PEIXOTTO


PEIXOTTO, U.S. family of Sephardi origin. DANIEL LEVI MADURO PEIXOTTO (1800–1843), a physician, was born in Amsterdam, and was taken to New York in 1807 by his father MOSES LEVI MADURO PEIXOTTO (1767–1828), a merchant who served as ḥazzan of New York's Congregation Shearith Israel from 1820 until his death. Daniel Peixotto graduated from Columbia College in 1816 and became a leading physician in New York City, serving as editor of the New York Medical and Physical Journal and as a founder of the New York Academy of Medicine. He was an active Jacksonian Democrat and a leader and intellectual mentor of the Jewish community. From 1835 until 1841 he was a professor at the newly founded medical school of Willoughby University near Cleveland, Ohio, a forerunner of the Case-Western Reserve University Medical School.

His son, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN PEIXOTTO (1834–1890), was a lawyer, diplomat, and Jewish communal leader. Born in New York City, he was brought by his family to Cleveland, then back to New York, later resettling in Cleveland during 1847–66. There he became a clothing merchant, and also frequently wrote editorials for the daily Cleveland Plain Dealer. Peixotto was a founder and president of the Mercantile Library Association and Lyceum, and a follower of Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, under whose guidance he studied law. A trustee and founder of the Sunday School at Congregation Tifereth Israel (now The Temple), he served as Grand Sar (president) of *B'nai B'rith during 1863–64 and was the prime mover for its Jewish Orphan Asylum (now Bellefaire) established in Cleveland in 1869. In 1866 Peixotto moved to New York to practice law, then transferred to San Francisco in 1869.

Early in 1870, moved by the Romanian persecution of Jews, Peixotto succeeded in becoming the first U.S. consul in Bucharest, appointed by President Grant through the intervention of the *Seligmans. His financial needs in the unpaid position, as well as political support, were provided, not always reliably, by a group of wealthy U.S. Jews, along with the B'nai B'rith, the *Board of Delegates of American Israelites, and prominent French and English Jews led by Sir Francis *Goldsmid. In Bucharest Peixotto pressed vigorously for Jewish emancipation, to which Romanian Jews were legally entitled by the Treaty of Paris of 1856, and also took the initiative in founding Jewish schools, cultural societies, and Romanian B'nai B'rith, as part of his plan to modernize Jewish life in that country. Although he accomplished little toward emancipation, his well-publicized presence inhibited new antisemitic legislation and avoided or mitigated several pogroms. His unofficial inquiry in the summer of 1872 about the possibility of large-scale Romanian Jewish immigration to the U.S. was loudly endorsed by that regime, but scandalized most of Peixotto's backers and was rejected by them as a policy. Although much embarrassed, he continued to endorse emigration privately while serving in Bucharest until 1876. From 1877 to 1885 Peixotto was U.S. consul in Lyons, and then lived in New York City, engaging in law, Republican politics, and Jewish communal affairs until his death.

His son was GEORGE DA MADURO PEIXOTTO (1859–1937), a painter. Born in Cleveland, he received his art education in Dresden during his father's service in Romania. He became a notable portrait painter, executing portraits from life of Cardinal Manning, President McKinley, Chief Justice Waite, and John Hay, among others. His Grandchildren of Mark Hopkins won wide praise, and his Family Group was exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1893. Peixotto's portrait of Sir Moses *Montefiore at the latter's centenary in 1884 hung in the Corcoran Gallery, and his painting of Julius *Bien hangs in the National Museum, Washington, D.C. Murals by him decorated the New Amsterdam Theater and the Criterion Club in New York City.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

J.L. Blau and S.W. Baron, Jews of the United States 17901840, 2 (1964), 437–9, 469–75, 597–601; M.U. Schappes, Documentary History of the Jews in the United States (19512), 611; D. de Sola Pool, Portraits Etched in Stone (1952), 428–32; L.P. Gartner, in: AJHSQ, 58 (1968/69), 25–117; AJYB, 6 (1904/05), 163; I.J. Benjamin, Three Years in America 18591862, 1 (1956), 51–52; New York Times (Oct. 13, 1937).

[Lloyd P. Gartner]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.