Defying stereotypes, early Jewish pioneers in Arizona were not just storeowners and bankers, but cowboys, lawmen, ranchers and entertainers. The first known Jewish settler was the German-born Nathan Benjamin Appel, who headed west in 1856 from New York to St. Louis, then followed the Santa Fe Trail to the territory's new capital, Tucson. Appel went on to lead a colorful life in the Wild West: He married a Catholic woman (there were no Jewish women in the territory), had ten children, and was a sheriff, saloon owner, wagon train leader and merchant. Loyal to his heritage, upon his death in 1901, Appel had a Jewish funeral led by a rabbi.
For Appel, like the others who followed him, facing danger and adversity was part of everyday life. But despite blistering weather, wars and hostilities with Native Americans, the first Jews worked tirelessly, starting dry goods stores and banks and investing in mining and real estate. Prominent Jewish pioneers Phillip Draclunan and his cousin, Isaac Goldberg, opened a well-known general store in Tucson. In 1890, the Arizona Daily Citizen praised Drachman as "one of our most popular and respected citizens" who "has always taken an active part in the affairs of the city ... and has held several important offices." In 1886, Jacob Mansfield, who owned a bookstore with a lending library, served on the first Board of Regents of the University of Arizona and helped obtain land for its first buildings. Jews were active citizens in Tucson and throughout the territory, holding political offices in towns large and small as well as the territorial government.
But it wasn't only cloth and sundries that Jewish men imported to the Arizona Territory. Jewish women were in short supply, and young men traveled to New York, Tennessee or California to find Jewish wives. In 1884,21 of these brides organized Tucson's Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society with the goal of "aiding the needy in times of distress." Funds were raised through teas, bazaars, luncheons and the Purim Ball, which was the talk of the town. The Society also tackled the task of supporting Arizona's first synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, which opened its doors in Tucson just in time for Rosh Hashanah in 1910.
Jews settled in Phoenix a little later than they did in Tucson. One of the first was Emil Ganz, a successful businessman and banker who went on to serve as the town's mayor in the late 1880s. By the 1890s, several major Jewish retail merchants made their mark in...