Skip to main content

Davis and Isaacs Family Papers

Identifier: P-936

Scope and Content Note

This collection comprises the papers of the Davis and Isaacs families, the bulk of which dates from about 1900 to 1940. Earlier materials tend to relate to the Davis Family, while those produced later tend to relate to the Isaacs Family.

It includes mostly photographs and correspondence from 1900 to about 1940, but also includes travel diaries and journals, and general family artifacts including a stamp collection, a book of poems, a sympathy album, and organic materials such as hair and flower pressings. A large portion of the correspondence series is produced by Charles K. Davis, his daughter Ella Davis Isaacs, and her husband Nathan T. Isaacs. While most of the material is written in English, some correspondence is written in Hebrew and German. The photographs are almost exclusively of the Davis family, excepting those of Nathan T. Isaacs.

The collection is of particular interest to researchers studying Professor Nathan T. Isaacs and his influence on law and business law, especially as it may relate to his early theories on connections between Jewish law and contemporary jurisprudence. More generally, the papers reflect the experiences of Jewish men and women living in the Midwest United States at the beginning of the 20th Century, and those of Boston before, during, and after World War II.


  • undated, 1882-1987 Addendum 1: undated, 1863 - 1997

Language of Materials

The collection is in English, German, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for researcher use. Please contact us to request access or to make an appointment to view this collection at

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of this collection. For more information contact

Biographical Note

The Isaacs and Davis families were both active members of the Jewish community in Cincinnati, Ohio. The two families were joined together on March 21, 1912 when Ella Davis, daughter of Charles K. Davis and Ida (Fletcher) Davis, married Nathan T. Isaacs, son of Abraham Isaacs and Rachel Rose (Friedman) Isaacs.

The Davis Family

Charles K. Davis was born in Cincinnati, Ohio on April 2, 1854 and died on June 1, 1918. He was born to Adolph Davis and Johanna B. (Sommerfield) Davis. Charles was the first of five children; born after him were Henry, Max, Allen, and a daughter, Ida. Johanna was very involved with the Jewish community in Cincinnati and was the president of the Ladies’ Hebrew Benevolent Society in 1880. In 1872, Adolph founded a cigar company, A. Davis, Sons & Co. In 1882, along with Leo Wise, Charles traveled to Southwestern Kansas to aid in the establishment of the Beersheba Colony. The Beersheba Colony was sponsored by Cincinnati’s Hebrew Union Agricultural Society to establish Jews emigrating from Russia. During this time, Charles kept a diary that would eventually be published in 1965 by the American Jewish Archives. Over the course of his life, he visited Greece, Egypt, Japan, China, and Germany, along with many other places. At times, his brother Max would join him. Charles and his wife Ida (Fletcher) Davis had two children, Ella and John Evan. Ella was born on October 5, 1885 and John was born on June 10, 1892. John served during World War I in the aviation department of the United States Army. Both before and after the war he worked at his father’s and grandfather’s cigar business in the Columbus plant as general manager before establishing the National Guarantee and Finance Company.

Ella Davis met her future husband Nathan Isaacs while attending the University of Cincinnati. After graduating in 1908, she traveled with her father Charles through Europe and around the Mediterranean between 1909 and 1910. She married Nathan in 1912. In 1924, the couple moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where she became active in the Jewish community. A Life Member of Hadassah, she began attending their luncheons in 1927. The New England Women’s Association of the Hebrew College was founded at her home on March 19, 1931. As such, she was an honorary Vice-President and permanent member of the Board of Directors. She was also a Life Member of the Builders of Congregation Young Israel of Brookline, Beth Israel Hospital Women’s Auxiliary, Daughters of Israel, and the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Maimonides Educational Institute.

The Isaacs Family

Nathan T. Isaacs came from an influential Cincinnati family, descended from Rabbi Schachne Simon Isaacs and Rabbi Aaron Zebi Friedman. The Isaacs Family was a central part of the Jewish community in Cincinnati, establishing one of the first synagogues in the city. The family produced a number of distinguished academics. Among Nathan’s own ten siblings there was a fair representation of influence in academic and Jewish life. His brother Asher served on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh and was an editor for the American Jewish Outlook. Raphael received his MD from the University of Cincinnati and served on the faculty of the University of Michigan where he continued his research work and published his findings in hematology, making him one of the leading physicians in his field. Moses received his PhD from the University of Cincinnati in Chemistry and went on to the faculty and then the deanship of Yeshiva College while serving on the board of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations. Nathan himself went on to become a distinguished legal scholar in the first part of the 20th century, eventually becoming a Professor of Business Law at Harvard University.

Nathan was born in Cincinnati on July 10, 1886. He was a graduate of both the University of Cincinnati (BA, 1907; MA, 1908; Ph.D., 1910) and Cincinnati Law School (1910). He became a Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati until 1918, and was Assistant Dean from 1916-1918. From 1918-1919 during World War I, he served in the Army as a Captain of Military Intelligence. After the war Nathan was the Ezra Ripley Thayer Teaching Fellow at Harvard University from 1919 to 1920. From 1920 to1923 he taught Law at the University of Pittsburgh, returning to Harvard University in 1923 as a lecturer for a year and then was a Professor of Business Law from 1924 until his death in 1941.

Outside of academia, Nathan was active in his business and religious activities as well. He served on the Board of Directors of Gimbel Brothers Department Store starting in 1933 and was a member of the Advisory Council of the American Arbitration Association. Nathan also served as a delegate to the first Jewish World Conference in Geneva in 1936. On August 5, 1920 his daughter Carol was born. Carol was born with hearing but became hearing impaired during her childhood. She went on to become a valued employee of Filene’s and married Paul Wotitzky of Brookline. They remained married until her death in 2006.


  1. Materials from the collection.
  2. Galbreath, Charles Burleigh. History of Ohio. American Historical Society. 1925. Web. 26 March 2012. Miscellaneous/Ohio1925VIIIP25.htm>.
  3. Marcus, Jacob Rader. United States Jewry, 1776-1985. Wayne State University Press. 1985
  4. Schwartz, Julius, and Solomon Aaron Kaye. Who's Who In American Jewry. New York: The Jewish biographical bureau, inc, 1927. Web. 26 March 2012. />

Genealogical Note

Isaacs Family Selected Genealogy

[Note: The collection contains significant amounts of material on the individuals whose names are listed in italics.]

Abraham Isaacs (1860 April-1928 Sep 21) and Sadie Isaacs Friedman were children of Schachne Simon Isaacs (1811-1887) and Reitza Rita R. Kashan (b. 1817).

Rachel Rose Friedman Isaacs (1861 Jul-1929) and Abraham Isaac Friedman were children of Rabbi Aaron [Tzevi, Zebi, Zivei, Levi] Friedman (1822-1876) and Rebecca Lieberman, daughter of Grand Rabbi Lieberman of Frankfurt.

Abraham Isaacs married Rachel Rose Friedman Isaacs in 1878. Sadie Isaacs Friedman married Abraham Isaac Friedman.

Abraham and Rachel Rose had eleven children:

  1. Aaron Z. (b. 1879 May)
  2. Isac (b 1881 Jul)
  3. Rebeca F. (b. 1883 Aug)
  4. Nathan (1887 Jul-1941)
  5. Schachne (1888 Dec-1952 Aug 12)
  6. Raphael (1891 Aug 29-1947), m. Agnes Wolfson
  7. Nesha (1894 Apr-1988 May 8), m. Harison I. Rothfield
  8. Elcanon (b. 1896 Dec)
  9. Moses (1889 Jan-1970 Feb)
  10. Asher (b. 1902)
  11. Judah M. (1906-1959 Mar 20)

Sadie and Abraham Isaac had two sons and a daughter:

  1. Nathan Holyday, m. Sadie Mae Stone
  2. Israel Moses
  3. Shirley

Nathan Holyday Friedman and Sadie Mae Stone are the parents of Robert S. Friedman. Robert S. married Edith Sheldon and had one child, Rachel Friedman. Rachel became Rachel Friedman Albert when she married Michael P. Albert. Rachel is a double cousin of Nathan Isaacs, twice removed. She donated the genealogical materials associated with this collection

Davis Family Selected Genealogy

Adolph Davis [a.k.a. Abraham ben David] (b. 1833, Russia) married Johanna B. Sommerfield (b. 1837, Germany). They had five children:

  1. Charles K. (1854-1918 Jun 1)
  2. Henry C. (b. 1858)
  3. Max X. (b. 1861)
  4. Allen (b. 1865)
  5. Ida (b. 1871)

Simon Fletcher (b. 1822) married Sophia (b.1825). They had six children:

  1. Victor (b. 1850)
  2. Samuel (b. 1853)
  3. Ida (b. 1855/56)
  4. Benjamin (b. 1857)
  5. Abraham (b. 1860)
  6. Hyman (b. 1864)

Charles K. Davis married Ida (Fletcher) Davis and had two children:

  1. Ella (1885 Oct 5-1975 Jun)
  2. John Evan

Davis-Isaacs Family Selected Genealogy

The families joined when Nathan Isaacs (1887 Jul-1941) married Ella Davis(1885 Oct 5-1975 Jun) on March 21, 1912. Nathan and Ella had one child:

  1. Carol (b. 1920 Aug 5 in Cincinnati, OH - d. 2006 Nov 23 in Brookline, MA), m. Paul Wotitzky (1927 Dec 15-2008 Nov 22)


7 linear feet (4 document boxes; 1 manuscript box; 2 oversized boxes)


The Isaacs and the Davis families were both active members of the Jewish community in Cincinnati, Ohio dating back to the mid 19th century. The Davis family includes Charles K., who along with Leo Wise helped to found the Beersheba immigrant colony in Kansas in 1882. The Isaacs family included many well-known, religious, legal, and medical scholars. The two families were joined together on March 21, 1912 when Ella Davis, daughter of Charles K. Davis and Ida (Fletcher) Davis, married Nathan T. Isaacs, the eldest child of Abraham Isaacs and Rachel Rose (Friedman) Isaacs. Nathan went on to become a prominent legal scholar, and was a Professor of Business Law at the Harvard Business School from 1924 until his death in 1941.

Physical Location

Located in Boston, Mass.

Acquisition Information

Donated by Paul Wotitzky in 2007, addendum made by Marje McKee in 2018.

Processing Information

Processed by Margret McClelland, 2012

Guide to the Davis and Isaacs Family Papers, P-936
Processed by Margret McClelland Addendum 1 processed by Stephanie Call and Gabrielle Roth, 2023
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center at American Ancestors Repository

99-101 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116 United States