Julius Rosenwald papers




University of Chicago Library, Special Collections Research Center


35.0 Linear feet




Rosenwald, Julius, 1862-1932

Biographical note

In 1885, Julius Rosenwald came to Chicago to become president of Rosenwald & Weil, a retail men’s clothing store. After Sears, Roebuck & Company moved its headquarters to Chicago in 1893, Rosenwald was asked to become its vice president. He served Sears, Roebuck successively as vice president (1895-1910), president (1910-1925), and chairman of the board (1925-1932). Under his leadership, Sears developed its lucrative nationwide mail-order business, established savings and profit-sharing plans for employees, and became America’s largest retailer. Rosenwald’s success as a businessman and executive was matched by his many accomplishments as an influential philanthropist and humanitarian. He played a leading role in many progressive social reform organizations in Chicago and became the first president of the combined Jewish Charities of Chicago. In 1917, he created the Julius Rosenwald Fund to support the “well-being of mankind.” He supported the work of Booker T. Washington at the Tuskegee Institute and established YMCAs and YWCAs to serve African American communities in cities across the United States. He funded the creation of thousands of schools for rural African Americans in the South. He contributed $6 million to support Russian Jews settling in southern Russia and Palestine. He established one of the first urban housing projects on Chicago’s South Side, and he founded the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago.

Scope and Contents note

The Julius Rosenwald papers consist of 35 linear feet of material including correspondence, reports, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and a 1963 Rosenwald family tree. The collection documents Rosenwald's deep sense of social responsibility and commitment to philanthropic and civic endeavors, in particular his support of rural schools for African Americans, higher education, Jewish charities, and medical care.

Processing Information note

This collection was surveyed as part of the Black Metropolis Research Consortium's Survey Initiative on 2010 February 2 by Bergis Jules and Andrew Steadham.