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Julius Rosenwald

Birthplace: Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, United States
Death: January 06, 1932 (69)
Highland Park, Lake County, Illinois, United States
Place of Burial: Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Samuel Rosenwald and Augusta Rosenwald
Husband of Augusta "Gussie" Rosenwald and Adelaide Rosenwald
Father of Lessing Julius Rosenwald; Adele Levy; Edith Stern (Sulzberger); Marion Stern and William (Billie) J. Rosenwald
Brother of Benjamin Rosenwald; Morris or Maurice S. Rosenwald; Samuel Rosenwald; Selma Eisendrath; Sophie Adler and 2 others

Occupation: Warenhausbesitzer
Managed by: Adam Robert Brown
Last Updated:

About Julius Rosenwald

Click here to view the Wikipedia web page for Julius Rosenwald.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Julius Rosenwald. Born August 12, 1862 in Springfield, Illinois. Died January 6, 1932 (aged 69), Highland Park, Illinois. Resting place Rosehill Cemetery. Citizenship American. Net worth USD $80 million at the time of his death (approximately 1/726th of US GNP). Spouse Augusta Nusbaum. Children: (1) Lessing J. Rosenwald, (2) Adele Deutsch Levy, (3) Edith Stern, (4)Marion Ascoli, (5) William Rosenwald.

Julius Rosenwald (August 12, 1862 – January 6, 1932) was a U.S. clothier, manufacturer, business executive, and philanthropist. He is best known as a part-owner and leader of Sears, Roebuck and Company, and for the Rosenwald Fund which donated millions to support the education of African American children in the rural South, as well as other philanthropic causes in the first half of the 20th century. He was also the principal founder and backer for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, to which he gave more than $5 million and served as President from 1927 to 1932.

Early life

Julius Rosenwald was born in 1862 to clothier Samuel Rosenwald and his wife Augusta Hammerslough Rosenwald, a Jewish immigrant family from Germany. He was born and raised just a few blocks from the Abraham Lincoln residence in Springfield, Illinois during Lincoln's presidency of the United States.

By his sixteenth year, Rosenwald was apprenticed by his parents to his uncles in New York City to learn the clothing trades. While in New York he befriended Henry Goldman and Henry Morgenthau, Sr.. With his younger brother Morris, Rosenwald started a clothing manufacturing company. They were ruined by a recession in 1885. Rosenwald had heard about other clothiers who had begun manufacturing clothing according to standardized sizes from data collected during the American Civil War. He decided to try the system but to move his manufacturing closer to the rural population that he anticipated would be his market. He and his brother moved to Chicago, Illinois.

Once in Chicago, the Rosenwald brothers enlisted more help from a cousin, Julius Weil, and together they founded Rosenwald and Weil Clothiers.

Marriage and family

On April 8, 1890, Julius Rosenwald and Agusta Nusbaum married at Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Miss Nusbaum was the daughter of a daughter of a competing clothier. Together they had five children: Lessing J. Rosenwald Adele (Rosenwald) Deutsch Levy Edith (Rosenwald) Stern Marion (Rosenwald) Ascoli William Rosenwald Their son Lessing Rosenwald became a prominent businessman, following his father in the chairmanship of Sears, Roebuck & Company (1932–1939).

Sears, Roebuck & Company

In 1893, Richard Sears and Alvah C. Roebuck renamed their watch company Sears, Roebuck & Company and began to diversify. Rosenwald and Weil was a principal supplier of men's clothing for Sears, Roebuck. The volumes of unsold merchandise caused by the Panic of 1893 and his declining health led Roebuck to leave the company. He placed his interest in the company in the hands of Sears who, in turn, offered that half of the company to Aaron Nusbaum. Nusbaum, needing backers, asked his brother-in-law Julius Rosenwald for financing. In August 1895, Sears sold Roebuck's half of the company to Nusbaum and Rosenwald for $75,000.

Rosenwald worked exceptionally well with Richard Sears. Rosenwald brought to the company a rational management philosophy and diversified product lines: dry goods, consumer durables, drugs, hardware, furniture, and nearly anything else a farm household could desire. From 1895 to 1907, under Rosenwald's leadership as Vice President and Treasurer, annual sales of the company climbed from $750,000 to upwards of $50 million. The prosperity of the company and their vision for greater expansion led Sears and Rosenwald to take the company public in 1906. Rosenwald turned to his old friend Henry Goldman, who was now a senior partner at Goldman Sachs, to handle the IPO. Richard Sears resigned the presidency in 1908 due to declining health, and Rosenwald was named president.

Sears, Roebuck was laid low during the post-World War I recession. To bail out the company, Rosenwald pledged $21 million of his personal wealth. By 1922, Sears had regained financial stability. Two years later, in 1924, Rosenwald resigned the presidency to devote time to his philanthropies, but not before he oversaw the design and construction of the company's first department store within Sears, Roebuck's massive 16-hectare (40-acre) headquarters complex of offices, laboratories and mail-order operations at Homan Ave. and Arthington St. on Chicago's West Side. The store opened on February 2, 1925.[2] After leaving the presidency, Rosenwald was appointed Chairman of the Board of Sears, a position he held until his death in 1932.

Mr. Rosenwald was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1992.


After the 1906 financial reorganization of Sears, Rosenwald became friends with Goldman Sachs's other senior partner, Paul J. Sachs. Sachs often stayed with Rosenwald during his many trips to Chicago and the two would discuss America's social situation, agreeing that the plight of African Americans was the most serious in the US. Sachs introduced Rosenwald to two prominent educators and proponents of African-American education, William H. Baldwin and Booker T. Washington. Rosenwald made common cause with Washington and was asked to serve on the Board of Directors of the Tuskegee Institute in 1912, a position he held for the remainder of his life. He endowed the Institute to free Washington from fundraising and enable him to devote more time managing the Institute.

Dr. Washington encouraged Rosenwald to address the poor state of African American education in the US. He responded by providing funds for the construction of six small schools in rural Alabama, which were constructed and opened in 1913 and 1914, and overseen by Tuskegee. Built by and for African Americans, the project foreshadowed the role in education Julius Rosenwald would play.[3] Inspired by the social progressivism of Jane Addams, Minnie Low, Grace Abbott, Paul J. Sachs, and Booker T. Washington, and the Reform Judaism of Emil Hirsch and Julian Mack (many of whom were his personal friends as well), Rosenwald devoted his time, energy, and money towards philanthropy. In his words, written in 1911: "The horrors that are due to race prejudice come home to the Jew more forcefully than to others of the white race, on account of the centuries of persecution which they have suffered and still suffer."

His Rosenwald Fund was established in 1917 for "the well-being of mankind." Unlike other endowed foundations, which were designed to fund themselves in perpetuity, The Rosenwald Fund was intended to use all of its funds for philanthropic purposes. As a result, the fund was completely spent by 1948. Julius Rosenwald Hall at the University of Chicago

Over the course of his life, Rosenwald and his fund donated over 70 million dollars to public schools, colleges and universities, museums, Jewish charities and black institutions. The rural school building program was one of the largest programs administered by the Rosenwald Fund. It contributed more than four million dollars in matching funds to the construction of more than 5,000 schools, shops, and teachers' homes in the South. These schools became informally known as "Rosenwald Schools."

Rosenwald commissioned one of Chicago's largest philanthropic housing developments: the Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments, at 47th St. and Michigan Ave. The Michigan Boulevard Garden Apartments was one of the first American housing developments to mix residential, commercial and social uses and still stands. The complex was built in 1929 by Julius Rosenwald and his nephew, architect Ernest Grunsfeld (who also designed the Adler Planetarium, at the behest of Rosenwald's brother-in-law, Max Adler). Covering a square block, the buildings enclosed an enormous central landscaped courtyard. Rosenwald planned the development of 421 units to provide sound housing for African Americans and to relieve the tremendous overcrowding due to Chicago's pervasive racial segregation. The development also included 14 stores along the 47th Street side of the property, four of which were occupied by black-owned businesses, and a nursery school. Rosenwald invested $2.7 million in the project, receiving only a 2.4 percent return during the first seven years.

Rosenwald was the patron of chess prodigy Samuel Reshevsky. He encouraged Reshevsky to earn a university degree so as not to be completely dependent upon chess for his living. Reshevsky did so, earning his degree in accounting from the University of Chicago.[4]

Rosenwald gave $1000 grants to the first 100 counties in the U.S. to hire County Extension Agents, helping the United States Department of Agriculture launch a program that was highly valuable to rural Americans. He was also the principal founder and backer for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, to which he gave over $5 million and served as the President (1927–1932).

Rosenwald died at his home in the Ravinia section of Highland Park, Illinois, on January 6, 1932.

Honors and legacy

His bust was created in bronze and included among eight honoring industry magnates, which were installed between the Chicago River and the Merchandise Mart in downtown Chicago, Illinois.



  • Klepper, Michael; Gunther, Michael (1996), The Wealthy 100: From Benjamin Franklin to Bill Gates—A Ranking of the Richest Americans, Past and Present, Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publishing Group, p. xii, ISBN 9780806518008, OCLC 33818143
  • Ascoli, Peter M. Julius Rosenwald: The Man Who Built Sears, Roebuck and Advanced the Cause of Black Education in the American South. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006.
  • Erik Eckholm, "Historic Black Schools Restored as Landmarks" "New York Times" January 15, 2010 A16
  • The Bobby Fischer I Knew And Other Stories, by Arnold Denker and Larry Parr, San Francisco 1995, Hypermodern Press.


  • The North Star By Charles Wesley Burton, Ed.D. and Laura Dancy Burton; (2008) Julius Rosenwald's Impact Upon Black America
  • Ascoli, Peter M. Julius Rosenwald (2006), the major biography.
  • Embree, Edwin R. Investment in People? The Story of the Julius Rosenwald Fund. 1949.
  • Werner, M. R. Julius Rosenwald: The Life of a Practical Humanitarian. 2nd ed. 1939.

From the Sears Archives:

Julius Rosenwald was born August 12, 1862, in Springfield, Ill. His father, Samuel, had traveled to Springfield several years earlier to run a clothing store for his wife's family.

In 1885, Rosenwald teamed up with a cousin, Julius Weil, to manufacture men's clothing. Coincidentally, one of the company's clients was Richard Sears, who ordered men's clothing for sale in his catalogs.

In 1890, Julius married Augusta Nusbaum, with whom he had five children: Lessing, Adele, Edith, Marion and William. Lessing served as chairman of Sears upon his father's death in 1932 until 1939.

In 1895, Rosenwald became a partner in Sears, Roebuck and Co. when Richard Sears offered Rosenwald's brother-in-law, Aaron Nusbaum, an interest in the company. Nusbaum recruited Rosenwald to join the venture. In 1896, he became a vice president of Sears, Roebuck and Co.

From the moment he joined Sears, Roebuck and Co., Rosenwald's abilities meshed amazingly well with those of Richard Sears. He brought a rational management philosophy to Richard Sears' well-tuned sales instincts. From 1895 to 1907, annual sales skyrocketed from $750,000 to $50 million. In 1908, Rosenwald was named president when Richard Sears resigned. Rosenwald continued to serve as president until 1924, when he became chairman of the board, a position he held until his death in 1932.

After World War I, Sears was in dire financial shape and Rosenwald brought Sears back from the brink of bankruptcy by pledging some $21 million of his personal fortune, in cash, stock and other assets to rescue the company. By 1922, Sears had regained financial stability.

Rosenwald insisted that the company's primary goal must be responsibility to the customer. He established the "satisfaction guaranteed or your money back" pledge and conducted his business dealings by the creed "Sell honest merchandise for less money and more people will buy." Under Rosenwald's direction, the business positioned itself as a direct extension of the farmer's eyes, ears and wallet, making purchasing decisions in the best interests of the farmer.

After Rosenwald stepped down as Sears president in 1924, he devoted most of his time to philanthropy. Over the course of his life, he donated millions of dollars to public schools, colleges and universities, museums, Jewish charities and black institutions.

Of all his philanthropic efforts, Rosenwald was most famous for the more than 5,000 "Rosenwald schools" he established throughout the South for poor, rural black youth, and the 4,000 libraries he added to existing schools. The network of new public schools subsequently employed more than 14,000 teachers. In 1927, Rosenwald received a special gold medal from the William E. Harmon Awards for Distinguished Achievement in Race Relations for his contributions to the education of black youth.

Rosenwald embodied the principles of modern, responsible management and corporate citizenship. He provided the means and the model for Sears to grow to ever-greater heights as a company. More important, Rosenwald's life served as a blueprint for doing everything in one's power to raise the fortunes of those who otherwise could not do so.

From the 1920 Federal Census

Julius Rosenwald lived in the 1st District of Cook County, Illinois with his family, that at the time consisted of:

  • Head Julius Rosenwald 58
  • Wife Agusta N Rosenwald 52
  • Daughter Edith R Sulzberger 25
  • Daughter Marion Rosenwald 17
  • Son William Rosenwald 15
  • Ten various cooks, butlers and gardeners
view all

Julius Rosenwald's Timeline

August 12, 1862
Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, United States
February 10, 1891
Age 28
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
July 19, 1892
Age 29
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
May 31, 1895
Age 32
Chicago, Cook, IL, United States
March 19, 1902
Age 39
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States
August 19, 1903
Age 41
Wilmette, Cook, Illinois, United States
January 6, 1932
Age 69
Highland Park, Lake County, Illinois, United States
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, United States