On November 2nd and 3rd, Joan Adler and Catherine Smith traveled to Georgia for Harvest Days in Old Talbot, the eleventh annual weekend festival hosted by Michael H. and Debbie G. Buckner of the Patsiliga Museum. Joan was invited to give a presentation to the Taylor County Historical Society, which Mike and Debbie were hosting at their lovely antebellum home in Junction City. The meeting was a fundraiser for Mike and Debbie’s Patsiliga Museum, which is working on a project to build a storage facility for the many pottery items fired in the museum’s reconstructed antebellum kiln. The potluck dinner consisted of a variety of soups and chili. Guests were encouraged to purchase the pottery bowl they used during the meal. Each bowl has been fired in the Buckner's kiln, which made it even more special. After dinner, and the meeting's formalities were completed, Joan spoke about the Straus family’s Georgia roots and their business connection to pottery, crockery and china. The group was fascinated by Joan’s presentation and accompanying slides. There were many interesting questions after her talk and, with all but one bowl purchased, the fundraiser was an overwhelming success.
On Saturday and Sunday, Joan & Catherine took their usual places in the dining room of Mike and Debbie's lovely antebellum home where they had set up photographs, books and other informational materials about the Straus family. Hundreds of visitors stopped by to say hello, and to learn about the Strauses and their connection to Georgia. They were pleased to see many of the guests from the Friday night meeting who brought their family and friends to learn more about the Strauses after enjoying the presentation. Once again, they had the pleasure of staying in the beautiful and comfortable home of Mary Luna Shepherd who always welcomes them with open arms and a delicious farewell breakfast on Monday morning before their return to New York.
On Monday, they started for Atlanta where they had arranged to meet with Frances R. Francis, the senior registrar of the High Museum of Art. During their trip to GA the previous year, they met Frances at the High Museum to view the several pieces of artwork in their collection donated by Irma Nathan Straus to honor her late husband, Jesse Isidor Straus. (See articles in the August 2018 and February 2019 issues of the SHS newsletter for more information) At the time of their previous visit, Frances explained that many of the Straus pieces were in an offsite conservation and restoration facility. They agreed to meet Frances there this trip to see that artwork. Frances gave a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of the High Museum’s conservation and restoration facility. Joan and Catherine saw the pieces of Straus donated art that are not currently on display at the museum and learned about the museum’s history of conservation. They discovered that Irma was not the only Straus who donated artwork to the High Museum. Brothers Herbert and Percy also donated to their collections, but that artwork has been decommissioned and is no longer at the museum. SHS is grateful to Frances for taking the time to research the Strauses donations and for giving an incredible glimpse into the inner workings of the High Museum. Without a doubt, Joan and Catherine’s annual trip to Georgia is the highlight of their year. Each trip brings renewed friendships, more adventures, research opportunities, and the chance to be immersed in the nostalgic world of the antebellum south that the Strauses called home.
On May 15, Joan Adler spoke to the East Bronx History Forum about Nathan Straus, Jr. and his involvement in the housing development of the Bronx. The group was very interested and attentive. At the end of her talk, Joan was presented with a certificate of appreciation by Richard F. Vitacco, the president of the East Bronx History Forum. We were so honored by the gesture and happy to have been invited to present. We hope to collaborate again in the future and thank Richard Vitacco and Tom Casey for their support.
The German-Jewish family that built Macy's into an iconic retailer also left an indelible legacy in American politics and society. From Isidor Straus' philanthropic work with The Educational Alliance, to his time in the U.S. House of Representatives, to his death, arm in arm with his wife of 41 years, in the Titanic disaster, his story begs to be told.
On April 15, SHS, Leo Baeck Institute and the American Jewish Historical Society hosted "From Macy's to Titanic: The Straus Family Legacy.
At 5 pm, the doors to the Center for Jewish History were open to the public to come view a pop-up exhibition prepared by SHS featuring items related to the Titanic, Macy's and the Strauses many accomplishments.
At 6:30, the guests were invited into the auditorium for a program including a lecture and discussion panel. The audience was welcomed by LBI Executive Director and SHS Board Member William Weitzer, followed by an introduction by David Kurzman, Chairman of the Board of SHS. Al Berr, board member of both SHS and Friends of Straus Park gave a brief presentation on the history of the iconic upper west side park dedicated to Isidor and Ida Straus. Department store historian Michael Lisicky then gave his lecture about the Straus Family and Macy's and the impact the sinking of the Titanic had on both. The program concluded with a short discussion panel moderated by William Weitzer featuring both Michael Lisicky and Great-grandson of Isidor and Ida Straus, Paul Kurzman. After a short discussion and some questions from the audience, guests were invited back to the pop-up exhibition for some light refreshments.
The event was attended by over 100 guests, which included many Straus descendants. We are so pleased with the outcome of the event and thank LBI and AJHS as well as the Center for Jewish History for co-sponsoring and hosting the event.