Sigmund Seligman: “A Beloved Friend to Humanity and an Uncompromising Lover of His Country”

"La Ciudad de Santa Fe." Engraving f...

“La Ciudad de Santa Fe.” Engraving from “Report of Lt. J. W. Abert of his Examination of New Mexico in the Years 1846-1847.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

My great-great-uncle Sigmund Seligman must have been an impressive human being.  Born in 1830, he came by himself to the US from a small town in Germany before he was even twenty years old.  Although I have no records of his arrival or where he might have settled first (although other facts suggest he first settled in Philadelphia), historical sources report that by 1849 he had settled in Santa Fe, first working as a photographer there and then joining up with Charles Clever to start the trading business that became Seligman and Clever and eventually Seligman Brothers, a business that flourished and eventually supported not only Sigmund, but also his two brothers, Bernard and Adolph, and their families.

 

By 1857, he had applied for US citizenship in Philadelphia, and by 1860 he reported on the US census that he had $20,000 worth of personal property and the same in 1870.  According to two different websites I found for converting 1860 dollars to today’s money, that amount would be the equivalent of over $400,000 today.  Not too bad for a thirty year old entrepreneur.

I found a number of interesting news articles about Sigmund, including one dated June 6, 1871, that announced Sigmund’s return to Santa Fe after being away for a year “in the states and Germany.”  I would love to know what took Sigmund back to Germany in 1870-1871.  There must have still been family members there, but I have no idea who he might have been visiting.  Maybe he was looking for a wife—as Parish had said, many men traveled back east or to Germany to find a Jewish woman to marry.  If that was the purpose of Sigmund’s travels, he seems not to have been successful as he never married.

Sigmund Welcome Home 1871-page-001

Santa Fe Daily New Mexican June 6, 1871, p.1

 

I assume that his travels in the states included Philadelphia, where his brother Bernard and his family were living during at least some part of that time.  Perhaps Bernard was traveling back and forth, as I suggested in an earlier post, to keep an eye on the business while Sigmund was away. Sigmund had applied for a US passport on April 26, 1870, in Philadelphia, presumably for this trip.  Written across the letter are the words “Nat Dis Court Santa Fe, New Mexico, December 15, 1856. Paid.”   I don’t know what the December 15, 1856 date refers to, but I assume that Sigmund applied for this passport in order to take his trip back to Germany.  He also had become a US citizen on April 26, 1870, also in Philadelphia, signed by the same notary who wrote in support of his passport application.

Sigmund Seligman passport application

Sigmund Seligman passport application 1870 National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Passport Applications, 1795-1905; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 566612 / MLR Number A1 508; NARA Series: M1372; Roll #: 165.

Sigismund Seligman naturalization affidavit

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Passport Applications, 1795-1905; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 566612 / MLR Number A1 508; NARA Series: M1372; Roll #: 165.

 

A year is a long time to leave a thriving business, and Sigmund reportedly received a “hearty welcome from his numerous friends” when he returned.  (Santa Fe Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), June 6, 1871, p. 1)  Sigmund was apparently quite well liked.  In an editorial dated May 21, 1875, the Santa Fe New Mexican singled out Sigmund for his generosity and civic-mindedness based on his support of a project to provide sprinklers for the streets of Santa Fe to control the dust that tended to develop there on what I assume were dirt roads.

Sigmund praised for sprinklers-page-001

(Santa Fe New Mexican, May 21, 1875, p. 1)

Unfortunately, Sigmund’s life was cut short when he was only 46 years old on October 4, 1876.  He died at Fort Craig, New Mexico, a site that is 181 miles from Santa Fe, so quite a distance; it was a US Army fort, the largest in the Southwest.  As his obituary described it, he was in a “far off portion of the Territory.”

 

English: Former officers' quarters, Fort Craig...

English: Former officers’ quarters, Fort Craig, New Mexico, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

He died of apoplexy, according to one death record, and his obituary indicated that he died “from a sudden and resistless stroke of disease.”  According to MedlinePlus, “When the word apoplexy (with no organ specified) is used alone, it often refers to stroke symptoms that occur suddenly. Such symptoms can be caused by bleeding into the brain or by a blood clot in a brain blood vessel. Conditions such as subarachnoid hemorrhage or stroke are sometimes called apoplexy.”  http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000328.htm

The public reaction to his death was described in expressive terms in Sigmund’s obituary in the Santa Fe New Mexican dated October 10, 1876.  The paper reported, “At no time in the history of our citizens has there been a more spontaneous outpouring of the people to show a becoming respect to the memory of a departed fellow-citizen and friend.”  A Jewish “burial service” was read by Lehman Spiegelberg, another Santa Fe merchant, and Sigmund was buried at Odd Fellows cemetery in Santa Fe on October 9, 1876. A eulogy was given by Edmund F. Dunne, “portraying in most affecting, generous and glowing terms the many virtues and excellent qualities of the deceased as a brother, friend, citizen and correct man of business.” The paper described him as “a beloved friend to humanity and an uncompromising lover of his country, her institutions and laws.”

sigmund obit full page from voces

Obituary of Sigmund Seligman 1876 Daily New Mexican page one Personal collection of Arthur Scott http://www.vocesdesantafe.org/social/index.php/explore-our-history/historical-documents2/item/301-the-daily-new-mexican-ocotober-10-1876

 

There was only one thing that puzzled me about this obituary.  It does not mention Bernard or his family at all.  In fact, the paper describes Adolph as “the surviving brother” as if there was no other.    Since Arthur Seligman, Bernard’s son was born in Santa Fe in 1871 and since Bernard appears as living there on both the 1870 and 1880 US census reports as well as serving on the Board of Trustees of the Santa Fe Academy in 1878, I would have assumed that Bernard would have been in Santa Fe in 1876.

 

Although Sigmund was initially buried in Santa Fe, his body was moved to Philadelphia in April, 1877, six months after his death, where he was buried at Mt Sinai cemetery, the same cemetery where his brother Bernard would later be buried as well as other members of Bernard’s family.  Putting this information together with Bernard’s absence from Sigmund’s funeral makes me wonder whether Bernard had in fact moved back to Philadelphia between 1876 and 1877 and decided to have his brother buried in a proper Jewish cemetery rather than in Santa Fe’s Odd Fellows cemetery.

Sigmund Seligman death record, Philadelphia

Sigmund Seligman death record, Philadelphia “Pennsylvania, Philadelphia City Death Certificates, 1803-1915,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-266-11110-64044-12?cc=1320976 : accessed 29 Sep 2014), 004000970 > image 141 of 448; citing Department of Records.

 

I am sorry that I do not have any photographs of Sigmund.  He must have been an interesting man—adventurous, courageous, generous, respected, and well-liked by his fellow Santa Fe citizens.  His life may have been short, but by going to Santa Fe, he not only made a good life for himself, he helped out his community, and he provided a good foundation for his two younger brothers and their families.

 

 

 

 

15 thoughts on “Sigmund Seligman: “A Beloved Friend to Humanity and an Uncompromising Lover of His Country”

  1. wonderful post Amy, the Seligman Brothers sound like an interesting branch. I Googled the name, hope you didn’t mind and found an antique print dating from the 1880’s of their shop front in Sante Fe. On sale on EBay -http://www.ebay.com/itm/200402535521

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      • Your very welcome, I think it’s a very old print. There is also a glass bottle on sale (EBay) with Seligman Brothers written through it. I have bottles very similar with my partners 3x Grt grandfather’s name, ‘Robert Costin’ who was a wine merchant.
        How far back have you managed to get on this line?
        They were certainly a famous family, lots online about them, good luck with furthering your research on the Seligman line.

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      • I have only been able to get back as far as knowing when and where Bernard and three of his brothers were born in Germany. I am trying all I can think of to do to locate records for them in Germany, but so far have hit lots of dead ends. But he DID have one brother, James Seligman, who moved to England instead of the US (imagine that!), and I’ve found a fair amount about James, but may turn to you for your expertise when I focus more closely on trying to determine if there are still heirs in England from that branch.

        I will have to go look for that bottle!

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      • Thanks! Not sure this could be the same family since I am unaware of any Illinois connection, but I will check it out.

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      • Thanks—this is yet another Seligman family—although perhaps my family was a branch of this in the 1700s or before. I can trace back to 1830 in Gau-Algesheim where my ancestors were born and lived. I believe their parents’ names were Moritz and Babette Seligman, presumably born sometime around 1800 if they had children from 1830-1853 (at least those I know of). Since this pedigree does not seem to include them, I have to assume that this is a different family until I can learn more about my 4xGgparents and where they were born and who their parents were.

        Thank you so much, Stephen—I will definitely save this pedigree.

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    • No, I do not believe so. I did look her up, and although I did have a great-great-aunt named Minnie Seligman, it was not the same person. My relative died as a teenager. I think Seligman was a fairly common name for German Jews, and perhaps if I could find records going back far enough, there might be a connection, but so far I’ve not found one.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Seligman Brothers Company 1849-1928: The Rise and Fall of an American Business « Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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