Early Jewish Pioneers of Des Moines, Iowa

Early Jewish Pioneers of Des Moines, Iowa


William Krause

William Krause was born in 1823, in Demmelsdorf, Germany

He arrived in the United States with his brother, Robert in 1842, at 19 years of age.

William Krause started working as peddler before moving to Iowa.

In Iowa, William Krause was a peddler for a bit, then opened a store in Des Moines.



William Krause was the founder of the Des Moines Public School System.

He was a leader in moving the new state’s capital from Iowa City to Des Moines.

William Krause was a major promoter of his city’s commerce.



William Krause married Minna Maur.

Together they had five children.

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By 1860, the following additional Jewish owned businesses were listed in Des Moines:

Wolf Frank, born Sydarg, Poland 1820, Boarding House.

Nathan Goldstone, Clothing

Hymon Herzberg, Clothing

Jacobs & Weissman, Dry Goods

Joseph Kuhn, Dry Goods & Clothing (Died 1877)

Isaac Kuhn, Dry Goods & Clothing

Leopold Simon, Clothing

Leopold Strauss, Clothing

Theodore Wolf, General Store

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Henry Riegelman

Henry Riegelman was born 1854, in Marion, Indiana

In 1870, he moved to Des Moines at 16 years of age.


Henry Riegelman became the Chairman of Polk County Democratic Committee.

He was eventually appointed to Democratic State Central Committee.



Henry Riegelman served as President of local B’nai B’rith Lodge.

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J.R. Cohen

J.R. Cohen, born 1854, was brought to the United States at the age of 12.

Grew up in New York Area and became a successful peddler.

In 1874, J.R. Cohen married Rachael Levich who was from Des Moines.

J. R. Cohen and his bride moved to Des Moines in 1880.

There he established a cigar factory.



J. R. Cohen was an active Mason.

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Falk Brody

Falk Brody was born in 1842 in Calvary in Poland/Russia

He arrived in New York City where he became a glazer, fixing broken windows in the New York tenement houses in 1881.

In 1881, he moved to Des Moines, Iowa, starting out as a peddler.

Falk Brody did well enough to open up a Peddler’s Wholesale Supply business.

Falk Brody’s business flourished and he reached a point where his business was doing over a quarter-of-a-million dollars in business a year.

Brody’s is credited with changing customer’s habit of making their own clothes to purchasing ready-to-wear from Brody.

Falk Brody  was noted for always closing his business on the Sabbath and on Jewish Holidays.

He also owned and farmed 600 acres of good land.

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Iowa State Capital, Vintage Poctcard

Iowa State Capital, Vintage Postcard

Jewish tradesmen,  other than peddlers and merchants, in Des Moines in 1900 included:

Factory hands, street laborers, tailors, cobblers, watchmakers, butchers, printers cabinet makers, masons, actors, musicians, school teachers, bookkeepers, saloon keepers, grocerymen, manufacturers rag pickers, news dealers, antique dealers, money brokers, iron dealers, photographers, telephone and telegraph operators, public office holders, nurses, lawyers, physicians, financiers, real estate agents, insurance agents landlords, jewelers, pawn brokers . . . .


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Moses H. Cohen, the first Jewish male born among the Polish Jews of Des Moines.

In 1918 he formed a law partnership with James Parrish.

That partnership grew into the Nyemaster, Goode law firm, which is now Iowa’s largest law office with over 90 attorneys.

Moses H. Cohen became the Republican Chairman of the  7th Congressional district.

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Samuel Strauss

Samuel Strauss owned the “Des Moines Leader” newspaper.

He merged with the “Des Moines Register” making it one of the most powerful of Iowa newspapers in the early 20th century.

Samuel Strauss moved to New York City where he purchased the “New York Post.”

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Abraham Slimmer – Philanthropist

Abraham Slimmer was successful in stock raising and other agricultural fields.

A. Simmer, Philanthropist

A. Simmer, Philanthropist

Abraham Slimmer was responsible for erecting and maintaining of the Home for the Aged in Des Moines, as well as a hospital in Waverly, Bremer County Iowa.

During his time in Des Moines he gave over $250,000 to local charities.

Abraham Slimmer never married.

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Information culled from: The Jews in Iowa, by Simon Glazer, 1904.

Anyone that can fill in more details on the lives of these early Des Moines Jewish Pioneers, please contact us.

Thank you, Tom Walton, for additional information on Moses H. Cohen

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