Ohio History Journal

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The Industrial Removal Office

in Columbus: A Local Case Study


Historical studies of American institutions and organizations have

overwhelmingly concentrated on the national headquarters of such

groups, and generally ignored personalities and activities on the local

level. A look from the "bottom-up" might clarify the effect of national

decisions on local branches, the pressures local groups exerted upon

national organizations, the actuality of national policies, and the values

and concerns otherwise anonymous members of a local group bring to

their activities.

The Industrial Removal Office (IRO), whose voluminous records are

preserved at the American Jewish Historical Society, Waltham,

Massachusetts, was created on January 24, 1901, by the Ex-

ecutive Committee of the Jewish Agricultural Society. Its pri-

mary function was to remove Jews, mainly east European, from the large

East Coast cities (especially New York) and relocate them in com-

munities throughout the United States. The IRO does seem to have

enjoyed some success-at least in quantitative terms-during its two

decades of existence from 1901 to 1922. In the first five years alone,

22,500 persons were relocated by the IRO, in the second five-year

period another 27,000 persons were distributed, and more than 75,000

Jews were sent to over 1700 cities by the end of World War I.1

But such nation-wide gross figures for removals, or even smaller

totals from Ohio,2 camouflage a direct appreciation of the headaches

involved in this operation within each community. Case studies of local

branches of national organizations provide us with opportunities to

flesh out the bare skeleton of large numbers and national directives.



Dr. Raphael is Associate Professor of History at The Ohio State University.


1. On the Industrial Removal Office (IRO), see Samuel Joseph, Jewish Immigration to

the United States (New York, 1914); Boris D. Bogen, Jewish Philanthropy (New York,

1917); Samuel Joseph, History of the Baron de Hirsch Fund (Philadelphia, 1935). For the

total removals, see the Annual Reports of the Industrial Removal Office, located in The

Papers of the Industrial Removal Office, American Jewish Historical Society, Waltham,

Massachusetts (hereafter cited as Annual Report of the IRO).

2. From 1901 to 1913 there were 8,773 removals to Ohio, ranging from 152 in 1901 to

1,207 in 1913; Thirteenth Annual Report of the IRO, 1913, January 1, 1914.