Alexander Levi, Earliest Pioneer Jewish Merchant and Miner of Dubuque, Iowa

Alexander Levi

Alexander Levi

Alexander Levi

Values Codes: I-H-E-L-P

“Jewish history began in Iowa when Alexander Levi settled in Dubuque in 1833″

–Jodi Braverman of Agudas Achim Congregation in Iowa City, Iowa

Alexander Levi was born to a Sephardic Jewish family, in 1809, in France

Alexander Levi first arrived in America at New Orleans, settling in Dubuque, in 1833, at the age of 24.

Alexander Levi was the first foreigner to be naturalized in the State of Iowa, in 1837, while it was still part of the Wisconsin Territory.

Alexander Levi made his living as a grocer, a miner, a mine provisioner, and, eventually, a department store owner.

A. LEVI & CO. Would inform their friends and the public generally, that they have on hand and will  at all times keep a large and fresh assortment of Groceries and Provisions, viz. Mess and Prime Pork, Fresh Flour, Corn Meal, Whiskey by the barrel, French and Peach Brandy, Tobacco and Cigars, Candles by the box, Tar by the keg, First rate Bacon, Butter and Lard, Corn and Oats, Porter and Cider, Wines of all kinds, Loaf Sugar, Soap by the box, pipes.

–Advertisement published in the Dubuque Visitor, May 11, 1836

 

He was President of the Dubuque Mining Company, incorporated in 1860, and the Levi Gold Mining Company.

Civic

Alexander Levi served as Justice of the Peace in Dubuque from 1846 to 1848.

Dubuque Iowa on the Mississippi

Dubuque Iowa on the Mississippi

Community

Alexander Levi founded the first two Jewish congregations in Dubuque, one of them: B’nai Jeshrun.

He donated six acres of his land for first Jewish cemetery

Fraternal

In 1837, Alexander Levi was the first Mason to be sworn into the Dubuque Lodge

Family

Alexander Levi married Minette Levi

Minette Levi

Minette Levi

Together they had five children: Eliza, Emil, Gustave, Celina and Eugene.

Alexander Levi died 1893.

Alexander Levi's Gravesite, Dubuque Iowa

Alexander Levi’s Gravesite, Dubuque Iowa

 

Anecdote:

In 1843 Sol Kuth, a gentleman highly regarded in the general community,  married a Gentile lady and converted to Christianity.  Alexander Levi, urgently was requested to attend the ceremony, politely declined to do so.

A year later Sol Kuth engaged in doing something ‘disagreeable’ to save himself from financial crisis. He fled to avoid facing charges.

A few days later two preachers came to visit Alexander Levi and told him that they “never thought the Jew would prove so tricky, that they now believed some of the horrible tales told about the Jews and that henceforth they would look out.”

Alexander Levi replied that, while Kuth was Jewish, the community held him in high esteem, considered him a credit to his people, celebrated his marriage to a Christian woman and welcomed him into their religion.

However, as soon as he became a Christian, he was no longer responsible for his deeds as a Jew.  The Christian community is responsible for his downfall and “all the more honor for those Jews who continue as such.”

 

Alexander & Minette Levi honored during the 175th Annivarsary of the City of Dubuque

Alexander & Minette Levi honored during the 175th Annivarsary of the City of Dubuque

 

Sources:

Fleishaker, Oscar. The Illinois-Iowa Jewish Community on the Banks of the Mississippi, Doctoral Degree Dissertation to the Faculty of the Harry Fischel School for Higher Jewish Studies, Graduate Division, Yeshiva University, 1957.

“Jewish Pioneers in Dubuque County,” Online: http://iagenweb.org/dubuque/religious/Jewish.htm

http://www.encyclopediadubuque.org/index.php?title=LEVI%2C_Alexander

 

Gladys Sturman is curator for this Alexander Levi exhibit.

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