The Harness Maker's Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas

TCU Press  2013


The story is familiar. It’s the story of so many Jewish Russian immigrants who fled caustic conditions for a better life in the U.S. The grit, determination, and smarts; the struggle to assimilate and to reinvent commu­nity in a foreign land; the struggle to educate children, to marry well, and to create success­ful livelihoods are all familiar in the stories of my grandparents, my husband’s grandparents, and many of my friends’ families.

The story is unfamiliar in the details—and, perhaps, in the magnitude of the success.

This particular immigrant is Nathan Kallison, who landed in Chicago in 1890 and who then moved south to San Antonio where he expanded his small harness shop into a suc­cessful dry goods store. A series of smart real estate transactions culminated in Kallison’s purchase of over 2,500 acres in central Texas, one of the largest ranches in the region, and today a State Park. The family became leaders in the Jewish community as well as the business and ranching communities of San Antonio.

It is exactly the details of the Kallison family that Nick Kotz, veteran journalist, Pulitzer Prize winner, and grandson of Nathan Kallison, mines so carefully and preserves so meticulously in The Harness Maker’s Dream. For most of us, those details are forever lost in the cobwebs of our past. Every family wishes they had a Nick Kotz to tell our stories. But we don’t, and so The Harness Maker’s Dream is our proxy; it is an historical tribute that we can all treasure. Chronology, index, notes, selected bibliography.

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