Jewish immigrants at the port of Galveston
If we focus only on the history of Dallas retail from a Dallas perspective, we are blasting right past the fascinating roots of retail in Texas and, more broadly, the United States.
Many of the iconic pioneers of Dallas retailing, after all, were not natives of Texas or even America. They were born in Europe to immigrant parents and only became part of the fabric of Dallas retail after years of living and working in different parts of the state and country.
It is interesting to note that some of the most well-known and influential Dallas retailing families were of Jewish descent. The Marcus, Sanger, Hrris, Linz, Kahn and Volk families belonged to a group of Jewish merchants active in the cultural, economic, and political development of Dallas.
According to materials gathered and published in the Handbook of Texas Online (Handbook), “Jews have been part of the warp and woof of the Lone Star State since the period of Spanish Texas.”
Prior to 1821, Texas was a Spanish colony “where only Catholics could take up residence.” If you were an openly practicing Jew, you could not legally live in the state. But the earliest Jewish immigrants to Texas soon planted roots in places like the Brazos River (Samual Isaacks) and East Texas (N. Adolphus Sterne), and by 1838, outposts including Velasco, Bolivar, San Antonio, Galveston, Goliad and Nacogdoches were home to many early Texas Jews.