Leopold May: First Jewish Pioneer of Omaha, Nebraska, 1855

Leopold May

Values Codes I – E – P


Omaha, Nebraska

Leopold May was probably the first Jew to settle in Omaha, in 1855, when the town’s population approached 300.

He had come from Philadelphia.

There, May opened a retail clothing store called May & Weil Co. (Weil was most likely his partner/backer, who did not move to Nebraska.)

May & Weil did business with customers from both Omaha and Council Bluffs, Iowa, which was just across the river, by ferry.

Omaha, Nebraska, vintage map, probably 1870’s

The very first issue of the Rocky Mountain News, had an advertisement for May & Weil:

“ready made clothing, boots, shoes hats, caps, India rubber goods, blankets, buffalo robes and overshirts, revolvers and knives.”


Leopold May served as Secretary for the Omaha Relief Associationthe first charity organization in Omaha.

He was a Charter Member of both  the Board of Trade and the first fire department, The Pioneer Hook & Ladder Co.



Leopold May married Hannah Levi of Philadelphia, and brought her to Omaha.

Soon after, they went West, probably to Nevada.



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