Select Marcus Miscellany

Here are some Marcus stories and accounts over the years:

Jewish Origins of the Marcus Surname

According to information from Beth Hatefusoth, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel Aviv, the name can be found as a first name in 13th century Paris, in 16th century Morocco, in 17th century Prague with Margolis.  Many of the Marcuses today in Paris originated from Romania and some from Poland.  

Some has speculated that the Marcus surname might be Sephardic, emanating from the Jewish communities of Spain and Portugal.  Many of these found exile in the Netherlands.  Marcus was to be found in the Jewish names in the Amsterdam records of the 17th and 18th centuries.  It has also turned up in Sephardic records elsewhere.  

But it is usually considered as an Ashkenazic surname.   The Marcus immigrants to America in the 19th century came from the usual Ashkenazic sources of Germany and the old Russian Empire.  

In many cases the Marcus name originated from Mordecai or Mordechai, one of the main personalities in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible.  He was the son of Jair of the tribe of Benjamin.  Mordecai became initially a first name, as did Marcus

Marcus and Markus in America

The following were the number of Marcus and Markus arrivals in America by origin according to shipping records:




Number in 1920 Census

When Jacob Marcus Offers You Candy, Kid

Jacob Marcus was born in 1846 in Germany near the Polish border.  He came to America and settled in Louisville, Kentucky where he worked as a cotton broker and raised a family.  In the 1890’s, the family relocated to Texas, a logical move for a man in the cotton trade.  In 1907 the Neiman Marcus department store opened.  Before you knew it, Jacob had retired and was ensconced inside the front entrance, greeting customers. 

As his grandson Stanley Marcus wrote:

"My grandfather, a retired cotton merchant, was given a seat of honor at the front door, where he greeted customers cheerfully and supplied any accompanying children with candy from his coat pocket."

He died in 1929 and the Dallas Morning News reported: 

“’Grampy’ has passed on.  The kindly old gentleman who for years was a familiar figure on the first floor of the Neiman Marcus store is no more.  But he will be remembered by thousands of friends and store patrons for his ready smile and always genial greeting. 

Sitting as he was wont to do just inside the main entrance in his great high-backed chair, his pockets mysteriously filled with sweets for all the children who passed his way, he gave to the store a note of charming homeliness which will be remembered by those who knew and loved him."

Wolf Shevitz aka William Marcus

William Marcus was born Wolf Shevitz in 1892 in Bialostock, Russia to Abraham and Sarah Shevitz.  Wolf came to the United States on the Lusitania in 1910.  He later brought his parents and siblings over and they settled in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Abraham was a teacher there at a Jewish school. 

Wolf Shevitz worked as a garment cutter until he enlisted in the US Army.  According to family history, he enlisted under the name William Marcus so that his family would not discover he joined the army.  Marcus was the name of his uncle in New York.  He signed his Declaration of Intention, renouncing his Russian citizenship, as “William Marcus, formerly called Wolf Shevitz” on November 23, 1914.  All subsequent documents listed him as William Marcus. 

After the war William married and continued to live in Worcester.  He worked in the garment industry, eventually owning his own factory that produced women’s bathrobes.

Gyozo Markus from Hungary to England

In the inter-war years Gyozo Markus lived in n the upper middle class world of Hungary's assimilated Jewish community in Budapest.  He was an engineer in the family firm, Márkus Lajos, and mixed in a sophisticated world of architects, designers and manufacturers.  He had converted to Lutheranism in the 1920's.  However, in the next decade, he felt the threat of Nazism and determined to re-connect with his Jewish roots. 

This was a dangerous game and in 1939 he fled Hungary, with his family following, initially for Italy and then for England where they made their home in the unlikely setting of Glossop in the Derbyshire hills. 

A depressed town on the edge of Greater Manchester with high unemployment and a number of empty textile mills, Glossop was an ideal place to set up factories as Britain geared up for war.  Gyozo Markus and his brother machined parts for Spitfire planes there.  But it was different from the cosmopolitan Budapest they had left.  As his wife Lili, an accomplished ceramicist, remarked: "How damp, depressed and provincial life in Glossop seemed.” 

After the war the family settled into a new house Ariel which they built on a windy hill overlooking Glossop.

Return to Top of Page
Return to Marcus Main Page