Broadwaymarker and West End Avenue at W. 106th Street (Duke Ellington Boulevard) in Manhattanmarker. The park is one block from 105th St. and West End Avenue, where they resided. An inscription reads, "Lovely and pleasant they were in their lives, and in death they were not divided." (2 Samuel 1:23)
  • New York Citymarker public school P.S. 198 in Manhattanmarker is also named after the Strauses.
  • Isidor Straus's remains were recovered by the Mackay-Bennett and were buried at Woodlawn Cemeterymarker in the Bronx. His gravestone also serves as a cenotaphmarker for his wife.

Straus Hallmarker, one of Harvard's freshman residence halls in Harvard Yardmarker, was given in honor of the Strauses by their three sons.


  1. Congressional Biographical Directory of the United States 1774–present
  2. Eaton and Hass: Titanic, Triumph and Tragedy, pp. 246–262.
  3. Encyclopedia Titanica article on Isidor Straus.
  4. Harvard Gazette: This month in Harvard history

See also

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