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Entries : Julius Rosenwald: Chicago Businessman and Philanthropist
Julius Rosenwald: Chicago Businessman and Philanthropist

Julius Rosenwald: Chicago Businessman and Philanthropist

Born in Springfield, Illinois, to a middle-class family of German Jewish immigrants, Julius Rosenwald began his career by going to New York to work as an apprentice in his mother's family's clothing business. In 1885, he returned to Chicago and opened his own clothing firm, which specialized in the sale of men's summer suits. At the suggestion of his brother-in-law, Rosenwald bought one quarter of the two-year-old Sears, Roebuck & Co. in 1895 for $37,500. A year later, he went to work for the mail-order house. Presiding over Sears during a period of fantastic growth, Rosenwald amassed a fortune of more than $200 million.

A philanthropist and civic leader, Rosenwald sat on the boards of the University of Chicago and Hull House, but his main interest after 1910 was in assisting African Americans. Rosenwald helped spearhead the construction of black YMCAs in Chicago and throughout the nation, and he helped to build over five thousand primary and secondary schools for blacks in the South between 1913 and 1930. His most lasting act of philanthropy was the building of the Museum of Science and Industry, which he initiated and to which he, his estate, and his foundation gave over $11 million by the mid-1940s.