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NEIMAN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN [AL]

NEIMAN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN [AL] (1875–1970). Abraham Lincoln (Al) Neiman, cofounder of Neiman Marcus, was born on July 4, 1875, in Chicago and was raised at the Cleveland Jewish Orphans Home. In 1905, while working at the clothing firm of A. Harris and Company in Dallas, he met Carrie Marcus (see NEIMAN, CARRIE MARCUS), a blouse buyer. Her brother, Herbert Marcus, was a buyer for Sanger Brothers, the other major clothing establishment in Dallas. After four months, Neiman convinced Herbert Marcus to set up a sales promotion business in Atlanta, Georgia. The three proved their skills as a group in Atlanta by promoting special sales with zealous fanfare, banners, and live music. Neiman and Carrie Marcus were married sometime prior to 1907. The success of the joint business venture brought Marcus and Neiman two offers for their business, one of $25,000 in cash and the other of the Missouri or Kansas franchise for a new product, Coca-Cola. They chose the $25,000 and used the money to establish a specialty shop in Dallas. In 1907 Al and Carrie Neiman and Herbert Marcus organized Neiman Marcus Company, the first specialty store in the Southwest. The store offered ready-made, high-quality clothes for women, as well as exceptional service. At that time fine clothing was usually custom made, and quality, ready-to-wear clothing was a novelty. In September 1907 Neiman Marcus opened and quickly established itself as a great success. Neiman was the broker and promoter, and he traveled between Dallas and New York buying clothes. As a buyer, he looked for brand name over style, and clashed with Carrie and Herbert over style and design questions. After the store suffered a serious fire in 1913, Neiman persuaded New York investors to finance the building of a larger and better facility for Neiman Marcus.

Flamboyant and egotistical, Neiman experienced serious professional and personal problems with his wife and his partner in the 1920s. Herbert Marcus's son, Stanley, graduated from Harvard and returned to Dallas. With his knowledge of the family business and his Harvard business sense, he clashed with his uncle on management issues. At the same time Carrie and Al Neiman were having problems with their marriage, which ended in divorce. The business partnership ended along with the marriage, when Herbert bought Al out for $250,000. Along with the other arrangements, Al agreed not to retail clothing in Dallas for the next ten years. He reneged on the settlement by working in the women's department of Dreyfus and Company in Dallas a few months later. Marcus sued, and Neiman never spoke to the Marcus family again. He moved to Kansas and later New York, where in 1931 he opened Goldring-Neiman, which handled women's departments for the big city stores. He also opened a Fifth Avenue boutique, which later failed. In 1938 his fortunes revived when he became vice president of Henry C. Lytton's of Chicago. He met his second wife, Dorothy Squires, a Chicago fashion model, and they married that same year. Unable to have their own children, they acted as foster parents for identical twin girls, Diana and Ursula Woolf, who were World War II refugees. In the 1950s Neiman formed his own New York purchasing firm, Neiman Associates. Dorothy died of cancer in 1962. Neiman's business was not successful, and in 1967 he returned to Texas. He died in a Masonic home in Arlington on October 21, 1970. He died penniless, with a cuff link in a cigar box as his sole remaining possession. He was buried in Emmanuel Hebrew Rest Cemetery in Fort Worth.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Zula Lee McCauley, The First Forty Years, 1907–1947 (Dallas: Neiman Marcus, 1947). Stanley Marcus, Minding the Store: A Memoir (Boston: Little, Brown, 1974). Frank X. Tolbert, Neiman Marcus, Texas (New York: Holt, 1953). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Alan Lee Haworth

Citation

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

Alan Lee Haworth, "NEIMAN, ABRAHAM LINCOLN [AL]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fne32), accessed April 24, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.