Marcus Surname Meaning, History & Origin

Select Marcus Meaning
Marcus
and Markus are European surnames that have both
Christian and Jewish origins, the root in each case being the Roman
name
Marcus.
In the Christian case the name
became popular in medieval times because of Saint Mark or Sanctus
Marcus of the
Second Gospel.  It produced surnames such
as Marcus and Markus, as well the Italian and Spanish Marco and Marcos
and the
Russian Markowitz.
In the
Jewish case

where surnames were to be adopted later, the Marcus name was already
available
and was often used as the kinnui for
the Hebrew Biblical name Mordecai of the Book of Esther.
We find this in the progression of the 17th
century Hungarian Rabbi Mordecai Mochiah to his grandson the physician
Mordecai
Rofe known in Germany as Moses Marcus.
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Marcus Ancestry

In
Europe the Markus spelling is more common
today.  In Hungary there are some 10,000
of the name and a further 6,000 in Germany, with a smattering also in
the
Netherlands.  The majority of the Marcus and Markus that emigrated to
America
were Jewish and most adopted the Marcus spelling in
America.

America.
A number of entrepreneurial Jewish Marcuses came to America
or were
first generation Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  They were:

  • the
    Marcus family of Neiman Marcus
    in Dallas
  • the
    Marcus banking family in New York
  • Bernie
    Marcus from Newark, New
    Jersey
  • and
    Ben Marcus from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Joseph Marcus came to
Louisville, Kentucky in the 1870‘s where he
worked as a cotton broker, later moving to Dallas in Texas.  It was there that his son Herbert, together
with his daughter Carrie and her husband Abraham Neiman, founded the
department
store of Neiman Marcus in 1907.  Herbert’s
son Stanley made the store the famous store it is today.

Another Joseph Marcus, from
Germany but of Russian ancestry, came to New York in 1879.
He worked his way up from being a tailor, to
a garment industry business, to a banker. He founded the Public Bank in
1906
and the Bank of United States in 1913:

  • his
    son “the fabulously wealthy” Bernard
    Marcus was at the helm when this bank collapsed in 1931 and he spent
    almost two
    years in prison for his role in the collapse.
  • while
    his grandson James went to
    work for Goldman Sachs and made his money there.  He
    was a noted New York philanthropist who
    served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Opera
    for
    eight years.

Bernie
Marcus was the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia who came
to Newark, New Jersey in the 1920’s.  His
father was a cabinet maker and they lived in a tenement.
Bernie worked his way through college and had
various retail jobs before co-founding The
Home Depot
in 1979. This store with its warehouse concept
revolutionized
the home improvement business and its founders became billionaires.

Finally, Ben
Marcus was the son of Jewish immigrants from Poland who came to
Milwaukee,
Wisconsin in 1925.

“Ben
Marcus was
fascinated by the movie business. In 1935, at the age of 24, he pooled
his own
money with some borrowed funds and bought an abandoned department store
in
downtown Ripon, Wisconsin for $15,000. He converted the building into
the
Campus Theatre, a single screen movie-house that served as the
foundation of the
Marcus Corporation and is still in operation today.”


The Marcus Corporation expanded into a
firm specializing in movie theatres, hotels, resorts and restaurants.

Other
Marcuses who came to America were:

  • Mordecai
    Marcus and his wife Leah who arrived in New York’s Lower East
    Side from Romania in the 1890’s.  Their son
    Mickey
    was
    a US attorney
    prosecuting gangsters in New York in the 1930’s and served as a US army
    colonel
    assisting Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
  • Djoko
    Markus and his sister
    Ivanka from Hungary who came to America on the Graf
    Waldersee
    in 1906.  Other family
    members followed a year
    later.  They made their home in a
    large
    three
    story
    townhouse

    in
    Philadelphia.
  • while
    Abraham and Sarah Shevitz came to America from Russia in 1910, settling
    in
    Worcester, Massachusetts.  Their son
    changed his name from Wolf Shevitz
    to
    William Marcus
    when he enlisted in the US Army in 1914.

Ireland.  Among
the small
Jewish community in Ireland was the Marcus family from Lithuania that
had
escaped Jewish persecution there in the late 19th century.
The story goes that they were told that
they were arriving in New York when they stepped off the boat in Cork.  David and Louis, grandsons of the immigrants,
became well-known in Ireland as a writer and editor and as a
documentary film
maker. 

England.  There were some Marcuses in England.  Philip Marcus, thought to be from Poland, had
made his home in the East End of London in the 1860’s where he acted as
a
shipping agent.  His son John emigrated
to South Africa in 1879 and founded an auctioneering business in Cape
Town
which passed through three generations.

A more recent arrival was the Jewish Markus
family from Budapest in Hungary which fled
the Nazis in 1939 for England
.  Two
Markus brothers established an engineering works near Glossop in
Derbyshire to
produce machine parts for Spitfires.  A
son Robert became a distinguished ecclesiastical historian known for
his
writings on St Augustine and the history of the early Church.

 


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Marcus Miscellany

Jewish Origins of the Marcus Surname.  According to information from Beth Hatefusoth, the Museum of the Diaspora in Tel
Aviv, the
name can be found as a first name in 13th century Paris, in 16th
century
Morocco, in 17th century Prague with Margolis.
Many of the Marcuses today in Paris originated from Romania and
some
from Poland.

Some has speculated that
the Marcus surname might be Sephardic, emanating from the Jewish
communities of
Spain and Portugal.  Many of these found
exile in the Netherlands.  Marcus was to
be found in the Jewish names in the Amsterdam records of the 17th and
18th
centuries.  It has also turned up in
Sephardic
records elsewhere.

But it is usually
considered as an Ashkenazic surname.   The
Marcus immigrants to America in the 19th century came from
the usual Ashkenazic sources of Germany and the old Russian Empire.

In many cases the Marcus name originated from Mordecai
or Mordechai, one of the main personalities in
the Book of Esther in
the Hebrew Bible.  He was the son of Jair
of the tribe of Benjamin.  Mordecai
became initially a first name, as did Marcus.

Marcus and Markus in America.  The following were the number of Marcus and Markus arrivals in America by origin according to shipping records:

from: Marcus Markus
Germany    419    107
Russia    126     50
Poland     37
Hungary     15
Elsewhere     70     22
Total    652    194
Number in 1920 Census   2,450 500

When Jacob Marcus Offers You Candy, Kid.  Jacob Marcus was born in 1846 in Germany near the Polish border.
He came to America and settled in Louisville,
Kentucky where he worked as a cotton broker and raised a family.  In the 1890’s, the family relocated to Texas,
a logical move for a man in the cotton trade.
In 1907 the Neiman Marcus department store opened.
Before you knew it, Jacob had retired and was
ensconced inside the front entrance, greeting customers.

As
his grandson Stanley Marcus wrote:

“My grandfather, a retired cotton merchant, was given a seat
of honor at the front door, where he greeted customers cheerfully and
supplied any accompanying children with candy from his coat pocket.”

He died in 1929 and the Dallas Morning
News
reported:

“’Grampy’
has passed on.  The
kindly old gentleman who for years was a familiar figure on the first
floor of
the Neiman Marcus store is no more.  But
he will be remembered by thousands of friends and store patrons for his
ready
smile and always genial greeting.

Sitting
as he was wont to do just inside the main entrance in his great
high-backed chair, his pockets mysteriously filled with sweets for all
the
children who passed his way, he gave to the store a note of charming
homeliness
which will be remembered by those who knew and loved him.” 

Wolf Shevitz aka William Marcus.  William Marcus
was born Wolf Shevitz in 1892 in Bialostock, Russia to Abraham and
Sarah Shevitz.  Wolf came to the United
States on the Lusitania in 1910.  He
later brought his parents
and siblings over and they settled in Worcester, Massachusetts.  Abraham was a teacher there at a Jewish
school.

Wolf
Shevitz worked as a garment
cutter until he enlisted in the US Army.
According to family history, he enlisted under the name William
Marcus
so that his family would not discover he joined the army.
Marcus was the name of his uncle in New
York.  He signed his Declaration of
Intention, renouncing his Russian citizenship, as “William Marcus,
formerly
called Wolf Shevitz” on November 23, 1914.
All subsequent documents listed him as William Marcus.

After the war William married and continued
to live in Worcester.  He worked in the
garment industry, eventually owning his own factory that produced
women’s
bathrobes.

Gyozo Markus from Hungary to England.  In the inter-war years Gyozo Markus lived in n the upper middle class world
of Hungary’s assimilated Jewish community in Budapest.
He was an engineer in the family firm, Márkus
Lajos, and mixed in a sophisticated world of architects, designers and
manufacturers.  He had converted to
Lutheranism
in the 1920’s.  However, in the next
decade, he felt the threat of Nazism and determined to re-connect with
his
Jewish roots.

This was a
dangerous game and in 1939 he fled Hungary, with his family following,
initially for Italy and then for England where they made their home in
the
unlikely setting of Glossop in the Derbyshire hills.

A depressed town on the edge of Greater
Manchester with high unemployment and a number of empty textile mills,
Glossop
was an ideal place to set up factories as Britain geared up for war.  Gyozo Markus and his brother machined parts
for Spitfire planes there.  But it was
different from the cosmopolitan Budapest they had left.
As his wife Lili, an accomplished ceramicist,
remarked: “How damp, depressed and provincial life in Glossop
seemed.”

After the war the family
settled into a new house Ariel which
they built on a windy hill overlooking Glossop.

 

 


Select
Marcus Names

  • Mickey Marcus was a US attorney prosecuting gangsters in New York in the 1930’s and served as a US army colonel assisting Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. 
  • Stanley Marcus was called America’s merchant prince
    for the way he developed and expanded the Neiman Marcus department store from the 1950’s to the 1970’s.
  • Bernie Marcus was the American businessman who co-founded The Home Depot in 1979 and was the company’s first CEO.   
  • Greil Marcus has been an American author,
    music journalist and cultural critic
    focusing on rock music
    .

Select Marcus Numbers Today

  • 1,000 in the UK (most numerous
    in London)
  • 11,000 in America (most numerous in New York)
  • 1,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)

 

 

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