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GIMBEL , U.S. merchant family. adam gimbel (1817–96), who emigrated from Bavaria, settled in New Orleans in 1835. Six brothers and two sisters followed him to the United States. Adam was a peddler along the Mississippi River before opening a dry goods store in Vincennes, Indiana, in 1842. By the time he sold his firm 40 years later, he owned four stores in Vincennes. He was a member of the city council from 1842 to 1866. The two eldest of Adam's seven sons, jacob (1851–1922) and isaac gimbel (1857–1931), established a department store in Danville, Illinois, in the 1880s. When they found the undertaking unprofitable, they moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where they founded Gimbel Brothers. In 1894 they opened a second department store in Philadelphia, which was run by their brothers charles (1861–1932) and ellis gimbel (1865–1950). The Gimbels' first New York venture came in 1910 with the establishment of a department store at Herald Square, which grew rapidly when two older firms were merged with it. In 1923 Gimbel Brothers bought Saks and Co. and shortly thereafter built a Saks subsidiary on Fifth Avenue. The Gimbel chain was further extended in 1926, when it took over Kaufman and Baer of Pittsburgh.

In the next decades, Saks branches were opened in Chicago, Detroit, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco. bernard f. gimbel (1885–1966), Isaac's son, became president of Gimbel Brothers in 1927. He was a distinguished civic figure who played a large part in the organization and direction of New York City's World Fairs in 1939 and 1964–65. He was a generous contributor to a number of scholarly institutions and was active in the work of the National Conference of Jews and Christians. Bernard's son, bruce a. gimbel (1913–1980), succeeded his father as president of Gimbel Brothers, Inc. in 1953. Sales during the fiscal year ending January 31, 1961, in a total of 53 urban and suburban stores in the chain, reached a record $61.6 million. Ten additional stores were opened over the next three years. However, in 1973 the company was absorbed by Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. and later by bat Industries plc. The last Gimbel's store closed its doors in 1987.

Maintaining the family's dedication to philanthropy, the Bernard F. and Alva B. Gimbel Foundation, established in 1943, supports services, programs and advocacy efforts in New York City that deal with education, workforce and economic development, civil legal services, criminal justice, reproductive rights, and the environment.

[Hanns G. Reissner Ruth Beloff (2nd ed.)]