About Joseph Seligman
Joseph Seligman (1819–1880) was a prominent U.S. banker and businessman. He was born in Baiersdorf, Germany, emigrating to the United States when he was 18. With his brothers, he started a bank, J. & W. Seligman & Co., with branches in New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, London, Paris and Frankfurt.
In the post-Civil War Gilded Age, J. & W. Seligman & Co. invested heavily in railroad finance, in particular acting as broker of transactions engineered by Jay Gould. They underwrote the securities of a variety of companies, participating in stock and bond issues in the railroad and steel and wire industries, investments in Russia and Peru, the formation of the Standard Oil Company, and shipbuilding, bridges, bicycles, mining, and a variety of other industries.
In 1877, Seligman was involved in the most publicized antisemitic incident in American history up to that point, being denied entry into the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York. The case became a national cause célèbre.
* 1 Childhood
* 2 Arrival in America
* 3 J. & W. Seligman & Co. and railroads
* 4 Civil War
* 5 United States economy
* 6 Seligman-Hilton affair
o 6.1 Background
o 6.2 The incident
o 6.3 Aftermath
* 7 Family
* 8 Footnotes
* 9 References
* 10 External links
As a small child, Seligman worked in his mother's dry goods shop. Present-day Germany consisted of many independent states in the early 19th century, most of which issued their own, differing coinages; and young Joseph made a profit at his mother's store changing money for travelers for a small fee.
Joseph's father wanted him to enter the family wool business, but circumstances made this difficult; in particular, migration of the peasant class (Seligman's father's customers) from rural areas to urban meant a loss of job opportunities and a shrinking economic base in Baiersdorf.
At fourteen, Seligman attended the University of Erlangen. At seventeen, he boarded a steamer at Bremen and sailed to America.
 Arrival in America
Seligman initially settled in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania, where he went to work as a cashier/clerk for Asa Packer, who later become a United States congressman. His salary was $400.00 a year.
Using his savings from work, Seligman began selling goods door to door in rural Pennsylvania (jewelry, knives, smaller goods), saving outlying farmers the trouble of coming into town to buy their goods. After saving $500, Seligman was able to send to Germany for his brothers William and James, who joined him in peddling.
The Seligmans encountered some antisemitic abuse in their interactions with Americans, though they were not discouraged from continuing to sell.
J. & W. Seligman & Co. and railroads
Seilgman's firm made a number of investments in railroads. Among these were the Missouri Pacific, the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, the South Pacific Coast Railroad, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad. They also helped finance New York's first elevated railway.
The Seligmans tended to lose money on their railroad ventures. One example is buying land in Arizona that was to be used for grazing cattle, which could then be transported on the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad line. However, the aridity of Arizona made it unsuitable for the venture.
During the American Civil War, Seligman was responsible for aiding the Union by disposing of $200,000,000 in bonds "a feat which W. E. Dodd said was 'scarcely less important than the Battle of Gettysburg.'"
Later historians have suggested that Seligman's role in financing the war through bonds has been exaggerated. According to Stephen Birmingham, Seligman was obliged to accept "7.30 bonds" from the Union Government as payment for the uniforms his factory was delivering. Union defeats (combined with a suspiciously high interest rate) lowered confidence in the bonds, making them difficult to sell.
 United States economy
President Ulysses S. Grant, who had befriended Jesse Seligman when he was a First Lieutenant near Watertown, New York, offered Joseph Seligman the post of United States Secretary of the Treasury, which he declined, possibly due to shyness. George Sewall Boutwell accepted the position and eventually clashed with the Seligmans.
In 1877, President Rutherford Hayes asked Seligman, August Belmont, and a number of other New York bankers to come to Washington, D.C., to plan a refinancing of the war debt. Each banker submitted a plan, but Secretary of the Treasury Sherman accepted Seligman's plan as being the most practical. It involved retaining gold reserves totaling forty percent of circulating greenbacks through bond sales.
 Seligman-Hilton affair
In 1877, Judge Henry Hilton, the manager of the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga, New York, denied entry to Joseph Seligman and his family because they were Jews, creating nationwide controversy. It was the first antisemitic incident of its kind in the United States to achieve widespread publicity.
During the 1870s, several incidents made Alexander Stewart hostile towards Seligman, although the two men had served together on the board of the New York Railway Company (whose president was Judge Henry Hilton), a Tweed Ring associate.
The first incident involved Seligman's declining the post of Secretary of the Treasury. Stewart, who was a friend of President Grant, was then offered the post. However, because he was associated with Henry Hilton and Hilton, with Tammany Hall, the Senate declined to confirm him.
Seligman was invited to serve in the Committee of Seventy, a group of New Yorkers who banded together to fight the Tweed Ring. Stewart's company, in retaliation, stopped doing business with Seligman.
Stewart died in 1876, having placed Hilton in charge of his estate, the largest American fortune recorded to that date. The estate included a two-million-dollar stake in the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga, as well as A. T. Stewart's department store on Astor Place. Hilton himself was unhappy with Seligman, as he was annoyed that Seligman had not invited him to a dinner given for Grant after he became president.
After helping refinance the war debt in Washington, Seligman decided to vacation with his family at the 834-room Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga, where he had stayed before. Saratoga at the time was a well-regarded resort area for upperclass New Yorkers, and the Grand Union Hotel itself was the best available.
Nevertheless, by 1877 the hotel had suffered a drop in business. Stewart and, after his death, his manager Hilton believed that the cause of the decline was the presence of "Israelites" (that is, Jews) at the hotel; Christians, their theory went, did not wish to stay at a hotel that admitted Jews. Seligman was told he could not stay at the hotel.
Historians disagree as to whether the Seligman family were physically turned away from the hotel, told not to come to the hotel, or advised that they could stay only one final time. However, it is clear that the Seligmans were made to feel that their presence at the hotel was not desired and would not be tolerated long, if at all.
The incident created much controversy. The New York Times, on June 19, 1877, ran a headline set entirely in capital letters:
A SENSATION AT SARATOGA.
NEW RULES FOR THE GRAND UNION.
NO JEWS TO BE ADMITTED--MR. SELIGMAN,
THE BANKER, AND HIS FAMILY SENT AWAY--
HIS LETTER TO MR. HILTON--
GATHERING OF MR. SELIGMAN'S FRIENDS
AN INDIGNATION MEETING TO BE HELD.
Judge Hilton released a letter saying, "As [yet] the law . . . permits a man to use his property as he pleases, and I propose exercising that blessed privilege, notwithstanding Moses and all his descendants object."
The case became a national sensation. Seligman and Hilton both received death threats. A group of Seligman's friends started a boycott against A. T. Stewart's, eventually causing the business to fail; a sale to John Wanamaker followed. This prompted Hilton to pledge a thousand dollars to Jewish charities, a gesture mocked by the satirical magazine Puck.
Hilton was also castigated by Henry Ward Beecher (who knew Seligman) in a sermon entitled "Gentile and Jew." After praising Seligman's character, Beecher said, "When I heard of the unnecessary offense that has been cast upon Mr. Seligman, I felt no other person could have been singled out that would have brought home to me the injustice more sensibly than he."
Whether or not Seligman meant to be turned away from the hotel to cast a light on growing antisemitism in America, the resulting publicity emboldened other hoteliers to exclude Jews, placing advertisements saying "Hebrews need not apply" and "Hebrews will knock vainly for admission."
Joseph Seligman's siblings were, in order of birth, William (born Wolf), James (born Jacob), Jesse (born Isaias), Henry (born Hermann), Leopold (born Lippmann), Abraham, Isaac, Babette, Rosalie, and Sarah.
He married his cousin Babet Steinhardt in a ceremony in Baiersdorf in 1848. Together, they had five sons, David, George Washington, Edwin Robert Anderson Seligman, Isaac Newton Seligman, and Alfred Lincoln, as well as four daughters, Frances, Sophie and two others.
1. ^ Korn 2001, p. 161
2. ^ Birmingham 1996, p. 74
3. ^ Silberman 1985, p. 47
4. ^ Birmingham 1996, p. 144
5. ^ Marcus 1993, p. 157
6. ^ Birmingham 1996, p. 146
7. ^ Birmingham 1996, p. 147
* Birmingham, Stephen (1996), "Our Crowd": The Great Jewish Families of New York, Syracuse University Press, ISBN 978-0-8156-0411-2, http://books.google.com/books?id=xcaIrpV5gZAC&printsec=frontcover
* Korn, Bertram (2001), American Jewry and the Civil War, Jewish Publications Society, ISBN 978-0-8276-0738-5
* Marcus, Jacob Rader (1993), United States Jewry, 1776-1985: Volume III - The Germanic Period Part 2, Wayne State University Press, ISBN 978-0-8143-2188-1, http://books.google.com/books?id=O68mqWxeDl8C&printsec=frontcover
* Mayo, Louise A. (1988), The Ambivalent Image: Nineteenth-century America's Perception of the Jew, Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, ISBN 978-0-8386-3318-2
* Silberman, Charles E. (1985), A Certain People: American Jews and Their Lives Today, Summit Books, ISBN 978-0-671-44761-8
* The Seligman Family in the Civil War and After
* The Seligman Legacy
* Jewish Encyclopedia article
-------------------- Joseph Seligman (1819–1880) was a prominent American banker and businessman. He was born in Baiersdorf, Germany, emigrating to the United States when he was 18. With his brothers, he started a bank, J. & W. Seligman & Co., with branches in New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, London, Paris and Frankfurt.
In the post-Civil War Gilded Age, J. & W. Seligman & Co. invested heavily in railroad finance, in particular acting as broker of transactions engineered by Jay Gould. They underwrote the securities of a variety of companies, participating in stock and bond issues in the railroad and steel and wire industries, investments in Russia and Peru, the formation of the Standard Oil Company, and shipbuilding, bridges, bicycles, mining, and a variety of other industries. Later, in 1876, the Seligmans joined forces with the Vanderbilt family to create public utilities in New York. In 1877, Seligman was involved in the most publicized antisemitic incident in American history up to that point, being denied entry into the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga Springs, New York by Henry Hilton. From Wikipedia -------------------- Founder of the firm of Seligman Brothers; born at Baiersdorf, Bavaria, Nov. 22, 1819; died at New Orleans April 25, 1880. He was educated at the gymnasium of Erlangen, fromwhich he graduated in 1838. He then studied medicine, and in the same year went to the United States, where he acted as cashier and private secretary to Judge Asa Packer, president of the Lehigh Valley Railway. Establishing himself as a dry-goods merchant at Greensboro, Ala., he was joined by his brothers, and soon acquired sufficient capital to open an importing house in New York (1848). At the outbreak of the Civil war he founded the banking-house of J. & W. Seligman & Co., New York, having visited Germany in order to acquire financial connections in that country. In large measure the financing of the Civil war, so far as European capital was concerned, was managed by the Seligman firm. In 1877 he rendered an important service to the Navy Department of the United States by holding over till the following fiscal year a large debt due to the firm; for this he received the official thanks of the department, of which his firm was thenceforth the financial representative. He was an intimate friend of President Grant, by whom he was at one time offered the post of secretary of the treasury, which he declined.
Seligman was the founder of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, and was one of the founders of the Society for Ethical Culture, toward which he contributed large amounts, and of which he was president till his death. For a number of years he was a member of the Board of Education of the City of New York, and he was chairman of one of its most important committees. He was a member of the famous Committee of Seventy, during the Tweed régime. The first Rapid Transit Commission, which initiated the whole plan for better transportation facilities in New York, was presided over by him, and he was an early president of the American Geographical Society, in which he took much interest.
The Judge Hilton Affair.
In the summer of 1877 great indignation was aroused by the refusal of Judge Hilton, on racial grounds, to receive Mr. Seligman and his family at the Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga. It was the first incident of this kind that had occurred in the United States. It called forth most emphatic expressions of disapproval by representatives of various races and religions, and evoked a long eulogy (June 27) on the Hebrew race by Henry Ward Beecher. It is understood that the incident caused the ruin of A. T. Stewart's store, then managed by Judge Hilton, and which was afterward taken over by John Wanamaker of Philadelphia.
Joseph Seligman's Timeline
November 22, 1819
Baiersdorf, Bavaria, Germany
October 26, 1848
Baiersdorf, Bavaria, Germany
August 15, 1849
August 20, 1850
October 4, 1852
November 6, 1853
July 10, 1855
New York, NY, USA