Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Leopold Mayer Family Collection, 1864-1970

Finding aid created by
Clements Staff, 1987, and Meg Hixon, January 2013

Summary Information
Title: Leopold Mayer family collection
Creator: Mayer family
Inclusive dates: 1864-1970
Bulk dates: 1885-1909
Extent: 0.25 linear feet
This collection is made up of letters, a journal, a speech, documents, genealogical research, and other items pertaining to Leopold Mayer of Chicago, Illinois, and his descendants. The materials concern family news, courtship, and the history of Chicago's Jewish community.

Language: The material is in English and German
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated, 1986. M-2281.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Preferred Citation:

Leopold Mayer family collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged in the following series:

  • Series I: Correspondence
  • Series II: Journal
  • Series III: Speech
  • Series IV: Financial and Legal Documents
  • Series V: Poetry, Printed Items, and Genealogy


Leopold Mayer was born in Abenheim, Germany, on March 3, 1827, the son of Aaron Mayer (d. 1871). After attending a Catholic seminary, he taught school in Germany from 1846 to 1849. In November 1849, he, his father, and his sister left for the United States, and they arrived in Chicago, Illinois, in April 1850. There, Mayer taught languages and religion at various institutions. He helped organize the Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1851, supported the establishment of the reform congregation that became the Chicago Sinai Congregation in 1861, and served as county supervisor from 1868 to 1869. Mayer became a bank clerk in 1854, before establishing his own banking firm with O. R. W. Lull in 1855. The business changed its name to Leopold Mayer and Son following Lull's death, and later merged with the Garden City Bank and Trust Company in 1900. On December 4, 1853, Leopold Mayer married Regina Schulz (December 25, 1833-February 7, 1893), a native of Mannheim, Germany, who emigrated to Chicago in 1852. They had eight children: Nancy (November 6, 1854-November 29, 1891), Nathaniel A. (October 30, 1856-December 29, 1924), Rose (February 15, 1859-January 9, 1929), Grace Aguilar (May 27, 1861-January 17, 1923), Amelia (b. April 21, 1863), Julia (February 13, 1865-January 1866), Ida (b. August 12, 1867), and Flora (b. November 2, 1869). Leopold Mayer died on December 15, 1903.

Amelia Mayer married Jacob Henry Mahler (January 14, 1853-May 4, 1917), who owned a store in Chicago. They had three children: Felix J. (b. October 18, 1886), Elsie (b. April 28, 1889), and Regina (b. December 11, 1894).

Collection Scope and Content Note

This collection is made up of 17 letters, 1 journal, 1 speech, 5 documents, genealogical research, and other items pertaining to Leopold Mayer of Chicago, Illinois, and his descendants. The materials concern family news, courtship, and the history of Chicago's Jewish community.

The Correspondence series concerns Leopold Mayer and his descendants, particularly his daughter Amelia and her husband, Jacob Henry Mahler. In a letter dated November 10, 1864, Mayer expressed condolences to Mrs. M. M. Spiegel on the death of her husband, a Civil War colonel. The series includes 2 manuscript letters, 1 postcard, and 2 typescripts of letters that Mayer wrote to his daughters, son-in-law, and grandchildren between 1886 and 1902. These contain Mayer's moral advice on topics such as marriage (addressed to Jacob Henry Mahler, July 10, 1885), and reflections on his life and his late wife. The remaining correspondence pertains to Amelia Mayer and Jacob Mahler. These include 2 letters from Jacob Mahler to Amelia Mayer (July 14, 1885, and August 26, 1896); 2 German-language letters from members of Mahler's family (January 13, 1892, and August 29, 1896); 1 letter to Amelia from "Jennie," a friend in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (March 15, 1885); and 1 from her sister Ida, during Ida's travels in Europe (August 27, 1906). Jacob Mahler received a letter about hotel rates in Wisconsin (May 24, 1896) and a birthday greeting from his son Felix (1898). Jacob sent 2 friendly notes to Felix (September 22, 1903, and undated). Arthur M. Oppenheimer wrote the final letter to Leopold Mayer's descendants in 1962, with an excerpt about Mayer from Deborah Pessin's History of the Jews in America.

Leopold Mayer's Journal concerns his visit to Germany and Switzerland in the summer of 1895. The first portion is a typed transcript (35 pages, June 1-August 3, 1895) and the remainder is handwritten (30 pages, August 1-August 24, 1895). Mayer and his daughter Flora traveled to various cities and towns and saw the Alps.

The Speech transcript (5 pages) records Leopold Mayer's address to the Council of Jewish Women in February 1899, marking the 25th anniversary of the Sunday service in Chicago's Sinai Congregation. Mayer recounted some of his personal history, and remarked on the development of Chicago's Jewish community and institutions.

Financial and legal documents relate to Leopold Mayer's estate and to his son-in-law, Jacob Henry Mahler. Mahler received a bill for parts and repair of his stove, dated July 23, 1901, and completed a partially printed income tax form on February 19, 1917. Three printed legal documents (December 28, 1903; June 1, 1909; and [1927]) pertain to the settlement of Leopold Mayer's estate and legal disputes among his heirs, including copies of 2 versions of Mayer's will.

The Poetry, printed items, and genealogy series concerns multiple generations of the Mayer family. The programs document confirmation services held by the North Chicago Hebrew Congregation on May 25, 1925, and a production of the 3-act play The Mayer Saga, presented in Glencoe, Illinois, on December 31, 1925. The extended Mayer family published a newsletter, Unter Uns, on December 25, 1902, with poetry, news articles, and advice columns by Leopold Mayer's children and their spouses. A small group of typed poems dedicated to Amelia Mahler accompanies a printed invitation to her 90th birthday celebration, hosted by her grandchildren on April 18, 1953. The final 2 items are genealogies and a memorial dedicated to Leopold Mayer and his descendants. The memorial was printed in 1927, with revisions made in 1941. The memorial contains handwritten genealogical notes dated as late as 1970.

Subject Terms

    • Administration of estates.
    • Chicago (Ill.)--Religious life and customs.
    • Council of Jewish Women (U.S.)
    • Courtship--United States.
    • Europe--Description and travel.
    • Germany--Description and travel.
    • Jews--United States.
    • Switzerland--Description and travel.
    Subjects - Visual Materials:
    • Mayer, Leopold, 1827-1903.
    • Mayer, Regina Schulz, 1833-1893.
    • Mahler, Felix, b. 1886.
    • Mahler, Jacob Henry, 1853-1917.
    • Mayer, Leopold, 1827-1903.
    • Oppenheimer, Arthur M.
    • Pessin, Deborah.
    • Yondorf, Ida Mayer, b. 1867.
    Genre Terms:
    • Biographies.
    • Diaries.
    • Estate administration records.
    • Genealogies.
    • Invoices.
    • Letters (correspondence)
    • Newsletters.
    • Poems.
    • Postcards.
    • Programs (documents)
    • Speeches.
    • Typescripts.
    Contents List
       Container / Location    Title
    Correspondence [series]:
    Box   1 Folders   1-15
      November 10, 1864-March 15, 1962 (17 items)
    Journal [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   16
    Leopold Mayer journal,   June 6, 1895-August 24, 1895 (28 pages)
    Speech [series]:
    Box   1 Folder   17
    Leopold Mayer typescript of an address,   February 1899 (1 item)
    Financial and Legal Documents [series]:
    Box   1 Folders   18-20
      July 23, 1901-February 19, 1917 (5 items)
    Poetry, Printed Items, and Genealogy [series]:
    Box   1 Folders   21-25
     May 26, 1901-1953
    Additional Descriptive Data

    Leopold Mayer Memorial on the 100th Anniversary of His Birth, March 3, 1827 - March 3, 1927. [Chicago?: 1927].

    Leopold Mayer Regina Schulz Mayer. [Chicago?: 1941].

    Olitzky, Kerry M. "The Sunday-Sabbath Movement in American Reform Judaism: Strategy or Evolution?" American Jewish Archvies 34.1 (April 1982).