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LEVI, Alexander. (Hellimere, France, Mar. 13, 1809--Dubuque, IA, Mar. 31, 1893). Educated in France, Levi emigrated to the United States when he was twenty-four years old. He arrived in Dubuque on August 1, 1833 and began working in the grocery business. He then began a successful career in mining and established himself in the dry goods business in 1847. (1) In 1837 Levi became the first immigrant to become a naturalized citizen in the future State of Iowa while it was still part of Wisconsin Territory.
In December, 1842 Levi became the first initiatory member of the Masonic Order in Dubuque. (2) In 1887 at the age of 79 he had been forced by health to miss many of the evening meetings. On July 22, 1887 the other members of the lodge walked two-by-two to his home to honor him on the forty-five years of his membership with a "caning" ceremony. He had been elected 21 times to the office of treasurer and occasionally paid the bills due from him own account. In honor of his service, he was presented a cane. (3)
Levi also believed in advertising as shown by the following advertisement placed in the DUBUQUE VISITOR, May 11, 1836, p. 3
A. LEVI & CO. Would inform their friends and the public generally, that they have on hand and will at all times keep a large and fresh assortment of Groceries and Provisions, viz. Mess and Prime Pork, Fresh Flour, Corn Meal, Whiskey by the barrel, French and Peach Brandy, Tobacco and Cigars, Candles by the box, Tar by the keg, First rate Bacon, Butter and Lard, Corn and Oats, Porter and Cider, Wines of all kinds, Loaf Sugar, Soap by the box, pipes
Levi established his grocery and provision business at the corner of 8th and Main. This business grew to become the JAMES LEVI AND COMPANY department store. (4) He also owned extensive MINING property and real estate along South Locust Street. He was president of the DUBUQUE GOLD MINING COMPANY which was incorporated in 1860 and justice of the peace from 1846 to 1848. (5)
The Iowa News of 1837 listed Levi as a church contributor giving five dollars to the Presbyterian and later six dollars to the Catholic Church. (6) He was an early donor to Father Samuel MAZZUCHELLI who was collecting money to construct ST. RAPHAEL'S CATHEDRAL. (7)
In 1856, faithful to his JEWISH COMMUNITY, Levi organized B'nai Jeshrun, the Jewish congregation that met in a rented hall at Locust and 5th STREETS. Of the twenty acres he owned in Section 13 of Julien Township, Levi deeded .6 acre for Jewish burials. This land was later deeded to the City of Dubuque that conveyed the property to the LINWOOD CEMETERY Association. His home became St. Margaret's Hall of ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY.
Alexander Levi returned to France where he married Miss Minette Levi. (8) One of their daughters married James Levi, a nephew. James Levi had worked for his uncle as a salesman for three years. When Alexander died, James and Alexander's son Eugene took over the family business in Dubuque which became JAMES LEVI AND COMPANY.
At his death, Levi was had been a member of the Masonic Lodge for fifty years and was the oldest member of the organization in Iowa. (9)
See: A. LEVI
1. "Aged Alex Levi Dead," Dubuque Daily Herald, April 1, 1893, p. 4
2. Oldt, Franklin T. History of Dubuque County, Iowa. Chicago: Western History Company, 1880, p. 838
3. "A Pleasant Presentation," The Herald, July 23, 1887, p. 4
4. Fleishake, Oscar. The Illinois-Iowa Jewish Community on the Banks of the Mississippi River, Unpublished Doctor's Degree Dissertation Submitted to the Faculty of The Harry Fischel School for Higher Jewish Studies, Graduate Division, Yeshiva University, 1957, p. 10
5. Fleishaker, p. 12
6. Fleishaker, p. 10
7. Hogstrom, Erik, "Jewish History Exhibit Showcases Famous Dubuquerer," Telegraph Herald, August 16, 2008 p. 3
9. "Fifty Years a Mason," Dubuque Daily Herald, December 24, 1892, p. 4
"Naturalization of Dubuque Jew 100 Years Ago Hailed," Telegraph Herald Sept. 5, 1927
175 Years, Volume 3, "Levi A Man of Entrepreneurial Vision," Telegraph Herald, September 15, 2008