In my recent post about Adolf Michel, I included the letter his son Fred had written to the International Tracing Service after the war in which he expressed obvious anger with his uncle Julius Seligmann for his failure to help learn what had happened to their mutual relatives. This post will shed light on Julius and his relationships with his siblings.
When my cousin Wolfgang first contacted me back in February 2015, he shared with me what he knew of the story of his grandfather Julius Seligmann. Julius was the second child of August Seligmann and Rosa Bergmann and was born February 5, 1877, in Gau-Algesheim. He was the nephew of my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligmann and first cousin of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen.
Julius and his younger brother Moritz were for many years in business together in Gau-Algesheim as merchants, but from family lore, Wolfgang learned that after his grandfather married Magdalena Kleissinger on December 1, 1922, and converted to Catholicism, there was a falling out between Julius and his family. Julius was already 45 when he married Magdalena and fifty years old when his younger son Herbert was born in 1927.
Then, according to the book by Ludwig Hellriegel about the Jews of Gau-Algesheim, Julius was forced to close his store in Gau-Algesheim in December 1935 and moved with his wife and sons to Bingen in September, 1939.1 I had speculated back in November 2014 that these actions were somehow connected to Nazi persecution, but Wolfgang did not think so. Although he did not know the details of what happened to Julius and his family or why he ended up leaving Gau-Algesheim in 1939, Wolfgang had heard from his family that Julius had suffered financial hardship after being forced to pay his brother Moritz some kind of financial settlement that led to the move to Bingen, where the family lived with Magdalena’s relatives for some time.
Recently, Wolfgang decided to try and learn more about his grandfather’s life, and he searched the Landesarchiv Speyer, the archives for the Rhine-Palatinate region in Germany. First, he searched online and found that there were court records available regarding a criminal prosecution of his grandfather Julius in 1937. The records themselves were not accessible online, so Wolfgang visited the archives in person and reviewed the many pages of court records there. He was not allowed to copy or photograph the records themselves, but took copious notes and reported back to me what he had learned. Thus, all the information that follows came from Wolfgang’s research of those court records.2
The records provided information not only about the criminal trial in 1937, but also background information about Julius and his life. The records reported that Julius was a good student and was in school through the sixth year at the Bingen schools. From 1897 to 1898, Julius served in the First Hessian Guard Regiment in Darmstadt.
After their father August died in 1909, Julius and his brother Moritz took over the family house as well as their father’s business. But Julius returned to military service on Germany’s behalf during World War I from 1914 through 1918. He was a sergeant in the infantry, battled malaria while in service, and received the Frontkämpferkreuz for his service on the front lines during the war. After the ceasefire, he helped bring the German battalions back to safety.After the war Julius returned to Gau-Algesheim and continued to work with his brother Moritz in what had been their father’s store. As noted above, he married Magdalena in 1922 and converted to Catholicism. Then Julius had an unfortunate injury in 1927 when he fell off his bicycle and suffered a concussion. The court records report that he suffered seizures for many years as a result of this accident.
The records indicate that there were many disputes between Julius and Moritz during this time, perhaps relating to Julius’ marriage and conversion or perhaps for unrelated family or business reasons. In May 1929, Julius bought out his brother Moritz of his share of the family home and business for 14,000 Reichmarks. There is a note in the records from a notary from Ingelheim saying this price was too high, that is, that Julius paid more than a fair price. Moritz then left Gau-Algesheim and moved to Koenigstein, and Julius ran the business on his own. But having overpaid for his brother’s half of the business, Julius soon ran into financial difficulties.
Things then got worse after Hitler came to power. The mayor watched to see who went into Julius’ store as he was apparently considered non-Aryan despite his conversion to Catholicism. Under the Nuremberg laws, he was still considered Jewish for he had four Jewish grandparents. As a result of his financial difficulties, Julius was forced to borrow money from a man named Hammen so that he could pay off his debts. As part of the process of obtaining that loan, Julius had to provide a statement of his assets.
Apparently, there was some error in that statement of assets, and that led to Julius being prosecuted for “negligent perjury.” Hammen himself testified that Julius was always a reliable businessperson and thus did not think he had intended to misstate his assets. There were also other witnesses who testified to Julius’ good character. Nevertheless, Julius was convicted and sentenced to prison from September 16, 1937 until April 16, 1938. A request for clemency was rejected. One has to wonder whether an “Aryan” business owner would have been treated as harshly as one who was born Jewish.
After being released from prison, Julius was forced to sell the family home because of financial difficulties. That led to further legal problems. Julius sold the house in April 1938 to Philip Wendelin Rohleder, a toolmaker. Rohleder had visited Julius in prison accompanied by Magdalena to convince him to sell the house. Julius agreed, but later claimed that Rohleder never paid the agreed-to price and that he was a Nazi and had told Julius he didn’t need to pay him at all. Rohleder denied this and said that he had to pay off some of Julius’ creditors and that’s why Julius had not received the whole purchase price. This dispute was not resolved until 1959 when Rohleder finally agreed to pay Julius 5000 Deutschmarks as a settlement.
Putting all this together, the story of Julius Seligmann now is more complete. Disputes between Julius and Moritz may have been the first step towards Julius’ financial problems. Overpaying his brother Moritz for the house and business in Gau-Algesheim left Julius financially vulnerable in 1929. Then the Nazis came to power, and despite his conversion to Catholicism, Julius was treated as a Jewish business owner and thus suffered as a result of the Nuremberg laws. Forced to borrow money, he became entangled in what to my mind appear to be trumped up charges as a way of getting him out of business completely. That then led to the sale of his house for less than its worth and thus his family’s need to leave Gau-Algesheim and seek help from his wife’s family in Bingen.
It is a sad story in so many ways. By marrying a Catholic woman, Julius lost the support of his family and the Jewish community of Gau-Algesheim. Then, despite being a hero for the German army in World War I, he was essentially treated as unworthy by the government in the Nazi era. He lost his family of origin, the family business and home, and his home community. At age 62 he was forced to move with his wife and two teenaged sons to Bingen and live with his in-laws.
But Julius was a survivor. He lived to 90 years old and was killed in a car accident coming home from church on March 28, 1967, three days before the first birthday of his grandson Wolfgang, who has now preserved the story of his grandfather Julius.
- Ludwig Hellriegel, Die Geschichte der Gau-Algesheimer Juden (1986, revised 2008)[The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim]. ↩
- References to the records can be found at http://www.archivdatenbank.lha-rlp.de/ under Landesarchiv Speyer, Justizvollzuganstalt Mainz, Bestand J 85, Findbuch, Akten, 03 Gefangene, Strafprozess 6142, Julius Seligmann, 367/37; Bestand J 83, Findbuch, Akten, 02 Gefangene, Gefangenepersonalakten, Sachakten 3142, Seligmann, Julius; Bestand J 10, Findbuch, Akten, 12 Prozessurteil und -akten, Zivilprozess 298 Seligmann, Julius. ↩
My second Seligmann update is about James Seligman, who was born Jakob Seligmann in Gau-Algesheim, Germany in about 1853; he died in Birmingham, England on March 11, 1930.1
James Seligman was the son of Moritz Seligmann and Babette Schoenfeld and the younger brother of my great-great-grandfather Bernard and Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August. I wrote a post about James and his life back on December 8, 2017, describing his life and business in England and Scotland. James went to England as a young man to represent Seligman Brothers, the wine business that he was in with his brothers August and Hieronymous. In 1890, the partnership with his brothers was dissolved, and James continued the wine business on his own in England and then Scotland as Seligman & Co. He also became involved in the hotel business in both Scotland and England. A good portion of the information and images in that earlier post came from Wolfgang.
In looking through old emails recently, I realized that I had never posted some of the photographs that Wolfgang later sent me of one of James Seligman’s hotels, the George Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. I also had forgotten to post some of the photographs my cousin-by-marriage Shirley had sent me of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham, England, where James had been the managing director. My apologies to Wolfgang, Shirley, and my three-times great-uncle James Seligman for somehow letting these wonderful images slip through the cracks.
Here are the photographs and other images that Wolfgang sent of the George Hotel in Edinburgh and some stationery letterhead that Wolfgang found on the internet showing the hotels owned in 1911 by James Seligman and August Mackay.
It looks like a gracious old hotel with a beautiful lobby. It is still in business and just had extensive renovations done. If I ever get to Edinburgh, this is where I will stay.
Shirley’s photographs are of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham where James was the managing director. It also is a grand and gracious old hotel:
I was able to learn a lot more about this hotel from its website:
The Grand Hotel first occupied part of the building constructed by Isaac Horton, on Colmore Row and Church Street between 1877 and 1879, with 100 bedrooms and a first floor reception. It was let to Arthur Field, a hotel operator from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and opened on 1st February 1879…. For the next 74 years the hotel was operated by Hortons. During this time it played host to royalty, politicians and film stars as well as staging many dinners, concerts and dances in the Grosvenor Suite. The room had many admirers including Sir John Betjeman who described it as “a unique, simply stunning, masterpiece.” The list of those attending functions at or staying in the hotel included King George VI, the Duke of Windsor, Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, Charlie Chaplin, James Cagney and Joe Louis to name but a few.
Maybe some of those people stayed in the hotel while James Seligman was the managing director. According to its website, the Grand Hotel is currently in the process of substantial renovations. Maybe someday I will get to stay there also.
As for the wine business, Seligman & Co stayed in business long after James’ death. In fact, Wolfgang found an obituary for a man named David Smith who was also in the wine business and who had been a director of Seligman & Co. in Birmingham as late as 1989. Shirley took a photograph of the location that once housed the Seligman & Co. wine business in Birmingham.
Thank you to Wolfgang and Shirley for their help in telling the story of James Seligman.
- General Register Office; United Kingdom; Volume: 6d; Page: 198, Ancestry.com. England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007 ↩
I am slowly emerging from the initial period of mourning and trying to re-enter the world. My father and my concern for my mother continue to fill almost all the spaces of my brain and heart. But Jewish tradition encourages one to return to a regular routine—to work, to school, to ordinary life—once the initial period of mourning is over. So I am going to try. And that means returning to my family history work and to my blog. It also means picking up where I left off in reading the blogs I follow.
For today, let me just share a bit more biographical information about my father. I described his personality and interests a bit in my last post, but I’d like to tell a little more about his life, especially his early life. Next time I will return to the Goldsmiths, my father’s cousins through his maternal great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein.
My father was born on November 15, 1926, in Philadelphia, to Eva Schoenthal and John Nusbaum Cohen. He was named John Nusbaum Cohen, Junior, which is an unusual thing to do in Ashkenazi Jewish families where the tradition is to name a child for a deceased relative. But that break with tradition was consistent with the assimilation of his family. Although my father was confirmed in a Reform Jewish temple, his family was not religious or traditional in any way.
When he was just a young boy, both of his parents became ill and were unable to care for him. His father had multiple sclerosis and eventually was institutionalized; my father had no memory of him walking unassisted. His mother suffered a breakdown and also was hospitalized and then cared for by her parents. My father and his sister Eva were taken care of by their paternal grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen, whose kindness and generosity I’ve written about before.
My father was an excellent student; he also loved music and art. One of his favorite childhood memories was playing the role of Buttercup in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore when he was at an all-boys summer camp. He often sang his parts from that show to us when we were children. He also enjoyed summer trips to Atlantic City with his grandmother and sister.
Just weeks before his thirteenth birthday, his beloved grandmother died in Philadelphia. The doctor who came to attend to her at home had to tell my father and aunt that their grandmother had died. There was no one obvious to take care of the two children, and for quite a while they were shuttled back and forth among various cousins for a week or so at a time. Eventually their mother was healthy enough to come back and take care of them.
My father graduated from high school and started college, but on February 14, 1945, when he was eighteen, he was drafted into the US Navy to serve during World War II. He was based in Chicago and then in Newport News, Virginia, doing intelligence work, until he was honorably discharged on August 1, 1946. He returned to Philadelphia and to Temple University to continue his education, but later transferred to Columbia University’s School of Architecture to complete his degree. He was encouraged and inspired by his uncle, Harold Schoenthal, to pursue a career in architecture, a decision he never regretted.
During the summer of 1950 when he was still a student at Columbia, my father worked as a waiter at Camp Log Tavern, a resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania. One weekend he spotted a young red-headed woman across the room and said to a fellow waiter, “That’s the girl I am going to marry.” Although she was more interested in another waiter during her stay, my father asked her for her number before she departed. She gave him the wrong number and a shortened version of her last name, which was Goldschlager. According to family lore, he searched the Bronx phone book until he found her. She was so impressed that she agreed to go out with him, and after that, they became inseparable.
They were married one year later on September 9, 1951. I came along eleven months later, just two months after my father’s graduation from Columbia.
In the years that followed, my parents had two more children, moved to the suburbs, and lived a good life. Theirs was a true love match, and they adored each other through 67 years of marriage. Yes, there were hard times and harsh words at times, but I never once doubted that they were devoted to each other.
My father worked first for an architectural firm in New York City, commuting with all the other fathers. But not many years later he left the firm and established his own practice, a practice he maintained into his 90s, working with people and developers on houses, office buildings, additions, and other work.
Although my father had a hard childhood, his adult life was happy and fulfilling. He loved his family, and he loved his work. He was active in his local community, working as a volunteer fireman and as a member of the planning board. When he died at age 92 on February 16, 2019, he was a well-loved and much respected member of his community and an adored husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and great-grandfather. His was truly a life well lived.
About two months ago we did a crazy thing. We drove five and a half hours from western Massachusetts to Philadelphia and spent just 24 hours in the City of Brotherly Love before turning around and returning home.
So how did this crazy thing happen? I had received an email from my third cousin Jan Sluizer. Her great-grandmother Elizabeth Cohen was the sister of my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen. We are both the great-great-granddaughters of Jacob Cohen and the three-time great-granddaughters of Hart Levy Cohen. Jan lives now in California, but she grew up in Philadelphia and was coming east for a high school reunion. She wanted to know if we could get together.
For several years I have wanted to visit Philadelphia—the place where my earliest American ancestors came in the 1840s, the place where my father was born and raised. Of course, I’d been to Philadelphia many times growing up to visit my grandmother and my aunt. But I’d never seen where my ancestors lived or were buried. I’d never even seen the places where my father had lived. In fact, I’d never seen Independence Hall or the other historic sights in Philadelphia.
I knew that to do everything I wanted to do, I’d need more than 24 hours. But it has been a hectic fall with far too many weekends away from home. The most we could do was get there on Saturday and leave on Sunday. And to top it off, a major storm was predicted for Sunday, meaning we’d have to hit the road even earlier than we had once hoped.
It was indeed crazy. But I am so glad we did it.
In the hours we had on Saturday, I managed to accomplish a few of the things I’d wanted to do. First, we took a tour of all the places where my Philadelphia ancestors had lived, starting with my great-great-grandparents Jacob Cohen and Sarah Jacobs and my three-times great-grandparents John Nusbaum and Jeanette Dreyfuss all the way to the last place my father lived in Philadelphia before moving to New York and marrying my mother in 1951. Here in the order in which my family occupied these places (though not in the order we saw them) are my photographs from that day.
Jacob Cohen lived for many years at 136 South Street. His pawnshop was nearby. And this is where he and my great-great-grandmother Sarah Jacobs raised their thirteen children, including my great-grandfather Emanuel. I do not think these are the same buildings that were there in the in the mid=19th century, but this is the street where they lived.
For decades the Cohens lived in this neighborhood where many of the German Jewish immigrants lived.
But my other early-arriving ancestor John Nusbaum lived on the north side of Philadelphia during this same period at 433 Vine Street and 455 York Street. We drove down these streets, but again the buildings that were there in the era are long gone, and I didn’t take any photographs here. It was mostly warehouse buildings and abandoned or run-down buildings.
Since my Nusbaum ancestor was a successful merchant, I imagine that in his time this area was quite desirable, in fact more desirable than area south of the city where the Cohens lived. Today, however, the South Street neighborhood is quite chic and inhabited by young professionals and clearly more desirable than the neighborhood where the Nusbaums lived.
Although my great-great-grandparents Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum lived almost their whole married life in Santa Fe, their last years were spent in Philadelphia at 1606 Diamond Street. Bernard died in 1903, and Frances in 1905. During that same period Bernard’s daughter Eva Seligman Cohen, my great-grandmother, and my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen were also living on Diamond Street. That neighborhood is also in North Philadelphia. Here is a Google Streetview of that street today. I don’t think these were the buildings that were there in the early 1900s, but I am not sure.
I had better luck as I moved further into the 20th century. In 1920 Emanuel Cohen and Eva Seligman Cohen, my great-grandparents, were living on Green Street close to what is now the downtown district of Philadelphia. It is a lovely tree-lined street with cafes and historic brick townhouses in what is clearly a gentrified neighborhood. I wonder what it was like when my great-grandparents and my grandfather John Cohen lived there in 1920.
We did not have time to get to the West Oak Lane neighborhood in North Philadelphia where my father lived with his parents in 1930 at 6625 North 17th Street, so that’s on my list for when we return.But here is a Google Streetview shot of that street:
I did find the apartment building where my father and aunt were living with their grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen in 1939 when she died. It is in the downtown area of Philadelphia and still called the Westbury Apartments.
In 1940, my father, aunt, and grandmother were living in North Philadelphia at 106 Venango Street. That building is no longer there unfortunately. It is now a commercial area with warehouses and factory-like buildings.
But In 1950 they were living on North 21st Street in this building—another lovely tree-lined street not far from the center of the city.
Touring the city this way was enlightening because it provided some insights into the patterns of gentrification and how they have changed since 1850. My ancestors for the most part started in the southern part of the city and as they moved up the economic ladder, they moved north of the city to an area that was newer, less crowded, and more “gentrified.” But today that pattern has reversed. Young professionals want to live close to downtown and have returned to the neighborhoods closest to the center of the city like Green Street and South Street. The neighborhoods around Venango Street and Diamond Street were long ago abandoned by those moving out to the suburbs in the post-World War II period and are now depressed sections of the city.
After a visit to the National Museum of American Jewish History and the Liberty Bell and a walk along Market Street, we met Jan for dinner in the area known as Rittenhouse Square, another gentrified neighborhood with lots of boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Meeting Jan was a delight. We had long ago connected by email when Jan shared all the stories about her father Mervyn Sluizer, Jr., and her grandfather Mervyn, Sr., and the rest of her family. Now we were able to meet face to face, share a meal together, and connect on a deeper level than email allows.
The following day the rain began, but I was determined to try and see where my ancestors were buried. Our first stop was Mikveh Israel synagogue, where we met Rabbi Albert Gabbai, who took us to the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia. Mikveh Israel has been in Philadelphia since before the American Revolution and was where my earliest Cohen ancestors belonged. It was then located about a mile from 136 South Street where Jacob Cohen lived. Although the original building is long, long gone, the synagogue still is in that same neighborhood, now on North 4th Street. According to the rabbi, it now attracts empty nesters who have moved into downtown Philadelphia. Another example of urban gentrification. Jews who long ago left downtown are now returning in their later years.
Rabbi Gabbai drove us to the Federal Street cemetery, the second oldest Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, where he patiently and generously guided us with a map to see the gravestones of Jacob and Sarah Cohen as well as the location of Hart Levy Cohen’s grave (his stone has either sunk into the ground or otherwise disappeared).
Jacob and Sarah’s grave is marked by one of the largest monuments in the cemetery:
While we walked through the cemetery, I also spotted the stones for Jan’s other great-great-grandparents, Bernard and Margaret Sluizer, and her three-times great-grandmother Jeanette Sluizer. I was very touched when I realized that Bernard and Margaret Sluizer are buried in the plots that abut Jacob and Sarah’s plots.
I also found a stone for Joseph Jacobs, my 3-times great uncle, brother of Sarah Jacobs Cohen.
Unfortunately, it was pouring by this time, and I could not find any small stones to put on the gravestones to mark my visit, which left me feeling as if I’d let my ancestors down.
After leaving Rabbi Gabbai, we drove north to the two other Philadelphia cemeteries where my ancestors are buried: Mount Sinai and Adath Jeshurun. Fortunately they are located right next to each other, and I had carefully written down the location of the graves I wanted to visit at Mount Sinai from the records I found on Ancestry. (I did not have that information for Adath Jeshurun, but only a few ancestors are buried there as compared to Mount Sinai.)
Unfortunately, despite my good planning, I had no luck. There was no office and no one at the cemetery; there was no map posted of the cemetery. And there were no obvious markings in the cemetery identifying sections or plots. And it was pouring.
My ever-patient husband sat in the car and drove slowly around as I walked up and down the drives and walkways with an umbrella and in my orthopedic boot, looking for Cohens, Nusbaums, Katzensteins, Schoenthals, and Seligmans. This was the only one I could find for any of my known relatives:
This is the stone for Simon Schoenthal, my great-grandfather’s brother, and his wife Rose Mansbach, who was also related to me by the marriage of her cousin Marum Mansbach to my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein’s sister Hannchen. It also marks the burial place of two of their children, Martin and Harry, as well as Harry’s wife Esther, and their son Norman. I was delighted that I had found this marker, but nevertheless disappointed that I could not find the place where my grandfather John Cohen is buried along with his parents, Emanuel Cohen and Eva Seligman. Nor did I find any of the others I had been hoping to visit.
From there we headed home, leaving Philadelphia exactly 24 hours after we’d arrived. It was a wet and long trip home, but I still was glad we had made this whirlwind visit. I was able to meet Jan, I saw places where my ancestors lived and are buried, and we were introduced to the city where so many of my relatives have lived. It was not enough, so we will have to return. Next time we will need to spend at least 48 hours!
 I had broken my ankle a few weeks before the trip. It’s better now.
When I wrote the recent post about the news articles my cousin Wolfgang had found about our Seligman(n) relatives, I had forgotten that a month earlier Wolfgang had sent me some other items he’d found about our relative, James Seligman—brother of Bernard, my great-great-grandfather, and August, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather. Somehow that earlier email had gotten lost in the mess that is my inbox. My apologies to Wolfgang!
A little more background on James: He was the youngest child of Babette Schoenfeld and Moritz Seligmann, born in about 1853 in Gau-Algesheim. By the time he was 28 in 1881 he had immigrated England where he was a wine merchant in Kilpin, Yorkshire, in conjunction with his brothers August and Hieronymus, who were living in Germany. He took sole control over that business in 1891.
In 1887, James married Henrietta Walker Templeton in London. In 1901, they were living in Scotland, but by the 1920s they had returned to England and were living in Birmingham where he remained for the rest of his life.
Henrietta died on October 4, 1928, and a year later in December 1929, James married his second wife Clara Elizabeth Perry. Clara was 45 years younger than James; she was 31 when they married, he was 76. He died just three months after they married on March 11, 1930. Clara remarried two years later and died in 1981. James did not have children with either of his wives.
Wolfgang found an obituary for James in the March 14, 1930 issue of the Birmingham Gazette:
Mr. James Seligman
Death of Birmingham Hotel Expert
The death has occurred at the age of 77 of Mr. James Seligman, of 11 Yately-road, Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Formerly in business in Scotland, where he owned a number of hotels, Mr. Seligman was managing director of the Grand and Midland Hotels, Birmingham, and of the King’s Head Hotel, Sheffield.
He was an expert on all business matters connected with hotel management, and was often consulted by proprietors and managers of hotel establishments in all parts of the country.
He was the sole proprietor of Seligman and Co., wine merchanges, Colmore-row, Birmingham, and although ill in bed, was dealing with business affairs up to within a few hours of his death.
A great lover of music, Mr. Seligman was a regular concert-goer and an enthusiastic supporter of musical societies.
A funeral service will be held at Perry Barr Crematorium on Saturday.
From the obituary, Wolfgang knew where James had lived and captured this photograph of the former residence from Google Maps:
He also sent me this photograph of the Grand Hotel in Birmingham where James had been the managing director:
Interestingly, Wolfgang located an ad for Seligman’s Wine Merchants in the October 30, 1969, Birmingham Daily Post. It was still located on Colmore Row in Birmingham and called Seligman’s almost forty years after James died in 1930.
Thank you again to Wolfgang for sharing these items which shed more light on the personality and life of James Seligman, my three-times great-uncle and Wolfgang’s great-great-uncle.
One of the great advantages I had when I was researching my Santa Fe Seligman family was the availability of numerous newspaper articles about members of the family. Because my great-great-grandfather Bernard Seligman and his son Arthur Seligman were both important business and political leaders in Santa Fe, there was extensive coverage of their lives—and not just their business and political lives, but also their personal lives. The news articles gave me great insights into their personalities and the way they were perceived in their communities.
Now my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann has uncovered more articles—not only about the Santa Fe Seligmans but also about their relatives abroad.
My favorite article of those uncovered by Wolfgang is this one, an obituary of my three-times great-grandmother Babette Schoenfeld Seligmann from the February 2, 1899 issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Death of Mrs. M[oritz] Seligman
Hon. Bernard Seligman received the sad intelligence today, that Mrs. M. Seligman, mother of Bernard and Adolf Seligman, of this city, died at Gau-Algesheim, Germany, January 15, 1899, at the advanced age of 89. She left seven children, two daughters and five sons, all living, in England, Germany and the United States. Mrs. Seligman was a remarkable women in many ways, she brought up her children to be honorable and valuable citizens, as might be inferred from the honored career of the two sons who have for so long been esteemed members of this community, and who are so widely respected throughout New Mexico. Mrs. Seligman was a woman of rugged and sterling good sense, and a just, affectionate parent, and the many friends of Messrs. Seligman in this territory will sympathize with them in their loss.
The Sante Fe New Mexican reporter could not have known Babette, so the descriptions must have come from her sons Bernard and Adolf. They reveal so much about Babette’s personality and how she was perceived and loved by her sons.
Here she is on the far right with two of her sons, James on the left, Adolf on the right, with her granddaughter Anna Oppenheimer in the center and her daughter-in-law Henrietta on the far left. (Sorry, I don’t know the name of the dog.)
I thought this little news item that Wolfgang found was also interesting. It is an announcement of the dissolution of a London wine business owned by three of the Seligmann brothers: Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August Seligmann, his younger brother Hieronymus Seligmann, and the youngest sibling, James Seligman. James, who was born Jakob, was the brother who left Germany for England and Scotland, unlike my great-great-grandfather Bernard and his brother Adolf, who went to New Mexico, or August and Hieronymus, who stayed in Germany. The notice announced the takeover of the wine business in England by James alone as of the end of July, 1890.
I knew that James had been a wine merchant, but was not aware that his brothers were his partners initially. James was ultimately quite successful and, according to my cousin Lotte, owned hotels in Great Britain.
Wolfgang also found a notice in the July 15, 1930 issue of the London Gazette notifying those with possible claims against the estate of James Seligman of his death on March 11, 1930, and outlining what they needed to do to pursue those claims. It’s interesting that a man as successful as James died intestate (i.e., without a will). The National Provisional Bank Limited and James’ widow Clara had been appointed administrators of his estate. It was the settlement of James Seligman’s estate and the bank’s search for his heirs that led me to so many other Seligmann relatives.
Two articles that Wolfgang sent were stories I’d not seen before about my great-uncle Arthur Seligman. The first is a profile of him published in the January 13, 1904, Santa Fe New Mexican (p. 9). The biographical information I have reported elsewhere so I will just quote a few excerpts from this article, written when Arthur was a County Commissioner in Santa Fe.
Describing the current status and success of the Seligman Brother’s mercantile business in Santa Fe, of which Arthur was then a director and secretary-treasurer, the article states, “Model methods, courteous treatment, absolutely fair dealing, and prompt service have characterized the business of the firm since 1856, and are today the mottoes of the two young men [Arthur and his younger brother James L. Seligman] conducting it.”
About Arthur specifically, the article states that he “is very popular in his home city. [His success in the election as a County Commissioner] is good evidence that he is liked and respected where best known. It is a fact universally acknowledged that he has filled the important position of County Commissioner for the First District, for the past three years with marked ability, constant efficiency, and great benefit to the taxpayers and property owners, and that he has aided greatly in bringing about a very large and gratifying reduction in county expenses since taking office on the first of January, 1901.”
The article then goes on to praise his other roles and accomplishments, concluding by saying, “He is as enterprising, progressive and good a citizen as Santa Fe can boast of.”
Six years later Arthur was elected mayor of Santa Fe and was featured on the front page of the April 6, 1910, issue of the Santa Fe New Mexican. The articles provide a biography and a description of his plans for Santa Fe during his upcoming term as mayor.
Twenty years later, Arthur would be elected governor of New Mexico. Here he is attending the 1932 Democratic convention in Atlantic City, accompanied by my cousin Marjorie Cohen and my great-grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen, his sister.
Much thanks to my dear cousin Wolfgang for finding and sharing these articles about our relatives.
In July, I received an email from my friend Beate Goetz; Beate is the woman who not only was our guide when we visited Bingen in May—she was one of the first people from Germany who helped me with my research, starting back almost three years ago. We’d had a lovely time with Beate while in Bingen, and she wrote an article about our visit for the local newspaper, Allegemeine Zeitung. It was wonderful to relive the experience through Beate’s eyes and remember our time together.
With some help from Google Translate and Wolfgang, I’ve translated her article; my apologies to Beate for any errors, for which I take full responsibility:
In the Footsteps of the Ancestors
US-American Amy B. Cohen and Wolfgang Seligmann have Common Bingen roots.
In November 2014, Amy Cohen from Massachusetts turned to the Arbeitskreis Judische and asked for help. She was in search of meaningful documents about her ancestor Moses, later Moritz, Seligmann, who was born in either Gau-Algesheim or Gaulsheim in the 19th century.
It soon became apparent that Moritz Seligmann was born on January 10, 1800, in Gaulsheim, the son of the merchant Jacob Seligmann and his wife Martha nee Mayer, who came from Oberingelheim. Also, his grandfather Hirsch Seligmann was born in Gaulsheim.
Moritz Seligmann was married twice: first with Eva Schoenfeld from Erbes-Buedesheim. The wedding was on February 27, 1829, in Gaulsheim.
The year before, Moritz Seligmann had wanted to transfer his place of residence to Gau-Algesheim, as Ludwig Hellriegel wrote in his little book, The History of the Jews of Gau-Algesheim. However, the town council rejected this and stated that “there are already a large number of Jews in the local community.” And “that it is not advisable to overpower the church with Jews.” But when Moritz Seligmann submitted a testimony to the mayor’s office of Gaulsheim of his unblemished reputation, he was allowed to become a citizen of the city.
After the death of his first wife Eva on the birth of their son Benjamin, Moritz Seligmann married her sister Babetta Schönfeld, as was customary at that time. Bernard Seligmann, Amy Cohen’s ancestor, came from this marriage. He and his brothers Adolph and Sigismund (from the marriage with Eva) went to America around 1850. The brothers settled in Santa Fe and established the prosperous business, Seligman Brothers. They transported goods from the East Coast on the Santa Fe Trail and sold them in Santa Fe.
Since 2013 Amy Cohen has been collecting her family history research in a blog. The coincidence was that radiojournalist Wolfgang Seligmann found Amy’s blog and soon they found out that they have the same ancestor in Moritz Seligmann. While Amy’s ancestor Bernard Seligman was finding happiness in America, Wolfgang’s great-grandfather August had stayed in Gau-Algesheim. His grandfather Julius Seligmann had started the Christian line in the family as he converted when he married Magdalena Kleisinger, who was Catholic. From 1939, the family lived in Bingen.
Wolfgang Seligmann had strong support in his family research from his recently deceased mother, Annlis, who tirelessly gathered the documents and mastered the old German script.
So a few weeks ago the two Seligmann descendants met when Amy Cohen came with her husband Harvey. In addition to Mainz and Gau-Algesheim, Bingen was on the travel schedule of the guests. Together we went on a tour of the town that led along the houses and stolpersteine to remember the extensive family associations of the Seligmann, Gross, and Mayer families.
Also, we visited the synagogues and the Memorial and Meeting Center of Judische Bingen in Rochusstraße and also took countless photos before the visit to the Jewish cemetery ended the tour.
Shortly after her journey, which led the couple to Koblenz, Koln, and Heidelberg, Amy Cohen wrote how impressed she was by visiting the cemetery. “The people behind the names and stories I had researched seemed to me so close and very real, and I realized how close my Seligmann relatives were to the Bingen local community.”
 Only one correction to the caption under the photo: Harvey’s surname is not Cohen. I kept my birth name, just to make things easier for future genealogists. 😊
I am very sad to report that my cousin Pete passed away on July 11, 2017. Regular readers of this blog may recognize Pete’s name—his full name was Arthur George Scott, but he was born Arthur George Seligman. Pete was my father’s second cousin, and I found him several years back when I was researching my Seligman(n) family line.
Connecting with Pete was one of the most rewarding experiences I have had while researching my family history. Pete was fascinated by history and was extremely knowledgeable about the history of his hometown, Santa Fe, and about our family’s contribution to the history of that city. Because of Pete’s extensive background and incredible generosity, I was able to learn a great deal about our American Seligman history. And I was able to share with him my delight in learning about our German ancestors and relatives. He quickly became a friend as well as a cousin.
Pete was the great-grandson of Bernard Seligman, who, along with his brothers Sigmund and Adolf, traveled the Santa Fe Trail in the 1850s and helped to establish Santa Fe as an important trading post. Their store Seligman Brothers was on the main plaza in Santa Fe for close to eighty years.
Pete’s grandfather was Arthur Seligman, the governor of New Mexico from 1931 until his death in office in 1933. I wrote extensively about Arthur Seligman on the blog, as well as about Pete’s father Otis Seligman; without Pete’s help, I would not have been able to learn and share as much as I did about the contributions the Seligmans made to American history.
Pete and his dear friend Mike Lord along with several others also created and contributed to a historical website called Voces de Santa Fe. If you enter Arthur Scott or Pete Scott into the search box there, you can see some of the incredible work Pete did, researching and writing about not only his family’s history, but also the general history of Santa Fe and the region. I relied on Voces for many of my stories about the Seligmans and early Santa Fe.
Pete was very proud of his family history, as well he should have been. Pete inherited the pioneer spirit of his great-grandfather Bernard and the commitment to public service of both his great-grandfather and his grandfather and namesake Arthur Seligman. Rather than try and write a biography of Pete myself, I am including in this post the beautiful obituary written by Pete’s daughter, Terri. Thank you, Terri, for allowing me to share this.
A Life Well Lived, Loved, and Learned
Arthur George Scott (Seligman), also known as Pete and Art, aged 79, last residing in Bradenton, FL, died on July 11, 2017 at home, in his sleep due to many complications from a lifetime of Type I Diabetes.
He was born on January 27, 1938 to Doris Seligman (Gardiner) and Otis Seligman in Santa Fe, NM. He was given his stepfather’s last name of Scott in 1943 after his father passed away when Pete was just starting public school in Santa Fe.
While obtaining his BS in Civil Engineering from New Mexico State University, he married his first wife Marilyn Bicksler. After participating in ROTC and graduating from NM State University, he provided service to the US Army as a Lieutenant, giving education to many younger recruits during the late 1950’s Cold War. After providing his service to the United States, he grew his hair long and never cut it short again; he added a beard and mustache for good measure.
He acquired Type I Diabetes just out of the US Army, while beginning a lifetime career in the United States Geological Survey. Lucky to survive the diabetic coma that announced a new path in his life, Pete moved forward and never gave up.
He loved his career and work friends at USGS in Santa Fe, NM, surveying rivers and dealing with Diamondback Rattle Snakes in the desert. And at USGS in Reston, VA, he travelled and wrote hydrologic journal papers on rivers and lakes from the Clinch River Valley to Canada/US Great Lakes, and to Brazil educating on water resources. He called it “The best job in the world”. Part of that “best job” involved a lot of travel, which he relished and he learned from the people in every society, city, or country he visited.
Pete inspired all of his creativity, scientific knowledge and self-sufficiency to his children, Terri and Janice. They remember his paintings, remodeling of the house, and collecting NM historical artifacts. Terri and Janice closely followed in his footsteps of science and creativity.
In 1980, while living in Reston, VA he met and married his current, devoted, and loving wife, Bonnie Sharpless Scott. Their marriage was 37 years strong. They spent many exciting and tumultuous times, helping to raise two teenagers, travelling, working, playing, and loving. Bonnie, a professional hairdresser, always took care of trimming Pete’s hair and beard to ultimate perfection. Now, that’s true love. Their travels were magical from the Galapagos Islands seeing Darwin’s creatures, to Africa viewing Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro, and hanging in Jamaica getting dreadlocks, and onto Thailand appreciating the majesty of nature, then sailing in the Caribbean, as well as a Brazilian cruise up the Amazon River.
Pete leaves behind many people, including his two daughters, Terri and Janice; Janice and husband Matthew’s children, Alexander and Wesley; Terri and husband Jeffrey’s children, Joshua and Nicholas; his niece, Jhette Diamond; and most significantly, his wife, Bonnie. In addition, Pete leaves behind very favored pets, including dogs: Koda II, Sunny, and Tipper, plus birds: Bubba, Tico, and Cisco. And very importantly, he leaves behind a legacy and brilliant history with many extended family and friends.
Type I Diabetes was a major obstacle in Pete’s life, as well as his family’s lives. He kept all his limbs, but lost most of his eyesight, most of the use of his hands, and his legs were very painful and eventually lost function, at which point he had to accept a wheel chair, all due to Diabetic peripheral neuropathy. However, he never gave up hope and learning. His last days were spent with Bonnie making cigar box guitars, and learning to play slide guitar blues.
If you would like to help his family heal from the loss of Pete, please learn everything you can about Type I Diabetes and feel free to make a donation to the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org) or your local chapter of The Lighthouse for the Blind. We only ask this, in Pete’s name and memory, so that young people who have no choice and acquire this disease can live better and longer lives than Pete was allowed.
I will miss Pete very much; although we had long ago finished our collaboration on the family history, we had stayed in touch. In March, 2016, while in Florida, Harvey and I traveled to Bradenton, Florida, and had a very enjoyable and interesting evening with Pete and his beloved wife Bonnie. We met their dogs and parrots and shared stories about our lives and our history. I feel so very fortunate that we were able to spend that time together. Here is a photo I took when we were together.
My heart goes out to Pete’s family—his wife Bonnie, his daughters Terri and Janice, and his grandchildren. May his memory be a blessing for his family and for all of us who knew him.
Over 160 years ago, three Jewish brothers from Gau-Algesheim, Germany, left their homeland as young men and somehow ended up on the frontier, traveling the Santa Fe Trail, bringing goods to the towns of the New Mexico territory just recently acquired by the US after the Mexican War, and eventually establishing a store on the plaza of Santa Fe: Seligman Brothers, a store that lasted over 70 years before closing in the 1920s. One of those brothers was my great-great-grandfather, Bernard Seligman (born Bernhard Seligmann), father of my great-grandmother Evalyn (later Eval) as well as Arthur, who would become governor of New Mexico in 1930.
I’ve written a great deal about my Seligmann ancestors—too many posts to try and provide links to here. (Just look in the Seligman category to see those posts.) I’ve had great fortune in finding sources not only about the three Seligman brothers who came to Santa Fe, but also about their other siblings, their parents, their grandparents, their descendants, and many of their cousins. And I’ve been especially blessed to find a number of current living descendants, including my cousin Pete Scott (grandson of Arthur Seligman), my cousin Wolfgang Seligmann, my cousin Angelika Oppenheimer, my cousin Steven Seligman, and so many others. The Seligmann/Seligman line seems to have a strong interest in family history; perhaps this is where my own passion for genealogy comes from, my Seligman DNA.
So it should not be surprising that Santa Fe was a city I wanted to visit. It’s a city where my family left a substantial mark and a city that left a substantial mark on them. It’s a city with a long and rich history of its own, one of the oldest cities in the United States, and as I learned, one of the most beautiful.
My cousin Pete was born and raised in Santa Fe, and he has done a lot of research and writing about the history of the city including about our family’s history there. He and his good friend Mike Lord have provided a wealth of information on their website Voces de Sante Fe, and Pete arranged for Mike to meet with us for one of the days that we would be spending in Santa Fe.
By the standards of most major US cities, Santa Fe is quite small. We walked the whole plaza area many times, and most of the major sites in the city are in an area that is no bigger than about two miles square. There are no skyscrapers, and the tallest building we saw in the central part of the city aside from the St. Francis Cathedral was our hotel, which is five stories high.
Below are various shots of the cathedral, which was built between 1869 and 1886:
The sky over Santa Fe feels wide open, and the uniformity of the color of the buildings gives the place an aesthetic unity that is both appealing and quite unreal.
When we met with Pete’s friend (and now our friend) Mike to learn about the history of Santa Fe, he likened Santa Fe to an adobe amusement park. He pointed out that it was not until the 1950s that the uniform adobe look was mandated; historically there was a great deal more diversity to the architecture of the city, as you can see from this photo that Mike shared with us, dated in the 1890s.
For a city of this relatively small size, there is an incredible amount to see far beyond my genealogical interests. We loved the Georgia O’Keefe Museum; not only did we get to see that her artistic style had evolved over the years and that that style had a much broader range than the works with which we were already familiar, we also learned about her fascinating life. Having driven through the New Mexico landscape, we could understand what drew her and so many artists to this place. Santa Fe has long been a place that has drawn artists to its light and its scenery and its independent spirit, and we enjoyed strolling through the galleries along Canyon Road and in the plaza area itself to see what today’s artists are creating.
We also enjoyed seeing the miraculous staircase in the Loretto Chapel. It was built in the late 1870s by a carpenter who claimed he could provide a way to reach the choir loft without taking up too much space in the church’s main level. Somehow he built it without any central support. It’s quite fascinating to see—almost like an optical illusion.
Santa Fe’s long history was evidenced by what is claimed to be the oldest still-standing home in the US, the De Vargas Street house, as well as the first church in the US, the San Miguel Chapel. Both date back to the early 1600s. The Spanish came to this area in the late 16th century, making it the earliest European settlement in the US west of the Mississippi River.
Among the earliest European settlers were what we now call Crypto Jews, that is, hidden Jews. We went with Mike to see a very comprehensive exhibit about the Inquisition and the Crypto Jews at the New Mexico History Museum in the former Palace of Governors in Santa Fe. When the Inquisition began in Spain in 1492, Jews were forced either to leave Spain, convert to Catholicism, or be punished, including by execution. Some of the Jews left with Spanish colonists to go to Mexico, but because they were still within the realm of the Spanish empire, they still had to convert or face prosecution as infidels.
In the 1600s, some of those “conversos” who had gone to Mexico migrated to what would later become New Mexico, but even there they were still subject to the rules of the Inquisition. Many, however, continued to follow Jewish laws and honor Jewish rituals, such as lighting candles on Friday nights, covering mirrors when someone died, abstaining from pork, and going to worship (at church) on Saturday instead of Sunday.
Thus, long before German Jewish merchants like my great-grandfather arrived in Santa Fe in the 19th century, there was a population of people with Jewish roots in Santa Fe and other places in New Mexico, even if they did not outwardly (or even internally) identify as Jews.
Of course, my principal historical interest was in those German Jewish merchants, the Seligmans as well as their fellow pioneers, the Spiegelbergs, the Staabs, and others. What was Santa Fe like when they started arriving in the 1840s and 1850s? It is hard to imagine what my great-great-grandfather and his brothers thought when they arrived in this place, having come from Germany where there were so many old and grand cities with towering cathedrals and castles. And what did my great-great-grandmother Frances Nusbaum think when she moved from Philadelphia, itself already quite an established city, to be with her husband Bernard Seligman in Santa Fe?
Mike shared with us this photo of Santa Fe from 1855 that conveys just how primitive the town’s architecture was at the time that Bernard Seligman and his brothers arrived there.
And where did my ancestors live and work when they settled in this frontier town? When we were making our travel plans, I had asked Pete where we should stay in Santa Fe, whether there was a place with a connection to the Seligman history there. He suggested La Fonda Hotel. Although the current building was built in the 1920s, it sits on the site of the first hotel in Santa Fe, at one time called the Exchange Hotel. The Exchange Hotel was the building on the other side of the Santa Fe Trail from Seligman Brothers on the plaza in Santa Fe. Here is Pete’s post about La Fonda and the history of the hotels built on that site.
On this map dated 1912, you can see that the street to the right (east) of the Plaza running between San Francisco Street (where La Fonda and Seligman Brothers store are/were located) and Palace Avenue was then called Seligman Street.
Thus, we decided to stay at La Fonda. It was a wonderful hotel, and we are very grateful to Pete for his suggestion. From the moment I walked into the lobby, I knew that I was in a very different part of the country.
Below is the building located where Seligman Brothers’ store was once located, across the street from La Fonda:
I walked into the store that is currently located where Seligman Brothers’ store once stood, thinking about the fact that I was standing where my great-great-grandfather and his family had once sold dry goods to residents of the area.
Although census records indicate that the Seligmans at one point lived on Palace Avenue, there are no longer any visible signs in the city to show where Bernard Seligman and his family lived.
There is, however, a street that was named for his brother-in-law Simon Nusbaum, who had moved to Santa Fe around 1880 and lived with his sister Frances and her husband Bernard Seligman for some time before marrying and living in his own home, which sadly no longer exists.
In the New Mexico Statehouse, a quite grand and beautiful building built in 1966 and renovated in the 1990s, there is a gallery of portraits of all the governors of New Mexico from statehood in 1912 through today, and there on the wall was a portrait of my great-great-uncle, Arthur Seligman, governor from 1930 until his death in office in 1933.
Mike took us to see Arthur’s mud wagon in the New Mexico History Museum and drove us past the house where Arthur and his family had lived in Santa Fe.
Then he took us to Fairview Cemetery, where many of my Seligman and Nusbaum relatives are buried.
Although there was nothing on any of these stones to indicate that these were the graves of Jewish people, I left a stone on many of them, as is Jewish custom when visiting a grave to mark that someone was there to remember them.
Thus, our days in Santa Fe were a wonderful blend of history, art, architecture, and family history. They call New Mexico the Land of Enchantment, and Santa Fe is an enchanting place even if you have no family ties to the place. But for me, it was more than that. Although at times it was hard to imagine what is now very much a tourist-filled place as the old settlement of native Americans, Spanish and Mexican settlers, and then later Anglo settlers like my ancestor, when I could time-travel in my mind to the years when my great-great-grandparents and their children roamed those same streets around the plaza, it was quite magical, and yes, enchanting.