Someone ought to write a book about the Jews of El Paso. When I grew up in that Texas border town, I was very aware of the Jews. My mother bought our shoes at Given’s Shoe Store. Some of the leading Jews were 32nd Degree Masons, as was my dad. The top department store was Popular Dry Goods founded in 1902 by the pioneer Adolph Schwartz. From a small village in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he landed in New York in 1883 with fifteen cents in his pocket and somehow made it to El Paso and opened the Popular. As a high school student I worked on Saturdays in the Popular, manning the Boy Scout Department, and working for Willy Wildstein and Ed Smallberg. But there were Jews before Schwartz.
Adolph Krakauer migrated from Bavaria to New York in 1865 and 1869 moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he went to work for Louis Zork, a leading merchant. He moved to El Paso in 1875, at a time when the town’s population was listed as seventy-five Mexicans and twenty-five Anglos. There he clerked in the firm of Sam Schutz and Son and became manager when the business was sold; later he became a partner. In 1885 he sold his interest in the firm and organized the firm of Krakauer, Zork, and Moye with his brother-in-law, Gustave Zork. That firm was the main hardware store in El Paso my entire life there. It also was a main source for arms to both sides in the Mexican Revolution as you may read about in my family story of that time, “Dos Gringos.” My grandfather, Friedrich Müller (not Jewish)was the salesman and I used to have pictures of him in Mexico with the Villistas with their sombreros and guns. Krakauer was voted Mayor of El Paso, but could not take office as he had neglected to become an American citizen.
There were many others. The Jews made their mark and were important contributors to the success of that town on the Rio Grande. When I visit El Paso today, I stand across from where the Popular was, in the square with the fountain where the alligators used to be, and I miss the Jews, who made that border town so livable. In fact there have been several accounts of the El Paso Jews: See The History of Jewish El Paso