LOUIS BAMBERGER – a new book by Linda Forgosh
Members of the Weequahic tribe know Linda Forgosh as the Executive Director of The Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey who curated the nostalgic “Weequahic Memoirs ” exhibit and authored the book, “The Jews of Weequahic.” Linda, who is an honorary Weequahic alum, has spent the last few years researching and writing a fascinating book about about one of Newark’s most distinguished citizens entitled Louis Bamberger – Department Store Innovator and Philanthropist. A synopsis of the book follows:
Louis Bamberger (1855-1944) was the epitome of the merchant prince as a 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.
“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)
“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).
“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).