Pioneer Jewish Family: Louis E. and Carmen K. Freudenthal

May is Jewish American Heritage Month and the Rio Grande Historical Collections Unit (RGHC) would like to highlight the Louis E. and Carmen K. Freudenthal family papers. The Freudenthal family settled in the Mesilla Valley long before New Mexico became a state. The papers primarily document Louis and Carmen Freudenthal and the bulk of the materials correspond to personal and business matters relating to the couple.

Black and white portrait of Freudenthal family

Portrait of the Freudenthal family; Bernard, Amalia, Phoebus, and Louis E. Freudenthal (00020565)

As mentioned, the Freudenthal family has long ties to the region. Louis’ father, Phoebus, emigrated from Germany in 1869 and made Las Cruces his hometown to work alongside his uncle, also named Louis Freudenthal, who had established roots in the Mesilla Valley around 1850. 

Louis Freudenthal was born in 1895 to Phoebus and Amalia Freudenthal in Las Cruces. Louis spent his school-age years in New York where he was sent to live with relatives in order to attend private schooling. Louis graduated from a private school and then graduated from Cornell University in 1916. After completing his studies, Louis returned to New Mexico around 1918 and managed his father’s properties while also establishing Valley Insurance Agency.

Louis spearheaded and was active in various civic organizations in the community such as the Farm Bureau, Doña Ana County Taxpayers League, Valley Locker Co-op, and the Doña Ana Historical Society to name a few. While he was in New York lobbying for an organization that he was affiliated with, he met Carmen Kahn and they married in 1932.

Portrait of Louis and Carmen Freudenthal

Louis and Carmen Freudenthal (00020917)

Carmen Kahn was born in Sedalia, Missouri, in 1898 to French immigrants, Arthur Kahn and Clémence Joseph. It is noted that Carmen’s mother was involved in civic affairs and she is credited with organizing the first Red Cross chapter in Missouri. It is evident that Carmen received the social involvement trait from her mother. Carmen was involved and associated with various civic organizations around Las Cruces and assisted in establishing a Planned Parenthood clinic in Doña Ana County and served as its first president. She was affiliated with the local hospital auxiliary, the Doña Ana Chapter of the Red Cross, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Democratic Party.

The papers contain rich content about the family and document their early beginnings, which include materials pertaining to the family farm, business records, correspondence and social and civic activities files belonging to Carmen. Nonetheless, the couple was active in civic affairs and social activism scene in Las Cruces and their family papers provide great insight and reflect their contributions to the Las Cruces community. The finding aid for the Freudenthal family papers is available via the Rocky Mountain Online Archive database.

If you are curious and want to browse other Jewish related collections, the RGHC also holds the following collections:

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