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

Seligman Brothers Company 1849-1928: The Rise and Fall of an American Business

Pete's copy of Santa Fe


Although not a human member of my family tree, Seligman Brothers Company was a tremendous factor influencing the history of my Seligman family.  Because this business was such a huge part of the family history, I decided to devote a separate post to the history and development of the business over time.


As described here, Sigmund Seligman had started the business in 1849 with Charles Clever.  Then Clever had left to pursue a career in law, and Bernard had joined with his brother in the business. Later, their younger brother Adolph joined the business.  Bernard withdrew, at least in name, for a while, and after Sigmund died in 1876, Adolph took over running the company.  The business thrived, using the Santa Fe Trail to bring goods from the East to Santa Fe and the surrounding territory.


Sign for Santa Fe National Historic Trail.

Sign for Santa Fe National Historic Trail. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Santa Fe New Mexican ran an article on January 21, 1903, discussing the history of the business.  The article described the way business had operated before the Santa Fe Railway system connected Santa Fe to other markets by train beginning in the 1880s:


“[A]ll goods brought into New Mexico were freighted by wagons drawn by oxen, mules and horses over the famous Santa Fe Trail from Kansas City.  Santa Fe was then the business center of the territory.  This was the distributing point for the entire region.  Money was plentiful, there were no banks…. Gambling and speculation consequently ran riot. Goods were freighted in once a year and mails were received from the east once a month….”  (“The Oldest Firm in the Southwest,” Santa Fe New Mexican, January 21, 1903, p. 1)


English: "Arrival of the caravan at Santa...

English: “Arrival of the caravan at Santa Fe” — Copy of original lithograph ca. 1844 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Marc Simmons, an expert on the history of the Santa Fe Trail, wrote, “Before the first bank was chartered in Santa Fe in 1870, Seligman Bros., in addition to its mercantile activities, engaged in private banking.  … The firm also helped finance construction of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad.”





Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Another article written in the Santa Fe New Mexican in 1915 gave more detail about the early nature of the business:


“In the early years of its existence the old firm was engaged in a general merchandise business and bought and sold everything needed by the Indians and the Spanish and American settles of that period.  There was much bartering with the Indians and early settlers, as there was comparatively little actual money in the country and goods of all kinds were traded for skins, blankets, goods of all kinds, whatever the people had to offer and which could be turned into money in the markets of the East by the venturesome traders.” (“New Store at the End of the Santa Fe Trail Recalls the Ancient and Honorable History of Seligman Bros. Institution,” Santa Fe New Mexican, March 29, 1915)


The store moved in 1856 and then returned to its original location in 1890.  The 1903 article pointed out that although the store had originally carried a wide range of items including not just dry goods, but also groceries, hardware and crockery, after the move in 1890 it had limited its inventory to dry goods (clothing, hats, shoes, boots, carpets and “kindred lines”).


The 1915 article described the growth of Seligman Brothers wholesale business after the arrival of the railroad and the growth that followed:


“While Seligman Brothers carried on a retail business, the rapid development of the surrounding country and the establishment of stores in the new settlements formed in the outlying districts made it necessary that an immense stock be carried from which to supply the needs of the country merchants. This led to the building up of a wholesale business which in its day and generation was a marvel to the jobbers and manufacturers of the more populous trading centers of the East and North who could not understand how it was that a single concern in the sparsely populated country around Santa Fe could possibly need stocks of goods aggregating a quarter million of dollars in value, yet Seligman Brothers had, in fact, nearly always had, that much money invested in merchandise in order to be able to take of the country merchants who depended up them for supplies.” (“New Store at the End of the Santa Fe Trail Recalls the Ancient and Honorable History of Seligman Bros. Institution,” Santa Fe New Mexican, March 29, 1915)




English: Comparison map showing the Santa Fe T...

English: Comparison map showing the Santa Fe Trail and the Atchison. Scanned from: Santa Fe Railroad (1922), By the Way – A condensed guide of points of interest along the Santa Fe lines to California, Rand McNally and Company, Chicago, Illinois. Category:Atchison Category:Historical maps of the United States Category:Railroad maps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Thus, Seligman’s was successful on both a retail and a wholesale level. As I wrote in my last post, in 1903 Adolph Seligman withdrew from Seligman and Brothers, and the business was then incorporated as Seligman Brothers Company.  Bernard’s older son James became a stockholder and the president and general manager of the business with Bernard’s younger son Arthur, also a stockholder, serving as the treasurer and secretary.   The 1903 Santa Fe New Mexican article reported on the change in ownership and the withdrawal of Adolph from the business, observing that “the business of the corporation will be continued is all respects as heretofore” and that “The firm of Seligman Bros. is the oldest in the southwest.  It is well and favorably known through the section and has a high reputation for fair dealing and honesty.  The members are progressive and up-to-date, and there is no doubt that it will command a high percentage of the favor of the public and secure a large share of business.  It has done so for fifty years and indications are that it will do so for many years to come.”  (“The Oldest Firm in the Southwest,” Santa Fe New Mexican, January 21, 1903, p. 1)


The 1915 article reported on another relocation of the business and, like the article written twelve years earlier, predicted continuing growth and success for the business.  (“New Store at the End of the Santa Fe Trail Recalls the Ancient and Honorable History of Seligman Bros. Institution,” Santa Fe New Mexican, March 29, 1915)


Despite that optimism, it appears that the 1920s were not very good for the business.  A few ads indicate that things perhaps were not going as well as they once had.


1920 Seligman Bros. ad

1920 Seligman Bros. ad


Seligman Bros ad May 5, 1922 Santa Fe New Mexican

Seligman Bros ad May 5, 1922 Santa Fe New Mexican


Although I do not have any source explaining specifically why or when the business closed, in 1928 it was still listed in the Santa Fe city directory, but with a woman named Evelyn Conway as its general manager.  James and Arthur had moved on to different lines of business, as I will discuss.  By 1930 Seligman Brothers Company was no longer listed in the directory and presumably was out of business.  Perhaps competition from those other stores had had an impact on Seligman’s business.  Whatever the cause, it is sad that after more than seventy-five years as one of the first and most important businesses in Santa Fe, the store disappeared forever.[1]


Thanks once again to my cousin Arthur “Pete” Scott, who provided me with most of the news clippings discussed in this post. For more on the history of the buildings where Seligman Brothers was located from 1849-1926, see his article here.  There are also additional photographs located at that site.  In addition, Pete wrote an article about the history of the company, located here.



[1] William Seligman,son of Adolph Seligman, did continue for at least some time the family tradition in the dry goods business in Santa Fe.  He operated a store in Santa Fe under the name Seligman’s from at least 1948-1959.  In 1960, the store was listed in the Santa Fe Directory as simply Willie’s Shop for Men.  (“New Haberdashery to Open at La Fonda,” Santa Fe New Mexican, November 30, 1958.)  I do not know how much longer the store stayed in business.  There is no business called Seligman’s currently listed in the Santa Fe business directory.




Bernard Seligman: His Political Career and His Family 1870-1890

I want to thank my cousin Arthur “Pete” Scott for all his help with finding newspaper clippings (including some of the ones appearing in this post) and other information to try and fill in the timeline  for Bernard and the other Seligmans. He has also contributed a great deal of information about our family at the Voces de Santa Fe website.  Like my father, Pete is a great-grandson of Bernard Seligman and thus my second cousin once removed.

I have been having a hard time tracking the whereabouts of my great-great-grandfather Bernard in the 1870s.  Although I know that Bernard and his family had moved back to Santa Fe sometime before their youngest child Arthur was born in June, 1871, it seems that Bernard was in and out of town during the 1870s.  In 1873, he withdrew from the Seligman Brothers partnership:

Date: Thursday, January 2, 1873 Paper: Santa Fe Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) Page: 1

Date: Thursday, January 2, 1873 Paper: Santa Fe Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) Page: 1

The firm of S. Seligman and Brother was dissolved, and a new firm owned by Sigmund and Adolph Seligman and Julius Nusbaum was created named Seligman Bros. and Company.  Who was Julius Nusbaum?  He was Bernard’s brother-in-law, the brother of Frances Nusbaum, Bernard’s wife.

Daily New Mexican, January 13, 1873

Daily New Mexican, January 13, 1873


I cannot find an explanation for Bernard’s withdrawal, and he certainly was involved in the business again in later years. He had applied for a passport on April 3, 1873, and he served as a representative to the Vienna Exposition  of 1873, so maybe that prompted his withdrawal.

Bernard Seligman passport application 1873

Bernard Seligman passport application 1873


Maybe it’s my modern skepticism that is coloring my perception, but it also seems possible that Bernard withdrew only in name, placing his wife’s brother in the firm in his stead.  Was this done for political purposes to avoid at least the appearance of any conflicts of interest?

Henry Tobias, author of The History of the Jews of New Mexico (University of New Mexico Press, 1990), writing about New Mexico in the 1880s and 1890s, described Bernard Seligman as “probably the most political of all the Santa Fe Jews” during that era (Tobias, p. 117).   Ralph Emerson Twitchell, author of Old Santa Fe: The Story of New Mexico’s Ancient Capital (Rio Grande Press, 1925), wrote, “A public speaker of great force and convincing power, [Bernard Seligman] found time to engage in the public affairs of the country of his adoption and was elected and appointed to many positions of profit and trust.”  (Twitchell, p. 477)  Twitchell also pointed out that Bernard “was a linguist of rare ability; speaking with fluency the English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, and Hebrew idioms.” (Ibid.) Bernard must have been well suited for a career in politics and government in bilingual New Mexico.

Tobias wrote that Bernard became a member of the territorial legislature in 1880. (Tobias, p. 117) Both Bernard’s obituary  (“A Good and True Man called Home,” Santa Fe New Mexican, February 3, 1903, p. 1)  and Twitchell (p. 477 ) also state that Bernard served several terms in the Legislative Assembly for New Mexico.  Another source reported that Bernard was instrumental in the passage of the mechanic’s lien law while he served in the territorial government, a law considered to be very important at that time. (George B. Anderson, History of New Mexico: Its Resources and Its People, Vol. 2 (Pacific States Pub. Co. 1907)).

One newspaper clipping shows that Bernard was the Democratic Party’s nominee for Santa Fe County Commissioner in 1884.(Las Vegas Daily Gazette., October 22, 1884, Image 2, at ).  Twitchell wrote that Bernard was chairman of the board of the Santa Fe County Commission for three terms, presumably in the mid-1880s. (Twitchell, p. 477)

Bernard and the Santa Fe County Commission ran into some legal trouble when a local resident and attorney, Thomas Catron, sued the Commission, alleging fraud.  Catron claimed that in 1886 the Commission had issued warrants to raise money for a new courthouse that would increase the county debt beyond the limits set by a new federal statute; he alleged that to avoid that new limitation, the Commission had falsely stated the issuance date of the warrants so that they predated the effective date of that new law. Bernard Seligman is named in the case as the chair of the Commission at the time of this alleged fraud.  The Supreme Court of the Territory of New Mexico found that Catron had stated sufficient facts, if proven, to support a claim against the Commission and remanded the case for trial.  Unfortunately, I cannot find any report on the final outcome of the case on the merits.[1]  Given Bernard’s future political success, perhaps Catron lost the case.

Bernard also encountered some controversy when the Governor of the New Mexico Territory, Edmund Ross, named him as his choice to be the treasurer of the territory. Thomas Catron was again involved in the fight against Bernard. Catron was himself a political leader in New Mexico, having served as Attorney General and US Attorney for the territory and later serving as one of its first US Senators when New Mexico became a state.

English: Thomas Benton Catron, Senator of the ...

English: Thomas Benton Catron, Senator of the United States from New Mexico (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In July, 1886, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that Governor Ross might appoint Bernard as treasurer:

Bernard Seligman medicine man to be treasurer

Date: Friday, July 16, 1886 Paper: New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) Page: 2

I am curious about the reference to Bernard as a “medicine man;” I have no idea what it means in this context.

Governor Ross did in fact appoint Bernard Seligman to be territorial treasurer, but that appointment was then resisted by a man who claimed to be the sitting treasurer, Antonio Ortiz y Salazar, who refused to turn over his office to Seligman. Ortiz, represented by the same Thomas Catron who was suing Bernard for fraud in his role as County Commissioner, argued that the governor had not had authority to appoint Seligman because there was no vacancy to fill as Ortiz still held the seat and had not resigned or died.

Seligman brought a mandamus action against Ortiz, seeking to have him hand over the incidents of the treasurer’s office.  Seligman claimed that the oath taken by Ortiz when sworn in for a second term in 1884 was void because of some irregularities.  Ortiz responded that he had been properly sworn into office in 1882 for his first term, and thus he still had a valid claim to the treasurer’s office despite the governor’s appointment of Seligman.  The trial court judge disagreed and ruled that Seligman’s appointment was valid and that Ortiz had to give up his seat.  Ortiz requested a rehearing, and on review, a different judge reversed the first court’s decision and ruled in favor of Ortiz, concluding that the appointment of Seligman as treasurer was not valid because Ortiz still properly held the seat.

Seligman v Ortiz treasurer-page-001

Date: Thursday, August 19, 1886 Paper: Santa Fe Weekly New Mexican and Livestock Journal (Santa Fe, NM) Page: 4

Henry Tobias saw this incident as an example of the resentment some New Mexico residents felt about the success of the Jewish merchants in New Mexico.  In response to his appointment of Seligman, Ross was advised by one prominent resident that there were already too many Jews in Santa Fe politics and government.  (Tobias, pp. 119-120.)


Edmund G. Ross. Library of Congress descriptio...

Edmund G. Ross. Library of Congress description: “Hon. E. G. Ross of Kansas” (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Governor of New Mexico Territory 1885-1889

In December 1886, Governor Ross made a statement explaining his choice of my great-great-grandfather that upset some residents of the territory because of the insulting and discriminatory assumptions underlying that statement:

governor ross appoints bernard seligman-page-001

Date: Wednesday, December 29, 1886 Paper: Santa Fe Daily New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM) Page: 2

Perhaps there was prejudice on both sides: anti-Mexican prejudice by Ross and anti-Semitic prejudice on the part of those opposing the appointment of my great-great-grandfather.

Several sources, however, state that Bernard Seligman did serve as territorial treasurer: his obituary, Twitchell, and Tobias all refer to the fact that he served as treasurer. The Legislative Blue Book of the Territory of New Mexico (1911) lists Bernard Seligman as territorial treasurer from 1886 through 1891.     None of these sources explain, however, what happened that allowed Seligman to continue in office after the court decision in favor of Ortiz in 1889.

Thus, for much of the 1880s Bernard was pursuing his political career. However, he also must have been somewhat involved in the Seligman Brothers business.  This news clipping dated April 8, 1889, certainly suggests that Bernard was active in the business:

bernard trip back east 1889

New Mexican (Santa Fe, NM), Monday, April 8, 1889 , Volume: 26, Issue: 41,Page: 4

Meanwhile, at home his children were growing up.  In 1881, my great-grandmother Eva, then fifteen years old, left Santa Fe for Philadelphia where she went to Swarthmore[2] and later married my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen in 1886.   Her younger brother James also went to Swarthmore, where he was a member of the class of 1888 and a member of the literary society.

Eva Cohen in the Swarthmore Bulletin

James Seligman in Swarthmore register 1920

Bernard and Frances’ next child, Minnie, also followed in her siblings’ footsteps and enrolled at Swarthmore as did her younger Arthur.  Although Arthur was two years younger than Minnie, they both enrolled at Swarthmore the same year—1885-1886.  In that year James, Minnie and Arthur were all students at Swarthmore, James a sophomore in the college and Arthur and Minnie as juniors in the preparatory school.  I am not sure where Eva was living that year as she appears to have finished her studies at Swarthmore in 1884 and did not marry Emanuel until 1886.

With at least three of their children living in Philadelphia and Bernard busy with politics, I wonder whether Frances had also returned to Philadelphia to be closer both to her Nusbaum family and her children and whether Eva was also living with her mother there.  Although Eva and Frances are listed on the 1885 New Mexico Territorial Census, so are the other three children, despite the fact that those three were enrolled at school in Philadelphia that same year.  The news clipping above reported that Frances had stayed behind in Philadelphia “with friends” in 1889 when Bernard had returned to Santa Fe.

The family suffered a tragic loss on January 14, 1887, when Minnie, only seventeen years old, died from meningitis while in Philadelphia.  The address on the death certificate was 829 North 5th Street, Philadelphia.  Although I cannot find where the other Nusbaums were living in 1887, earlier Philadelphia directories list several members of the extended Nusbaum family living at residences nearby on North 6th Street and North Marshall Street.


Minnie Seligman death certificate 1887

Minnie Seligman death certificate 1887

This note in a Quaker publication says that Minnie died at the home of a relative:

friends' intelligencer 44 p 59

Friends’ Intelligencer United with the Friends’ Journal, Volume 44 (Google eBook), p. 59

Minnie was buried in Philadelphia at Mt Sinai cemetery, the same cemetery where her infant sister Florence had been buried in 1867 and where her uncle Sigmund Seligman had been buried in 1876 and where her parents and her sister Eva would later be buried.  Although the family may have left Philadelphia for Santa Fe almost twenty years before, it is pretty clear to me that the ties back to Philadelphia remained very strong for the family of Bernard Seligman.

[1] Catron v. Board of Commissioners, 21 P. 60 (N.M. 1889)

[2] Swarthmore had a preparatory school as well as a college in those days, and my great-grandmother and her siblings all attended the preparatory school and then most attended the college for at least some time as well.












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.”

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


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 ( : 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.