Arthur Seligman, Governor of New Mexico: Part II

Governor Arthur Seligman and his wife Franc and stepdaughter Richie courtesy of Arthur Scott

Governor Arthur Seligman and his wife Franc and stepdaughter Richie on the statehouse steps 1932
courtesy of Arthur Scott

In 1929, my great-great-uncle Arthur Seligman was the president of the First National Bank of Santa Fe and the chairman of the New Mexico State Democratic Committee.  He was 58 years old, father of two grown children, and a grandfather.  Some men might have decided that they had accomplished enough and been satisfied.  But Arthur Seligman still had things he wanted to do.

In April, 1930, Arthur was again named chairman of the New Mexico State Democratic Committee.  His message to the party was that he would work hard to ensure that the party was organized and successful and that he anticipated support both from Democrats and from independent voters. (“Demos’ Chief Gets on Job; Has Big Task,” The Gallup Independent (April 18, 1930), p.1)

headline elected state chairman april 1930

(Albuquerque Journal (April 15, 1930), p. 1

When the New Mexico Democratic Party started to consider who should be their candidate for governor in 1930, Arthur Seligman was a leading contender for the nomination.  Arthur, however, insisted many times that he was not a candidate and was committed to being chairman of the committee and not a candidate. (“Seligman Awaits Action of Party,” Clovis News-Journal (September 2, 1930) p.1; “Seligman’s Statement,” Las Vegas Daily Optic (September 3, 1930), p. 2; “Seligman in Demand,” Albuquerque Journal (September 18, 1930, p. 4)  Despite these objections, he ultimately was nominated and accepted that nomination.

In accepting the nomination, Arthur pledged to “clean out the ‘political parasites and political barnacles” in the state capital, to establish economy in public business and to remedy the present chaotic and demoralized condition of the taxation system in the state.”  (“Oust Political Barnacles, Seligman,” Albuquerque Journal (October 2, 1930), p. 1)

barnacles headline

His Republican opponent was Judge Clarence M. Botts.  The campaign was a tough one, and several newspapers in New Mexico were quite vocal about their opposition to Seligman as governor.  For example, The Roswell Daily Record characterized the Republicans as progressive and the Democrats as reactionary, saying:

Mr. Arthur Seligman has made it plain that he purposes, if elected, to retrench and economize.  His party, in their platform, has made it clear that expenses shall be cut in the maintenance of our system of education.  To do that school terms must be shortened or the salaries of teachers reduced…. The Democratic candidate has never been known as public spirited.  He has never been active in any matter for the public interest that did not have a profit—a very definite profit—for himself.

(“Seligman Settles His Taxes for 28 Cents on the Dollar; Bond Issue,” The Roswell Daily Record (October 13, 1930), p. 3)

The article then suggests that Seligman deprived the state of revenue when Seligman Brothers was delinquent in taxes and Seligman obtained a settlement allowing the company to pay only a portion of what was due.

Then there was this nasty editorial from the New Mexico State Tribune, reprinted in the Las Vegas Daily Optic on October 29, 1930:

too bad las vegas optic-page-001

Other newspapers were solidly behind Seligman’s candidacy. The Gallup Independent wrote this in an editorial they ran on October 24, 1930:

With Arthur Seligman in the governor’s chair, there will be no groping in the dark, no learning as he goes—at the expense of the people who pay the taxes.  This keen-minded and alert business executive knows the state government as you know your own back yard. …Mr. Seligman’s business acumen is a known quantity; no chance has been taken on that.  Finances are his “meat.” And he can’t be “kidded” or bluffed, either openly or covertly, when it comes to financial or economic matters. …

There will be no need for draperies behind the governor’s chair when Seligman sits in it.  The voice will be the voice of Seligman and the hand will be the hand of Seligman, too.  He is too wary and experienced to be misled by cajolery of would-be political bosses or to be alarmed at their threats. … Around Santa Fe, he is greeted on the streets with the familiar name of “Pete.” The door of his private office in the bank is never closed except when he is not there.

The editorial also lists all his accomplishments, both political and business, which are too numerous for me to quote here.

(“Candidate Arthur Seligman,” The Gallup Independent (October 24, 1930), p. 8)

The Clovis News-Journal also endorsed Arthur for governor:

Mr. Arthur Seligman, the Democratic nominee for governor, is one of the best posted men in the state at the present time.  He has lived here all his life and knows its needs and financial problems.  He is the type of an executive who can deal with the problems.  He is the type of a man who can also deal with a legislative body and get what legislation the state needs.  He will not be bound or fettered by political ties or responsible to any group as [his opponent] Mr. Botts would be to the old guard who have placed him on the ticket, who is a political conservative like they are and not inclined to initiate any movements for progressive measures.

The state is living ahead of its income, its extravagances must be checked, candidates should be elected who will drive out the crooks and grafters and it looks as if the state would call upon the Democrats to do the job.

A continuation of the Republican party in power would be a continuation of the reactionary crowd now in control…What is needed at this hour is a clean-up by putting Democrats in control until the Republicans regenerate themselves and come to learn that government should be for the people and not a clique of representatives of corporate self-seeking interests.

(“Consider the Leaders,” Clovis News-Journal (September 27, 1930), p. 2 (quoting from the Albuquerque Journal))

Reading these editorials, I had to chuckle.  Both sides claim to be progressive, whatever that might have meant to them at the time.  The Republicans criticize the Democrats for wanting to cut expenses and reduce teacher salaries; today the parties would be switched on that position.  The Democrats accuse the Republicans of being corporate controlled, an argument still made by Democrats today.  Some labels have changed, but anyone who thinks that partisanship started in the 21st century only has to read these old newspapers to know otherwise. (See also “Forward with Botts or Backwards with Seligman, Is the Issue, Says Governor Dillon,” The Roswell Daily Record (October 29, 1930), p. 1 (calling Seligman reactionary on education and on road improvements))

In the end, Arthur Seligman defeated his Republican opponent Judge C. M. Botts, by over seven thousand votes, 62,214 to 54,827. (“Complete Vote Recent Election in New Mexico,” The Roswell Daily Record (November 20, 1930), p. 1).  He became the first Jewish and non-Hispanic governor of New Mexico. (Suzanne Stamatov, “Arthur Seligman,” at

headline elected governor

(Roswell Daily Record (January 2, 1931), p.1)

One of the governor-elect’s first announcements was that he did not want an inaugural ceremony.

low cost inaugural-page-001

He lost that battle, and there was a full inaugural ceremony as well as a lavish inaugural ball.

Inauguration enhanced

Inaugural Ceremony January 1, 1931 Governor Seligman and his wife Franc are seated front center 

In his inaugural address he made several points revealing his views on the role of government:

The governor of the state, alone, can not produce the desired results. The legislature is not sufficient unto itself to accomplish them. The people of the state are the power behind the government. They are in fact the government. Those whom they elect are merely the administrative officers. When an administration takes the people into its confidence and councils there need be no fear of failure to accomplish that which is desired….

(as quoted in Suzanne Stamatov, “Arthur Seligman,” at )

He also expressed his views on government spending:

No state should obligate itself to expend more money than can be reasonably expected from its citizens without hardship….In brief, New Mexico must live within her income and it is my intention, insofar as it is possible for me to do so, to see that she does.


Of course, this was before FDR’s New Deal and the radical changes it precipitated in the views of many on the role of government in providing for its citizens and in promoting the economy.

The night after the ceremony was the inaugural ball, attended by six hundred couples. Among the guests was my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen, who traveled all the way to New Mexico to celebrate with her younger brother. As reported by the Roswell Daily Record on January 2, 1931:

The ball was without parallel in New Mexico history for its splendor and the inaugural gowns presented a mighty costly fashion show in a settling resplendent in the atmosphere of Old Spain, Mexico and New Mexico.

The Roswell paper said this about my great-grandmother:

Mrs. Eva Seligman Cohen of Philadelphia, sister of Governor Seligman, who was accompanied by Mr. Joe Goodall, representative of El Paso at the inaugural, wore a light blue lace combination gown….

The article described in detail the gowns that many of the women wore to the ball, all full length “in keeping with the present fashion mode and long white gloves predominated.”

The article continued:

In the main ball room an eleven piece negro orchestra from Albuquerque played dance mustic and in the lecture lounge which was converted into an additional dance room the La Fonda Mexican orchestra played.  The supper room was decorated in southern smilax and evergreens, with cut flowers in cedar baskets.

(“New Mexico Inaugural Ball Most Costly and Splendid in History of the State,” Roswell Daily Record (January 2, 1931), p. 1; for more details on the inaugural ball, see “Elaborate Preparations for Big Inaugural Ball at Fonda,” Santa Fe New Mexican (January 1, 1931))

During his first term as governor, Arthur fought to reduce taxes and the size of government. (“A Paring Policy,” The Roswell Daily Record (October 31, 1930), p. 7) The country was suffering from the poverty and unemployment of the Great Depression, and New Mexico was suffering as well.  Arthur instituted the first program for unemployment relief in New Mexico and also a vocational education program to help those most affected by the Depression.  He also accepted federal aid to create jobs in road construction and created a state park system which also provided employment opportunities for New Mexicans.  (Stamatov, op. cit.; Ron Hamm, New Mexico Territorial Era Caricatures (Sunstone Press 2014), pp, 170-171)

He also created a centralized purchasing agent for the state highway department, reformed the tax collection system, and established a state labor relations commissioner.  (“Democratic State Chairman Barker Claims Nearly All Pledges Have Been Fulfilled,” The Roswell Daily Record (July 28, 1931, at p.1)  He also reduced taxes, as promised. (“Real Tax Reduction,” Clovis News-Journal (March 21, 1931), p.2)

Although he had the responsibility of governing the state of New Mexico on his shoulders, Arthur did not forget his family.  In September, 1931, he traveled to Philadelphia for the funeral of his nephew, Maurice Cohen, my grandfather’s brother.  (Roswell Daily Record (September 22, 1931), p. 8)

As his first term was drawing to an end in 1932, he easily secured nomination for a second term from the Democratic Party. (“Democrats Boost Seligman for Renomination,” The Roswell Daily Record (August 1, 1932), p. 4)

renomination headline

(Albuquerque Journal (September 27, 1932), p. 1)
He also was elected to be a delegate to the Democratic Convention in Chicago that summer, the convention that first nominated Franklin Roosevelt as a candidate for President.  (“A Popular Victory,” The Deming Headlight (May 27, 1932), p. 3; “Hockenhull May Stay in Clovis to Run State,” Albuquerque Journal (June 24, 1932), p. 10)

Arthur was gone from New Mexico for two weeks, and during that time he visited his family in Philadelphia, including his sister Eva, my great-grandmother.  They spent time together in Atlantic City along with Eva’s granddaughter, my cousin Marjorie.

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

Arthur Seligman, Marjorie, and Eva May Cohen, 1932 Atlantic City

In September, 1932, Arthur and Franc’s son Otis was charged with embezzlement of the First National Bank of Santa Fe, where he was employed as assistant cashier and where Arthur remained president while also serving as governor.  I will address these charges and their consequences in a later post, but for now will simply observe that this scandal in his family apparently had no significant effect on Seligman’s campaign for re-election.

Less than two months after the indictment of his son, Arthur Seligman was once again elected governor in November, 1932.  He defeated his Republican opponent, former governor Richard C. Dillon, by an even larger margin this time, 83,612 votes to 67,406.  (“Final Election Canvassing Sheets Show Big Total,” Clovis News-Journal (November 30, 1932, p. 1)

1932 headline

(Albuquerque Journal (November 9, 1932), p. 1)

In his second inaugural address Governor Seligman repeated themes from his first two years earlier, again calling for a smaller government budget and tax reform.  He also called for laws improving mine safety, election reform, tenure for qualified teachers and general improvement of the state’s schools, and increased regulation of utilities, among other recommendations.  (“Governor Drafts Legislative Program,” Clovis News-Journal (January 11, 1933), p. 1)

Early in his second term, there was much talk and speculation about the possibility that Arthur Seligman would become a US Senator from New Mexico.  The sitting Senator, Sam Bratton, had been appointed to a federal judgeship by President Roosevelt and would resign his seat at the end of the current Congressional term in June, and newspapers reported rumors that Seligman would resign as governor and then be appointed to fill the Senate seat by his lieutenant governor, who would replace him as governor. [1] (See, e.g., “Expect Seligman Will Take Vacant Position,” Las Vegas Daily Optic (June 1, 1933), p. 4; “Just One Candidate,” Las Vegas Daily Optic (May 20, 1933), p. 7; “Taos Democrats Want Seligman for Senate, Juan Vigil Reports,” Albuquerque Journal (May 19, 1933), p. 1)

Asel sen sf chron may 30 1933 page 1

(San Francisco Chronicle (May 30, 1933), p.1)

(He might have been short, but hardly rotund!)

And although there was a lot of support for Seligman becoming Senator, there was also some opposition:

Anti Seligman as Senator editorial-page-001

By July, 1933, the question of who would succeed Bratton as Senator was still unresolved and seemingly complicated by political matters. (“Lieut Governor Denies Reports of Statements,” Clovis News-Journal (July 17, 1933), p. 1)

In August, 1933, the Seligman family paid the price of being in the public eye when Joan Seligman, Arthur and Franc’s six year old granddaughter (the daughter of their son Otis and his wife Doris) was the target of a kidnapping threat.  (“Kidnap Threat against Grand-daughter of Governor Seligman, Reported Today,” Clovis News-Journal (August 15, 1933), p. 1)

In early September, the governor had to deal with a strike by miners, requiring him to call out the National Guard to prevent violence.  (“Says Sending of Guard to Gallup Avoided Trouble,” Clovis News-Journal (September 2, 1933), p.1)  The miners charged he sent the troops to break their strike and filed suit for an injunction against the use of the National Guard.  (“Miners Charge He is Using Troops to Break Strike,” Clovis News-Journal (September 5, 1933), p.1; “Suit Asks Guard Be Enjoined from Martial Law Plan,” Las Vegas Daily Optic, September 11, 1933, p.3)  The strike and some violent attacks were still ongoing as of September 22, 1933. (“Miner Sprayed Pickets with Searing Fluid,” Las Vegas Daily Optic (September 22, 1933), pp. 1, 4)

Perhaps all this stress in August and September and the political pressures resulting from the impending empty Senate seat proved too much for Arthur Seligman.   Arthur suffered a fatal heart attack on September 25, 1933, less than halfway through his second term.  Apparently he had been diagnosed with a heart problem and had been advised to rest or jeopardize his health.

seligman death from overwork-page-001

His family and his state were in shock.  He was only 62 years old and had just delivered a speech to a group of bankers before complaining of chest pain and then dying.

The newspapers around the state and the country reported on his untimely death, many praising him for his lifelong service to New Mexico and for his business acumen and success.  My next post will look at the reactions to his death and  at assessments of his political career and his life.

English: Seal of New Mexico

English: Seal of New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

[1] Interestingly, since Seligman did not survive to take the seat, it was filled on October 10, 1933, by Carl Atwood Hatch, who served as a US Senator from New Mexico until 1949.  He is best known as the sponsor of the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by federal employees.  It was not until after Arthur Seligman had died that Hatch’s name was put forward as a replacement for Senator Bratton. (“Ask Governor to Select Hatch for Place in Senate,” Clovis News-Journal (September 28, 1933); Seligman had died only three days earlier.

Arthur Seligman, My Great-great Uncle, Part I:  Child of Immigrant to a Business and Political Leader

Arthur Seligman 1903 courtesy of Arthur Scott

Arthur Seligman 1903 courtesy of Arthur Scott

My great-grandmother’s younger brother Arthur was the youngest child of Bernard and Frances Seligman, my great-great-grandparents, and the only one who was born in Santa Fe. He rose to the highest heights in New Mexico, elected twice to serve as the governor.  His story is another remarkable one—the story of the son of a German Jewish immigrant who less than 80 years after his father first arrived in America was elected governor in a state with a very small Jewish population.

There are many sources outlining Arthur’s life as well as many primary sources. I relied in part on Ralph Emerson Twitchell, Old Santa Fe: The Story of New Mexico’s Ancient Capital (Rio Grande Press 1925), pp. 477-478; the article on Arthur Seligman on the National Governor’s Association website; the article in The Dictionary of American Biography; and the vocesdesantafe website for much of the general background, but also used many primary sources such as newspaper articles, census reports, and school and city directories to fill in the details.

Arthur was born on June 14, 1871.  He grew up in Santa Fe and made several trips as a young child on the Santa Fe Trail back East with his mother to visit her family.  He attended public school in Santa Fe, and then in 1885 he, along with his older sister Minnie and brother James, traveled across the country to Philadelphia where Arthur, Minnie, and James attended Swarthmore, as had their older sister Eva, my great-grandmother, before them.  Arthur then attended Pierce Business College in Philadelphia.

When he returned to Santa Fe after college, he worked as a clerk and then as a bookkeeper at his family’s business, Seligman Brothers.  In 1896 when he was 25, he married Frankie E. Harris, usually referred to as Franc.

Cuyahoga County Archive; Cleveland, Ohio; Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1810-1973; Volume: Vol 42-43; Page: 489; Year Range: 1892 Sep - 1896 Jul

Cuyahoga County Archive; Cleveland, Ohio; Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Marriage Records, 1810-1973; Volume: Vol 42-43; Page: 489; Year Range: 1892 Sep – 1896 Jul

She was four years his senior and a widow with an eight year old daughter named Richie Harris.  Although they were married in Ohio where Franc had been living, they moved to Santa Fe after they married, and Richie took Arthur’s surname as her own.  It’s not clear whether Arthur ever legally adopted Richie since she is identified as his step-daughter on the 1900 and 1910 census reports. I am curious as to how Arthur met Franc, but so far I have not been able to find an answer.

On February 14, 1898, Arthur and Franc’s son Otis Perry Seligman was born.  On the 1900 census, Arthur listed his occupation as “merchant dry goods.”  When the Seligman Brothers business incorporated in 1903, Arthur was named treasurer and secretary of the corporation with his older brother James serving as president and general manager.  On the 1910 census, he still listed his occupation as a dry goods merchant.

But at the same time that he was helping to run the business, Arthur was also very involved in local politics.  As early as 1893 when he was 22, Arthur was already  serving as a clerk in the local elections that year. (“Election Proclamation,” Santa Fe New Mexican (March 23, 1893), p. 4).  In 1896 he was elected to be a delegate to the state Democratic Party convention in Santa Fe.  (“Democratic Primaries,” Santa Fe New Mexican (May 25, 1896), p. 4)  That same year he was also nominated as a candidate on the Populist ticket at their convention in Santa Fe.  (“Populists in Council,” Santa Fe New Mexican (October 28, 1896), p. 4)

In 1900 Arthur was a candidate for county commissioner on the Democratic ticket. (“Personal Mention,” Santa Fe New Mexican (October 26, 1900), p. 4)  He ended up defeating his Republican opponent in a close race where most Democrats on the ticket lost in the election.  (“The Official Count,” Santa Fe New Mexican (November 13, 1900), p.4) In fact, the race was so close that his opponent challenged the results.  (“Election Contests,” Santa Fe New Mexican (December 13, 1900), p. 4) His opponent claimed that Arthur had used intimidation to discourage his opponent’s supporters from voting.

aseligman election challenge 1900

(“Election Contests,” Santa Fe New Mexican (December 13, 1900), p. 4

Although I could not find a follow-up article regarding this challenge, I assume it was unsuccessful.  Arthur served on the County Commission for many years and was soon its chairman.

In 1903 he also served as treasurer of the New Mexico commission to prepare for the St. Louis World’s Fair. (“World’s Fair Commission,” Albuquerque Daily Citizen (June 3, 1903), p.5)  In 1905 he was serving as the chairman of the Santa Fe County Commission.  In that capacity he was active in arguing in favor of statehood for New Mexico. (“They Want Their Debts All Paid,” Albuquerque Citizen (December 11, 1905), p. 6)  He was a delegate to the New Mexico Democratic Convention in 1906. (“Aftermath of Democratic Convention,” Albuquerque Citizen (September 14, 1906), pp. 1, 5)

In April, 1910, Arthur was elected mayor of Santa Fe by 193 votes.  (“Democrats Take All in Santa Fe, Arthur Seligman Mayor by a Majority of 193,” Santa Fe New Mexican (April 6, 1910), p. 8) Two years later, however, he was defeated by his Republican opponent for mayor, Celso Lopez.  (“Twenty-One Towns Elect Officers,” The Kenna Record (April 12, 1912), p. 8)

New Mexico become a state on January 6, 1912, and Arthur became involved in statewide politics.  When the chairman of the state Democratic Party resigned in January 1912, Arthur was named as a potential replacement.  (“Democratic State Chairman to Resign,” Santa Fe New Mexican (January 31, 1912), p. 5)  A later article, however, indicates that Arthur did not then serve as chairman, but as secretary of the Democratic Party in New Mexico in 1912. (“Congressman H.B. Fergusson Renominated by Democrats,” Las Cruces Sun-News (September 13, 1912), p. 1).  In 1912 he was also serving on the Natural Resources Commission ( Polk’s Arizona and New Mexico pictorial state gazetteer and business directory : 1912-1913. [database on-line]. Provo, UT: The Generations Network, Inc., 2005).   He also served as Road Commissioner and was responsible for some important improvements to the roads and bridges in New Mexico.  (See, e.g., “Road Bond Deal Finally Closed by Treasurer,” Albuquerque Journal (July 8, 1915), p. 3; there are many other articles about Seligman’s role on the Road Commission on and on; see also Twitchell, op.cit.)

In September, 1916, he was elected chairman of the State Democratic Party.  (“New Mexico State News,” Estrella (September 16, 1916), p. 3).  The Democrats did well in the 1916 election in New Mexico, and the Albuquerque Journal praised Arthur’s work as chair:

democratic state chair praised 1916

(“Arthur Seligman’s Work,” Albuquerque Journal (November 12, 1916), p. 6).

The election was not without some controversy, however, as the Republicans ran a rather nasty ad attacking Arthur Seligman:


(Western Liberal (October 27, 1916), p. 7)

The ad insinuated that Seligman had schemed to advance his own interests and that of the banks in the context of a bond issue to finance road improvements when he was serving as Road Commissioner.  Although I cannot find any more about these claims and cannot even understand much of what the ad is alleging, it does not appear that this ad hurt Seligman himself or the Democratic candidates in the 1916 election.

In 1920, Arthur was still serving as Chairman of the Democratic Party Committee, but apparently faced some opposition to his continued service.  (“M’Adoo in Favor With Democrats,” The Deming Headlight (June 4, 1920), p. 1)  However, he defeated that opposition and continued serve as state chairman after the convention.  (“Arthur Seligman Chosen Chairman for Another Term,” Albuquerque Journal (August 27, 1920), p. 1)

Despite his heavy involvement in political matters, Arthur still listed his occupation as a dry good merchant on the 1920 census.  Franc’s daughter Richie, meanwhile, had married John Whittier March and had had a son George in 1919.  Franc and Arthur’s son Otis was working as a bank clerk in 1920 and living with his parents in 1920. In June 1921 Otis married Doris Gardiner.

The Seligman Family in the 1920s

The Seligman Family in the 1920s Arthur, Doris (Otis’ wife), Mary Ann Gardiner (Doris’ mother) , Franc, and Otis Courtesy of Arthur Scott

The 1920s brought even greater political success to Arthur.  By 1921, there was talk that he might be a candidate for governor in 1922.  (“Governorship Race May Be Largely Battle of Santa Fe for Both Parties,” Albuquerque Journal (December 21, 1921), p. 1).  Although he was not nominated as a gubernatorial candidate in 1922, he was promoted to the national Democratic Committee representing New Mexico.  In turn, he resigned as state party chair and was praised by many for his long service on behalf of Democrats in New Mexico although one delegate spoke against him.  (“Arthur Seligman Boosted to National Committee,” Albuquerque Journal (February 24, 1922), p. 1)

Strangely, I could not find many news articles mentioning Arthur Seligman between 1923 and 1929 on either or, although he was still serving as the New Mexico national committeeperson for the Democratic Party during those years according to the few news articles that mentioned him.  (E.g., “Santa Fe is for Al Smith,” Estrella (May 12, 1928), p. 3)

Meanwhile, his business career was changing as well.  In 1925, he was not only running Seligman Brothers, he was also president of the First National Bank of Santa Fe.  (“New Mexico State Items,” Estrella (June 20, 1925), p. 2)  Ralph Emerson Twitchell wrote that Arthur had been vice-president of the bank since 1912 and became president in 1924.  In the 1928 Santa Fe directory, he is listed only as president of the bank with someone named Evelyn Conway now running Seligman Brothers.

By 1929, Arthur Seligman was already a very successful man both in politics and in business, but he was not done yet, and in 1930 when he was 59 years old, he achieved what would probably have been amazing to his parents, both of whom had died many years before—he was elected governor of New Mexico.

More on that in my next post.

Arthur Seligman, c. 1925 from Twitchell, p. 479

Arthur Seligman, c. 1925 from Twitchell, p. 479

My Great-grandmother’s Brother James Leon Seligman: Philadelphia to Santa Fe to Salt Lake to Santa Fe

My great-great-grandparents Frances Nusbaum and Bernard Seligman had three children who survived to adulthood: my great-grandmother Eva, whose adult life I’ve written about here, and her two younger brothers, James and Arthur, my great-great-uncles.  First, I will write about James and his family.

As I’ve already written, James was born on August 11, 1868, in Philadelphia, attended Swarthmore, and lived in Salt Lake City for a number of years between 1888 and 1900.  He married Ruth V.B. Stevenson in 1893, and they had two children:  Morton Tinslar, born in 1895, and Beatrice Grace, born in 1898.

The east side of Main Street (also known as Ea...

The east side of Main Street (also known as East Temple Street) in Salt Lake City, Utah. The photo was taken in the 1890s by photographer Charles Roscoe Savage.. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By 1900 James had brought his family to live in Santa Fe.  According to the 1900 census, James and Ruth and their two young children were living with James’ parents Bernard and Frances, and James was working as a clerk in a dry goods store—obviously, Seligman Brothers.  James also became involved in Santa Fe politics and was elected in October, 1900, to serve on the executive committee of the Santa Fe County Democratic Central Committee. (“Democratic Central Committee,” Santa Fe New Mexican, October 24, 1900, p. 4)

It must have been not long afterwards that Bernard and Frances left Santa Fe and moved to Philadelphia, where Bernard spent the last few years of his life before dying in 1903.   In 1903 James became president and general manager of Seligman Brothers when the business incorporated and his uncle Adolph left the company.  In a very short amount of time, James had become a leader in the Santa Fe political and business community.

In 1910, James listed his occupation on the census as a retail merchant of dry goods and as an employer (as did his brother Arthur). By 1917, however, he was serving as the postmaster for Santa Fe. (“Troops Are Disappointed,” Albuquerque Journal, March 31, 1917, p. 3, mentioning James L. Seligman as postmaster of Santa Fe.) I do not know whether this was a full time position or whether he also continued to work at the family business.  His entry on the 1920 census only listed his position as postmaster as his occupation.   (His brother Arthur was the mayor for some of these same years, making me wonder who was really in charge of the Seligman Brothers business at that time.)

James’ entry in the 1920 Swarthmore Register lists many of his activities and does not even mention Seligman Brothers::

James Seligman in Swarthmore register 1920

James Seligman in Swarthmore Register 1920

Meanwhile, James and Ruth’s children were growing up.  Morton, after starting college at the University of New Mexico, was notified in May, 1914, that he had been accepted into Annapolis, the US Naval Academy.  He enrolled that June and graduated in June, 1918, in the top third of his class.[1]  His long career with the Navy will be discussed in my next blog post.

Midshipmen walking to class at the US Naval Ac...

Midshipmen walking to class at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Morton’s younger sister Beatrice also went away to school, The Wolcott School for Girls in Denver.  In May, 1917, she appeared in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors at the school, according to the May 13, 1917, Denver Post (p. 10).  I thought it a little surprising that Beatrice was so far from home, but then found the following news article:

“Word was received here last night of the death of Miss Beatrice Seligman, daughter of Postmaster and Mrs. James Seligman.  Miss Seligman has been ill for some time and was in Denver in the hopes of gaining better health through special treatment.  Mrs. Seligman has been with her daughter and Mr. Seligman left this morning for Denver.”  (“Miss Seligman, Santa Fe Girl, Dies in Denver,” Wednesday, July 28, 1920, Albuquerque Journal, p. 4)

Although I do not know what illness Beatrice was fighting, it must have been very hard for her parents to send her so far away in hopes of improving her health.  No matter how many times I read about a parent losing a child, it never fails to upset me and make me wonder how those parents coped with the loss.

As I wrote in my prior post, the 1920s were not good years for the Seligman Brothers business.  Although Seligman Brothers was still listed in the Santa Fe directory in 1928, the general manager was someone named Evelyn Conway, not anyone named Seligman.  James and Ruth Seligman had started a new venture, Old Santa Fe Trading Post, filed with the State of New Mexico in March, 1929.   James described his occupation on the 1930 census as a merchant in the antiques business.  The 1930 directory for Santa Fe listed James as the president and his wife Ruth as the secretary-treasurer of the Old Santa Fe Trading Post, as did the directories for 1932, 1934, 1936, and 1938.  On the 1940 census, James again listed his occupation as an antiques dealer.

It would be interesting to know why James left Seligman Brothers and formed a different business.  As we will see, Arthur also had moved on to different ventures by the 1920s.  Did the business fail because the brothers lost interest, or did they move on because the business was failing?  Somehow I think it is more likely the former as both James and Arthur seemed to have other interests, both having served in public office.

James Leon Seligman died on December 15, 1940.  He was 72 years old. He was buried in Fairview Cemetery in Santa Fe.  His wife Ruth lived another 28 years; she was 95 years old and died in Coronado, California, where her son Morton lived for many years.  She was buried with her husband James back in Santa Fe at Fairview Cemetery.

james seligman obit edit

UPDATE:  My cousin Pete wrote about James Seligman, our mutual relative, on his website.  You can see it here.

[1] “Morton Seligman Is Notified that He Has Passed Examination,” Albuquerque Journal, May 8, 1914, p.3;  Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy 1918-1919 (US Government Printing Office), pp/172-173 at