The Younker Brothers: Early Jewish Pioneer Merchandisers of Keokuk & Des Moines, Iowa

The Younker Brothers, Marcus, Samuel,  Lipman, and Herman

Values Codes I-E-L-P


Lipman Younker was born Lipno, Province, Polotzk, Poland in 1834.

Marcus Younker

Marcus Younker

Samuel Younker was born Lipno, Province, Polotzk, Poland in 1837.

Marcus Younker was born Lipno, Province, Polotzk, Poland in 1839.

They were three of six sons of Isaac and Jennie Younker.

They were all educated as most Orthodox Jewish children in Cheder until their Bar Mitzvot at age 13.


Along the way . . . .

Marcus Younker came with brothers, Samuel and Lipmam to the United States, landing in New York City and finding their way to Keokuk, Iowa in 1856, where they opened a small business – Younker & Brothers  – a dry goods store plus linens, carpets, small domestic furnishings, fabrics, and garments.

Marcus Younker ran the store while his brothers would peddle in the surrounding countryside.

Younker & Brothers remained closed on Sabbath and other Jewish Holidays.

In 1886 a rail line connected Keokuk with the new State Capital in Des Moines.


Des Moines

Youker & Brothers opened a new branch store in Des Moines.

Another brother, Herman Younker arrived and managed the Des Moines store in its beginnings.

Lipman Younker moved to New York City involved in the clothing trade until his death in 1902.

Samuel Younker died unexpected in 1879.

Marcus Younker took over the reigns of the company and made Des Moines its new headquarters.

Herman Younker moved to New York City to head the store’s purchasing office.

Younker’s grew, through the years, into a full line department store.

In 1881, Younker’s hired the first female salesperson on record in Des Moines.

Younker’s made many moves until it settled at 7th and Walnut Streets in 1899 – remaining there until 2003.

Younker Brothers Department Store, 1920's, Vintage Postcard.

Younker Brothers Department Store, 1920’s, Vintage Postcard.

By 1910, Younker’s employed over 500 men and women.

Younker’s became one of Des Moines greatest philanthropists, funding local charities, war relief and civic events.

Marcus Younker retired in 1895, traveling with his wife to Europe and Jerusalem, returning often to “advise” management.

Younker’s continued to grow, eventually becoming one of the largest department store chains in seven Midwestern states.



Marcus Younker served a term as President of Congregation B’nai Yeshurun.

Congregation B’nai Jeshurun-Des Moines,IA [1887], #WS2702

Lipman Younker died in 1903.

Samuel Younker died in 1879.

Marcus Younker died in New York in 1926, the last of the original founders.

Younker Brother's Christmas Adv, circa 1900

Younker Brother’s Christmas Adv, circa 1900


Information culled from:

  • The Jews in Iowa, by Simon Glazer, 1904.
  • The Younker Story (1969), by William A. Temple.

Anyone that has photos of these pioneers or their Department Store, please contact us.