Oscar Straus, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor

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Oscar Straus, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor's Geni Profile

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Oscar Solomon Straus

Birthplace: Otterberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Death: May 03, 1926 (75)
New York, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Lazarus Straus and Sara Straus
Husband of Sarah Straus
Father of Mildred Schafer; Aline Hockstader and Roger Williams Straus
Brother of Isador Straus; Hermine Kohns; Nathan Straus and Jakob Otto Straus
Half brother of NN Straus(s) and Karoline Straus

Managed by: Robin Lent
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Oscar Straus, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor


Oscar Solomon Straus (December 23, 1850 – May 3, 1926) was United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Theodore Roosevelt from 1906 to 1909. Straus was the first Jewish United States Cabinet Secretary.

Life and career

He was born in Otterberg, Germany. He emigrated with his parents to the United States, and settled in Talbotton, Georgia. At the close of the Civil War he moved to New York City where he graduated from Columbia College in 1871 and Columbia Law School in 1873. He practised law until 1881, and then became a merchant, retaining his interest in literature. He first served as United States Minister to the Ottoman Empire from 1887 to 1889 and again from 1898 to 1899.

In December 1906, Straus became the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Theodore Roosevelt. This position also placed him in charge of the United States Bureau of Immigration. During his tenure, Straus ordered immigration inspectors to work closely with local police and the United States Secret Service to find, arrest and deport immigrants with Anarchist political beliefs under the terms of the Anarchist Exclusion Act.

Straus left the Commerce Department in 1909 when William Howard Taft became president and became U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire until 1910. In 1912, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York on the Progressive and Independence League tickets.

His memoirs, Under Four Administrations, were published in 1922.

The Straus family had several influential members including Straus's grandson Roger W. Straus, Jr., who started the publishing company of Farrar, Straus and Giroux; his brother, Isidor Straus, who perished aboard the RMS Titanic in 1912, served as a representative from New York City's 15th District, and was co-owner of the department store R. H. Macy & Co. along with another brother Nathan; and nephew Jesse Isidor Straus, confidant of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ambassador to France from 1933 to 1936.

Washington, D.C., commemorates the achievements of this famous Jewish-German-American statesman in the Oscar Straus Memorial. He is buried at Beth El Cemetery in Ridgewood, New York.


Oscar began the practise of law in the firm of Hudson & Straus, which afterward became Sterne, Straus & Thompson, the senior member being Simon Sterne. The strain of a large practise in commercial and railway cases told upon Straus's health, and in Jan., 1881, he retired from law and entered his father's firm. Straus was active in the campaign which resulted in the election of President Cleveland in 1884, and was appointed minister plenipotentiary to Turkey in 1887 at the suggestion of Henry Ward Beecher. Straus did excellent work while at Constantinople, especially in obtaining recognition of the American schools and colleges in the Turkish dominion. He was again appointed minister plenipotentiary to Turkey (1897-1900) by President McKinley, and was enabled by his influence with the sultan to help reconcile the Mohammedan inhabitants of the Sulu Archipelago in the Philippines to the recognition of the suzerainty of the United States.

Copyright by Pierre Mac Donald.Oscar Solomon Straus. Straus has performed much valuable public service as member of various commissions, as, for instance, those appointed to investigate. New York public schools and to improve institutions for the insane. He was president of the National Primary League in 1895, and of the American Social Science Association from 1899 to 1903, as well as of the National Conference of Capital and Labor held in 1901. He was instrumental in founding the National Civic Federation, of which he has been vice-president since 1891. In 1902, on the death of ex-President Harrison, Straus was appointed by President Roosevelt to succeed him as a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, this high honor being given him in recognition of his diplomatic service and knowledge of international relations. Straus has written much for the magazines, has delivered lectures at Yale and Harvard universities, and, since 1903,has lectured annually upon international law before the United States Naval War College at Annapolis. He is the author of "The Origin of the Republican Form of Government in the United States" (New York, 1885), and "Roger Williams, the Pioneer of Religious Liberty" (ib. 1894). He has been a very active student of American Jewish history, and was one of the founders, and the first president, of the American Jewish Historical Society; he resigned in 1898. Straus is a trustee of the Baron de Hirsch Fund. The honorary degrees of L.H.D. (Brown University) and LL.D. (Columbia University) have been conferred upon him. In 1906 he was appointed Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Labor by President Roosevelt



Oscar had little interest in merchandising and, with the support of his brothers, became a lawyer. He served as Minister to Constantinople, Ambassador to Turkey, Secretary of Commerce and Labor, a founder and president of the American Jewish Historical Society and was a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague. He was the author for several books including Roger Williams, The Pioneer of Religious Liberty and Under Four Administrations.

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Oscar Straus, U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor's Timeline

December 23, 1850
Otterberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
November 13, 1883
December 14, 1891
New York, New York County, New York, United States
May 3, 1926
Age 75
New York, New York, United States