The Zimapanners







J. & W. Seligman


A Brief Company History 




Starting out (1837)   

Joseph Seligman, a German-born Jew, arrived in the United States in 1837 at the age of 17.1 He first worked for and worked for Asa Packer in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania and then became an itinerant peddler2 there. Joseph used his savings to pay for the immigration of his seven brothers, a sister and his parents.3 By 1840, two of his seven brothers had joined him and were working as storekeepers in a dry-goods store Joseph had opened in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.4 Two other brothers, Jesse and Henry, became pack-pedlars selling dry goods in Watertown, New York.


New York importing house (1846) 

In 1846, Joseph set up J. Seligman & Brothers, an importing house in New York City,6 with all seven brothers [ed. William, James, Henry, Jesse, Leopold, Isaac and Abraham] under his management.


Gold Rush 

In 1849, Joseph's brothers, Jesse and Leopold, joined the gold rush out in San Francisco, developed a thriving trade, and with the profits they made bought gold bullion which metal they had shipped back East, making the Seligman bankers in the process. By 1857, the eight Seligman brothers had accumulated $500,000 in capital.8 


American Civil War (1861-1865) 

During the American Civil war, the Seligman brothers invested all they had in clothing, and supplied uniforms to the Union Army.9 The Seligmans were paid by the Army in bonds which they were only able to sell in Europe. The Seligmans invested heavily on the German and Dutch financial markets and had placed nearly $125 million in bonds by the end of 1863.10 


Seligmans become investment bankers (1864) 

In 1864, the banking house of J. & W. Seligman was established in New York by the two eldest brothers: Joseph and William. The Seligmans opened up other branch offices, following the Rothschild's model, in New Orleans (Anglo-California Bank11), San Francisco, London, Paris, and Frankfurt.12  


Underwriter of government securities 

J. & W. Seligman became a fiscal agent13 for the conversion of existing war bonds into new ones, and were fiscal agent for the US Departments of State and Navy for many years. In New York, the Seligman banking house invested in the development of the City's elevated railroads and heavily in railroads generally.  


Broadens underwriting and investment portfolio (post-1895) 

After 1895, J. & W. Seligman began investing in the construction of the Panama Canal. In 1901, Albert and Frederick Strauss14 became the firm's first non-family managing partners, and under their management the firm:

  • underwrote the securities of a whole range of companies 
  • participated in syndicates which underwrote stock-and-bond issues in the railroad and steel-&-wire industries 
  • made investments in Russia and Peru 
  • invested in the Standard Oil Company, shipbuilding, bridges, bicycles, mining15 


1, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 15: Source 1.

2, 3, 5: Source 2.

11. Acquired by the Crocker Bank: Source 2.

13. Investment bankers appointed to advise a party/client on financial matters and to manage the underwriting of its securities.

14. Fellow college students of the College of the City of New York.



Source 1: www.fundinguniverse/company histories.

Source 2: The Seligman Archives, University Of Oklahoma Libraries.