Meyer Hellman & Aaron Cahn: First Permanent Jewish Residents of Omaha, Nebraska

Meyer Hellman & Aaron Cahn

Values Codes I – E – P


Meyer Hellman and Aaron Cahn were brothers-in law.

They arrived in Omaha in 1856, becoming the first permanent Jewish residents.


Meyer Hellman was born in Mulhausen, Germany, in 1834

He came to the United States in 1850, first settling in Cincinnati, where he worked as a traveling salesman for a clothing firm.

He arrived in Omaha in the mid-1850s.


Aaron Cahn was born Bleidenthal, Nassau, Germany.

He came to United States in 1848, first living in Hartford, Connecticut, then Cincinnati, and finally in Omaha, Nebraska, arriving in 1856.



Meyer Hellman and Aaron Cahn started a wholesale & retail clothing business, M. Hellman & Company.

In 1857, Hellman doubled the size of store by first having the wood framed in Cincinnati and then brought to Omaha by boat.

In 1866, the store and entire block was destroyed by fire.

M. Hellman & Company was rebuilt, this time with brick.

M. Hellman & Company also opened a branch store in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1866, which was managed by Meyer Hellman’s brother, Ben.

M. Hellman & Co. in Downtown Omaha with New City Fire Engine in Front. Circa 1875

M. Hellman & Co. in Downtown Omaha with New City Fire Engine in Front. Circa 1875

Aaron Cahn sold a lot to city for $2,500 for Omaha’s first fire station.

Cahn was often accompanied by “Buffalo” Bill Cody on business trips to the West.

1861, Cahn owned a saloon located inside Omaha’s Territorial Capitol Building.

The idea to move an existing saloon into the capitol building came from the Acting Governor Morton, who believed having a saloon on site would keep the legislators in the building – hence a quorum would always be readily available.

Cahn retired from the clothing business in 1886.



Meyer Hellman married Maria Rau of Louisville, KY, in 1871.

Together they had six children. Hellman continued to run his business until his death in 1892. All six children left Omaha within six years of his death.


Aaron Cahn had married Meyer Hellman’s sister, Caroline Hellman, while in Cincinnati before moving to Omaha.

They had one son: the first Jewish child born in Omaha.

Cahn remained a prominent Omaha citizen until his death in 1903.



  • Carol Gendler, “The Jews of Omaha: The First 60 Years,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 5/3&4, 6/1-4.