BARNERT, NATHAN (1838–1927), U.S. businessman, public figure, and philanthropist. Barnert was born in Santomischel near Posen, Prussia, and was taken to the U.S. in 1849. After his travels in California during the gold rush, Barnert moved to Paterson, New Jersey, at 20, and opened a clothing establishment. During the Civil War, he filled large contracts for Union Army uniforms, using his profits for business expansion and acquisition of real estate holdings. Barnert retired from mercantile life at the age of 40 to devote all his attention to his profitable real estate interests. He used his capital to create a new industry in Paterson, the furnishing of supplies for paper mills. He also had great success in building large, modern textile mills as speculative projects. A Democrat in a normally Republican city, Barnert was elected to the Paterson Board of Aldermen in 1876 and 1879. He was elected mayor of Paterson in 1883 and 1889, and pursued a reform administration. An observant Jew, Barnert never appeared at City Hall on the Sabbath or festivals. He was a devoted worshiper at Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, to which, in 1889, he donated the land and assumed construction costs for a new synagogue building, whose dedication was attended by President William McKinley. Barnert built a Hebrew school (1904), and a nonsectarian hospital and nurses' home. Among his other philanthropic gifts were the construction of a synagogue for the Jewish community of Santomischel and an orphan asylum in Jerusalem. A statue of Nathan Barnert was dedicated in Paterson's City Hall Square in 1925.
M. Baum, Biography of Nathan Barnert (1914).
[David H. Panitz]