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Jacob Schiff
""Portrait of Jacob Schiff.jpg
Portrait of Jacob Schiff, by Aime Dupont
Senior Partner, Kuhn Loeb & Co
In office
1885 – September 25, 1920
Succeeded by "Mortimer Leo Schiff
Personal details
Born Jakob Heinrich Schiff
(1847-01-10)January 10, 1847
"Frankfurt, "Germany
Died September 25, 1920(1920-09-25) (aged 73)
"Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S.
Nationality "German
Spouse(s) Therese Loeb (m. 1875; his death 1920)
Children Frieda Schiff (1876–1958)
"Mortimer L. Schiff (1877–1931)
Occupation Banker and businessman

Jacob Henry Schiff (born Jakob Heinrich Schiff; January 10, 1847 – September 25, 1920) was a Jewish-American "banker, businessman, and philanthropist. Among many other things, he helped finance the expansion of American railroads and the Japanese military efforts against "Tsarist Russia in the "Russo-Japanese War.

Born in "Frankfurt, "Germany, Schiff migrated to the "United States after the "American Civil War and joined the firm "Kuhn, Loeb & Co.[1] From his base on "Wall Street, he was the foremost "Jewish leader from 1880 to 1920 in what later became known as the "Schiff era", grappling with all major Jewish issues and problems of the day, including the plight of Russian Jews under the Tsar, American and international "anti-semitism, care of needy Jewish immigrants, and the rise of "Zionism.[2][3] He also became a director of many important corporations, including the "National City Bank of New York, "Equitable Life Assurance Society, "Wells Fargo & Company, and the "Union Pacific Railroad. In many of his interests he was associated with "E. H. Harriman.


Early life[edit]

Schiff was born in 1847 in "Frankfurt am Main, "Germany, to Moses and Clara (née Niederhofheim) Schiff, members of a distinguished "Ashkenazi Jewish "rabbinical family that traced its lineage in Frankfurt back to 1370. His father, Moses Schiff, was a broker for the "Rothschilds.[1] Schiff was educated in the schools of Frankfurt and was first employed in the banking and brokerage business as an apprentice in 1861.[4][5] After the "American Civil War had ended in April, 1865, Schiff came to the United States, arriving in "New York City on August 6. He became a broker on November 21, 1866, and joined the firm of Budge, Schiff & Company in 1867. He became a "naturalized "citizen of the United States in September 1870.[5]

Upon the dissolution of Budge, Schiff & Company in 1872, Schiff decided to return to Germany. In 1873 he became manager of the "Hamburg branch of the London & Hanseatic Bank. He returned to Frankfurt, however, upon the death of his father later that year. In 1874 Abraham Kuhn of the banking firm of "Kuhn, Loeb & Company invited him to return to New York and enter the firm.[5]


Along with "H. B. Claflin, "Marcellus Hartley, "Robert L. Cutting, and "Joseph Seligman, he was a founder of the "Continental Bank of New York in August 1870.[6]

Kuhn, Loeb & Company[edit]

Schiff accepted Kuhn's invitation in January 1875, bringing to Kuhn, Loeb & Company his connections with Sir "Ernest Cassel of London, "Robert Fleming of "Dundee (later of London), and Edouard Noetzlin (fr) of the "Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas.[5] On May 6, 1875, he married Therese Loeb, daughter of "Solomon Loeb. The couple were the parents of a son, "Mortimer L. Schiff and a daughter, Frieda.[4][5][7]

In 1885 Schiff became head of Kuhn, Loeb & Company. Besides financing such Eastern railroads as the "Pennsylvania and the "Louisville & Nashville, he took part in the reorganization of the "Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1896–99, and at various times aided the American Smelting & Refining Company ("ASARCO), the "Westinghouse Electric Company, and the "Western Union Telegraph Company. Less fortunate was his share in the reorganization in 1902 of the "Metropolitan Street Railway of New York.[5]

He became associated with "E. H. Harriman in notable contests with "James J. Hill and "J.P. Morgan & Company for control of several Western railroads. Schiff served as a director of the "Equitable Life Assurance Society, "National City Bank of New York, "Central Trust Company, "Western Union Telegraph Company, "Union Pacific Railroad, Bond & Mortgage Guarantee Company, and "Wells Fargo & Company. He was elected a director of Wells Fargo in September 1914 to succeed his brother-in-law, "Paul Warburg, who had resigned to accept appointment to the original "Federal Reserve Board.[4][5][8][9]

National loans[edit]

What was perhaps Schiff's most famous financial action was during the "Russo-Japanese War, in 1904 and 1905. Schiff met "Takahashi Korekiyo, deputy governor of the "Bank of Japan, in Paris in April 1904. He subsequently extended loans to the "Empire of Japan in the amount of $200 million (equivalent to $4.3 billion in 2016[10]), through Kuhn, Loeb & Co.[5] These loans were the first major flotation of Japanese bonds on "Wall Street, and provided approximately half the funds needed for Japan's war effort.[11] Schiff made this loan partly because he believed that gold was not as important as national effort and desire in winning a war, and due to the apparent underdog status of Japan at the time; no European nation had yet been defeated by a non-European nation in a modern, full-scale war. It is quite likely Schiff also saw this loan as a means of answering, on behalf of the Jewish people, the anti-Semitic actions of the "Russian Empire, specifically the then-recent "Kishinev pogrom.

This loan attracted worldwide attention, and had major consequences. Japan won the war, thanks in large part to the purchase of munitions made possible by Schiff's loan. Some of the Japanese leadership saw this as evidence of the power of Jews all around the world, raised the issue of Jewish loyalties in the Diaspora and as proof of the truth of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1905, Japan awarded Schiff the "Order of the Sacred Treasure;[12] and in 1907, the "Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, the second highest of the eight classes of that Order.[13] Schiff was the first foreigner to receive the Order in person from "Emperor Meiji in the Imperial Palace.[14] Schiff also had a private audience with King "Edward VII of the United Kingdom in 1904.

In addition to his famous loan to Japan, Schiff financed loans to many other nations, including those that would come to comprise the "Central Powers. During "World War I, Schiff urged U.S. President "Woodrow Wilson and other "Allied statesmen to end the war as quickly as possible, even without an Allied victory. He feared for the lives of his family, back in Germany, but also for the future of his adopted land. He arranged loans to France and other nations for humanitarian purposes, and spoke out against "submarine warfare.

Schiff made sure none of the funds from his loans ever went to the Russian Empire, which he felt oppressed Jewish people. When "the Russian Empire fell in 1917, Schiff believed that the oppression of Jews would end. He formally repealed the impediments within his firm against lending to Russia.

Charitable endeavors[edit]

Schiff always felt strongly about his connection to the "Jewish people, and demonstrated this through his philanthropy. He supported relief efforts for the victims of pogroms in Russia, and helped establish and develop "Hebrew Union College, the "Jewish Theological Seminary, the Jewish Division in the "New York Public Library, and the "American Jewish Committee.

Schiff grew to be one of American Jewry's top philanthropists and leaders, donating to nearly every major Jewish cause, New York examples being the Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids, of which he was president,[15] the "Young Men's Hebrew Association building and the "Jewish Theological Seminary.[16] He was also involved with many secular American causes: in addition to serving on the Board of Managers of the "New York Zoological Society, he gave to such organizations as the "Boy Scouts of America, the "Harvard Semitic Museum, the "American Museum of Natural History, "Metropolitan Museum of Art, "American Fine Arts Society, "American Geographical Society, and "Barnard College; and a number of other organizations for civil rights and the disadvantaged, such as the "American Red Cross, the Nurses' Settlement (New York) and "Tuskegee Institute.[4][5][16] On his 70th birthday, he distributed $700,000 among various charitable organizations and public institutions.[17] Schiff was actively concerned with the improvement of civic conditions in New York. He was a vice president of the "New York Chamber of Commerce, and a member of the "Committee of 70 which resulted in the overthrow of the "Tweed Ring.[18]

Last years[edit]

The "Action Française movement and its leader, "Charles Maurras, claimed that Schiff was thoroughly pro-German and had worked to prevent "American entry into World War I. Maurras went so far as to suggest that a telegram from Schiff and other prominent American Jewish leaders convinced President Wilson to give in to certain German arguments at the post-war peace negotiations – including allowing "Upper Silesia to have a plebiscite rather than being ceded to "Poland.[19] The telegram is not known to have actually existed. Moreover, it has been argued that Schiff stopped financing transactions for Germany or the Central Powers as of 1914, stopped speaking German in public and was eager to demonstrate his moral and financial commitment to the Allied cause.[20]

A practitioner of "Reform Judaism,[21] Schiff supported political, secular "Zionism. Despite not agreeing fully with the ideas of "Theodore Herzl, and in fact believing that Zionism would cause Americans to question his loyalty, he donated to many Jewish projects in "Palestine, including the "Technical Institute of Haifa. As the situation for Eastern European Jews grew more dire, with the "Russian Revolution, and pogroms in "Ukraine, Schiff made more considerable contributions to the Zionist effort; he even offered to join the Zionist organization, provided he could publish a statement he'd prepared. This offer was denied, and so he never formally joined the Zionist camp.

Historian "George F. Kennan noted that Schiff helped finance revolutionary propaganda during the Russo-Japanese war and revolution of 1905,[22] through the "Society of Friends of Russian Freedom.

The Jewish Communal Register of New York City stated that "Mr. Schiff has always used his wealth and his influence in the best interests of his people. He financed the enemies of autocratic Russia and used his financial influence to keep Russia from the money markets of the United States."[23]

Schiff died at his "Fifth Avenue home in "Manhattan, New York City on September 25, 1920.[24] His funeral was held three days later at "Temple Emanu-El, then located at Forty-third Street and "Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.[25]

His estate was estimated at about $50,000,000 (approximately $611,000,000 today). He bequeathed $1,350,000 to various institutions, most of which had received benefactions during his life. The largest bequests were $500,000 to the Federation for the support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of New York City and $300,000 to the Montefiore Home.[17][26]


He was succeeded as head of Kuhn, Loeb & Company by his son, "Mortimer Leo Schiff (1877–1931).[5]

Schiff was inducted into the "Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1982.

The Jacob Schiff Center, named after him, was a prominent Jewish cultural center and "synagogue from the 1930s through at least the 1960s. It was located on Valentine Avenue, near the intersection of "Fordham Road and the "Grand Concourse in the "Fordham section of the Bronx.[27]

New York City public school number 192 in West Harlem is also named for him. It serves grades pre-K through 5.[28]


Schiff's descendant Andrew Newman Schiff was married to former "Vice President "Al Gore's daughter, "Karenna.


  1. ^ a b "SCHIFF - JewishEncyclopedia.com". jewishencyclopedia.com. 
  2. ^ Naomi Wiener Cohen, Jacob H. Schiff: a study in American Jewish leadership
  3. ^ "Glazer, N (1957) American Judaism, "UCP.
  4. ^ a b c d The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. XIII, p. 533. New York: James T. White & Company, 1906.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Schiff, Jacob Henry". "Dictionary of American Biography. New York: "Charles Scribner's Sons. 1928–1990. pp. 430–432. 
  6. ^ "Continental Bank to Mark 70th Year; Institution Has 3,500 Depositors and 6,000 Stockholders". "The New York Times. New York City, New York, United States. August 1, 1940. Retrieved November 2, 2017. 
  7. ^ Their daughter Frieda Schiff-Warburg (February 3, 1876 – September 14, 1958); married "Felix M. Warburg in 1895. Both her husband and her brother became partners in Kuhn, Loeb & Co.
  8. ^ Lord, Walter (1960). The Good Years: From 1900 to the First World War. New York: Harper & Brothers. pp. 71–79. 
  9. ^ Loomis, Noel M. (1968). Wells Fargo. New York: Clarkson N. Potter. p. 315. 
  10. ^ Thomas, Ryland; Williamson, Samuel H. (2018). "What Was the U.S. GDP Then?". MeasuringWorth. Retrieved January 5, 2018.  United States "Gross Domestic Product deflator figures follow the Measuring Worth series.
  11. ^ "Kowner, Rotem (2006). Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War. "ISBN "0-8108-4927-5: The Scarecrow Press. , p. 344-345.
  12. ^ Cyrus Adler, Jacob Henry Schiff: A Biographical Sketch, p. 12. New York: The American Jewish Committee, 1921
  13. ^ Adler, p. 14.
  14. ^ Pamela Rotner Sakamoto, Japanese Diplomats and Jewish Refugees, p. 17. Westport, Conn.: Praeger Publishers, 1998.
  15. ^ Heilbrunn, Bernice. "Jacob H. Schiff." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 3, edited by Giles R. Hoyt. German Historical Institute. Last modified August 05, 2013.
  16. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Rines, George Edwin, ed. (1920). "Schiff, Jacob Henry". "Encyclopedia Americana. 
  17. ^ a b Wikisource-logo.svg Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1922). "Schiff, Jacob Henry". "Encyclopædia Britannica (12th ed.). London & New York. 
  18. ^ "" Reynolds, Francis J., ed. (1921). "Schiff, Jacob Henry". "Collier's New Encyclopedia. New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company. 
  19. ^ Charles Maurras, Dictionnaire Politique et Critique, 1930–32, vol. II, pages 361–3.
  20. ^ "Stephen Birmingham, "Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York, at p. 316–7
  21. ^ "Schiff: Jacob Henry schiff". "Jewish Encyclopedia.
  22. ^ "Pacifists Pester Till Mayor Calls Them Traitors". "New York Times. March 24, 1917. 
  23. ^ The Jewish Communal Register of New York City, 1917-1918, Second Edition, Kehillah, New York, (1919), p. 1019
  24. ^ "Jacob H. Schiff, Noted Financier, Dies In Fifth Av. Home After A Long Illness. Stricken By Heart Disease 6 Months Ago. Suffered Relapse Thursday. End Comes At 6:30 P.M. With His Family At His Bedside. Semi-Conscious For 3 Days Arteriosclerosis Given As Immediate Cause Of Death Of Famous Philanthropist". "New York Times. September 26, 1920. 
  25. ^ "Thousands Gather At Schiff Funeral". "New York Times. September 29, 1920. 
  26. ^ "J. H. Schiff's Will". "New York Times. October 6, 1920. 
  27. ^ Julian Voloj, "On Fordham Road: Signs of the Times". The New York Times. October 22, 2006.
  28. ^ "Welcome to PS 192 "Never let it rest until our good gets better and our better gets best" - P.S. 192 Jacob H. Schiff - M192 - New York City Department of Education". schools.nyc.gov. 


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