Voices of the West: Nick Kotz

bg-logo2Voices of the West: Nick Kotz
Tuesday, October 13th, 6:30pm
Jack Guenther Pavilion

Join us as we illuminate unique perspectives on the history and future of the American West. All lectures held at the Jack Guenther Pavilion on the Briscoe Campus.

Nick Kotz was born in Texas during the Great Depression. He grew up in San Antonio, living with his maternal grandparents—Nathan and Anna Kallison—until he and his mother Tibe Kallison Lasser moved to Washington, DC in 1946 when she married noted physician Dr. Jacob Kotz.

As a reporter for the Washington Post and the Des Moines Register, and in six pathbreaking books, Nick Kotz won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting, the National Magazine Award, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards, and eight other renowned prizes. Among his works are exposés of government corruption and studies of national defense, civil rights, social justice, and labor unions. His most recent book, The Harness Maker’s Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas, received a 2015 San Antonio Conservation Society Publication Award. The Texas Institute of Letters named it a finalist for their Carr P. Collins Award for Non-fiction.

Tickets are $10; Briscoe Partners and UTSA University Members are FREE. Learn more about the benefits of becoming a Member here.

Follow Nick Kotz on Facebook (www.facebook.com/HarnessMakersDream) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/@Nick_Kotz)

Texas Events

texas-flagFor our friends in The Lone Star State, here are Nick Kotz’s upcoming events:

October 29: Congregation Beth Israel (7pm);  5600 N Braeswood Blvd; Houston, TX.

October 30: Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research (10:30am); Carriage House at the Clayton Library Center for Genealogical Research; 5300 Caroline St; Houston, TX  77004.

November 20: Dallas Jewish Historical Society/Dallas JCC (7pm): Aaron Family JCC of Dallas; 7900 Northaven Rd;  Dallas, Texas 75230.

December 3: Downtown Rotary Club (noon); Bright Shawl restaurant; 819 Augusta St; San Antonio, TX 78215.

December 5: The Alamo Research Center (formerly Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library)(2pm); Alamo Hall in the Alamo Complex; 300 Alamo Plaza; San Antonio, TX 78295-1401.

The Dallas Morning New’s GuideLive Review of The Harness Maker’s Dream:

As a child in San Antonio in the 1930s and ’40s, Nick Kotz lived with his grandfather Nathan, who ran a large farm supply store and a cattle-breeding ranch. But as he recounts in The Harness Maker’s Dream, he never thought to ask “Papa” Kallison during their many hours together about his early life, about where he was born and grew up.


Read full review:

Save the Date! Nick Kotz at DCJCC Literary Festival


Nick Kotz
author of
The Harness Maker’s Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas
will speak at the
Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival
Friday, October 24, 2014
Presentation:  12:00-12:45 pm
    Q&A: 2:45-1:00 pm
              Book signing: 1:00-1:30 pm
(Bring a bag lunch!)
Washington DC JCC
1529 16th Street NW

Nick KotzFormer Washington Post reporter, Pulitzer Prize winner, and author of six path breaking books with subjects ranging from labor unions to civil rights and national defense to ancestral narrative, Nick Kotz will talk about American Family Histories: Lost, Forgotten and Found. Find out how he uncovered secrets in his family’s past and why there has never been a better time to research your own roots.

Click here For Tickets: 




San Antonio Conservation Society Award

San Antonio Conservatoin Society_1 The San Antonio Conservation Society honored Nick Kotz with a 2015 Publication Award for The Harness Maker's Dream: Nathan Kallison and the Rise of South Texas (TCU Press, 2013). The Society’s Publication Awards, which take place every other year, publicly recognize the authors of the best recently published books on Texas history. SACS 2015 Publication Award Recipients   

Texas Institute of Letters announces that The Harness Maker’s Dream is a finalist for their Carr P. Collins Award for Nonfiction.

TILThe Texas Institute of Letters has announced that The Harness Maker's Dream is a finalist for their Carr P. Collins Award for Nonfiction.

The awards are for works appearing during calendar year 2013. The Institute was founded in 1936 to recognize literary achievement and to promote interest in Texas literature. Authors must have lived in Texas for at least two years or their works must relate to the state. Texas Institute of Letters Website

Writers’ League of Texas Review

Read Laura D. Sanders'  review of the THE HARNESS MAKER’S DREAM on Writers' League of Texas web site. 10_1899_Kallison-Family-in-Chicago-Standing_Nathan-(left),-Anna-(right),--Seated_Dina-Kallison-(center),-Pauline-(left),-Morris-(right)I stand in awe of the Kallison family.  From surviving pogroms against Jews in Russia, to moving around the world to the U.S. and then surviving one of the longest Texas droughts (seven years) with their ranch and farm/ranch store intact, this family had an incredible ability to roll with life’s punches and come up standing.  In the process they insisted on helping their neighbors at every possible turn, as well as serving the wider community, the city of San Antonio, the cattle and horse industries of Texas, and even the United States, leaving a legacy in many areas. For those interested in the history of Texas ranching and farming, the Kallisons’ story is a microcosm of the best that can be done, and the factors that contributed to the downturn of the [...]

Renowned Texas Journalist Shares Family History in ‘The Harness Maker’s Dream’

Kotz tells KUT's David Brown, host of the forthcoming daily news show Texas Standard, the story of how  Nathan Kallison escaped the Cossacks in Russia to the ghettos of Chicago where he became a harness maker."The automobile was starting to roll on the streets of Chicago," Kotz says. "[Nathan Kallison] had vision, and he saw if there were harnesses and saddles that were still going to be used any place, Texas was the best place to go." And Texas is where Nathan Kallison went. Listen to their interview in the Soundcloud player above or on the KUT.org web site: http://kut.org/post/renowned-texas-journalist-shares-family-history-harness-makers-dream


Nick Kotz speaks about The Harness Maker’s Dream and the Kallison family of San Antonio with David Martin Davies, Producer and Host of TEXAS MATTERS.  Learn more about the program at http://tpr.org/programs/texas-matters and tune in the weekend of January 4 to listen to the interview. TEXAS MATTERS is a Texas Public Radio broadcast that airs on 30 stations across the state Fridays at 3:30 pm, Saturdays at 6:30 am, and Sundays at9:30 pm CT

News 4 San Antonio

SAN ANTONIO - Author Nick Kotz discusses his book titled: The Harness Maker's Dream Nathan Kallison & the Rise of South Texas. The book is about the Kallison family and their journey escaping anti-Semitic laws in Europe, and finding a new home in Texas. Kotz will be at the The Twig Book Shop (306 Pearl Pkwy, San Antonio) on Dec. 6, 5-7pm, and during the Tamale Festival on Dec. 7, 3-5pm.

The remarkable clash of 2 Jewish retail titans

SAN DIEGO–I suppose the thing that makes me the saddest about The Harness Maker’s Dream is that the “villain” in this excellent-reading story about the Kallison family empire in San Antonio, Texas, was a man that so many of us San Diegans admire: Sol Price, although he is not mentioned by name in this family memoir by journalist Nick Kotz. Sol Price and his son Robert are among the merchant philanthropists of whom we Jews are most proud in San Diego, just as many Jews of San Antonio revere the memories of Nathan Kallison and his sons Morris and Perry.  From what was initially a harness maker’s store, Nathan expanded his enterprise into Kallison’s Big Country Store, and then, so he could understand his customers better and sell them products he could personally recommend, he purchased and developed Kallison Ranch where he raised Texas Polled Hereford cattle. [...]

Washington Times Book Review

Jewish ranchers, Jewish cowboys — in Texas?  OK, Jewish cowboys did exist, but it would be a stretch to exaggerate their number. However, in the late 19th century and through most of the 20th century, there were definitely Jewish ranches, small, medium and large, in Texas, as this intriguing book illustrates.  Read more...  

Immigrant’s life burnished by determination

The old statue of a wiry-bodied cowboy in leather chaps, vest, boots and hat, holding his saddle in his right hand, with six-shooter hanging from his left hip, still stands atop the former Kallison's store on South Flores Street, just south of the Plaza de Armas. That image, immortalized on the cover of Nick Kotz's fascinating new history of the pioneering Russian Jewish merchant-rancher Nathan Kallison and his remarkable family, is an appropriate symbol for the entire Kallison family enterprise, once a dynamic civic presence but now faded from prominence. Adopted as a teenager by Jacob Kotz, M.D., of Washington, D.C., upon his mother Tibe's second marriage, Nick Kotz brings to this book the great advantage of being Nathan Kallison's grandson. He is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author of six other books who has written for the Washington Post and [...]

Back Story: A Pulitzer-Winning Journalist Examines His Own Family

After many years as a journalist—investigating presidents, congressmen, and labor union officials, examining the military-industrial complex, civil rights and social justice issues—I never imagined that the most challenging and rewarding story would be about my own family. Growing up in San Antonio, I knew little about my Kallison grandparents in whose home my mother and I lived for the first twelve years of my life.  They were two of 23 million men, women and children—two million of them Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe—who surged into the United States from 1880 through 1920—and they rarely spoke of their pasts. Why hadn’t I asked them about their early lives: Where in Russia were they born? What was it like living as Jews under the autocratic thumb of an oppressive czar? How did they escape from Russia? Why did they come to Texas? How [...]

The Jewish Russian harness maker who brought Texas ranching into the 20th century Austin American-Statesman

In the new “The Harness Maker’s Dream,” Nick Kotz writes about his grandfather, Nathan Kallison, a notable San Antonio merchant and rancher.

The story echoes that of many Jewish immigrants at that time. A 17-year-old boy with the skills to turn leather into horse harnesses comes to America in 1890 to escape the Cossacks. But Kallison’s story takes a turn. Within four years, he opens his own store in Chicago’s Jewish West Side. Nine years in, he has moved to San Antonio to open up a store that would cater to ranchers and farmers throughout South Central Texas. Within 20 years, he buys a ranch and the family helps champion the Polled Hereford breed of cattle. He revolutionizes ranching and farming when cattle drives were coming to an end and droughts were common.

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About The Harness Maker’s Dream


Releasing Fall 2013

ISBN: 978-0-87565-567-3

Both historical study and ancestral narrative, The Harness Maker’s Dream follows the story of Ukrainian immigrant Nathan Kallison’s journey to the United States in search of a brighter future. At the turn of the twentieth century, over two million Jews emigrated from Czarist Russia and Eastern Europe to escape anti-Semitic law. Seventeen-year-old Kallison and his brothers were among those brave enough to escape persecution and pursue a life of freedom by leaving their homeland in 1890. Faced with the challenges of learning English and earning wages as a harness maker, Kallison struggles to adapt to his new environment.

Kallison moves to San Antonio, Texas, where he finds success by founding one of the largest farm and ranch supply businesses in south Texas and eventually running one of the region’s most innovative ranches. Despite enormous changes in environment and lifestyle, Nathan Kallison and his beloved wife Anna manage to maintain their cultural heritage by raising their children in the Jewish faith, teaching them that family values and a strong sense of character are more important than any worldly achievement.
The son of Nathan Kallison’s daughter Tibe, author Nick Kotz provides a moving account of his ancestors’ search for the American dream. Kotz’s work has received recognition by the Texas Jewish Historical Society for eloquently depicting the reality of life for Jewish immigrants in Texas during this time and delineating their significant contributions to society. Kotz’s insight into the life of this inspiring individual will prompt readers to consider their own connections to America’s immigrant past and recognize the beauty of our nation’s diverse history