images related to Lazarus
 Many Happy Returns to Lazarus
 Family Tree Lazarus Timeline Retail Firsts
 Lasting Legacy Holiday Magic Your Memories
The sign on the old Lazarus store

Family Tree

Simon Lazarus
Simon Lazarus
Fred and Ralph Lazarus
Fred and Ralph Lazarus

Simon (Founder; died in 1877)
Amelia (1946-1899)
Fred (Partner and manager from 1874; died 1917)
Ralph (Partner and manager from 1874; died 1903)
Simon (President from 1917 until death in 1947)
Fred Jr. (Vice President to 1944; President, Federated Department Stores from 1944; died 1973)
Robert Sr. (Vice President to 1947; President 1947 to 1959 and then Chairman)
Charles Y. (Executive Vice President to 1959 and then President)
Ralph Lazarus (Executive Vice President to 1952 and then Vice President Federated Department Stores)

A family-operated business

In 1850, a rabbinical scholar by the name of Simon Lazarus arrived in Columbus, and in 1851 he opened the Lazarus store. Simon Lazarus "was short…and quiet…but, my, how very cordial he was… a real business man, always far ahead of the times… and always so awfully good to poor folks." Assisted by his wife Amelia and sons Fred and Ralph, Simon and his store gradually began to prosper. Opened with a modest capital of less than $3000, the store measured less than 20 x 50 feet, boasted a staff of one clerk, and bordered boot and shoe dealer F. Fassig to the left, Harvey Coit, clothing merchant to the right, and George Elliott, photographer, upstairs.

Simon and Fred Lazarus, Jr.
Simon Lazarus and Fred Lazarus Jr.

Fred and Ralph, the two boys, worked in the store before and after school, and the family lived near their place of business, on the site of one of the present-day Lazarus garages. Fred was often sent down to the Scioto River with a bucket to get water for mopping the store floors before school in the morning—sometimes he would have to enlist his brother's help in knocking holes in the ice before they could fill their buckets.

Next generation of Lazarus

When Simon Lazarus died in 1877, Columbus lost not only the founder of what would be its signature store but also its first ordained rabbi. Simon Lazarus reputedly "caused many a heart and soul to soar aloft on the wings of devotion to their God." Amelia Lazarus shared the store's ownership with her sons during the 22 years of her widowhood, until her death in 1899. At that time, the store's name was changed to F.&R. Lazarus.

While Fred and Ralph did all the buying, advertising, bookkeeping, and some of the selling in the early days of their store ownership, they added personnel gradually and by 1881 the store employed 22 clerks. In 1933, J. W. Knox, a long-time employee of F.&R. Lazarus, recalled that "Mr. Ralph Lazarus wrote the ads when I first went into the store in 1890. I remember hearing the fellow from the Ohio State Journal say, 'Well, Mr. Lazarus, got your ad ready?' and Mr. Lazarus would say, 'No…but I'll have it in three minutes!' and then he'd just sit down and write it out, with pencil, on a piece of wrapping paper, like as not!"

Robert, Charles and Robert Lazarus Jr.
Robert Lazarus, Charles Lazarus, and Robert Lazarus Jr.

By 1888, Ralph Lazarus was putting his advertising skills to good use, promoting the seven electric lights and all the modern improvements of the F.&R. Lazarus store. The store continued as a family tradition, and Ralph and Fred were joined by Simon and Fred Lazarus, Jr. after school and on weekends.

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We are indebted to several institutions for sharing the wonderful images that bring this story to life: The Ohio Historical Society, WBNS, and The Columbus Dispatch. In addition, we are grateful to The Columbus Foundation for supporting this production.