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THE BIOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IOWA

University of Iowa Press Digital Editions
Adler, Emanuel Philip
(September 30, 1872–March 2, 1949)

–newspaper editor and publisher, president of Lee Syndicate newspapers, businessman; civic leader in Davenport, Iowa; and philanthropist for community and religious causes of several faiths—was known to family and close friends as Mannie, and to business associates and the general public as E. P.

    Adler was born in Chicago to German immigrant parents, Philip Emanuel Adler from Laubheim, Württemberg, and Bertha (Blade) Adler from Worrstadt, Hesse. In 1875 the Adler family moved to Ottumwa, Iowa, where the elder Adler was a partner in the Rosenauer and Adler Saloon and later became involved in real estate and insurance businesses. In her autobiographical writings, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Edna Ferber remembered Ottumwa as being a generally anti-Semitic place; she also recalled the Adler family as active members of the town's small Jewish congregation. Certainly Ottumwa was a place of opportunities for the young E. P. He left school at age 13 and went to work for the Ottumwa Journal 's weekly German edition. He apprenticed as a "printer's devil" setting newspaper type; his wage of $1 per week was actually paid, under the table, by Philip Emanuel Adler by agreement with the newspaper's editor.

    After working for a few years at the Ottumwa Courier, E. P. was seized by wanderlust and set out for short-term newspaper jobs in Chicago; Galesburg, Illinois; Omaha; and Denver. Finding himself broke in Colorado, E. P. contacted A. W. Lee, publisher of the Ottumwa Courier, asking to return to his old job. Lee hired Adler back at a salary of $10 per week. In 1893 E. P. was promoted to reporter and in 1895 became city editor. Subsequently he was elevated to managing editor and business manager.

    Meanwhile, A. W. Lee acquired the Davenport Times and set the stage for the establishment of the Lee Syndicate, a consortium of independent newspapers in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. Lee invited Adler to become the business manager of the Davenport Times, and in 1901 promoted Adler to publisher of the newspaper. After the untimely death of A. W. Lee in Europe in 1907, Adler was appointed president of the Lee Syndicate. Under Adler's leadership, the Davenport Times beat out competing newspapers in that city, and the Lee Syndicate expanded. E. P.'s sister Betty moved from Ottumwa, where she had been a newspaper proofreader, to join the Davenport Times as head of its women's society pages.

    In 1902 E. P. married Lena Rothschild of Davenport. Their son, Philip David Adler, became a noted journalist in his own right as an undergraduate editor of the Daily Iowan at the State University of Iowa, and then editor and publisher of the Star Courier in Kewanee, Illinois. Later Philip assumed publishing Lee Enterprises' Davenport newspapers and was appointed president of the consortium.

    E. P. Adler served as president of the Inland Daily Press Association and vice president of the Associated Press. His public service included being a charter member of the Greater Davenport Committee, director of the Davenport Commercial Club, founder and vice president of the Davenport Industrial Commission, trustee of the Davenport Municipal Art Gallery, and advisory board member of the Davenport Visiting Nurse Association. He served as the president of the Davenport Bank and Trust and was largely responsible for keeping that institution from failing during the Great Depression. Adler was an inveterate Davenport booster. During his career, he turned down an offer from Gardner Cowles to join the Des Moines Register and also declined a position with the Hearst Partnership newspapers in New York.

    Adler was an active member of the Jewish community in Davenport. He served as president of the board of Temple Emanuel, headed the Tri-City Jewish Charities, and led campaigns for Davenport's United Jewish Appeal and the national Joint Distribution Committee. He was an advisory board member of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, and on the Jewish Council of the State University of Iowa's School of Religion.

    In addition to Adler's dedication to Judaism and Jewish causes, he was elected to the board of Davenport's Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). His philanthropy extended to supporting Davenport's St. Ambrose College and chairing its fund-raising program among non-Catholics. He served on the board of St. Luke's Hospital and helped raise funds for that Episcopal institution. After Adler died on March 2, 1949, one headline in the Democrat and Leader newspaper referred to him as "Acknowledged No. 1 Citizen of Davenport"; another read "Foe of Intolerance and Bigotry, E. P. Adler Aided All Faiths."
Sources include Lee P. Loomis, Philip D. Adler, and Donald Wells Anderson, The Lee Papers: A Saga of Midwestern Journalism (1947); Wilbur Cross, comp., Lee's Legacy of Leadership: The History of Lee Enterprises, Incorporated (1990); Davenport Democrat and Leader, 3/2/1949; Jack Wolfe, A Century with Iowa Jewry, 1833–1940 (1941); and Edna Ferber, A Peculiar Treasure (1939).
Contributor: David Mayer Gradwohl

Cite as: Gradwohl, David Mayer. "Adler, Emanuel Philip" The Biographical Dictionary of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, 2009. Web. 13 December 2017