The Money Kings
by Daniel Schulman
Joseph Seligman arrived in the United States in 1837, with the equivalent of $100 sewn into the lining of his pants. Then came the Lehman brothers, who would open a general store in Montgomery, Alabama. Not far behind were Solomon Loeb and Marcus Goldman, among the “Forty-Eighters” fleeing a Germany that had relegated Jews to an underclass.
These industrious immigrants would soon go from peddling trinkets and buying up shopkeepers’ IOUs to forming what would become some of the largest investment banks in the world—Goldman Sachs, Kuhn Loeb, Lehman Brothers, J. & W. Seligman & Co. They would clash and collaborate with J. P. Morgan, E. H. Harriman, Jay Gould, and other famed tycoons of the era. And their firms would help to transform the United States from a debtor nation into a financial superpower, capitalizing American industry and underwriting some of the twentieth century’s quintessential companies, like General Motors, Macy’s, and Sears. Along the way, they would shape the destiny not just of American finance but of the millions of Eastern European Jews who spilled off steamships in New York Harbor in the early 1900s, including Daniel Schulman’s paternal grandparents.
In The Money Kings, Schulman unspools a sweeping narrative that traces the interconnected origin stories of these financial dynasties. He chronicles their paths to Wall Street dominance, as they navigated the deeply antisemitic upper class of the Gilded Age, and the complexities of the Civil War, World War I, and the Zionist movement that tested both their burgeoning empires and their identities as Americans, Germans, and Jews.