American Jewish family having its origin in Baiersdorf, Bavaria. The eight sons of David Seligman have formed merchantile establishments spread throughout the chief commercial centers of the United States. The eldest, Joseph, went to the United States in 1837; he was followed by his two brothers William and James in 1839, and by Jesse in 1841. These established a small clothing business at Lancaster, Pa. They then removed to Selma, Ala., and from there opened branch stores at Greensboro, Eutaw, and Clinton. In 1848 the Seligmans, who had been joined by their younger brothers Henry and Leopold, determined on settling in the North. Accordingly Henry and Jesse established themselves in Watertown, N. Y., where the latter became acquainted with Lieutenant (afterward General) Grant. In 1850, at the outbreak of the gold-fever in California, Jesse established a store in San Francisco, in the only brick building then existing, which escaped the fire of 1851.
Dealings with United States Government.
In 1857 the clothing business had become so lucrative that it was decided to supplement it by a banking business, Joseph Seligman, the head of the firm, going to Europe and establishing relations with German bankers, at the same time placing United States bonds on the Frankfort Stock Exchange; since that period the firm of Seligman Brothers has been concerned with every issue of United States bonds.
In 1862 Joseph Seligman established the firms of J. & W. Seligman & Co., New York; Abraham Seligman & Co., San Francisco (subsequently merged with the Anglo-Californian Bank); Seligman Brothers, London; Seligman Frères et Cie., Paris; and Seligman & Stettheimer, Frankfort-on-the-Main.
An interesting feature about the formation of these firms was that the profits and losses of all of them were divided equally among the eight brothers, who thus followed the business policy established by the Rothschilds and pursued by that family for many years. In 1879 the Seligmans, with the Rothschilds, took over the whole of the $150,000,000 bonded loan of the United States. They have been financial agents for the Navy and the State Department of the United States since 1876, and are the accredited agents of that government both abroad and at home. Besides their interests in United States bonds, the firm of J. & W. Seligman is connected with many railway companies, especially in the Southwest.
In 1905 the members of the family established at their original home in Baiersdorf an institution for the training and support of children during the absence of their parents at work, and open to all the inhabitants of Baiersdorf without distinction of creed.