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.
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
Starting out in New York City
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
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
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
London: Isaac and Leopold
Additional offices were later opened in San Francisco and New
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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
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
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
, 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
), Scorrier, Tregullow, Cornwall, by Charles Augustus Vansittart Conybeare
barrister-at-law and MP for Camborne, Cornwall. Henry G.M. Conybeare was the other
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Lina's side of the family
Isaac's brother-in-law, Ludwig Ernest William Leonard Messel, moved from Paddington, London,
Nymans23, a, 600-acre estate with
Regency house, at Handcross, near Cuckfield, West Sussex, in 1890. Ludwig Messel's granddaughter,
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
Two-and-a-half years later, the
following announcement appeared in The Times:
announced, [ed. the] senior partner in, and founder of, the firm
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 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
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,
3. New York Times, 1 Oct
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
Times (Archive), 7 November 1875.
Times (Archive), 27 December 1876.
Times (Archive), 9 February 1882.
Times (Archive), 25 May 1883.
13. The Rooms were hired out for
meetings, concerts and dinners until c. 1890; www.british-history.ac.uk.
Times (Archive), 5 July 1895.
Times (Archive), 2 June 1899.
16. Survey of
London : vol. 37: Northern Kensington, 1973;
17. The 1901 England
18. The 1902 Indenture.
Times (Archive), 1 June 1905.
Times (Archive), 23 July 1909.
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
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.
Times (Archive), 1 Oct 1925.
Times (Archive), 12 Apr 1928.
27. Death certificate dated 10
29. National Probate Calendar
(Index of Wills & Administrations) 1861-1941; TNA's currency converter.