SELIGMAN , family of international bankers from Baiersdorf, Bavaria, where they are known from the early 18th century. joseph seligman (1819–1880) was the oldest son of David, the village weaver and an itinerant trader in woolens. Joseph, after attending university, immigrated in 1837 to the United States, where he was first employed in a small Pennsylvanian mining town. Soon he sent for his brothers, and pooling their resources they peddled in Pennsylvania, then moved to Alabama and Missouri, and in 1846 made New York their headquarters as wholesale clothiers. They also ran a store at Watertown, New York, where they formed a friendship with the then Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant, the future president of the United States. After the discovery of gold in California, the Seligmans installed themselves in San Francisco in the city's only brick building. The Seligmans benefited from a clothing monopoly and the gold they received was shipped to New York, where it established the firm's credit. Their family's business interests were ultimately concentrated in banking in New York City. After the outbreak of the Civil War Joseph placed more than $200 million of United States Government securities in Europe, mainly in Germany and Holland. In 1864 the present firm of J. & W. Seligman & Company was formed in New York, with branches in London, Paris, Frankfurt, New Orleans, and San Francisco. The London and Paris branches became independent, and were known respectively as Seligman Brothers Limited and Banque Seligman. The branch in Frankfurt operated under the name of Seligman & Stettheimer. The San Francisco office was the forerunner of the Anglo & London-Paris National Bank. During the 1870s the firm assisted the government in connection with the treasury's refunding of the national debt and the resumption of specie payment. The firm became prominent in railroad financing and headed the De Lesseps Panama Canal syndicate; it also entered international underwriting for railroad construction, public utilities, and a wide range of industrial enterprises including General Motors and Republic Iron and Steel. The firm served as fiscal agents of Puerto Rico and as financial advisers to foreign governments. During World War i the firm held major positions in all Allied loan syndicates and invested heavily in United States Government bonds. In recent times the company has operated as an international issuing and underwriting house, securities dealer, and foreign exchange trader, and provides most investors' services. It also heads one of the largest investment trusts in the United States, the Tri-Continental Corporation. Joseph Seligman, the firm's first senior partner, was followed by his brother jesse (1827–1894) who in turn was succeeded by Joseph's son isaac newton (1855–1917). Another of Joseph's sons was edwin robert anderson *seligman. By 1970 there were no more bearers of the name among the firm's partners. The family was prominent in New York's German-Jewish society and members were among the founders and members of the boards of Temple Emanu-El and the Ethical Culture Society and generously contributed to Jewish and general charities.
Family Register of the Descendants of David Seligman (1913); L. Herz, Die vierteltausendjaehrige Geschichte der Familie Seligman, 1680–1930 (1935), incl. bibl.; R.L. Muir and C.J. White, Over the Long Term: the Story of J. and W. Seligman and Co. 1864–1964 (1964); L. Wells, The Seligman Story (Ms., 3 vols., 1931); S. Birmingham, Our Crowd (1967), index; G.T. Hellman, in: New Yorker Magazine, 30 (Oct. 30, 1954), 34–40.
[Joachim O. Ronall]