Lena & Max Tobias

As recorded in the board’s minutes, William Tobias, who was dying of consumption and divorced, applied for the admission of his children. In March 1905, with the endorsement of San Antonio’s B’nai B’rith Edar Lodge 211, the board admitted Lena and Max, ages 6 and 4. William died one month later.

While in the Home, Lena was elected vice-president of the Golden City Sisterhood. When she graduated from Isidore Newman Manual Training  School in 1916, Lena wrote her senior paper on “My Favorite Statesman” and was the featured soloist for the singing of the class song. Following graduation, Lena learned stenography and, with a monthly stipend from the Home, briefly lived in a nearby boarding house as a non-resident ward. In 1917, she married fellow Home alumnus Morris Burka; she was “given away” by Home Superintendent Leon Volmer and received $150 from the Home’s Simon Gumbel Dowry Fund. Lena died in 1931 at the young age of 32. 

Max and Lena Tobias

Siblings Max and Lena Tobias, c. 1910. Courtesy of Judge Max Tobias, Jr.

In the Home, like his older sister, Max was elected to the Golden City Brotherhood. At school, his Newman senior classmates jokingly touted his “splendidly developed vocal organs” which they claimed he “practiced on the teachers” and used to share “his fund of jokes.” In 1919, shortly after discharge to his married sister, Max graduated from Newman. He soon started working as a clerk in the manufacturing of cotton and burlap bags, which would become his life-long career, and by 1932 founded the Max N. Tobias Bag Co. 

Max celebrated his success by taking up residence in the Roosevelt Hotel and, according to his son, wearing Calcutta suits (whose delicacy rendered them short-lived)  and smoking expensive cigars. When he married fellow Home alumna Mildred Gordon, following their meeting in the Hotel’s famous Blue Room, they moved into a suite where they raised their son and remained the rest of their lives. An avid horseman, Max served as State Racing Commission chair from 1952 to 1956 and continued as a director until his death in 1974. According to the Times-Picayune, he left an estate valued in excess of $2 million.

Max Tobias, Newman Pioneer 1919

Max Tobias, senior photo. Isidore Newman Manual Training School Pioneer, May 1919.

Max N. Tobias, Sr., 1974

Max N. Tobias, Sr. Unattributed photo from Times Picayune, Nov. 17, 1974.

Ad for Max N. Tobias Bag Co.

Ad for Max N. Tobias Bag Co., New Orleans Item, May 2, 1954.