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The Banker from Baiersdorf

Biography 

Isaac Seligman (1834-1928)


The Seligmans from Baiersdorf

Isaac Seligman was born Isaak Seligmann and was a naturalised American of Jewish extraction. He was born in Baiersdorf, Erlangen-Hochstadt, Bayern, Germany (Bavaria) on 2 December 18341 to David Isaak SeligmanFT and Fanny Steinhardt. Isaac, as he became known, was the youngest of eight brothers, all of who were involved in running the merchant banking house of J & W Seligman & Co. which was co-founded in Manhattan, New York City, by Isaac's elder brothers, Joseph and James Seligman.

Siblings
Isaac's seven brothers were (eldest to youngest): Joseph, William, James, Henry, Leopold, Abraham and Jesse (Jacob). Isaac's sisters were: Babette, Rosalie and Sarah. All of his siblings were born in Baiersdorf, Germany.

Two Isaac Seligmans
Isaac Seligman emigrated to the United States in about 1842.2 Our Isaac Seligman should not be confused with Isaac Newton Seligman, a famous New York banker (b. 1855) who died in 1917 after falling from his horse while riding to work in New York City from his summer home in Irvington, Staten Island.3 Isaac Seligman (Baiersdorf) was in fact Isaac Newton Seligman's uncle.

Starting out in New York City (1850)
In 1850, Isaac Seligman, was 15 years old and working as a clerk in New York and living in House no. 497, in New York City's 17th Ward, together with his eldest brother Joseph Seligman (30), a merchant, and his wife of two years Babette Steinhardt (21), both from Baiersdorf.4
Isaac shared the house with some of his brothers, sisters and several others:

  • James Seligman, 28, a merchant in New York
  • Leopold Seligman, 19, a clerk in New York
  • Jacob Seligman, 16, a clerk in New York
  • Sarah Seligman, 11, no occupation
  • Hellen Seligman, 1, born in New York City, Joseph's daughter
  • Henriette Berlinger (24), friend or domestic from Germany
  • Caroline Wise (25), friend or domestic from Germany
  • Frederick Steinhardt (19), a relative from Germany, probably Babette's younger brother New York City

Investment banking house
Joseph Seligman emigrated to the United States in 1837. He and his brother William Seligman (the two eldest brothers) established the J. & W. Seligman Company in New York, which became one of America's earliest international banking houses with branch offices in the United States and Europe:

New York: Joseph, James and Jesse
Frankfurt-am-Main: Henry and Abraham
Paris: William
London: Isaac and Leopold
Additional offices were later opened in San Francisco and New Orleans.5 

During the early part of the American Civil War, when the fortunes of the Union arms were at a low ebb, the patriotism of the Seligman banking house was evidenced by their placing of large amounts of United States Government loans in Germany and London. J. & W. Seligman's London-based house of Seligman Brothers cooperated with the Rothschilds in placing United States 6% and 3-20 bonds in Germany and England. Leopold and Isaac's London merchant-banking house was made the depositary for the United States State and Navy departments.6 

Description (1863)
In 1863, while living in New York City, Seligman, aged 22, applied for a new American passport, as his old passport (No. 2515) dated 8 August 1857 was no longer valid. Seligman had to sign that he was not trying to dodge the draft. His passport application of 1 April 1863, which contains his signature, describes Isaac Seligman, as:

- 5ft 5 inches, blue eyes, large nose, round chin, light hair, fair complexion, oval face

London, England (1869)
In 1869, aged 34, he married 18-year-old Lina Messel (b. Darmstadt 1851) in London. Seligman, who described himself in the 1871 England Census as a "foreign merchant banker", was the managing partner the firm of Seligman Brothers at 18 Austin Friars, EC2, the London branch which he and his brother, Leopold Seligman, had jointly set up.

 Isaac Seligman

Photo: Courtesy of the descendants of the Seligman family

German Association, London (1870)
In August 1870, Isaac Seligman, who was a member of the German Association in London, donated the princely sum of £100 in aid of the wounded and destitute in the war.7

London (1871)
In 1871, he was living with his wife at Lincoln House, 100 Lower Tulse Hill, Lambeth, London, with their two children under the age of two: Charles David Seligman8 (b. 31 Oct 1869 in London), and Matilda Francis Seligman (b. 1871). Their household comprised a further eight persons in 1871: two lodgers (a New Yorker and a merchant's clerk from Darmstadt) and six domestic servants, including a housemaid, a nurse, a cook, and a domestic servant from Darmstadt.

Jews' Deaf and Dumb Home (1875)
The Jew's Deaf and Dumb Home, which was originally founded by Baroness M. de Rothschild, opened new and spacious buildings in Notting Hill, London, on 6 November 1875. The institution helped teach a system of lip reading to the deaf and dumb Jews. Isaac Seligman, who at that time was its Treasurer, declared a deficit of £1,600 at one of its meetings. However, that deficit was substantially reduced after deducting various donations that had been recently pledged to the Home.9

Anglo-Jewish Association (1876)
Isaac was a member of the Anglo-Jewish Association in London. On 26 December 1876, a deputation of the Council of the Anglo-Jewish Association presented Lord Derby at the Foreign Office with a 'memorial'. The memorial, which Isaac Seligman and many others had helped draft but which was not read, referred to various persecutions against Jews in Romania, including the break-up of Jewish families and their expulsion from rural Servia (Serbia). Persecutions included the destruction of a synagogue in Bucharest in 1866, as well as various outrages, plunderings and violations of chastity. The memorial included a request by the Anglo-Jewish Association "to revise the European Treaties of 1856 and 1858 between the Great Powers, under which the oppression complained of has been possible".10 
 
Mansion House Committee (1882)
A meeting of the Mansion House Committee was held on 8 February 1882 in the Long Parlour of the Lord Mayor's residence, Mansion House. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the fund that had been set up to provide "relief of the distress among the Jewish population of Russia". The Lord Mayor, Mr Alderman Ellis, presided. Among the 15 men present were Cardinal Manning, Mr Alfred de Rothschild, Sir Alexander T. Galt, GCMG (High Commissioner for Canada), Baron George de Worms, Mr Samuel Montagu and Mr Isaac Seligman.
 
The Lord Mayor reported that the Mansion House Fund had collected £42,550, which included a generous donation of £1,200 from the Dowager Baroness James de Rothschild, which sum Mr A. de Rothschild had just handed in. Mr Samuel Montagu proposed that £6,000 of the fund be placed with a sub-committee for the purpose of assisting the emigration and settlement of Jewish refugees from Russia, 373 of whom were currently on their way to America from Hamburg via Liverpool. Based on experience, each family would need £100 to cover the cost of land and implements and living expenses during an emigrant's first year there. Among the donations the Fund had received on 8 February, were £100 from the Fishmongers' Company and £400 from Mr and Mrs J.M. Levy.11 
 
Dining with Royalty (1883)
On 1 June 1883, HRH the Prince of Wales, Albert Edward (later Edward VII) presided at the Anniversary Dinner of the Royal Hospital for Diseases of the Chest, located in City Road, London, to help promote the hospital's Building Fund, whose president was the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Shaftesbury, KG. Among the 100-odd stewards of the hospital was Isaac Seligman12, who it is assumed grasped the opportunity of dining at Willis's Rooms13 in St James Street, London, in the presence of a leading member of the Royal Family.
 
Independence Day banquet (1895)
On 4 July 1895, the Americans living in London observed Independence Day by Americans taking the day off. As a result, all places of business used and frequented by Americans were closed for the day. On that day, Isaac Seligman attended the 'Fourth of July Banquet' given by the American Society at the American Embassy in London, which was also founded in 1895.
 
Among the 400 prominent and wealthy guests at the banquet that evening were Baron von Richthofen, Mr Henry Solomon Wellcome (Wellcome Trust), Mr Charles Dudley Warner (American essayist and novelist), Mr Seth Low (President of Columbia College, NY), Mr Benjamin Franklin Stevens (book exporter and bibliographer), and the Honourable Wayne MacVeagh, the American Ambassador to Rome (presiding). Since then, the Society has continued to embrace prominent and influential Americans in London in its membership.
 
In proposing the toast of the evening, MacVeagh remarked that there was "a good deal of talk about annexing. If America annexed any island", he suggested, "she should annex the best - this Island, the best not being too good for the United States". (Laughter).14 
 
Tregullow Offices (1896)
On 14 October 1896, in the 1896 Deed of Trust, Isaac Seligman was appointed joint legal owner and trustee of the 'Tregullow Offices' (later Zimapan Villa), Scorrier, Tregullow, Cornwall, by Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare, barrister-at-law and MP for Camborne, Cornwall. Henry G.M. Conybeare was the other trustee.

London, England (1899)
Isaac Seligman's eldest son, Charles David Seligman, married Eva Henriette Merton, the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs Henry R. Merton, on 1 June 1899, at the West London Synagogue in Upper Berkeley Street.15 At that time, Isaac and Lina were living at 15 Queen's Gate Gardens, London, while Eva Merton was living at her parents' home at 3 Palace Houses, Bayswater, London. During that same year, Isaac bought 17 Kensington Palace Gardens, Kensington, but retained his Queen's Gate Gardens property.
 
17 Ken Palace Gdns 
Photo: 17 Kensington Palace Gardens today (2009)

London, England (1901)
In 1901, Isaac and Lena Seligman were living at the fashionable address of 17 Kensington Palace Gardens, Kensington, London (principal residence), with two of their youngest children: Edith Seligman (b. 1876), aged 25 and Hubert E. Seligman (b. 1881), aged 21. Their household then was run by a butler, a footman and six others domestic servants.17

Tregullow Offices (1902)
On 21 July 1902, Isaac Seligman, then 67, and the other joint legal owner and trustee of the property known as the Tregullow Office, Henry G.M. Conybeare, were instructed by the beneficial owners, Charles and Florence Conybeare, to sell the property to Charles Rule Williams, a Cornish mining engineer. On the 1902 Indenture, Isaac gave his secondary address, that of 15 Queens Gate Gardens, Chelsea, London, close to Gloucester Road underground station.18

Philanthropist, London (1905)
In June 1905, Isaac Seligman contributed 5 guineas (£ 5s) to the 'National Institution of Apprenticeship'. This organisation helped to apprentice the children of the working classes to skilled trades, so that they could earn money while learning a trade. This, it was hoped, would "reduce the number of the needy unemployed who are practically all without skills".19

The Eighty Club, London (1909)
There is no doubt that Isaac Seligman moved in the highest social circles and was a Liberal. On 22 July 1909, he attended a dinner without Lina, given by the 'Eighty Club' at the Holborn Restaurant in London, at which Mr Herbert Asquith, the Liberal Prime Minister (1908-16), was the principal guest.

Proposing the health of Mr Asquith, the President of the Club, Mr Haldane, enumerated some of Mr Asquith's notable political successes, including the establishment of a system of old-age pensions, a graduated income tax scheme, and for bringing the Navy and the Army under one roof when he was Minister of Defence. When Mr Asquith stood up to talk about Liberal ideals of justice and freedom, he was greeted with prolonged cheers, after which dinner guests stood up and sang "For he's a jolly good fellow". Among the many distinguished guests was the author Mr G. K. Chesterton and the Lords Blyth, Brassey, Fitzmaurice, Wolverhampton, Haddo, O'Hagan, Pentland and Pirrie.20 

Thanksgiving Day Dinner, London (1913)
On Thanksgiving Day 1913, Isaac Seligman attended a 'Thanksgiving Day Dinner' of the American Society, at the American Embassy in London. Guests included Dr and Mrs Macnamara (MP for Camberwell North and PFS to the Admiralty), Lord Kintore (British politician and colonial governor), and the Lord Chancellor (Richard Burdon Sanderson Haldane, 1st Viscount Haldane, British Liberal and Labour politician, lawyer, and philosopher).

The Attorney-General proposed the health of the American Ambassador, Mr Page, and said that "the American and British democracies had given to one another at once their worst and best: the Americans sent us ragtime and we had sent them the militant suffragist". (Laughter.) "Britons sent to America their best in Mr. Bryce" (cheers) "and America retorted with full measure running over in Dr. Page". (Cheers).21

Achei Brith Friendly Society (1924)
The Order Achei Brith grew from the formation in 1888 of a friendly society to provide insurance against complete loss of income and as a means of social life among a group of Jewish refugees who had fled to Britain to escape religious persecutions in Central and Eastern Europe. In 1924, the Order Achei Brith was presented by Mr and Mrs Isaac Seligman to Shoyswell Manor, Etchingham, East Sussex, for use as a convalescent home

During WWII, it was requisitioned by the government and used as an old people's home, but was returned to its former use in 1946. The home was transferred to Eastbourne, Sussex in 1956, where it continued to be known as the 'Seligman Convalescent Home'.22

Lina's side of the family
Isaac's brother-in-law, Ludwig Ernest William Leonard Messel, moved from Paddington, London, to Nymans23, a, 600-acre estate with Regency house, at Handcross, near Cuckfield, West Sussex, in 1890. Ludwig Messel's granddaughter, Anne Oliver MesselFT (1902-1992; see link to Royalty), married barrister Ronald Owen Lloyd Armstrong-Jones24 in July 1925. On 1 October 1925, just over two months after Anne and Ronald married, Isaac Seligman's "beloved wife" Lina died in the 57th year of her marriage at her home at 17 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, in her 75th year. Her funeral took place on 5 October at the Jewish Cemetery, Hoop Lane, Golders Green, north London.25

Obituary (1928)
Two-and-a-half years later, the following announcement appeared in The Times:

The death of  Isaac Seligman is announced, [ed. the] senior partner in, and founder of, the firm of Seligman Brothers [ed. London branch], who has just passed away in his 94th year. Born on December 2 1834, he graduated at the College of New York in 1853 and then joined his brother's banking firm in New York, which was subsequently converted into a banking business under the name of J & W Seligman and Co. In 1864, a London branch was opened by Mr Seligman, and since then and until quite recently, he has taken an active part in the affairs of the City.26

Isaac Seligman died at his principal address of 17 Kensington Palace Gardens on 9 April 1928, aged 93. The causes of death were (a) capillary bronchitis (b) senility and (c) heart failure. His son, Richard Seligman, of Lincoln House, Park Side, Wimbledon, informed the Registrar for Kensington South of his father's death.27 Isaac's funeral took place on 13 April at the Jewish Cemetery, Hoop Lane, Golders Green, north London.28

Probate
Probate was granted on Isaac Seligman's will on 9 June 1928, to his two eldest sons, Charles David Seligman Esq. and Richard Joseph Simon Seligman Esq., and to Harry Reginald Lewis, solicitor. He died a very wealthy man, leaving effects totalling £583,398 12s 4d, which in today's money is equivalent to £18.491 million (av. over 1925 & 1930).29 



Footnotes

1. US Passport application dated 1 April 1863 gives DOB as 2 December 1835. Obituary gives 2 December 1834.
2. A document about the 'Seligmann' family entitled Our Family by Heinz & Thea Ruth Skyte (née Ephraim), gives his DOB as 2 December 1834, exactly one year earlier than is shown in his American passport application, as well as the year of emigration. Susanne Rieger & Gerhard Jochem, Rijo Research, Germany, 2009.
3. New York Times, 1 Oct 1917.
4. United States Federal Census, 14 August 1850. Ancestry.com.
5. The Washington Post, 13 January 1907. 'A Rank Outsider's Chance in the Wall Street Game', by James B. Morrow.
6. From Leopold Seligman's obituary notice, the New York Times, 6 December 1911.
7. The Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), in which the Kingdom of Bavaria was one of the four victorious parties.
8. Charles David Seligman took over his father's banking business as the senior partner, and was later knighted in 1933. Who's Who & Who Was Who, 2009.
9. The Times (Archive), 7 November 1875.
10. The Times (Archive), 27 December 1876.
11. The Times (Archive), 9 February 1882.
12. The Times (Archive), 25 May 1883.
13. The Rooms were hired out for meetings, concerts and dinners until c. 1890; www.british-history.ac.uk.
14. The Times (Archive), 5 July 1895.
15. The Times (Archive), 2 June 1899.
16. Survey of London : vol. 37: Northern Kensington, 1973; www.british-history.ac.uk.
17. The 1901 England Census.
18. The 1902 Indenture.
19. The Times (Archive), 1 June 1905.
20. The Times (Archive), 23 July 1909.
21. The Times (Archive), 28 November 1913.
22. (i) University of Southampton, Palmerston Papers Database (MS 180), Papers of the United Jewish Friendly Society, 1912-80; (ii) The Times (Archive), 15 April 1924.
23. Now Nymans Gardens; a National Trust property.
24. The couple's only son, Anthony C. Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon (b. 1930), the society photographer, became the first husband of Princess Margaret Rose Windsor in 1960.
25. The Times (Archive), 1 Oct 1925.
26. The Times (Archive), 12 Apr 1928.
27. Death certificate dated 10 April 1928.
28 JewishGen.
29. National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills & Administrations) 1861-1941; TNA's currency converter.