Florence Lowenstein Marshall (1873-1916) Diaries, 1890-1916; 2019
Scope and Contents
The social calendar diaries of Florence Lowenstein Marshall contain a record of her external, rather than her internal, life and focuses on three specific areas: the activities of her husband, her family and friends, and her social life.
The collection holds twenty yearly, leather-bound diaries and one accounts journal from 1894 (Florence's last year of single life) to 1916 (the year of her death). There are three years missing: 1896, 1898, and 1908. The accounts ledger ranges over the years of 1890-1895.
Florence, the daughter of merchant Benedict Lowenstein and Sophie Mendlessohn, was a graduate of the Normal College in New York City and a philanthropist working with women's issues in Jewish benevolent circles. However, her primary occupation was wife and mother. The Marshalls were related to and connected with the late 19th- and early 20th-century German-Jewish families of New York including the Strauses, the Guggenheims and Guggenheimers, as well as leaders of the Reform Jewish rabbinate, including Rabbis Solomon Schecter, Gustav Gottlieb, Kaufmann Kohler, and Judah L. Magnes, who was married to Florence's sibling, Beatrice.
The diaries are digitized, and accompanied by extensively edited historical notes by Rabbi Peter Schweitzer (the grandson of Ruth Lowenstein Magnes, the youngest of Florence and Louis’s children), which offers a fascinating view of the personal life of Jewish communal leaders in New York City at the turn of the 20th century.
- 1894 - 1916
- Publication: 2019
Access Restrictions—Florence Marshall Diaries
The collection of Florence Marshall's original diaries is restricted. Annotated typescript copies of the Florence Marshall diaries are included in the collection. However, all materials, both images of Florence's original diaries and all annotated typescripts, are digitized and available to view online. Please use the online resource only.
Conditions Governing Use
Content is digitized and viewable online.
Biographical Note—Florence Lowenstein Marshall
Florence Lowenstein was born on May 6, 1873 in New York City to father, Benedict Lowenstein (1831-1879), and mother Sophie Mendelsohn (1847-1884). Florence was the fourth of six children born to Benedict and Sophie.
Benedict was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, the eldest of six brothers. About 1857, Benedict left Germany and landed in New Orleans, Louisiana, eventually settling in Paris, Tennessee where he opened a store. He eventually moved on to Memphis where he was joined by some of his brothers in founding the B. Lowenstein and Brothers department store. The store grew in size, expanding to wholesale and retail dry goods, and stores were opened in several southern locations. Benedict bought raw cotton from plantations and shipped it north to New England, where it was weaved into linens and afterwards returned to Lowestein's store for sale. After the Civil War, Benedict opened an office in New York City, eventually moving to the city (Schweitzer, pg. 11).
In New York City, Benedict met Sophia Mendelsohn, the daughter of Nathan Mendelsohn and Adelheid Untermyer. Nathan had arrived in Norfolk, Virginia in 1836 from Frankfurt, Germany, and eventually settled in Lynchberg. Adelheid was born in Augsberg, Germany. Adelheid's brother, Isidor Untermyer, ran a tobacco plantation in Lynchberg. Their cousins were Salomon and Nathaniel Guggenheimer. Salomon married Therese Landuar, and he died three months after the birth of their son, Randolph Guggenheimer. Two years later, Therese and Isidor married and had at least six children together. When Isidor died in 1866, Therese moved to New York City. The Untermyers and Guggenheimers would go on to become entrenched in New York City Jewish high society, business, politics, and philanthropy.
Benedict Lowenstein and his wife Sophie established a home at 73 W. 52nd Street (between 5th and 6th avenues), where Florence and her siblings, Adelaide, Leon, Sadie (also known as Sarah), Elsie, and Beatrice were born. In 1875, Benedict began having heart trouble, so the family packed up and traveled to Wiesbaden, Germany to seek a spa cure for him. Unfortunately, Benedict passed away suddenly on April 25, 1879 while in Germany at the age of forty-eight. Sophie, aged 32, was pregnant with Beatrice, born in New York City in October 1879. Sophie would live another five years, after which her brother Bernard became the children's legal guardian. Florence was six when her mother died (Schweitzer, pg. 12).
The family continued to live on 52nd Street under the guardianship of their Uncle Bernard. Little is known of their childhood, but eventually Florence would attend the Normal (later Hunter) College. Florence's cousin Randolph opened a law practice with his half-brothers, Isaac, Samuel, and Maurice, under the name Guggehiemer and Untermyer, which would later expand to Guggenheimer, Untermyer and Marshall, after Florence married Louis Marshall in 1895. Florence's sister Sadie married Louis' brother, Maurice, becoming both cousins and brother-in-law. Florence's youngest sister, Beatrice, would eventually marry the famous rabbi, Judah Magnes (Schweitzer, pg. 13).
Needless to say, Florence Marshall lived in a rarefied community of economic wealth and privilege. According to Beatrice's memoir, "Episodes: A Memoir," notes that the family was raised by an autocratic housekeeper who was "an embittered woman with an unhappy past." Beatrice notes that the family lived near houses occupied by the Vanderbilt family of New York. While her older siblings endured a more formal private education, Beatrice and her slightly older sister Elsie, rebelled at the strictness of their housekeeper and eventually attended public school as their cousin Randolph Guggenheimer was the president of the New York City Board of Education and "was in favor of mixing the masses and classes." Beatrice notes: "My elder sisters acted in "loco parentis." I was taken everywhere by them and my life in those days was what people today might consider a life of glamour." Beatrice notes that the family had many adventures, "everything from concerts to the best restaurants, to trips abroad to California, to Florida..." and that as Elsie and Beatrice grew older, "we changed somewhat, and had no objections to subscriptions to the opera and the philharmonic, to the theatre, and to be taken to see great foreign actors and actresses" (Schweitzer, pgs. 13-14).
The Lowensteins learned about Judaism as most of their friends were German Jews, but they were not overtly observant. Both Beatrice and Florence attended the School of Temple Emanu-el (Florence graduated in 1887), attended religious school, and were confirmed. Beatrice notes that "... I had never seen a Seder or Sukkah or a Hanukkah light for, in those days, Reform Judaism was mostly confined to prayers contained in the Union Prayer Book." Her husband, Judah Magnes, was a leader in the Reform movement who became dissastified with much of the programming of the movement, which is noted in detail by Schweitzer in footnotes in several diaries.
Louis Marshall's family also hailed from Germany, where his father, Jacob, was born in the village of Neidestein in 1829, and his mother, Zilli Strauss, was born in Markelsheim in 1826. Unlike the Lowensteins and Untermyers who went south upon arrival in the U.S. (Jacob in 1849 and Zilli in 1853), Jacob went north, 247 miles from New York City, to Syracuse, NY.
Jacob Marshall (original spelling Marshchall) arrived at nineteen with little money to his name. Marshall began as a construction laborer for the Erie Railroad, the Northern Canal, and the Northern Central Railroad, making his way to Syracuse and eventually opening a company specializing in the trade of hides and furs, buying them from trappers and reselling the product. He opened a store with his brother Benjamin in 1856. The building he established for his work is still standing.
Louis's mother was Zilli Straus, who arrived in the U.S. in 1853. She made her way to Syracuse where she married Jacob in 1855. Louis was the first born of six children, including Benjamin (known as Benj. in Florence's diaries), Marie, Berta, Clara, and Ida. When Zilli died in 1910, Jacob moved to Philadelphia to live with his daughter, Bertha. Jacob died in 1914.
Louis Marshall's career in itself is too prolific for a short historical note and there are numerous volumes written on his life's work. In brief, Marshall was fluent in German, French, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and his family had a deeper Jewish religious life growing up than the Lowensteins. Louis studied law at Columbia University, and was considered for a time as a Supreme Court Justice. He was a lawyer for Leo Frank, who was accused of murdering Mary Phagan, an accusation Frank steadfastly denied. Frank was eventually killed in prison. Louis worked on civil rights issues not only for Jews, but also for minorities in the United States and the world and as part of the Paris Peace Conference after World War I. Louis was a partner in the law firm Guggenheimer, Untermyer and Marshall, and was deeply involved in philanthropic organizations.
Florence's boys, James, Robert, and George, grew up to be prominent lawyers and conservationists, and preservation of the public lands of New York State can be credited to Louis at a critical time in the early 20th century. Their papers (located at the American Jewish Archives) offer a rich history of conservation issues in America.
Peter Schweitzer, who transcribed and annotated Florence's diaries, is Florence and Louis's great-grandson and grandson of Ruth.
Schweitzer grew up with his family's papers in the basements of the homes of relatives, developing both a fascination not only with his relatives but of the documents they left behind. After a family rumor that Florence left diaries, a family hunt for them began. Cousins called and told Schweitzer that they found Florence's diaries. He jumped at the chance to read them, and ultimately created this resource by transcibing Florence's handwriting, and by conscientiously annotating key events of Florence's social calendar diaries.
Louis, Florence, James and Ruth Marshall on Saranac Lake
Cedar Knolls School for Girls—Jewish Women's Archive Encyclopedia
Biographical Note—Peter Schweitzer
Rabbi Peter H. Schweitzer is the rabbi emeritus of The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism (www.citycongregation.org) in New York City. Humanistic Judaism is the denomination in Jewish life that celebrates Judaism as the cultural and human-centered historical experience of the Jewish people.
He is the author of "The Liberated Haggadah: A Passover Celebration for Cultural, Secular and Humanistic Jews" (The Center for Cultural Judaism, 2006), "The Guide for a Humanistic Bar/Bat Mitzvah" (The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, 2003) and "Let There Be Lights! A Secular, Cultural, Humanistic Celebration of Chanukah" (The City Congregation for Humanistic Judaism, 2007). For many years he was the regular contributor to "Moment Magazine’s" “Ask the Rabbi” column from the Humanistic perspective.
For twenty-five years, Rabbi Schweitzer also amassed one of the most significant collections of Jewish Americana, with more than 10,000 items and artifacts that he donated to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia in 2005. Many items from the collection went on display in 2010 with the opening of the museum’s new building. Over the years, items have also been used for many publications and have been displayed in numerous exhibits and shows at NMAJH and other venues.
Rabbi Schweitzer received his B.A. in Jewish and Near Eastern Studies from Oberlin College. He was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion. He has an MSW from New York University, was awarded a CSW, and worked for many years with the Jewish Board of Family and Children’s Services in an out-patient clinic in Brooklyn.
.05 Linear Feet (1 manuscript box) : Contains 20 physical diaries and one 224-page manuscript by Peter Schweitzer.
Language of Materials
The personal and social engagement diaries of Florence Lowenstein Marshall (1873-1916), wife of Constitution and civil rights attorney Louis Marshall and mother of lawyer James and conservationists Robert and George Marshall and daughter Ruth, span the years of 1894 until her death in 1916 of cancer. Her diaries record the events of her life—without the benefit of commentary on them—regarding social and family gatherings, theatre and music performances, her children's activities (including illnesses and vaccinations), her philantrophic meetings, and a meticulous recording of Louis's life as a leader.
- Hawkins, Richard A. "Lynchburg's Swabian Jewish Entrepreneurs." Southern Jewish History. 2000, vol. 3. https://www.jewishsouth.org/system/files/sjh_v._3_2000_hawkins.pdf
- Magnes, Beatrice Lowenstein. "Episodes: A Memoir." Berkeley. Judah L. Magnes Memorial Museum, 1977
- Reznikoff, Charles, ed. "Louis Marshall: Champion of Liberty." Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1957
- Schweitzer, Peter. "Florence Marshall Lowenstein Diaries, 1895-1916." Unpublished manuscript.
Materials Specific Details
Florence used two types of diaries popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the American Diary published by Lockwood and Briarwood, and the Excelsior Diary. She used the American Diary for 1894 and 1895 and the Excelsior Diary for the years 1897-1916. The diaries for 1896, 1898, and 1908 are missing. Brief descriptions of events for those years are available.
Some fraying of the leather for some diaries, but in general, the paper is good.
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- Guide to the Diaries of Florence Lowenstein (1873-1916) Marshall, 1894-1916, 2019
- Finding aid written by Tanya Elder. Historical editing of diaries by Peter Schweitzer. Digitization of the collection by the Gruss-Lipper Digital Lab of the Center for Jewish History.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Peter Schweitzer