Business Magnates, Industrialists, Railroad Tycoons, Capitalists, Financiers
Jacob Henry Schiff
Jakob Heinrich Schiff (1847-1920), auch Jakob Schiff, Jacob Schiff oder Jacob Henry Schiff, war ein New Yorker Bankier.
Jakob Heinrich Schiff wurde 1847 als Sohn von Moses Schiff und Clara Schiff, geb. Niederhofheim, in einer wohlhabenden jüdischen Familie von Bankiers und Rabbinern in Frankfurt am Main geboren. Er hatte zwei Brüder, Herman, der später nach London ging und Ludwig, der in Frankfurt blieb. Mit achtzehn Jahren emigrierte Schiff 1865 zum ersten Mal in die USA. Er ließ sich in New York nieder und erhielt dort 1866 seine Zulassung als Wertpapierhändler. Im selben Jahr gründete er mit Partnern das Brokerunternehmen "Budge, Schiff & Company". 1870 wurde Schiff US-Bürger. Nachdem Budge, Schiff & Company mangels wirtschaftlichen Erfolgs 1872 aufgelöst werden musste, kehrte Schiff wieder nach Deutschland zurück. Zunächst wurde er 1873 Leiter der Hamburger Niederlassung der "London & Hanseatic Bank" (Tochtergesellschaft der "Commerz- und Diskonto-Bank", heute Commerzbank AG), ging aber im selben Jahr wegen des Tods seines Vaters wieder nach Frankfurt. Dort lernte er Abraham Kuhn kennen, einem der Gründer der New Yorker Investmentbank Kuhn, Loeb & Co.. Von dem Fachwissen des jungen Schiffs beeindruckt, überredete ihn Kuhn, ein zweites Mal in die USA auszuwandern und zum 1. Januar 1875 eine Stelle bei Kuhn, Loeb & Co. anzutreten.
Jakob Schiff machte bei Kuhn Loeb & Co. schnell Karriere. Unterstrichen wurde dies 1875 durch seine Heirat mit Therese Loeb, einer Tochter von Salomon Loeb, dem Mitbegründer von Kuhn, Loeb & Co.
Auf Grund seiner Kenntnisse und seiner Verbindungen auf dem deutschen Finanzmarkt konnte Schiff viel deutsches Kapital für aufstrebende US-amerikanische Unternehmen anziehen, insbesondere für US-Eisenbahnunternehmen. Dies ließ Schiff bis 1885 zum unumstrittenen Leiter von Kuhn, Loeb & Co. aufsteigen und machte das Bankhaus um die Wende vom 19. zum 20. Jahrhundert zum wichtigsten Finanzier der aufstrebenden amerikanischen Eisenbahnindustrie.
Dabei erwarb er sich 1897 besonderes Ansehen in der Finanzwelt, als die finanzielle Unterstützung von Kuhn, Loeb & Co. dem amerikanischen Eisenbahnunternehmer Edward Henry Harriman dazu verhalf, die Kontrolle über die Union Pacific Railroad zu gewinnen. Unter Schiffs Führung unterstützte Loeb, Kuhn & Co. Harriman auch 1901 bei dessen Kampf gegen die von John Pierpont Morgan und James Jerome Hill beherrschte Great Northern Railway um die Übernahme von Northern Pacific Railroad. Schiff arrangierte schließlich 1902 ein Zusammengehen der Kontrahenten und die Zusammenfassung ihrer Anteile an der Great Northern Railway und der Northern Pacific Railroad in einem Trust, der Northern Securities Company.
Schiff war aber auch an der Finanzierung des Wachstums großer Industrieunternehmen wie z.B. Westinghouse Electric, U.S. Rubber, Armour, und American Telephone & Telegraph beteiligt. Außerdem wurde er Mitglied des Aufsichtsrats vieler bedeutender US-Unternehmen, so bei der National City Bank of New York, der Equitable Life Assurance Society, der Wells Fargo & Company und der Union Pacific Railroad.
Unter Jakob Schiffs Führung legte Kuhn, Loeb & Co. auch Staatsanleihen auf, sowohl für die USA, als auch für ausländische Staaten. Berühmt wurde Schiff insbesondere durch den Verkauf japanischer Anleihen zur Finanzierung des Russisch-Japanischen Kriegs 1904-05. Hierfür wurde er als erster Ausländer vom japanischen Kaiser persönlich ausgezeichnet. Seine pro-japanische Haltung begründete er mit dem starken Antisemitismus und den damit verbundenen Pogromen im russischen Zarenreich.
Als der Erste Weltkrieg ausbrach, setzte sich Schiff bei Präsident Woodrow Wilson für ein schnelles Kriegsende ein, notfalls auch ohne einen Sieg der Alliierten. Er sprach sich außerdem gegen den U-Bootkrieg aus und begab während des Kriegsverlaufs nur Anleihen, die zur Finanzierung humanitärer Aufgaben dienten.
In seinen späteren Lebensjahren wandte sich Jakob Schiff zunehmend wohltätigen Aktivitäten zu und wurde zu einem der größten jüdischen Philanthropen der USA. Eine Vielzahl jüdischer, als auch nicht-jüdischer Einrichtungen erhielten von ihm umfangreiche Spenden. Zu Letzteren zählten u.a. die Boy Scouts of America, das American Museum of Natural History, das Metropolitan Museum of Art, die American Fine Arts Society und die American Geographical Society;
Jacob Schiff vergaß auch nicht seine alte Heimatstadt Frankfurt. Neben wiederholten Besuchen, spendete er für verschiedene Frankfurter Institutionen. Schiff gehörte außerdem zu den Gründern der Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, wo er insbesondere 1914 den Lehrstuhl des Orientalischen Seminars stiftete. Noch heute trägt eine Straße im Frankfurter Stadtteil Eschersheim seinen Namen.
Jacob Henry Schiff, born Jakob Heinrich Schiff (1847-1920) was a Jewish German-born New York City banker and philanthropist, who helped finance, among many other things, the Japanese military efforts against Tsarist Russia in the Russo-Japanese War.
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 antisemitism, care of needy Jewish immigrants, and the rise of Zionism. He also became the 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.
He was born in 1847 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, to Moses and Clara (Niederhofheim) Schiff, members of a distinguished rabbinical family that traced its lineage in Frankfurt back to 1370. Schiff was educated in the schools of Frankfurt and was first employed in the banking and brokerage business as an apprentice in 1861. After the U.S. Civil War had ended in April, 1865, Schiff came to the United States, arriving in New York City on August 6. He was licensed as 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.
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.
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 of the Banque de Paris et des Pays Bas. On May 6, 1875, he married Therese Loeb, daughter of Solomon Loeb. The couple were the parents of a son and a daughter.
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.
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.
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.
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. However, he also financed many major American projects, believing strongly in the need to further develop and bring together the U.S.
Schiff grew to be one of American Jewry's top philanthropists and leaders, donating to nearly every major Jewish cause, as well as many secular American causes such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Semitic Museum at Harvard, the American Museum of Natural History, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Fine Arts Society, and the American Geographical Society; and a number of other organizations for civil rights and the disadvantaged, such as the American Red Cross, Montefiore Home for Chronic Invalids, and Tuskegee Institute. He also played a role in the municipal affairs of New York City, and worked to shrink the reliance on machine bureaucracy in this arena.
During the Russo-Japanese War, in 1904 and 1905, in perhaps his most famous financial action, Schiff, again through Kuhn, Loeb & Co., extended a critical series of loans to Japan, in the amount of $200 million. He was willing to extend this loan due, in part, to his belief that gold is not as important as national effort and desire, in helping win 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 avenging, on behalf of the Jewish people, the anti-Semitic actions of the Tsarist regime, specifically the then-recent pogroms in Kishinev.
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. Many antisemites the world over take this as evidence of the power of Jews all around the world, of their loyalty to one another, and as proof of the truth of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In 1905, Schiff was awarded the Japanese Order of the Sacred Treasure; in 1907 he was honored with the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, which represents the second highest of eight classes associated with the award. Schiff was the first foreigner to have been personally awarded the Order by Emperor Meiji in the Imperial Palace.
Schiff was also invited to a private audience in 1904 with King Edward VII of the United Kingdom.
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. When World War I finally did break out, he used his reputation and influence to urge President Woodrow Wilson, and others, to put an end to 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 engineered loans to France, and other nations for humanitarian purposes, and spoke out against submarine warfare.
Over the years, before, during, and after World War I, his firm extended loans to many nations all around the world, but Schiff made sure none of the funds ever went to Russia, which continued to severely oppress the Jewish people. When the Tsar's government fell in 1917, Schiff believed that the oppression of Jews would end. He formally repealed the impediments within his firm against lending to Russia.
The anti-semitic Action Francaise movement and its leader, Charles Maurras, claimed that Schiff was thoroughly pro-German and had worked to prevent American entry into World War One. 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. 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.
As an observant Jew, Schiff stood opposed to political, secular Zionism. He claimed to identify with Jews by faith, not by race. However, despite not agreeing fully with the ideas of Theodore Herzl, and in fact believing that Zionism was not compatible with American citizenship, 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.
Schiff died in New York City on September 25, 1920. He was succeeded as head of Kuhn, Loeb & Company by his son, Mortimer Leo Schiff (18771931).
Mr. Schiff was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1982.
The Jacob Schiff Center was named after him: it 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.
As a prominent businessman, Schiff often appeared in various conspiracy theories. He was accused, along with other famous Jews of the time, of being one of the key players in a powerful Jewish cabal conspiring to dominate the world. The international loans he brokered, the news reports that he provided large sums to finance the Bolsheviks in their takeover of Russia, along with his involvement with several companies and organizations around the world made him a person of interest for conspiracy theorists.