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.
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.
- In Memoriam Jesse Seligman, New York, privately printed, 1894.
American political economist; born in New York April 25, 1861; educated at Columbia University (Ph.D. 1884); studied at the universities of Berlin, Heidelberg, Geneva, and Paris. He became prize lecturer at Columbia in 1885, full professor in 1891, and is now (1905) head of the faculty of economics and sociology. He has particularly devoted himself to the economics of finance, on which he has written two important treatises: "Essays in Taxation," 3d ed. 1900; and "The Shifting and Incidence of Taxation," 2d ed. 1899. He has written also "Railway Tariffs," 1887; "Progressive Taxation in Theory and Practise," 1894; and "Economic Interpretation of History," 1902.
Seligman has been president of the American Economic Association, besides being connected with many scientific and philanthropic societies. He was a member of the Committee of Seventy and secretary of the Committee of Fifteen in New York city; having shown great interest in municipal reform, he became president of the Tenement-House Building Company of New York. He is likewise president of the Ethical Culture Society of New York.
- Who's Who in America, 1905.
American banker and communal worker; born in New York July 10, 1855; educated at Columbia Grammar School and Columbia College, from which he graduated in 1876. He was one of the crew which won the university eight-oar college race on Saratoga Lake in 1874. In 1878, after having finished an apprenticeship in the firm of Seligman & Hellman, New Orleans, he joined the New York establishment, of which he became head in 1880, on the death of his father, Joseph Seligman. He has been connected with almost all the important social-reform committees in New York, and is a trustee of nineteen important commercial, financial, and other institutions and societies, including the Munich Life Assurance Company, St. John's Guild, and the McKinley Memorial Association, and has been a member of the Committee of Seventy, of Fifteen, and of Nine, each of which attempted at various times to reform municipal government in New York; of the last-named body he was chairman. He is a trustee of Temple Emanu-El and of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, as well as of the United Hebrew Charities, though he is also a member of the Ethical Culture Society.
- Bankers' Magazine, March, 1899;
- Union Historical Association, 1901, special issue;
- New York Tribune, July 4, 1899.
American banker and philanthropist; born at Baiersdorf, Bavaria, Aug. 11, 1827; died at Coronado Beach, Cal., April 23, 1894. He followed his brothers to the United States in 1841, and established himself at Clinton, Ala. In 1848 he removed with his brothers to Watertown, N. Y., and thence, with his brother Leopold, went to San Francisco in the autumn of 1850, where he became a member of the Vigilance Committee, as well as of the Howard Fire Company. He remained in California till 1857, when he joined his brother in establishing a banking business in New York. With his brother Joseph he helped to found the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in 1859, and was connected with it till his death. At the time of his death he was a trustee of the Baron de Hirsch Fund. He was a member of the Union League Club, of which he was vice-president, and from which he resigned in 1893 when the club for racial reasons refused to admit to membership his son Theodore. He was head of the American Syndicate formed to place in the United States the shares of the Panama Canal.
- In Memoriam Jesse Seligman, New York, privately printed, 1894, p. 229.
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.
- New York Tribune, July 4, 1899.
- Henry Ward Beecher's eulogy was reprinted in The Menorah, March, 1905.