Kaufmann & Bros Victorian Era Advertisement Trade Card from 1886.
Abraham (1819-1896) and Sarah Wolf (1820-1879) Kaufmann lived in Viernheim, Germany, where the Kaufmann family had long monopolized the regional cattle and horse trade, according to a 1967 family history compiled by their grandson Abraham Alfred Kaufmann. “Abraham was short of stature, slim, had very thick black hair until his death, brown eyes, dark skin, was strong boned and perpetually bent forward,” his grandson recalled. “He was healthy, very enduring, hot-headed and energetic.” As for his grandmother, he wrote, “She was very religious and wore a scheitel (a wig worn by traditional Jewesses). She was very good hearted and beloved by everyone.”
Abraham and Sarah Kaufmann had eight children, six sons and two daughters. Their sons Jacob, Isaac, Henry and Morris all immigrated to Pittsburgh. Jacob Kaufmann (1849-1905) arrived first, in 1868, and earned enough through peddling to send for his brother Isaac Kaufmann (1851-1921) the following year. They started the J. Kaufmann & Brother men’s store on the South Side of Pittsburgh in 1871 and sent for their brothers Morris Kaufmann (1858-1917) and Henry Kaufmann (1860-1955) the following year. The four brothers opened a second location in old Allegheny City about 1875 before closing the South Side and North Side branches and moving to downtown Pittsburgh about 1877.
By 1886, J. Kaufmann & Brothers occupied an entire block of Smithfield Street between Fifth Avenue and Diamond Street. Known colloquially as “The Grand Depot” and “The Big Store,” the Kaufmanns added women’s clothing, housewares and shoes to its stock. The architect Charles Bickel completed the first section of the existing building in 1898, and the firm Jannsen & Abbott completed an addition in 1913. That year, a second generation incorporated the business as Kaufmann’s Department Store.
Kaufmann’s Department Store joined the May Company in 1946 and expanded the downtown store through the early 1950s to include an annex and a parking garage. The business expanded into the western Pennsylvania suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2002, the May Company moved the headquarters to Boston. In 2006, Federated Department Stores Inc. acquired Kaufmann’s and changed the name to Macy’s.