Transcribed by Pamela Wagler from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


Jacob Epstein, early identified with the business interests of Burlington, and for many years an active factor in its public life, exerting strong influence for its material progress and permanent improvement, is now living retired, the years of his business activity having been crowned with a measure of success that now enables him to rest from further business cares.

Born in Germany, on the 15th of March, 1831, Jacob Epstein acquired his education in the schools of his native country, and when nineteen years of age came to America. Landing at New York, he there worked as a common laborer for some time. Later he was in Chicago for several years, employed in a hide house until he had learned the business, after which he went upon the road, traveling for different firms, and buying hides in several sections of the country. At length he came to Burlington, in 1867, and began business on his own account, purchasing hides, with a store on Jefferson Street. He followed this business until 1894, and worked into a large wholesale hide and wool trade, with Boston as his principle market. He employed five traveling men, who bought hides and wool, and his business steadily increased under his capable management, until it brought to him a very desirable income. He was at first a member of the firm of Epstein, Goodman & company, and acted as manager of the business. Later Mr. Goodman retired, and Mr. Epstein eventually became sole proprietor, thus conducting his enterprise until his retirement from active commercial pursuits in 1884. He displayed marked business discernment, keen sagacity, and strong, resolute purpose, and by his capable control of his affairs gradually amassed a comfortable competence. He also invested in property, and is still the owner of business blocks and other city realty, the rental from which constitutes a very desirable income. In recent years, because of his invalid condition, his wife has largely relieved him of the supervision of the property and its attendant cares and responsibilities, and in its control displays excellent business foresight and capacity. The family home is at 803 North Fourth Street, where they have lived for thirty-three years, and the home is noted for its warm-hearted and generous hospitality, which is greatly enjoyed by their many friends.

Mr. Epstein was married in New York to Miss Louisa Knopfmacher, who was born in Germany, but they became acquainted and were married in this country, Mrs. Epstein being but eight years of age when her parents came to the New World, because of the German revolution of 1848. Mr. and Mrs. Epstein have but one child, Eugene, who was married in Burlington to Miss Rosa Willner, and is now living with his family in Iowa City, where he is engaged in the clothing business.

At the time of the Civil War, Mr. Epstein responded to the call of his adopted country for troops, enlisting in New York City as a member of the New York Sharpshooters, with which he served for five years. He entered the army as quartermaster, and was mustered out as such. He was with the Army of the Potomac under General Burnside. He now belongs to the Grand Army Port at Burlington, and is also a Mason, while in New York he held membership with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. He is president of the brotherhood of B'nai Brith, of Burlington, but because of his invalid condition has been unable to attend the lodges regularly in the past few years. In community affairs he has always been deeply interested, and his co-operation has ever been counted upon when matters of public progress and improvement were under consideration and execution. He has always voted with the Democracy, save at the presidential election of 1904, when he supported Roosevelt. For ten years he served as alderman from the Second Ward of Burlington, and at one time was candidate for mayor, but was defeated by nineteen votes. His has been, in former years, a most active and useful career, and his opinions yet carry weight and influence in public matters. Early identified with the city's business interests, he has ever stood for substantial progress and practical improvement, and Burlington has greatly benefited by his efforts in her behalf.

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