Jacques Marquette and Jewish Chicago

December 4, 1674: French Jesuit missionary Jacques Marquette erected a mission on the shores of Lake Michigan, in present-day Illinois. His log cabin became the first building of a settlement that afterward grew to become the city of Chicago.  Chicago is of course, the home of one this country’s largest and most vibrant Jewish communities, as well as some of the finest Jewish families and Jewish businesses around, including Florsheim, Spiegel, Aldens, Kuppenheimer, Hart Shaffner and Marx, A.G. Becker, Albert Pick, Brunswick and Inland Steel. Julius Rosenwald oversaw the growth of Sears Roebuck. He was a major philanthropist for Jewish and non-Jewish causes and for the establishment of the Museum of Science and Industry.  If it had not been for Marquette, there would not have been a home for Chagall’s Windows (the Art Institute) Sarah Lee Bakery or a Crate & Barrel (the latter two were founded by Jews in Chicago).

Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was named after the Jesuit and, according to my wife’s informal data-gathering (she’s a Marquette alum), has had over the years among its student body a significant number of Jews – many from the coasts who were in pursuit of the excellence in education offered at the school.

In 1898, the United States issued a stamp picturing Marquette on the Mississippi River with his Native American travel guides.  The 1-cent stamp is part of a beautiful classic U.S. set of stamps know as the Trans-Mississippi series.

jacques marquette - trans-mississippi 1898 issue

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