Joseph Weingarten, grocery-store owner and promoter of world peace, was born at Galicia, Poland, on October 8, 1884, the son of Harris and Beili (Weidinger) Weingarten. As a child he moved to the United States with his parents. The family lived first in Richmond, Texas, and then in Houston. Weingarten attended public schools and Massey Business College and in 1901, with his father, opened a grocery store in downtown Houston. In 1914 he formed J. Weingarten, Incorporated, and in 1920 he opened a second store. Weingarten married Malvina Kessler on May 6, 1923; they had two sons and a daughter. Advertising "Better Food for Less," he pioneered in self-service and cash-and-carry shopping. His chain of stores in Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana grew by 1926 to six; by 1938 to twelve; by 1951, twenty-five; and by 1967-the year of his death-seventy. The corporation sold its stores to Grand Union in 1980. That company then resold the stores to Safeway, Randall's, and Gerland's Food Fair in 1984, and the Weingarten name disappeared from the storefronts. Weingarten was a director of both the Burlington-Rock Island Railroad and the Ampal-American Israel Corporation. He was a member of the board of the National Association of Food Chains and was the first president of the Super Market Institute of America. He also served as a board member of the Texas Medical Center, the Medical Research Foundation of Texas, and Baylor Medical Foundation. He supported the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York and B'nai B'rith, the international Jewish fraternal and social organization, and was a founder of Beth Yeshurun synagogue in Houston. The National Conference of Christians and Jews in 1952 gave him a Brotherhood Award for his service. Impressed during a visit to Israel in 1950 with the common greeting Shalom Aleichen ("peace be unto you"), Weingarten began a personal effort to promote world peace. He established the World Institute for World Peace Foundation, which promoted international conferences with academic and political leaders from countries including Poland, the Soviet Union, the Philippines, and Canada, and from numerous nations of Western Europe, South America, and Africa. He died on February 26, 1967, and was buried in the Beth Yeshurun Cemetery in Houston.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every dollar helps.
Houston Post, August 7, 1966, February 27, 1967, June 22, 1984. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
Founders and Pioneers
Activism and Social Reform
Texas in the 1920s
Texas Post World War II
Upper Gulf Coast
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
David G. McComb,
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed June 28, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.