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David May (1848–1927) was an American businessman and founder of the May Company department store.

David May
Died1927 (age 79)
NationalityUnited States
Known forfounder of May Company
Spouse(s)Rosa Shoenberg
FamilyMorton D. May (grandson)
Kathy May (great-granddaughter)


Early life and educationEdit

David May was born to a Jewish family in Kaiserlautern, then located in the Kingdom of Bavaria, Germany.[1][2][3] In 1854, he immigrated with his family to the United States and settled in Cincinnati. As a young man he worked at a clothing factory, while attending night school at Nelson College.[4]

After moving for health reasons to Leadville, Colorado, then undergoing a boom due to silver mining, he partnered with future brother-in-law Moses Shoenberg and opened a dry goods store in 1877. In 1887, he purchased another store in Denver, Colorado partnering with brothers-in-law Joseph and Louis Shoenberg[2] (the Shoenbergs would later change their name to Beaumont).[5] In 1888, he sold the Leadville store to Meyers Harris. In 1892, he expanded out of Colorado and purchased "The Famous Clothing Store" in St. Louis, Missouri and in 1898, he purchased another store in Cleveland, Ohio which he renamed the "May Company." In 1905, he moved the business headquarters to St. Louis. In 1910, the business was incorporated as "The May Department Stores Company" and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1911. Also in 1911, he bought the William Bar Dry Goods Company in St. Louis and merged it with The Famous Clothing Store renaming the new entity, Famous-Barr. He continued to expand purchasing the M. O’Neil Department Store in Akron, Ohio in 1912 and A. Hamburger & Sons in Los Angeles in 1923.[2][6]


May Company went on to become one of the largest department store chains in the United States through organic growth and acquisitions. Some of the chains acquired included: Bernheim-Leader in Baltimore, Maryland, Kaufmann's in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Daniels & Fisher Stores Company in Denver, Colorado; Hecht's in Baltimore, Maryland; G. Fox & Co. in Hartford, Connecticut; and Meier & Frank in Portland, Oregon.

Personal lifeEdit

In 1880, May married Rosa Shoenberg (b. 1860), his partner’s sister, in Leadville, Colorado. They had four children: Morton J. May (b. 1881), Tom May (b. 1883), Wilbur D. May (1898-1982), and Florene May (1903-1995). His daughter Florene married American architect Samuel Abraham Marx. His grandson Morton D. May succeeded his father in running the business serving as CEO from 1957 and chairman of the board from 1967-1972.[2]

In 1877, he helped to found the Hebrew Benevolent Association in Leadville. "By 1884, he had become deeply involved in community affairs. Early in the year he was elected vice president of Temple Israel and appointed chairman of the building committee. The building was ready for services by September on land donated by May's very agreeable landlord, Horace Tabor. May was also "to have charge of burial grounds", an obligation passed down from the Hebrew Benevolent Association as it evolved into the Congregation Israel."[7] In Denver, he was a member of Temple Emanuel.[2][8]

In July 1927 he was buried in St. Louis in a ceremony led by Rabbi Emeritus Samuel Sale.[3]


  1. ^ Denver Inside and Out - Jeanne E. Colorado Historical Society - Google Books
  2. ^ a b c d e "David May, Pioneer Jewish Merchant, Founder of May Company & His Family". Jewish Museum of the American West. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
  3. ^ a b Strangers Among Us - Louise Clamme; Sinuard Castelo - Google Books
  4. ^ Abrams, Jeanne. "David May." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified May 31, 2016.
  5. ^ Leadville Colorado History: "Commodore Louis D. Shoenberg (Beaumont)" retrieved March 14, 2015
  6. ^ "Asher Hamburger & Family". Jewish Museum of the American West. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  7. ^ Korn, William (2017). "Jewish Surnames/ May". Temple Israel. Archived from the original on 2017.
  8. ^ Temple Israel Leadville: "David May" retrieved March 14, 2015

External linksEdit