The Kaufmanns

Jacob Kaufmann was a confounder of what became Kaufmann’s Department Store. He was the first of four Kaufmann brothers to settle in Pittsburgh, and was the last of the four brothers to move away from Allegheny City to Pittsburgh’s East End in the early twentieth century.

Jacob Kaufmann was born in the vicinity of Mannheim, Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, in June 1849. He was one of at least five children of a cattle and horse dealer. Kaufmann immigrated in about 1869 and began living in the borough of East Birmingham (part of the present South Side of Pittsburgh) within a short time. The 1870 Pittsburgh directory was the first to list Jacob Kaufmann or any members of his family. The directory listed Kaufmann and his brother Isaac, who had just arrived in Pittsburgh, as clerks who boarded at 1911 East Carson Street in East Birmingham.

The federal census of population taken in 1870 enumerated Jacob Kaufmann as a boarder in the home of Julius Prader, a German immigrant tailor, in East Birmingham. Isaac Kaufmann was not enumerated in Pittsburgh in the 1870 census, suggesting the census was taken before he arrived in the city.

The 1870 manuscript census, the last census to provide information on assets of persons enumerated, reported that Jacob Kaufmann owned no real estate and had no personal estate.

By 1871, Jacob and Isaac Kaufmann founded J. Kaufmann & Brother, a men’s clothing store at 1916 East Carson Street. The first store’s floor space was only 18’ by 28’. Each of the brothers initially invested $1500 in the store – an amount that was approximately half the value of many of the homes in the neighborhood in which the Kaufmanns started their business. The store operated at 1932 East Carson Street, in a larger space measuring 20’ by 85’, between 1872 and 1876.

Jacob Kaufmann, 25, married Augusta Katz, 18, in 1874. Augusta Katz was born in downtown Pittsburgh in March 1856. She was one of at least three children of Abraham Katz, a peddler and laborer, and Julia Katz, both German immigrants. The Katz family appears to have lived modestly, renting living quarters in a small alley Downtown in 1860.

Abraham Katz died in the late 1860’s, and Julia Katz subsequently supported her children by operating a confectionery on East Ohio Street near Cedar Avenue in, the East Allegheny neighborhood. Augusta Katz worked as a saleswoman in the early 1870’s, before she was married. Known records do not identify the store in which she was employed.

After marrying, Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann initially lived above the store at 1932 East Carson Street. Isaac Kaufmann, still unmarried, lived with his brother.

In 1876-1877, the Kaufmann brothers closed the South Side operations and moved J. Kaufmann & Brother to storefronts on Smithfield Street, downtown, and Federal Street in Allegheny City (on the present site of Allegheny Center Mall). Jacob, Augusta and Isaac Kaufmann then moved from the South Side to a small house at 1414 (then 290) Federal Street in Allegheny City.

Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann’s first child, Alfred D, was born in September 1877. Following were Raymond M. in August 1879, C. Chester in July 1882, Edwin J. in May 1884, and Carl J. in July 1888. The Kaufmanns were among the minority of families who did not experience the death of a young child in the nineteenth century. The couple also adopted an orphan, Mitchell Schonberg.

In the late 1870’s, Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann moved to a larger house on Penn Avenue near Fifth Street, Downtown. Isaac Kaufmann, recently married, and his wife, Emma, began living next door to Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann. Another brother, Henry Kaufmann, had just settled in Pittsburgh, and boarded with Isaac Kauffmann’s family. Henry Kaufmann was the third of the four brothers who would become partners in what became Kaufmann’s Department Store.

J Kaufmann & Brother’s Federal Street store closed in about 1879. Subsequently, the Kaufmann brothers incrementally expanded the Smithfield Street store from its original 20’ by 50’ space to nearly a full city block by the end of Jacob Kaufmann’s life. With the expansion of the store, Kaufmann’s evolved from being one of many small clothing stores in Pittsburgh to one of a handful of large department stores in the city in the early twentieth century. The store began to offer women’s clothing and dry goods in addition to men’s clothing. It was not, however, the largest department store in Pittsburgh. in 1892, Kaufmann’s was worth $2 million, while its rival Joseph Home’s was worth $4.7 million.

As Kaufmann’s expanded, Jacob Kaufmann invested in real estate in its vicinity and became a significant owner of downtown property. Kaufmann also recognized the development potential of the East End, and invested in real estate there in the 1890’s.

The 1880 census enumerated the Kaufmann family in their home on Penn Avenue. Jacob Kaufmann was recorded as a clothing merchant, and Augusta Kaufmann kept house. The couple had two children, Alfred D., three, and Raymond, 10 months. Hannah Katz, a 26-year-old sister of Augusta Kaufmann, lived with the family. Census records also show that Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann, although only 30 and 25 years old, were able to employ three servants who lived in their home on Penn Avenue.

Morris Kaufmann, the last of the four brothers to arrive in Pittsburgh, began living on Penn Avenue in the early 1880s. A fifth brother, Nathan, remained in Germany. J. Kaufmann & Brother was renamed J. Kaufmann & Brothers at around the same time. The store became informally known as Kaufmann’s by the turn of the century.

Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann and their children moved in about 1883 from Penn Avenue to a home at 1238 Sheffield Street in Manchester. Isaac Kaufmann and his family moved to 1203 Sheffield Street and Morris Kaufmann moved to 1301 Bidwell Street in Manchester at around the same time. Henry Kaufmann moved from downtown to 1208 Sheffield Street later in the 1880’s. The Kaufmann’s new neighborhood became the home of some of the most prominent and prosperous Jewish residents of the Pittsburgh area in the 1880’s. Manchester’s Jewish population appears to have been concentrated on Sheffield and Liverpool Streets and W North Avenue.
The Kaufmanns lived at 1238 Sheffield Street until they purchased 913 Brighton Road in late 1890. Jacob Kaufmann’s brothers continued to live in Manchester for the next several years.

In 1900, according to census records, seven members of the Kaufmann family lived at 913 Brighton Road: Jacob, 50, a clothing merchant; Augusta, 44, with no occupation; Alfred D., 22, a clerk; and Raymond M., 20, C. Chester, 17, Edwin 16, Carl J, 11, all attending school. The Kaufmanns’ adopted son, Mitchell Schonberg, 15, also attended school.

The 1900 census enumerated three servants who lived at 913 Brighton Road:

  • Dora Hamm, 30, a German immigrant
  • Mary Pietch, 30, also a German immigrant
  • Ella Gardner, 37, born in Pennsylvania

Records of the 1900 census also show that Jacob and Augusta Kaufmann owned 913 Brighton Road without a mortgage.

Nearly all of the Jewish residents of Manchester and Allegheny West moved to Pittsburgh’s East End between the late 1890’s and the middle of the first decade of the twentieth century. Morris Kaufmann was among the first to leave, moving to Forbes Avenue near Wightman Street in Squirrel Hill in 1896-1897. Isaac and Henry Kaufmann followed in about 1900, leaving Jacob Kaufmann the only Kaufmann brother still living in Allegheny City. In 1902, Jacob Kaufmann and his family sold 913 Brighton Road and moved to 4922 Wallingford Street in Shadyside.

In 1904 or 1905, Kaufmann commissioned construction of a large home at 1935 Wightman Street in Squirrel Hill. The Kaufmanns moved into their new house, described in the Pittsburgh Gazette Times as “one of the finest homes on Squirrel Hill,” in mid- or late-1905.

Jacob Kaufmann lived at 1935 Wightman Street for only a short time. Kaufmann died on November 1, 1905, at age 56. His death was caused by appendicitis.

After the death of Jacob Kaufmann, his brother Isaac succeeded him as president of Kaufmann’s.

Augusta Kaufmann lived at 1935 Wightman Street for the rest of her life. Her obituary suggests that she continued charitable activities in which she had participated, without identifying organizations in which she was involved. Her sons continued to live with her before marrying. At least two of her sons, Alfred and Edwin, were associated with Kaufmann’s as an adult; others continued their father’s real estate activities.

Augusta Kaufmann died at home at 1935 Wightman Street on December 31, 1921. She was 65 years old.