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1. [1890-1920] The Origin: Romanian immigrants or American natives?


First of all let’s make something clear from the beginning! Only Oscar Lazrus (the elder brother) was born in Romania! In Jassy (Iasi today!) – Romania, on 12.July.1887, his parents being Israel Lazarowitz (b.1866-d.19xx) and Ella (former Cohn) Lazarowitz (b.1868-d.19xx). In the lack of clear documents, what I could gather from the archives of USA, indicates the fact that Ella Lazarowitz together with Oscar, arrived at New York, in September.1890, coming from Europe, aboard Wieland ship that belonged to Hamburg Amerikanische Packetfahrt Actien Gesellschaft (HAPAG) and that left from the HamburgGermany port. There are several indications also that the father – Israel arrived before his wife – Ella and his son, Oscar sometime during 1886-1887. In the end, these are only details that the future will clarify, if necessary, but it is very clear that this is how the “American dream” started for the three brothers.


Benjamin Lazarus, was the 2nd brother and he was born on 29.April.1894, in New York, as certified by several legal documents. The family has been already for 3 years in USA and the father – Israel Lazarowitz (that worked as a real estate agent) obtained the American citizenship in 1892.
On 25.June.1898 was born the last of the three brothers – Rudolph (only later Ralph) Lazrus also in New York.


A sort of ambiguous sequence (but during those times of course that were also many others) is the fact that at the 1900 census, the entire family was registered as living in Brooklyn – New York but having as origin Poland!

The matter becomes clear at the next census, in 1910 (but also at the following ones in 1920 and 1930), when both the origin of his parents and Oscar’s are clearly specified – Romania, and for the two brothers is mentioned New York.


Oscar M. Lazrus (b. 12.07.1887 – d. 5.06.1981 | place of birth: Jassy/Iasi - Romania) graduate at 1909 St. Lawrence University (Canton, New York) and practice law until 1924 when he started to actively involve in Benrus Watch Co. After 1959 he takes over by himself the company and runs it (for a large time, together with the help of his two sons: Julian and Jay Kay) until its selling in 1969.


Benjamin Lazrus (b. 29.04.1894 – d. 03.09.1985 | place of birth: New York - USA) has graduated Columbia University and embraced the jewelry and watches business very early, at 18 years old. During March.1918-March.1919 has been one of the American Expeditionary Forces volunteers that debarked in France for the WW1. Benrus appearance is due almost exclusively to him. He ran the company from different managerial positions until 1959. After this year he got into real estate business.


Ralph S. Lazrus (b. 25.06.1898 – d. 04.09.1959 | place of birth: New York - USA) was also remarked by his activities within the Jews community from New York. He was several times the president of American Watch Association and the archives present even his receiving in 1946, as the representative of this community, by the president Truman. 

His name was seldom next to the one of Albert Einstein (with whom he was good friends; there is a story that narrates how Einstein often tried to explain him the Relativity Theory) in a scandal known under the name of “The Einstein incident” presented in the Brandeis University histories. He prematurely disappeared in 1959, year that I find to be a crucial moment in the Benrus Watch Co. history, moment that I consider the unfortunate event that has determined B.L. to redraw.


I did not succeed to 100% elucidate in what year the three brothers changed their name from Lazarowitz in Lazrus. My assumption is that this thing happened in the first months of 1920 because at the obtaining of the first American passport in February 1920, Benjamin Lazrus has already appeared with this family name, after appearing at the census from January 1920 was registered with the name of Lazarowitz. I believe that the idea has belonged to Oscar that in 1920 already had this name, worked as a lawyer, was married and had 2 children.


We are in 1920 when the three brothers, now Lazrus, already highly integrated in the Jewish community in New York are ready to make the “American dream” real.



                                   2. [1920-1945] The Beginning ... =>

Jassy - XX century begining
Jassy - XX century begining

Jassy - XX century begining
Jassy - XX century begining

Jassy - XX century begining
Jassy - XX century begining

Jassy - XX century begining
Jassy - XX century begining

HAPAG poster - 1900
HAPAG poster - 1900

Wiesland ship at docks
Wiesland ship at docks

New York - 1890
New York - 1890

New York - 1890
New York - 1890

New York - 1915
New York - 1915

New York - 1920
New York - 1920






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