Mr Emil Franklin Brandeis was born in Manitowoc, Wisconsin on 15 March 1864.
He was the son of Jonas Leopold Brandeis (1834-1903), a dry goods merchant, and Francesca Teweles (1845-1905), both Jewish immigrants from a region of what was then Bohemia and now part of the modern-day Czech Republic. Both his parents had emigrated to the USA around 1856 and married in Milwaukee, Wisconsin around 1862. His father was the founder of a successful dry goods merchant, J. L. Brandeis & Sons. One of four children, Emil's siblings were: Arthur Donoen (1862-1916), Sarah (1867-1936, later Mrs Herman Cohn) and Hugo (1868-1912).
Emil appears on the 1870 census living with his family in Manitowoc. Although absent home on the 1880 census, Emil's family were listed in the same city. He attended public schools and graduated from the grammar classes at age twelve and mastered the commercial college course in two years in Milwaukee. Coming back home he entered his father's store. The family later moved to Omaha, Nebraska around 1881 where his father founded the Brandeis Department Store. In 1885, at age 21, Emil became a member of the firm, where he eventually directed the planning, building and maintenance of the Brandeis buildings. He was also responsible for the general oversight of the men's goods department. He was never married and lived at the Kennard Apartments on Dodge Street between Eighteenth and Nineteenth Streets, Omaha.
Emil travelled to Europe every year and he left Omaha in late January 1912, visiting his niece, Mrs Irving Stern (Ruth, the daughter of his brother Arthur) in Italy. He travelled with them through Spain, Egypt and Rome to Vevey, Switzerland, where they visited with his sister, Sarah Cohn, who had been widowed less than a year. Due to return to the USA in May, he altered his plans in order to sail two weeks early and boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as a first class passenger (ticket number PC 17591 which cost £50, 9s, 11d). Whilst aboard he occupied cabin B10.
On the Titanic, he met with two old friends, Mr and Mrs Henry B. Harris, and he may also have been acquainted with John D. Baumann.
Brandeis died in the sinking. His body was later recovered by the MacKay Bennett (#208):
NO. 208. MALE - ESTIMATED AGED 50 - GREY HAIR AND MOUSTACHE
CLOTHING - Dark suit; brown shirt, blue striped; black shoes; silk socks.
EFFECTS - Diamond cuff links; gold knife; platinum and diamond watch chain; gold pencil case; gold ring; gold cigarette case and match box with initials; pearl tie-pin; gold watch; 500 francs note; £15; $15.00; £2 10s 3d.NAME EMIL BRANDEIS
After the disaster, his sister-in-law, Mrs Arthur Brandeis travelled to New York to question the survivors from the Carpathia as to his whereabouts or details of his final moments. In a telegram dated April 19, she said that she found no-one who had seen or spoken to Emil. She then met with Mrs Henry B. Harris and wired to the brothers from New York on April 19 that:
'Emil and Mr and Mrs Harris enjoyed hearty dinner together Sunday night, Emil proudly telling them of his niece and nephew, Ruth and Irving Stone, promising Mr and Mrs Harris they should meet them in New York. The men all stood together on deck as the women were lowered in lifeboats. When Mrs Harris was ten minutes out at sea she saw the steamer sink with all those fine men aboard. They remained without fear'.
Emil was a past governor of Ak-Sar-Ben, and active in its work. The following statement was issued and signed by Charles H. Pickens, president of the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben, G. E. Haverstick for the Commercial Club and A. L. Sale for the Ad Club:
The Omaha World-Herald
To the citizens of Omaha: In the consideration of his distinguished services in the upbuilding of Omaha and in appreciation in the loss of his loyal devotion to her interests that his home city has sustained in his tragic death, we as presidents of our respective organizations have called a public meeting in memory of our late fellow citizen, Emil Brandeis, to take place in the Brandeis theater Sunday morning, April 21, at 10 o'clock.
Emil was joined in death by his brother Hugo on 21 July 1912. His brother Arthur died in Manhattan on 10 June 1916 and his sister Sarah on 31 October 1936. Emil is buried with his parents, siblings Hugo and Sarah and several nieces and nephews in a family plot in Pleasant Hill Jewish Cemetery, Omaha.