Nathaniel Spear (1867-1947) was known as the “dean of Pittsburgh merchants.” Born in Plymouth, Ohio to Solomon and Augusta Spear, he learned the mercantile business from his father, who ran a general store, and later as a five dollar-a-week clerk for a wholesale hat dealer in Chicago. Spear moved to Pittsburgh in 1893 and founded the furniture store Spear & Company with a group of partners. Spear & Company initially occupied a five-story building at 511 Wood Street. It moved to 908-910 Penn Avenue in 1897 and moved across the street in 1907. The company later purchased and renovated the 14-story McCreery department store building at Wood and Oliver streets and then moved into a 14-story building on Wood Street. The company eventually operated a chain of stores, including two locations in Pittsburgh and five in New York City.“Dean of City Merchants Dies at 79,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, June 20, 1947, p. 13 (online—Newspapers.com).
Spear retired from the presidency of the company in 1945 but remained on the board. Spear was active in health care and youth services. He was a past president of Montefiore Hospital and a member of the National Board of Sponsors of the National Jewish Hospital in Denver. He was the first president of the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House, a trustee of the YM&WHA in Pittsburgh and a prominent supporter of the Boy Scouts of America. He was the long-time secretary of Rodef Shalom Congregation. He was also fond of the arts and partially credited with the design of his house “Belgrade Terrace” at 5321 Northumberland Street in Squirrel Hill.Nathaniel Spear obituary, Jewish Criterion, June 20, 1947, p. 31 (online).
Spear married Adeline Levy of Cincinnati, Ohio. in 1895. They had two children, Nathaniel Spear Jr. and Major James N. Spear.ibid