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Jews of the Wild West

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Jews of the Wild West


Western Jewish pioneers are a largely forgotten chapter in U.S. history. And yet, they played a definitive and often colorful role shaping the expansion of the United States. There were nationally known names such as Levi Strauss, Samsonite founder Jesse Shwayder and the Guggenheim family, who built their great fortunes through grit and determination in California and Colorado. And there were also lesser-known characters such as Solomon Carvalho, a Sephardic painter and photographer who spent the mid-1800s documenting the territories of Kansas, Colorado and Utah. Wyatt Earp’s wife, Josephine Marcus Earp, was a Jewish dancer whose beauty is rumored to have triggered the fight at the OK Corral. And by the end of the 19th century nearly every notorious Wild West town, including Deadwood and Tombstone, had a Jewish mayor.

The wagon trains that moved westward with Jewish families traveled for the same reason as many settlers: opportunity. By 1912, it is estimated over 100,000 Jews had migrated to the Wild West. They put down roots and, today, many of their descendants are entrepreneurial and philanthropic leaders in the West. They epitomize the important legacy of immigration in America.

Soon to be a feature length documentary, "Jews of the Wild West" was partially researched in the archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Amanda Kinsey speaks with Annie Polland, Executive Director of the The American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) and Ann Kirschner, author of "Lady at the O.K. Corral: The True Story of Josephine Marcus Earp."

Ticket Info: $15 general; $12 seniors; $10 CJH/Partner members, students at wildwest.bpt.me or 800-838-3006; $18 at the door



Map Center for Jewish History, 15 W 16th St, New York, New York 10011, New York, United States
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