Louis Bamberger

From Academic Kids

Louis Bamberger was Newark, New Jersey's leading citizen from the early 1900s until his death in 1944. He was a businessman and philanthropist and at his death all flags in Newark were flown at half-mast for three days, and his large department store closed for a day.

Louis Bamberger was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1855, to German-Jewish parents. He came to Newark in 1892 and bought at auction a failing general goods store on Market Street, renaming it L. Bamberger and Company. The store was an immediate success, and Bamberger was able to open an ornate chateauesque building in 1912 that covered a whole city block. For decades, Bamberger’s clock was the downtown meeting place for Newarkers. In 1928, the store's sales were $28 million, making it the fourth highest grossing store in the United States.

In 1929, Bamberger sold his department store to R.H. Macy and Company, who kept the original Bamberger name. Bamberger knew that he owed his success to hundreds of able employees, and split $1 million among 240 employees.

Bamberger supported both secular and Jewish charities. Bamberger personally funded the buildings for Newark’s YMHA, the Newark Museum, and the New Jersey Historical Society. During the Third Reich he worked to help persecuted Jews escape from Germany. Bamberger was also a major contributor to the Community Chest and Beth Israel Hospital. His largest donation was not to a Newark charity though. In 1930 Bamberger and his sister gave $5 million to fund the Institute for Advanced Study. Bamberger’s sister, Caroline Bamberger Fuld, also gave Newark the money for the cherry trees in Branch Brook Park.

Bamberger was a shy man who never married. He would accept honorary presidencies of charitable organizations and let his name be known, but he did not use his largesse to make himself more famous. He was always reluctant to speak in public.

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