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LEON AND H. BLUM

LEON AND H. BLUM. Leon and H. Blum, also known as A. Blum and Brother and H. Blum and Company, importers and wholesalers of staple and fancy dry goods, served the Southwest, Indian Territory, and Mexico from headquarters in Galveston and offices in New York, Boston, and Paris, France. Leon Blum, who had apprenticed as a tinsmith, arrived in Texas in 1855 from France and followed in his brother's footsteps by working for a time peddling goods in Louisiana. After forming a copartnership with Felix Halff to sell general merchandise, Blum subsequently joined his brother Alexander at a store known as Blum and Mayblum in Richmond, Texas, which came to be known as A. Blum and Brother when he was admitted as a partner. The family business was established several years before the Civil War. In 1858 the brothers moved their enterprise to Galveston, leaving Leon in charge of the Richmond store until the business could be consolidated at Galveston. As the war brewed, the brothers moved the business to Houston but were eventually forced to sell their stock. They moved Brownsville and began the business of exchanging goods for cotton, which they sold to buyers for export to Europe through Matamoros, Tamaulipas. As federal troops advanced, this enterprise moved to Matamoros, where it continued as H. Blum and Company. After the war the brothers reestablished the business at Galveston. By 1865 brothers Leon and Sylvain Blum and cousins Hyman and Joseph were associated in the firm, and it had become the first major wholesale dry-goods business in the state. The war, however, changed the practice of marketing. Henceforth, Blum purchased directly from the manufacturer, imported staple goods, and shifted from retail to wholesale business seeking "quick sales and small profits."

Leon and H. Blum was organized in 1869, when Alexander Blum moved to New York. By 1870 earnings reached over $1 million, but the firm suffered as a result of two events: several family employees en route to New York to buy goods died when their steamer foundered, and in 1877 the store was destroyed by a fire. A new Blum Building, built in 1879, occupied 90,000 square feet in the Strand historical district of Galveston; it had two hydraulic elevators, offices finished with cypress, and light entering the building unobstructed on three sides. Hyman Blum operated the firm's New York office, while other offices were established in Boston and on the Boulevard Haussman in Paris. The company employed 125 clerks and thirty traveling salesmen before 1887 and by 1900 did an annual business of $5 million.

Despite its long prosperity, Leon and H. Blum failed during the nationwide depression of the 1890s, as did subsequent efforts to reorganize the business. After assets of the copartnership were distributed and company stock sold to the Mistrot brothers in 1896, the family-owned enterprise closed in 1908. In 1984 the neo-Renaissance-style Blum Building was restored by Houston preservationists Cynthia and George Mitchell of Mitchell Energy and Development Companyqv, one of the country's largest independent gas and oil producers, for redevelopment as the Tremont House Hotel.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Charles Waldo Hayes, Galveston: History of the Island and the City (2 vols., Austin: Jenkins Garrett, 1974). Andrew Morrison, The Industries of Galveston (Galveston?: Metropolitan, 1887). Natalie Ornish, Pioneer Jewish Texans (Dallas: Texas Heritage, 1989).

Diana J. Kleiner

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Diana J. Kleiner, "LEON AND H. BLUM," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/dhlhf), accessed October 01, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.