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There is ever an element of interest in the history of a self-made man, one who starts out in life empty-handed and wrests fortune from an adverse fate. Obstacles and difficulties are encountered, but to the man of resolute purpose these but call for renewed effort and serve as stepping stones to something higher. The life record of Mr. Alexander stands in exemplification of what may be accomplished in this free land of ours, where the man of ambition and determination is unhampered by caste or class.
He was born in Adelsheim, in the grand duchy of Baden, Germany, on the 17th of March, 1837, his parents being Samuel and Caroline (Steinhart) Alexander. The father was a dealer in cattle and horses. Both parents were Hebrews in religious faith, and the mother departed this life in her forty-fourth year, while the father reached the ripe old age of seventy-one. They had two sons and two daughters, all yet living. Joseph Alexander attended the public schools of his native land until his sixteenth year, when he bade adieu to home and friends and crossed the Atlantic to America, hoping to make a fortune in the New World. He was a poor boy and the language of the people was unknown to him, but with a stout heart and ready hands he began work, being employed for a few years as clerk in a general store in New York city. During that time he became familiar with the methods of merchandising and thus was well fitted for carrying on business on his own account.
In 1857 Mr. Alexander sailed for California, going by way of the Isthmus of Panama, and arriving at San Francisco in the same year. There he secured a clerkship which continued for three years, during which time he saved his earnings and was thus enabled to embark in business on his own account. At the Metropolitan market he began dealing in live and dressed poultry, and was thus engaged until, attracted by the gold discoveries in Idaho, he came to this state with Mr. Strouce, for whom he clerked for a few years. He then began business on his own account in Lewiston, and the history of his venture has been one of remarkable success from the beginning. He first opened a general mercantile store on the street next to the river, and in 1883 erected his present large store and warehouse. He carries a large stock of general merchandise and does an extensive and profitable business. So successful has he been in this venture that he has been enabled to establish branch stores in Grangeville, Genesee and Oaksdale, all of which are now paying investments. He has also judiciously invested in lands, until he is now the owner of about four thousand acres, comprising some of the finest farms of the state. He also owns several good buildings in Lewiston, including a fine residence property, and for some years has been prominently connected with the Lewiston National Bank, as vice-president, director and stockholder.
Mr. Alexander has long taken a deep and active interest in the affairs of the town, has been instrumental in promoting many of its beneficial measures, and for fourteen years has served as a member of the city council, exercising his official prerogatives in support of all movements calculated for the public good. In politics he is a Republican, and socially he is connected with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. His business career has been remarkably successful, but his wealth is the natural effect following cause. Energy, untiring labor, keen business discernment and unfailing honesty, these have made him a prosperous man, and at all times his uprightness and reliability have won him the regard and confidence of those with whom he has been brought in contact.