Photograph of Emil Maurer

Dr. Emil Maurer, 1868-1908


From the Philadelphia North American of January 21, 1908.


An Alien

A man died in Philadelphia Friday night whose name The North American had not known during his life. He was an immigrant.

By birth as well as by religion he was an alien. Because of heredity, because of racial pride, by reason of the force of his character and personality, he had no affiliation with Christianity, as he viewed Christianity. We do not doubt that had he been questioned at any time he would have avowed himself an antagonist of the creed which, as we regard it, is the substance of true Americanism.

But because the life of Dr. Emil Maurer was one of the most beautiful realizations of what we deem real Christianity, we cannot afford to let the epitaph of this Jewish physician be written without adding a word or two to make the fragrance of his memory a little sweeter. And our reason for so doing is that his whole life was an incarnate contradiction of the old theory that "the poor make no new friends."

The story is a very simple one. A Romanian came to Philadelphia and made a doctor of himself by studying at the Medico-Chiurgical College. He practiced medicine here ten years, and died the other night of pneumonia resulting from exposure in attendance upon poor patients.

We know nothing of Dr. Maurer. The wealthiest and most charitable members of his own faith knew nothing of him. It was only when a surprised reporter of The North American saw every street that gives highway to a modest home at 822 North Fifth Street thronged by thousands of sobbing, sorrowing people, willing to wait in line for hours to give a last look of benediction upon one who had proved by his deeds his love for his fellow men, that the word came to us of what manner of man Emil Maurer was.

Seven thousand mourners waiting and struggled for their turn to see this man's face for the last time. Special police squads were detailed to keep in line the poor who loved him. Throughout the daylight and the night hours an unbroken procession streamed through front door, back door, yard and alley exit of the home in which this young doctor lay dead. And his funeral would have meant a mob and probably a disaster but for exceptional police precautions.

And the reason for this tribute to a dead man we cannot tell better than in the words of the reporter who witnessed those scenes:

He had for ten years past sacrificed his ease and strength and even his home life for the sake of his race, for the poor of his race particularly.

At all hours of the day or night he devoted his great medical skill and the kindness of his heart to the curing of the diseased of his people. And often, it was told of him by many a sobbing patient yesterday, instead of demanding a fee for his work he would hurry off with tears in his eyes and a banknote left behind for his patient.

With the vision of a Daniel Deronda he worked and planned and aspired for his race and built for its future in this city. And his fame and the love for him grew in thousands of Jewish hearts.

The meaning of that outburst of the grief of thousands is not new. The meaning is simply the old, old story, that "the greatest of these is charity." Emil Maurer's life was short. But it was complete.

He did not "speak with the tongues of men and of angels," but he had that charity which "vaunteth not itself and is not puffed up." He lived simply the simple-minded life of one who had chosen as his life rule to be of "every friendless one the friend."

Most men choose harder life tasks than that. Yet how many heartfelt and not formal mourners would follow our most widely known philanthropists and statesmen and civic great whose names are in the mouths of all men daily if they were to die today? That obscure Jewish doctor had seven thousand who felt in his death a personal loss and deprivation.

Just ten years of passing out pills and powders and parting with a dollar here and a heartening word and pledge of friendship there at the next bedside. And yet men think that they can do no good in the world, and shift the burden of brotherhood to church and benevolent societies and to our would-be restitutionists, the self-advertising millionaires.

The whole lesson of Emil Maurer's life we would place under two heads. The first is summarized in the lines of Pope, that

For modes of faith let graceless zealots fight,
He can't be wrong whose life is in the right.
In faith and hope the world will disagree,
But all mankind's concern is charity.

And the second teaching left as a good legacy by this unostentatious lever of his fellow men is that there is no walk in life so quiet and obscure that it does not give chance for splendid, civilizing, ennobling and uplifting endeavour, and the living of a life whose essence is the essence of Christ's own Christianity.


The original article misspells "Maurer" as "Mauer."