Marks Surname Meaning, History & Origin
came the English Marks and the German Marx surnames.
Marx is also a Jewish name. It was
possibly an acronym of the first two
letters of the Hebrew masiach plus the Hebrew rendering of the
Latin rex. Marx often became Marks
in England and
Marx/Marks Resources on
- Descendants of Hastings Marks
Marks in Virginia.
- Humphrey and Frances Marks
Jewish Marks from London to South Carolina.
- The Marx Brothers
Marx family tree.
- Marx Foods
Marx family business in New Jersey.
Marx number some 35-40,000 in Germany today.
The name is mainly to be found along
the Rhine in Saarland and the Rheinland Palatinate and also in Alsace.
Marx was a legendary figure from Eckwersheim in Alsace in
the 15th century. There was once a wider Jewish Marx diaspora
extending into the former Russian Empire. But
this has largely disappeared.
Karl Marx, the author of the Communist Manifesto and Das
Capital, was born in 1818 in Trier on the lower Rhine.
The family, originally Mordechai, had been
rabbis in Trier since the early 1700’s.
But his father, at a time of anti-semiticism, abandoned
the Jewish faith and adopted the
Marx name. Karl Marx, when rendered
stateless, would spend the latter part of his life writing out of the
Museum in London.
The forebears of the
Marx brothers in America have been traced back to the early 1800’s and
of Hochfelden in the Bas-Rhin area of Alsace.
England. Marks figured
at an early date as a surname in the west country, primarily in Devon
West Country. In Devon, one Marks line in Devon began in
1560 with the birth of Harry Marks in Totnes. Richard Marks meanwhile was
recorded as marrying Agnes Lang in Barnstaple in 1540. These
Marks were later to be found in Crediton and South Tawton before moving
to Launceston in Cornwall. Four Hannibal
featured during their stay in Cornwall, the last
named departing for New Zealand in 1845 and serving as harbormaster at
until his death by drowning in 1879.
In Somerset, the Old English word maerc,
meaning “mark” or “border,” gave rise to a place-name Mark and may have
rise to the Marke and Marks surname there as well.
The surname surfaced in the parish registers
of West Buckland in the 1600’s and later was to be found at Odcombe and
London and Elsewhere. Larger Marks
numbers have been
in London, probably
as the result of Jewish immigration.
Bevis Marks synagogue in London, opened in 1701, is
the oldest surviving synagogue in England.
But Bevis Marks comes from an earlier place-name and is not
origin. A Marks family were members of
the Great Synagogue at Dukes Place in the early 1700’s.
The names recorded at that time were
Zachariah, David, Solomon and Alexander Marks.
It is thought that Mordecai Marks, who later emigrated to
came from this family.
Woolf Marks was a
Jewish merchant in London in the early 1800’s. His son David was
a rabbi and a leader of Reform Judaism in Victorian times. His
grandsons Harry and Claud both distinguished themselves – the former as
a newspaper editor and publisher and the latter as a soldier with the
British army during the Boer War.
Marks, born in London in 1786, was also a Jewish
merchant of the early 1800’s. His son
Morris emigrated to South Australia in 1846.
Another Jewish Marks family had settled first in Portsmouth and
Exeter from whence Joseph Marks departed for Melbourne, Australia in
Michael Marks had arrived in England from
Belorussia in the Russian Empire in 1882.
He moved to Leeds where he started trading out of market stalls. In 1894 he started the retail company of Marks
and Spencer. This was taken
and expanded by his son Simon after Michael’s death in 1907. Simon
it was who introduced the St. Michael
brand in the store in honor of his father.
Marks, thought to have come from Suffolk and said to
have married Lady Betty Hastings, emigrated to Virginia sometime in the
1730’s. Three of their sons married into
married the widow
of Colonel William Lewis, the mother of Meriwether Lewis of Lewis and
- Hastings married Ann Cary Jefferson,
the sister of President Jefferson.
James married Elizabeth Harvie, “one of nine brothers and sisters whose
aggregate weight was 2,700 pounds.”
died in 1811 in Virginia and his widow moved to Monticello. John and James migrated to Georgia in the
1780’s. Their lines were covered in
Pettigrew and Brightwell’s 1981 book The
Marks-Barnett Families and Their Kin.
The Rev. John Marks was a Baptist minister who was born in Montgomery
county, Pennsylvania in 1716. In
the 1750’s he moved to Loudoun county, Virginia to establish Baptist
churches there. Three of his sons fought in the Revolutionary War
and were granted lands in Kentucky.
and Jewish numbers have been much larger than the English numbers among
the Marks and
Marx entrants into America.
The Marx name first
appeared, generally as Marks, among German arrivals into Pennsylvania
in the 18th century. Included in that number was Nicholas Marks
who married Eva Schneider in the early 1700’s. Their descendants
migrated westward to Ohio and Michigan.
Marks was a Jewish immigrant from London to Stamford,
Connecticut in 1729. At that time he
changed his faith to Christian and married.
The Marks name cropped up in the Jewish community in Philadelphia
before and after the Revolutionary War. Levy
Marks was recorded as a tailor there in 1760. Michael
Marks, a merchant and saddler,
arrived there from London in the 1780’s.
Humphrey and Frances Marks, also from London, made their home in
South Carolina on arrival in 1783.
Marxes began arriving in America around the time of the Civil
War. Aaron Marx, who enlisted as a
soldier, and his wife Sarah settled in Baltimore where Aaron was shown
first as a peddler and then as a cigar-maker. Leopold Marks,
fleeing conscription in Germany, arrived penniless in New York in
1868. He managed to make a little money to work his way southward
to the Mississippi Delta where he prospered as a general store-keeper
and merchant. The county seat of Marks in Quitman county was
named after him.
New York was the hub for many of the subsequent Marx immigrants:
- Sam Marx – known was Frenchy because he came from Alsace – who
was a dance teacher in New York when he married Minnie Schoenberg in
1884. Their sons were the famous Marx brothers who burst
into vaudeville in 1905 and had a long stage and screen career.
- Jacob Marx who arrived from Austria in the 1890’s and started a
small wooden toy business in Brooklyn. His son Louis Marx
expanded the business greatly with his brother David and was by the
1950’s described as the owner of the largest toy business in the world.
- a Marx family who came in 1895 and started up a butcher’s shop in
They moved to New Jersey in the early 1900’s and, as Marx Foods,
have been distributing fine meats over five generations to restaurants
across the United States.
another Sam Marx, born in 1902 and the son of a tailor in New York, who
made his mark as a screenwriter and producer at MGM Studios in
South Africa. Sammy Marks,
born in Lithuania, came out to the Cape
colony in 1859 and at first made his living peddling jewelry. He later moved to Pretoria where he was one
of the early entrepreneurs at the time of the diamond boom. He prospered.
he built for himself and his family a grand 40 room
Victorian mansion. It
soon became well-known to celebrities and dignitaries
visiting South Africa. This house, at Zwartkoppies
to the east of Pretoria, has been preserved as a museum.
New Zealand. There were Marks and Marx arrivals during the
19th century, from England, Ireland and Germany. The
most notable of these were Jewish
arrivals from England, including:
and Julia Marks and their large family
from Exeter who came on the Cotfield to
South Australia in 1853, moving to Victoria three years later. Their descendants became the leading
wholesale jewelers in the Melbourne area in the 1920’s.
Marks, a jeweler from London, who arrived in Sydney via New Zealand in
1880. His son Percy established his
renowned jewelry shop on Market Street in Sydney in 1900.
He made his name in promoting the opal
gem. His business has continued through
three generations of Marks.
Percy Marks in Sydney, born there in
1867, acted from 1912 as the unofficial historian of Australian Jewry. His brother Ernest was a prominent sportsman
who was later the touring manager for the Australian teams at the
of 1908, 1912 and 1932.
Lord Hans Marx from Eckwersheim. Lord Hans Marx came from Eckwersheim near Strasbourg in
Alsace. He lived at Castle Bilstein and
fought in the Burgundian Wars against Charles the Bold at the Battle of
in 1477. Legend has it that Anton
Wilsperg, the bailiff of Saverne, later caught him by surprise as he
a bath and cut off both of his hands. Hans
Marx subsequently died of his wounds.
Vatican published a document in 1956 which set out a Marx lineage from
Marx to Adolph Marx from Cologne who became the first Catholic bishop
Brownsville in Texas in 1965.
The Death by Drowning of Captain Hannibal Marks. The Evening Star of Tauranga, New Zealand reported the following in its August 18th, 1879 edition:
township was excited on Saturday last by an accident which resulted in
drowning of Captain Marks, for some years Harbormaster of this port,
son Hannibal Marks.
his sons, Hannibal and Pack Marks, and Mr. Vercoe were out on the pilot
the harbor while a race was in progress.
While rounding the fairway buoy their boat, struck by one of the
competing boats and then hit by a sudden squall, capsized and sank. Mr. Warbrick rendered prompt assistance and
picked up Mr. Pack Marks and Mr. Vercoe who was restored with
consciousness. Captain Marks was dead
Hannibal Marks was buried
with his son Hannibal, who died at the same time, at Mission Point,
His tombstone is at the Tauranga historical village.
The Beginnings of Marks and Spencer. In 1884 Michael Marks, a recent Jewish Russian immigrant,
made the decision to rent an area at the new covered market in Leeds
traded six days of the week. Famously,
one of his stalls sold goods that cost only one penny.
Next to the stall was a poster with the words
“Don’t Ask the Price, It’s a Penny.”
Over the next few years, Marks expanded his business and opened
stalls in covered market halls all over Yorkshire and Lancashire.
Ten years later Marks decided that if he was
to expand the business further he would need an investing partner. He
approached his partner Isaac Dewhirst, who decided against the offer,
suggested that his cashier Thomas Spencer might be interested. Spencer decided that the 300 pounds required
for a half-share in the business would be a good investment.
The running of the business was split between
Spencer, who managed the office and warehouse, and Marks, who continued
the market stalls. Together, Marks and
Spencer were able to open stores in the next ten years in
Birmingham, Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Bristol, Hull,
Marx and Marks Arrivals in America. The following arrivals numbers are based on ship passenger information.
Marks outnumbers Marx by more than three to one in America.
Leopold Marks, from Germany. to the Mississippi Delta. Leopold Marks was just seventeen in 1868 when he fled
his home at Labau in West Prussia to escape conscription into the Prussian
army. He landed in New York with just
eighteen cents in his pocket. He
worked long enough to be able to furnish a pack with jewellery which he
across country until he reached the Mississippi Delta.
There he bought a small
trading boat to ply the Coldwater river.
Realizing the business opportunities he opened a small merchant
store. This soon grew into a tremendous
business, being the principal store in the Delta east of Clarksdale.
In time he was
elected as a
state legislator for Tunica county. In 1877 he introduced the bill to
the new county of Quitman. Its county
seat, Marks, was subsequently named after him.
Louis Marx & Co. Louis Marx has a history nearly as colorful as his toys. Described by many as an experienced
businessman with the mind of child, his ability to see into the minds
children around the world guided his toy creations and advertising
Marx founded his toy company in New York in 1919.
those early days Louis Marx met up with the future US President Dwight
Eisenhower. As the story goes, Mr.
Eisenhower visited Mr. Marx’s little shop one day with two broken toy
trains. Mr. Marx first referred them to
a shop of his friend Bernard Gimbel.
However, Mr. Gimbel did not have the parts and sent the man back
Marx who made the repairs and accepted his invitation to West Point
games. They met again there and became friends.
the height of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, when most people saw
financial despair, Marx saw opportunity. Marx
opened factories in Erie and Girard, Pennsylvania,
along with his largest facility in Glen Dale, West Virginia.
1950’s, Louis Marx & Co. became
the “largest toy manufacturer in the world,” with over one-third of all
the U.S. being Marx toys. Described as
“The Toy King,” Marx appeared on the cover of the 1955 Time
Magazine. In 1972, at
the age of 76, he sold his toy company. Despite
best efforts, no one had the gifted touch of Louis Marx and the company
suffered a decline until the end.
Louis Marx and his company are now a part of history, his toys and the
bring children, young and old, live on.
In 2015 the Marx Toy Museum opened at Moundsville, just a mile
the old Glen Dale toy plant.
- Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto and Das
Capital, was born in Germany but became stateless and spent much of his later life in London.
- Sammy Marks was a Jewish entrepreneur in South Africa who grew rich during the diamond boom
times of the 1880’s.
- Michael Marks, born into a Belarussian family, was the founder of the British
department store Marks & Spencer in 1894.
- The Marx Brothers – Groucho, Chico, Harpo, Gummo and Zeppo – were comedy stars in vaudeville, Broadway, and film from 1905 to the 1940’s.
Marx/Marks Numbers Today
- 14,000 in the UK (most numerous
- 25,000 in America (most numerous in California)
- 11,000 elsewhere (most numerous in Australia)
Select Marks/Marx and Like Jewish Surnames
The Jews were banned from England in 1290 and did not return there until the 1650’s, sometimes in the form of Portuguese traders. They were to make their mark as merchants and financers in London and many families prospered. There was another larger Jewish influx in the late 1800’s.
In America the early settlement of Sephardic Jews was in Charleston, South Carolina. In the 19th century Ashkenazi Jews started to arrive from Germany. Later came a larger immigration from a wider Jewish diaspora. Between 1880 and 1910 it is estimated that around two million Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping discrimination and pogroms, arrived from the Russian empire and other parts of Eastern Europe.
Some Jewish surnames reflect ancient Biblical names, such as Cohen and Levy. Some have come from early place-names where Jews resided, such as Dreyfus (from Trier), Halpern (from Heilbronn) and Shapiro (from Speyer). Many more surnames came about when Ashkenazi Jews were compelled by Governments to adopt them in the early 1800’s. The names chosen at that time were often ornamental ones – Bernstein or Goldberg or Rosenthal for example. Then the name could change on arrival in America at Ellis Island. And finally anti-Semitism perceived could cause further changes to conceal Jewishness.
Here are the stories of some of the Jewish surnames that you can check out here.
Click here for return to front page
Leave a Reply