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SLIMMER, Abraham

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SLIMMER, Abraham. (Province of Posen, Prussia, Sept.16, 1835--Dubuque, IA, Aug. 15,1917). Slimmer, one of the Midwest's many fascinating businessmen, believed that charity is not charity if it is wrestled unjustly from those who should possess it, and benefactions are not given in the proper spirit if they are but a price of renown. (1) He refused to have his name or any mark of his interest in an institution be made a lasting memorial to his works. (2)

Slimmer came to the United States at the age of fifteen. His first business ventures involved selling livestock on a small scale in Black Hawk and Bremer counties in Iowa. By 1862 he had saved enough money to open a mercantile business with two partners in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The company moved to Waverly and then dissolved with the two partners moving to Chicago. Slimmer remained in Waverly dealing in real estate and loans. (3)

After thirteen years of business, Slimmer decided that he wanted to enjoy seeing the results of some of his philanthropy. His first action was presenting the county board of supervisors with the deed to his homestead and $10,000 to establish a hospital (4) At the time, his wealth was estimated between $1 million and $10 million dollars. (5)

Traveling to Chicago, he donated $50,000 to establish the Drexel Home (Home for Aged Jews), the Orthodox Jewish Home for the Aged, and the predecessors of Mt. Sinai Hospital and the Jewish Children's Bureau. (6). In 1895 he made a will giving generously to his sisters in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, his brother in Europe, and several other relatives. He added a codicil to this will in 1896 giving FINLEY HOSPITAL (THE) $25,000. He soon destroyed this will and its codicil in favor of a different plan. After touring Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, and Dubuque, he offered $50,000 to Des Moines and Dubuque on the condition that an equal amount be raised locally. (7) Cedar Rapids was promised $35,000. He again named his sisters, brothers and other relatives as beneficiaries. He still owned a large amount of land in Bremer County. (8) At the time of his death, it was estimated that the total value of his gifts was around $2 million. (9)

Photo: Dubuque Herald, February 6, 1897




1. "Eccentric Philanthropist," Los Angeles Herald, August 11, 1902, p. 8. Online: http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=LAH19020811.2.148# 2. "Rich Man Desires to Die Penniless," The Milwaukee Sentinel, October 5, 1913, p. 1

3. "The Great Giver," Dubuque Herald, March 7, 1897, p. 2

4. Ibid.

5. "Eccentric Philanthropist"

6. Cutler, Irving. The Jews of Chicago: From Shtetl to SuburbUrbana-Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1996, p. 163

7. "A Grand Offer," Dubuque Daily Herald, August 20, 1896, p. 8

8. "The Great Giver"

9. Obituary. Dubuque Telegraph-Herald, August 16, 1917