Oscar Straus (politician)

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This article is about the United States ambassador and politician. For the music composer, see Oscar Straus (composer).
Oscar S. Straus
Oscar Solomon Straus cph.3b35056.jpg
3rd United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor
In office
December 17, 1906 – March 5, 1909
President Theodore Roosevelt
Preceded by Victor H. Metcalf
Succeeded by Charles Nagel
Personal details
Born Oscar Solomon Straus
(1850-12-23)December 23, 1850
Otterberg, Rhenish Bavaria, Germany
Died May 3, 1926(1926-05-03) (aged 75)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Sarah Straus
Profession Lawyer, Politician
Religion Jewish

Oscar Solomon Straus (December 23, 1850 – May 3, 1926) was United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Theodore Roosevelt from 1906 to 1909. Straus was the first Jewish United States Cabinet Secretary.[1]

Life and career[edit]

He was born in Otterberg, Germany. He emigrated with his parents to the United States, and settled in Talbotton, Georgia. At the close of the Civil War he moved to New York City where he graduated from Columbia College in 1871 and Columbia Law School in 1873. He practised law until 1881, and then became a merchant, retaining his interest in literature.[2] He first served as United States Minister to the Ottoman Empire from 1887 to 1889 and again from 1898 to 1899. On January 14, 1902, he was named a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague to fill the place left vacant by the death of ex-President Benjamin Harrison.[3]

In December 1906, Straus became the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor under President Theodore Roosevelt. This position also placed him in charge of the United States Bureau of Immigration. During his tenure, Straus ordered immigration inspectors to work closely with local police and the United States Secret Service to find, arrest and deport immigrants with Anarchist political beliefs under the terms of the Anarchist Exclusion Act.[4]

Straus left the Commerce Department in 1909 when William Howard Taft became president and became U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire until 1910. In 1912, he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of New York on the Progressive and Independence League tickets. In 1915, he became chairman of the public service commission of New York State.[5]

He was president of the American Jewish Historical Society.[5] He is buried at Beth El Cemetery in Ridgewood, New York.


The Straus family had several influential members including Straus's grandson Roger W. Straus, Jr., who started the publishing company of Farrar, Straus and Giroux; his brother, Isidor Straus, who perished aboard the RMS Titanic in 1912, served as a representative from New York City's 15th District, and was co-owner of the department store R. H. Macy & Co. along with another brother Nathan; and nephew Jesse Isidor Straus, confidant of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Ambassador to France from 1933 to 1936.


Washington, D.C., commemorates the achievements of this famous Jewish-German-American statesman in the Oscar Straus Memorial.


  • The Origin of the Republican Form of Government in the United States (1886)
  • Roger Williams, the Pioneer of Religious Liberty (1894)
  • The Development of Religious Liberty in the United States (1896)
  • Reform in the Consular Service (1897)
  • United States Doctrine of Citizenship (1901)
  • Our Diplomacy with Reference to our Foreign Service (1902)
  • The American Spirit (1913)
  • Under Four Administrations, his memoirs (1922)


  1. ^ "Oscar S. Straus (1906–1909): Secretary of Commerce and Labor", Miller Center, University of Virginia
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1900). "Straus, Oscar Solomon". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton. 
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Straus, Oscar Solomon". New International Encyclopedia. 1905. 
  4. ^ "To Drive Anarchists Out of the Country," New York Times, March 4, 1908, pp. 1-2.
  5. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Straus, Oscar Solomon". Encyclopedia Americana. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Victor H. Metcalf
U.S. Secretary of Commerce and Labor
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

December 17, 1906 – March 5, 1909
Succeeded by
Charles Nagel
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Samuel S. Cox
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
Solomon Hirsch
Preceded by
James Burrill Angell
Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
John G. A. Leishman
Preceded by
John G. A. Leishman
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Ottoman Empire
Succeeded by
William Woodville Rockhill