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Research Guides

Washington State Jewish Archives: Treasures from the Archives

Treasures from the Archives

Highlighting manuscript collections, oral histories, and photographs from the WSJA.  Contributors include the Archives Committee members of the Washington State Jewish Historical Society.

Feist and Bachrach

 At the turn of the 20th century, the Feist and Bachrach Dry Goods Store brought fashionable fabrics and clothing to Tacoma, influencing styles worn by an entire generation of Pierce County women.

In this photograph, lovely ladies bedecked in flowers and swinging parasols sit on a horse-drawn float parading down a Tacoma street in the late 1890s. The appearance of the float in the parade is testament to the success of teh store and its owners, Theophil Feist and Joseph Bachrach.

UW Libraries Special Collections Division, JEW0666Feist had left his native Alsace-Lorraine, France, for the U.S. as a young man, settling in Tacoma in 1889, just a month before his 16th birthday. Speaking French and German--but no English, he worked in clothing stores in Tacoma and by 1894, established his own store, Theophil Feist and Company.

The year after Feist arrived in Tacoma, he sent for his two sisters, Irma and Lucie, who worked as skilled milliners in France. "Merry Widow" hats and "leg o'mutton" sleeves were all the rage in Parisian fashion and the sisters soon were creating similarly smart styles for Tacoma ladies.

Bachrach had left his native Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Germany, in 1874 at age 20. He first worked in the dry goods trade in Africa, and then in various mercantile houses in the U.S. He arrived in Tacoma in 1889, married Lucie Feist in 1894, and then became a partner in his brother-in-law's store the following year.

Feist and Bachrach sustained success for several decades. In the book Tacoma: Its History and Its Builders; a Half Century of Activity, published in 1916, author Herbert Hunt writes of the business: "Today they have one of the largest stores of the kind in Tacoma."

Feist and Bachrach is just one of many historic businesses that will be featured in the upcoming WSJHS exhibit, "Shalom! Open for Business: Tales of Jewish Merchants in Washington State," opening July 26 at Seattle's Museum of History & Industry.

by Arlene Cohen and Nancy Blase

WSJHS

The Washington State Jewish Historical Society promotes interest in and knowledge of the life, history, and culture of the Jewish people and communities of the State of Washington.

The Society is dedicated to discovering, preserving, and disseminating the history of the Jews of Washington State. This unique history is shared through publications, exhibits, displays, speakers, and tours.