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May 13, 1966 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1966-05-13

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Out of Michigan's Past

j $25,000 in Bonds Bought by Pinsker

From Stowaway to Banker — Edward Kanter

Things had a way of blowing up • upon their young friend as "Little
Firecracker"—with good reason.
in Edward Kanter's face.
The fur company went out of
As a young immigrant appren-
business, and Kanter joined a
ticing in a New Orleans drug store,
mercantile firm at Mackinac.
he took to experimenting. The shop
When they felt they could trust
blew up.
the young man, the company own-
As a clerk on a Mississippi River
ers left him in charge while they
steamboat, Edward had to swim
went east. They never returned.
ashore when a boiler explosion
The creditors did.
demolished the vessel.
Kanter worked out a deal with
It was a sadder-but-wiser Edward
Kanter who, at age 20, reached them to take over the business. In
Detroit in 1844, only to be turned July of that year, with $200 capi-
down for a job in the Detroit Say- tal, he started in business for him-
ings Fund Institute.
"Little Firecracker" had the re-
Thirteen years later, he was a
of the Indians he dealt with:
member of the Michigan Legisla-
ture, and in 1871, he was the first he always paid them in cash. At
the end of five years, when he sold
Jewish banker in Detroit.
the business, Kanter had a mono-
The headlines on his obituary poly of their trade and the be-
in the Detroit Tribune of June 25,
ginnings of his fortune.
1896, read:
Success came rapidly to Kanter
with his return to Detroit. Settl-
Eventful Life of
ing here in 1852, he located his
Edward Kanter Ended
business on the main wharf of the
Over Fifty Years Ago
Detroit River, first as a ship chan-
He Landed at New Orleans
dler, a dealer in supplies for ships,
Without a Penny
and then as a ban k e r for the
Earned Wealth and Honor
sailors. He branched out into lake
Story,of His Struggles Is Full
merchandise, gradually purchasing
of Interest—
vessels until he had a large fleet.
Prominent Among the Germans
In the midst of all this river-
front activity, Kanter somehow
Therein lies the tale.
Edward Kanter was born in Bres- found time to join Temple Beth El,
lau, Gernmny, in 1824. His father, serving in 1855 as vice president
Louis, was a prosperous linen mer- and then as treasurer and presi-
ehirnt; his mother, Helen, a rela- dent of the synagogue's building
tive of the German parliamentarian association. -
Edward Lasker.
The first Detroit Jew to be ac-
tive in politics, Kanter was elect-
There's no question but that he
ed a member of the State Legis-
was born with the proverbial silver
lature in 185'7. A Democrat, he
spoon in his mouth, but Edward
later ran for state treasurer, but
set out to make it on his own.
met defeat with the rest of the
While studying in France in 1843,
Democratic ticket. He was a
he came across a group of emi-
grants at Havre bound for New member of the Democratic state
and national committees for sev-
Orleans. On an impulse, he decided
eral years.
to join them—as a stowaway.
Part of that interest may have
Hidden in the rope locker aboard
the sailing ship Victoria, young stemmed -from his marriage in 1847
Kanter was not discovered until to Fannie Granger, daughter of
long after the ship had weighed ex-State Senator Granger of Bois
Blanc Island. (Their children,
Henry L. and Charles E., married
The captain wasn't overjoyed to
out of the Jewish faith.)
see the stowaway, and by way of
• But Kanter's greatest role in De-
illustration dealt him a few blows
troit's progress always will remain
with a rope's end. Soon, 'however, in the field of banking. In 1868, he
he became impressed with the gave up the mercantile business
boy's knowledge of German, French
and opened the private banking
and English and decided to make
firm of E. Kanter and Co., chang-
him interpreter for the Swiss and
ing the name in 1871 to the Ger-
German emigrants on board. •
man American Bank. It was located
Three months later, Kanter ar-
in the "Kanter Building," at 30
rived at New Orleans—penniless, W. Lamed, now the site of the
because someone robbed him of
Guardian Building.
every cent just before the trip
Renamed the First State Bank
was over.
two decades after his death, the
He tried peddling cigars to make
bank met the same fate as all
enough money to live on, even
other Detroit banks in the De-
made amulets to ward off yellow
pression. In 1929, it wound up
fever. Kanter later started to learn
in receivership.
the drug business, but one day,
The Kanter name remained prom-
while making some experiments, he inent in the banking industry, how-
blew up the drug store, miraculous- ever. His grandson, Charles A.
ly escaping himself.
Unfazed, Kanter won a job as
waiter and then clerk on a Missis-
sippi steamboat in winter '43 and
spring '44. On one trip up to the
Red River, Kanter could have used
some of his yellow fever amulets:
he came down with the fever him-
self and had to remain in the hos-
- pital for over six weeks. The Jew-
ish Relief Society was his bene-
On another steamer, Kanter jour-
neyed up to Montana, where he
experienced his second explosion.
The vessel blew up, killing some
40 persons. Young Kanter swam to
shore, walked to St. Louis, boarded
other boats out of Chicago as a
waiter, and, at the close of the,
1844 season, found himself in De-
troit. The Detroit Savings Fund
Institute refused to hire him. It was
only a temporary job he had that
winter, tutoring in a family for his
board—but Detroit would call him
back again.
When spring came to Detroit,
Kanter was off again—this time to
Mackinac where he joined the
American Fur Co. as clerk and in-
terpreter. Languages came easily
to him, and soon he had learned
several Indian tongues. They looked

- 1 WINO

24—Friday, May 13, 1966

Kanter, was president and chair-
man of the board of Manufacturers
National Bank in the 1940s and
'50s. He died in 1959.
Edward Kanter remained active
in the business until 1894, when
failing eyesight forced him to re-
tire from all dealings except his
real estate.
Communal service always oc-
cupied a great part of Kanter's
time. He was an inspector and
member of the board of the Detroit
house of correction, a member of
the poor commission and of the
board of review. He also served as
treasurer of the state commission
to the New Orleans Exposition in
An organizer and vice presi-
dent of the Detroit Fire and
Marine Insurance Co., he was vice
president of the Fort Wayne and
Belle Isle Street -Railway for a
long time. He also was treasurer of
many benevolent societies, a mem-
ber of Harmonie Club (the German
culture society) and an ex-presi-
dent of that group, a royal arch
mason and a member of Union
Lodge fraternal organization.
Although the building that bore
his name has long been demolished,
there is still a Kanter Street, be-
tween East Grand Blvd. and Mt.
Elliott, in recollection of the "Little

At the Pinsker Progressive Aid Society's party, honoring Nor-
man Cottler on his 70th birthday, which resulted in Israel Bond
purchases totaling over $25,000 are (from left) Hyman Lipsitz, celebra-
tion chairman; Chaim A. Salamon, Israel consul for economic
affairs, guest speaker; Norman Cottler and Hyman Gilman, presi-
dent of the Pinsker. The affair was held in advance of the Labor
Zionist Movement-Landsmanshaften celebration in tribute to Cottler.
The Pinsker Society purchased $4,800 in Israel Bonds.

Judge Levin Named JNF Dinner
Toastmaster in Honor of Simons

Judge Theodore Levin will be
toastmaster at the annual dinner
of the Jewish National Fund, to
be held June 8 at the Sheraton-
Cadillac Hotel. Dietary laws will
be observed.
Leonard N. Simons will be hon-

Business Briefs

By Sid Shinarak

GORMAN'S will open its second
gallery of fine furniture store at
29145 Telegraph, just north of 12
Mile Rd., Southfield, later this
month. The 26,000-square-foot fur-
niture gallery represents a $500,000
expansion of the firm, headed by
Bernard Moray. Gortnan Furni-
ture's original gallery is located at
15700 Livernois. The new Tele-
graph Rd. gallery will specialize
in living room and dining room fur-
nishings, lamps, curtains, draperies
and incidental furnishings.

Beth Moses to Install
New Officers at Dinner

Cong. Beth Moses will hold its
installation dinner 8 p.m. Sunday,
at the synagogue, at which time
Benjamin Kinzer will be installed
as president. Franklin Levy is
vice president; Albert Saferstein,
treasurer; Mrs. William Naftaly,
recording secretary; and Samuel
Wilner, three-year trustee. Past
presidents will be honored.
Installing officer will be Judge
John M. Wise. Julius E. Allen,
member of the board of water com-
missioners, and his wife will be
guests of the congregation.

ored at the dinner in recognition
of his manifold contributions to
civic and Jewish causes. The honor
to Mr. and Mrs. Simons will be in
the form of a Leonard and Har-
riette Simons Forest.
Maxwell Jospey, dinner chair-
man, stated that a world famous
personality will be the guest
speaker at the dinner. He ex-
pressed the hope that the event
will become a community - wide
tribute to one of Detroit's most
distinguished leaders.
"Leonard Simons continues to
play one of the very great roles
in the general Detroit community
and in behalf of Jewry," Jospey
said, "and whatever we do to
honor him is well deserved."
Reservations for the dinner al-
ready are being taken at the JNF
office, 18414 Wyoming, UN 4-2767.






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