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Louis Bamberger
Department Store Innovator and Philanthropist
Linda B. Forgosh

Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life

2016 • 296 pp. 29 illus. 6 1/8 x 9 1/4"
Business Biography / Jewish Studies / 20th Century U.S. History

$29.95 Hardcover, 978-1-61168-981-5

$24.99 Ebook, 978-1-61168-982-2

Check your ebook retailer or local library for ebook availability.

“Extremely interesting and informative not only about Louis Bamberger but about the Newark of his day, which overlapped with mine. I speak not only as... [continued in Reviews below]”—Philip Roth

The only biography of Louis Bamberger—department store magnate, merchandising genius, enlightened philanthropist, and Newark’s leading citizen

Louis Bamberger (1855–1944) was the epitome of the merchant prince as public benefactor. Born in Baltimore, this son of German immigrants built his business—the great, glamorous L. Bamberger & Co. department store in Newark, N.J.—into the sixth-largest department store in the country. A multimillionaire by middle age, he joined the elite circle of German Jews who owned Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Filene’s. Despite his vast wealth and local prominence, Bamberger was a reclusive figure who shunned the limelight, left no business records, and kept no diaries. He remained a bachelor and kept his private life and the rationale for his business decisions to himself.

Yet his achievements are manifold. He was a merchandising genius whose innovations, including newspaper and radio ads and brilliant use of window and in-store displays, established the culture of consumption in twentieth-century America. His generous giving, both within the Jewish community and beyond it, created institutions that still stand today: the Newark YM-YWHA, Beth Israel Hospital, and the Newark Museum. Toward the end of his career, he financed and directed the creation of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, which led to a friendship with Albert Einstein.

Despite his significance as business innovator and philanthropist, historians of the great department stores have paid scant attention to Bamberger. This full-length biography will interest historians as well as general readers of Jewish history nationally, New Jerseyans fascinated by local history, and the Newarkers for whom Bamberger’s was a beloved local institution.

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Reviews / Endorsements

“Forgosh’s captivating biography of Louis Bamberger (1855–1944), department store magnate, multimillionaire, philanthropist, and prominent citizen of Newark, NJ, explores Bamberger’s business successes and visionary genius in enriching the lives of his Newark employees and many others.”—Library Journal (starred review)“Had it not been for Louis Bamberger, New Jersey’s Jewish community would have been far less rich, not only materially but in institutions, in its understanding of philanthropy, and in its ability to reach outside itself.”
New Jersey Jewish Standard

“This is the best biography we have of this influential figure, and readers will learn much from it. . . . Essential.”

“A superior book. . . .Forgosh . . . presents what is likely as full an account of the Baltimore-bred son of German immigrants as we well ever get.” —Sunday Star Ledger (Newark, NJ)

“The vast and varied array of details in this biography offers a rich view of Newark in the first half of the twentieth century. . . . This biography . . . successfully shows the significance of Louis Bamberger and the far-reaching impact of his life’s work.”

New Jersey Studies

Forgosh’s basic affection for Bamberger is palpable and provides a sense of the relationship generations of Newarkers have had with him, one forged out of his remarkable public deeds rather than any great intimacy. . . . Forgosh has established herself as an uncommonly patient and diligent biographer, meeting the evidentiary challenges with a lively portrait of Bamberger’s world, his family and friends, and most importantly his legacies."

American Jewish History

“Extremely interesting and informative not only about Louis Bamberger but about the Newark of his day, which overlapped with mine. I speak not only as an admirer of your book but as a Newark boy who worked at Bamberger’s for two Christmases in the forties, during high school, as a stock clerk in the ladies’ shoe department.”—Philip Roth

“The story of the department store owner Louis Bamberger is the story of what has made America great. Linda Forgosh is to be applauded for her persistence in unearthing the facts surrounding the life of one of America’s unsung heroes and for telling his story of genius and selflessness in such a clear, straightforward, and comprehensive way.”—Guy Sterling, author of The Famous, the Familiar, and the Forgotten: 350 Notable Newarkers

“In an elegantly written biography, Linda Forgosh brings Louis Bamberger back to life. Newark’s leading citizen of the first half of the twentieth century, he was the city’s most successful merchant and a philanthropist extraordinaire. Bamberger was one of America’s leading retail innovators, and Bamberger’s became one of the largest retail establishments in the country. Upon the city that had brought him good fortune he bestowed the Newark Museum and Beth Israel Hospital. Yet today he is largely forgotten. Linda Forgosh has filled this void with a fascinating work that both celebrates this reclusive giant and re-creates the Newark of his time.”—Warren Grover, founder of the Newark History Society and author of Nazis in Newark


Winner of the 2017 Cummings Award

LINDA B. FORGOSH is an independent scholar and executive director of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey.

Thu, 14 Mar 2019 13:08:30 -0500