Haym Salomon was born in Lissa, Poland on April 7, 1740. In the early 1770s, at the time of the partition of Poland, Salomon left his family and arrived in New York on the eve of the Revolution. His command of German made him welcome to the Hessian forces, which he served as a supplier of goods. When the British suspected him of spying, Salomon was arrested and confined. His life was spared but he served some prison time, serving as an interpreter in their commissary department. Continuing to give information to the Americans, he assisted their prisoners to escape British captivity while operating a profitable victualing business in New York City under British occupation.
Married to Rachel Franks in 1777, he had to flee a year later to Philadelphia during the revolution, where he began a brokerage and commission business. In 1781, he became an assistant to Robert Morris, superintendent of the Office of Finance, after serving in a similar capacity as broker and treasurer for the huge expenses of the French army stationed in America. Salomon prospered and loaned the American military, government, and founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison an estimated $600,000 of his own money — the equivalent of billions of dollars today.
In the diary of Robert Morris, Superintendent of Finance for the new American government, Salomon’s name appears frequently in the period 1781-84. Morris wrote: “This broker has been useful to the public interests ...”
In 1782, Madison acknowledged the “kindness of our little friend in Front Street, whose assistance will preserve me from extremities but I never resort to it without great mortification as he obstinately rejects all recompense.”
In 1784. Salomon expanded his business activities to New York, opening a brokerage and auctioneering house there with Jacob Mordecai. A mason, Salomon was a major contributor in 1782 to the Congregation Mikveh Israel building in Philadelphia.
He argued against a New Testament oath taken by officeholders in Pennsylvania and worked for political rights of Jews. Though a successful merchant, Salomon invested most of his money in Continental stocks and bonds. When Salomon died prematurely at the age of 45 in January 1785, he held $353,000, largely in depreciated certificates of indebtedness and continental currency, all virtually worthless. The loans he made were never repaid.
The Pennsylvania Packet wrote, “He was remarkable for his skill and integrity in his profession and for his generous and humane deportment.”
He left four children and a widow.
Sources: Jewish-American Hall of Fame - Jewish Museum in Cyberspace.
On this day in history, Forward, (April 7, 2020.
Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.
Photos: Portrait - National Archives at College Park, Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Stamp - Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Historical marker, 44 N. 4th St., Philadelphia - Morris Levin, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Grave marker Mikveh Israel Cemetery, Philadelphia - Bruce Andersen, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.