Tag Archives: Oil

Jew of the Week: Joseph Seligman

America’s Financier

Seligman

Joseph Seligman

Born in Baiersdorf, Germany, Joseph Seligman (1819-1880) showed a creative entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. As a youth he would earn money by exchanging foreign coins for travellers while working at his family’s goods shop. At 17, Seligman decided to go out on his own, boarding a steamer for America. In Pennsylvania he worked as a cashier for a salary of $400 a year. From his earnings, Seligman started a small business delivering goods to rural farmers, saving them from having to travel to the city. His first $500 in savings was used to ferry over two of his brothers from Germany. After building a successful clothing business, the brothers went into banking, opening branches across Europe and America. Their wealth continued to skyrocket, so much so that during the Civil War Joseph Seligman disposed $200 million in bond loans to allow the war effort to continue. Historians have called this “scarcely less important than the Battle of Gettysburg”. Seligman was later offered the position of Secretary of the Treasury, but turned it down. He would go on to invest heavily in the development of the United States (as well as Russia and Peru), pumping money into railroads, bridges, shipbuilding, steel, oil and mining, even bicycles and communication lines. Together with the Vanderbilt family, Seligman financed much of New York’s public utilities. In one of the country’s most controversial events of the time, Seligman’s family was denied residence at the Grand Union Hotel by Henry Hilton, on the grounds that Jews were not welcome. Of this H.W. Beecher wrote “When I heard of the unnecessary offense that has been cast upon Mr. Seligman, I felt no other person could have been singled out that would have brought home to me the injustice more sensibly than he.”

Words of the Week

Time must be guarded… Every bit of time, every day that passes, is not just a day but a life’s concern.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, The Lubavitcher Rebbe (Hayom Yom, Cheshvan 17)

Jew of the Week: Marcus Samuel

Oil & Seashells

Marcus Samuel, Oil Baron

Marcus Samuel (1853-1927) was born in London to a wealthy Iraqi-Jewish family originally from the Netherlands. On a trip to the Black Sea in 1890, he saw the potential in oil (still a novel resource at the time). Samuel ordered the construction of 8 tankers that met the highest safety standards, receiving permission to transport oil to Asia across the newly-built Suez Canal. Thus was born Shell Oil, taking the name of the Samuel family business, which began meagerly just a few decades earlier by selling painted seashells. Using one of his tankers, Samuel once saved the stranded ship HMS Victorious, a feat for which he was knighted. Previously, Sir Samuel had served as the Sheriff of London, and even its Mayor! For his role in fueling the Allies in World War I, he was made 1st Baron of Bearsted, and later 1st Viscount of Bearsted. Lord Samuel was known for his incredible devotion to his wife and four children. So much so, in fact, that he died less than 24 hours after the passing of his beloved wife. At death, he left his large estate to be transformed into a public park, an orphanage and a nursing home. Today, his company is known as Royal Dutch Shell, after having merged in 1907 with the Royal Dutch oil company in order to compete with Rockefeller’s Standard Oil. Shell is currently the 5th largest company in the world, with a yearly revenue of over $360 billion.

Today is Tu B’Shvat!

Words of the Week

If you live as though there will always be a tomorrow, then you’ll never make much of today.
– Rabbi Noah Weinberg