Hecksher House, Orange, New Jersey, ca. 1860

Hecksher House, Orange, New Jersey, ca. 1860

Charles August Heckscher: A Model Self-Made Man and Merchant in the Atlantic World in the First-Half of the Nineteenth Century


Charles August Heckscher hailed from an influential, well-to-do, and sophisticated Jewish family of merchant-bankers in Altona and the nearby, independent city-state of Hamburg. In 1829 he emigrated from Hamburg to the United States to become a successful merchant and entrepreneur. He acquired wealth by opening a trading house in New York City and later used his personal capital to invest in anthracite coal mining and transportation operations in eastern Pennsylvania. By the time of his death shortly after the end of the Civil War, he was one of the leading colliery operators in the nation.


Charles August Heckscher (born 1806 in Paris, France; died October 30, 1866 in New York City, NY) hailed from an influential, well-to-do, and sophisticated Jewish family of merchant-bankers in Altona (part of Denmark until 1864) and the nearby, independent city-state of Hamburg. In 1829 he emigrated from Hamburg to the United States to become a successful merchant and entrepreneur. He acquired wealth by opening a trading house in New York City and later used his personal capital to invest in anthracite coal mining and transportation operations in eastern Pennsylvania. By the time of his death shortly after the end of the Civil War, he was one of the leading colliery operators in the nation. Heckscher’s life reveals the important role that mercantile, ethnic, and family connections played in helping German-Jewish entrepreneurs to achieve great success in the United States.

Family Background

Charles August Heckscher’s ancestor Ephraim Heckscher (originally Höxter) (1580-1660) moved from his hometown of Höxter in the Solling, a mountainous region along the eastern border of the modern German federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia, to Hamburg in the first half of the seventeenth century. All Heckschers were merchants, yet some also worked as rabbis or printers, and all were closely connected to the Ashkenazim Jewish communities in the Danish harbor of Altona and in the imperial city of Hamburg, which developed slowly into an important entrepot for the northern German lands. The grandfather of Charles August was the rich merchant-banker Marcus Abraham Heckscher (born April 15, 1745 in Altona, Kingdom of Denmark; died October 1, 1795 in Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony) who married Gitte (or Gute) Maribo (or Marbi) (born 1746 or 1747 in Copenhagen, Kingdom of Denmark; died May 1, 1824, in Hamburg, buried in Königsstrasse Cemetery, Altona grave Nb 325) in 1763. They raised at least three daughters and two sons. One daughter married a Jewish merchant from Berlin, Kingdom of Prussia, Isaac Benjamin Lomnitz. The second daughter Esther (also known as Emilie) Heckscher married Jacob Amsel Oppenheimer (1778-1845). The third daughter Betty Heckscher married Levine Hertz (1765-1827). Charles Heckscher’s father, the junior Marcus Abraham Heckscher (born 1770 In Altona, Denmark; died January 11, 1823, in Paris, France, buried Père Lachaise Cemetery) married Eva Schlesinger (born 1768 in Hamburg; died January 4, 1851, in Paris, France), daughter of Jacob Moses Schlesinger and Gütte Oppenheimer in Hamburg on April 2, 1794. Jacob Moses Schlesinger served for many years as president (Präses) of the Hamburg Israelitische Gemeinde. In 1795 Marcus Abraham Heckscher Sr. was elected to a group of 15 men who enjoyed the trust of the Jewish community. The same year he travelled to the famous Leipzig trade fair never to return to Hamburg. Back home rumors circulated that Heckscher had left for India instead. Two months after he had disappeared, his heirs decided that life had to go on; his sons took his place in the local tax register. His widow secretly held a suspicion about her husbands’ fate. Her headstone carried the inscription in Hebrew: “Here rests Gitsche, wife of the Kodausch Abraham Heckscher,” which meant that he was regarded as a martyr (Kodausch) to his faith.[1] Perhaps, he had been murdered by a Christian customer due a to deal in diamonds gone wrong. Whatever had happened, the widow Heckscher continued in the family business with her sons, paid taxes, and eventually moved to a house outside the city gates in what is today the neighborhood where Hamburg Dammtor Station is situated — a very unexpected and provocative action for a widow in nineteenth-century Hamburg society.

The junior Marcus Abraham Heckscher started his successful career as a merchant-banker in cooperation with Salomon Heine (1767-1844), a poor but immensely gifted and intelligent Jewish newcomer from Hanover. In 1797, they founded the banking house of Heckscher & Co. in the Kohlhöfen in Hamburg Neustadt. In 1800, Jacob Amsel Oppenheimer and Levine Hertz, both relatives of the two directors, joined the board. Hertz was related to Rahel Levine, who later married Karl August Varnhagen van Ense, who in turn was related to the famous Mendelsohn family, and to Henriette Hertz, the well-known salonière in Berlin. Heckscher & Co. became quite successful and the growth and development of the company provides an impressive example of the interdependence of entrepreneurial, mercantile, and banking-focused networks. They dealt with numerous difficulties, including wars, invasions, the continental blockade between 1807 and 1814, and several military occupations of Hamburg between 1806 and 1814, with shrewd mercantile strategy. Around 1805 the junior Heckscher moved his family to Paris, but only after artist Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein (1751-1828) had painted his sons Friedrich Wilhelm Levine (also known as Leopold Heckscher) (1794-1863), Carl Moritz (also known as Martin Adolph Heckscher) (1796-1850), and Johann Gustav Wilhelm Moritz Heckscher (1797-1865). The beautiful portrait was signed by Tischbein in 1805; it conveys the pleasant atmosphere of happy childhood. Perhaps this masterpiece of the renowned artist was meant as a souvenir to the proud grandparents who had to give up the joyful company of the young boys once their family relocated to Paris.[2] The children are all dressed in the same style: blue trousers, blue jackets, white lace shirts, and red collars. Perhaps the choice of coloring was meant as an allusion to the French tricolor or these colors were chosen to set off the boys’ cute faces, healthy complexions, and intelligent eyes. In Paris two more sons were born to the flourishing couple: Charles August and Edward (1808-1888). A girl, Pauline Desiree, whose vital dates are unknown (she married Eugene Borda, died in Paris, was buried at Père Lachaise Cemetery and her sons would join her brothers’ business in the United States), completed the Heckscher offspring.

Marcus Abraham Heckscher commuted between Hamburg and Paris. In Paris the company enjoyed close relations to the banking houses Rothschild and Oppenheimer & Fould; the head of the latter house was related to the Heckschers, Oppenheimers, and Heines. Ludwig Robert (also known as Liepmann Levin) (1778-1832), an employee of the company, reported to his sister Rahel Levin about the professional activities of their relatives in Hamburg, among them Heckscher and Oppenheimer.[3] At that time, Heckscher’s partners in Hamburg were using all their means to get around Napoleon’s continental blockade, which subjected many merchants to great difficulties. Jacob Amsel Oppenheimer’s brother, George (born 1777 in Hamburg; died 1838 in Heidelberg, Grand Duchy of Baden), who worked in Copenhagen, Bergen in Norway, and Heligoland (or Helgoland) successfully organized a contraband trade of British goods to Hamburg from 1807-1809; in 1810, he moved with his family from Hamburg to London. One of his daughters, Mathilde (1805-1890), was later to marry a friend of Charles August Heckscher in New York, Francis Lieber (1798-1872).

Despite their success as merchants and bankers, Jews encountered considerable discrimination because of their faith. In 1809 Marcus Abraham Heckscher decided to return to Hamburg, where he tried to rent the Flottbek country estate of Baron Caspar von Voght (1752-1839) for 4,000 Marc Banco. This attempt was met with resistance by John Parish (1742-1829), a resistance born out of anti-Jewish prejudice. He was Voght’s old friend, one of the wealthiest merchants in the city, and disgusted to see the “princely possession” of his friend, a true aficionado of the Enlightenment, “converted into a Jew’s Tabernacle.”[4] The project, however, came to nothing because Voght and Heckscher could not agree on a rental agreement. Voght commented on the failed transaction with the similarly anti-Jewish remark that at least he was spared the necessity to clean the house with smoke to get rid of the “Judengeruch” (Jewish odor).[5] Like many of his relatives and friends before him, Marcus Abraham Heckscher yielded to the strong anti-Jewish feelings and discrimination of many Hamburg merchants by converting to Christianity. Despite his lavish contributions to the renovation of the Altona synagogue, to the Jewish Torah schools in town, and to Jewish welfare organizations, in November 1815 he was baptized in the Lutheran church and chose Martin Anton as his Christian name. His conversion meant that he was no longer taxed at the very high rate of a “Jew first class,” that he could become a citizen of Hamburg, and that he could acquire property within Hamburg’s city limits.

Social Status and Personality

Young Charles August Heckscher spent much of his childhood and early manhood in Hamburg; his friends from this period later would call Hamburg Heckscher’s Heimat (homeland). It seems, however, that he never returned to the city after immigrating to the United States, unlike his brothers, his Oppenheimer cousins, and his nephews who made the transatlantic crossing many times. They embraced an Atlantic lifestyle by moving endlessly between the U.S., Great Britain, France, and the German lands. In Hamburg, Charles August Heckscher hardly left a trace. Genealogical studies ignore him. Only a few clues indicate his cultural background and expectations. His parents paid attention to style, status, and education. Young Charles August grew up in style, as is evident in the 1805 portrait by Tischbein. The successful banker sent his three elder sons, Leopold, Adolph, and Moritz, to first-rate schools. From 1802-1804 they were enrolled in the expensive Salzmann School in Schnepfenthal, Thuringia, a philanthropic educational institution organized by two pioneers of pedagogy, Christian Gotthilf Salzmann (1744-1811) and Johann Christoph Friedrich GutsMuths (1759-1839).[6] The fee was extremely high: 64 Friedrichs d’ors plus 60-90 Taler for books and accommodation. Thereafter they moved to Paris and then to Geneva where the boys converted to Protestantism (the French-Reformed, a Calvinist church), on May 3, 1808. Given the attention Martin Anton Heckscher paid to the education of his older sons he likely set similarly high standards for the education of the younger ones. Probably Charles August was homeschooled or enrolled in a boarding school. At least he did not enter the Hamburg Johanneum like his older brother, Moritz, but may have been apprenticed in his father’s comptoir (place of business) on Hamburg’s Große Bleichen or in the Alte Wandrahm No 92.

In 1818-1819, Heckscher & Co. was dissolved; the former partners founded separate bankhouses but stayed in close contact, socially as well as professionally. Their personal and mercantile networks stretched across Europe and included appreciation and sponsorship of artists of all kinds. They enjoyed fancy dinners, long weekends, and summer holidays together in their mansions in the pleasant outskirts of Hamburg, in Lokstedt, Nienstedten, Flottbek, and Wandsbek. Frequently Heinrich Heine, later one of the leading German poets and nephew of Salomon Heine, would join them. The Humboldt brothers, Adelbert von Chamisso, and Barthold Georg Niebuhr were welcomed guests, too. Martin Anton Heckscher took more time off, travelled across Europe, spent time in Paris, and sent letters with instructions to his partners in London during his holidays in the upscale Bohemian spa of Carlsbad.[7] He coped successfully with the ups and downs of global finances in the aftermath of the restoration crisis but did not live to see the great worldwide financial crash of 1825-1826. His sons learned important lessons from him, foremost among them the value of pursuing business through diverse partnerships; Salomon Heine received a part of his business as did the Baring Brothers in London. Leopold (also known as Levine or Leon), Charles August, and also Edward followed their father’s example and engaged in commerce after they had come of age.

While his brothers stayed in Europe, trying to recover from the crisis of 1825-1826, young Charles August Heckscher decided to try his luck in the United States. A strong motive for this move might have been the 1827 treaty between the U.S. and the Hanseatic free cities of Bremen, Lübeck, and Hamburg.[8] Martin Joseph Haller, another former Jew and close relative of the Heckscher, Oppenheimer, and Heine families, was involved in the negotiations that led to the treaty and probably provided useful information. Hamburg in the late 1820s experienced something of a bonanza atmosphere among the young professionals who wanted to jump on the bandwagon and profit from the anticipated boom in European-American trade. It certainly was not an accident that owners of companies who had played successful roles in the eighteenth-century Atlantic trade, in particular, relocated their companies to America. For them it was not enough to rely on letters or the meditation of agents to conduct trade. They wanted to improve their chances in the Atlantic trade through direct participation in the American trade. Thus many of Charles August Heckscher‘s relatives, friends, and acquaintances copied his example and followed him to America.

Business Development and Entrepreneurship

In late summer of 1829 Charles August Heckscher arrived in New York and immediately opened an office at 44 Exchange Place, a fashionable location matched by his private residence in the Adelphi Hotel, the first high-rise building with six floors. From day one, Heckscher assiduously used the many contacts of his extended family strategically and established relations to persons useful to him inside and outside the mercantile world. One example is Francis Lieber, who had migrated to Boston, Massachusetts, two years earlier. Heckscher met him during his very first weeks in the Adelphi Hotel, where Lieber awaited the arrival of his fiancée Mathilde Oppenheimer, a cousin of Heckscher. Lieber and Heckscher became friends. Heckscher worked hard at becoming a valued member of the New York mercantile world. He could do so because he was intelligent, had charm, good looks, and musical talent, which helped him move easily in culturally liberal circles and, more importantly, by making good use of his contacts and relations to Hamburg, the northern German lands, England, and France. He organized financial transfers and arranged for letters to be sent across the Atlantic for his friends and relations. For example, his cousin Adele Oppenheimer sent her letters to Mathilde (née Oppenheimer) Lieber in Boston, Massachusetts, care of Heckscher in New York. Cousin Mathilde’s husband Francis Lieber, too, channeled his book parcels to and from Europe through Heckscher’s commercial connections. He sent his letters to the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville via Heckscher, and had the young merchant handle his financial transactions with the Stuttgart publisher Johann Friedrich von Cotta, thereby lowering significantly the high expense of postage for his transatlantic correspondence:

Herr Heckscher, ein junger Mann der gesellig und liebenswürdig ist,…wird mir diese Briefe mit Gelegenheit nach Boston besorgen, so könnt ihr [Lieber‘s parents and siblings in Berlin] dicke Briefe an ihn senden, denn das Porto ist theuer. Des jungen Heckschers Bekanntschaft ist mir die liebste hier in New York gewesen, er nimmt sich meiner sehr an und wir harmonisieren sehr gut.[9]

Heckscher mixed well and easily with his peers. The young women of the mercantile upper class in New York and Boston adored him, flirted with him, and probably quite intentionally made every effort to induce their fathers to welcome the young man into their families and ranks. Thus Heckscher was able to form profitable as well as valuable business contacts with influential merchants like Sullivan, Appleton, Sturgis, Otis, and Parker in Boston. The daughter of the Boston tycoon William Sullivan (1775-1839), Sally, was especially infatuated by Heckscher, as his cousin Mathilde Lieber noted with some amusement. Mathilde understood why her young friend Sally felt so enamored with Heckscher, for she herself had been mightily charmed by the young beau when she had stayed in Hamburg between 1820 and 1822. Heckscher pampered the young Boston women with lovely sights and ballads, while Mathilde Lieber had to be content with his kind regards, Eau de Cologne, and valuable presents. When in New York in 1830, Heckscher toured the fashionable restaurants, clubs, and pubs with Mathilde’s husband, the bonvivant Francis Lieber. He also became godfather for the first son of the Liebers. Heckscher’s successful integration into upper-class New York merchant society was evident in his use of exclusive salons, smoking-rooms, and bars for concluding lucrative business deals with friends and business partners in New York and Boston. Both young men enjoyed their boyish company, although in their German correspondence they continued to address each other with the formal “Sie” throughout their lives.[10] Mathilde Lieber commented on the relaxed and chummy atmosphere between her occasionally rather jovial husband and the always elegant and well behaved cousin by giving her husband the ironic advice that he better not “tussle” too heavily with Heckscher. At the same time she gratefully acknowledged Heckscher’s affability toward her husband who after all was only related to the family by marriage. “Do give my cordial greetings to Heckscher and tell him, that he must look after you rather nicely, and thank him in my name for all his benevolence towards my boy [Francis Lieber].”[11]

Heckscher considered the economic potential of New York great enough to persuade his younger brother Edward to join him there. Edward Heckscher arrived in New York in April 1830 after a comfortable passage from Liverpool on the Luxus packet vessel Caledonia. In 1831 Charles August Heckscher offered employment to Mathilde Lieber’s youngest brother, James Oppenheimer, who had been apprenticed to the merchant and banker Salomon Heine in Hamburg. The brothers Charles August and Edward formed the new company “Ch. A. & E. Heckscher,” whose address was at 45 South Street, New York City. The establishment of this new partnership was advertised internationally, and Baring Brothers of London, for example, established generous financial credit lines for the sons of their former partner. The brothers agreed on a division of labor within their company: Edward Heckscher took on responsibilities that required travelling, using comfortable packet ships to reach European and American ports. On a business trip to Louisiana in 1838 he was seriously injured in a duel.[13] After his recovery Edward Heckscher moved to Paris, where he represented the company in the 1840s, in part forging a series of profitable agreements with the banks of Fould and Rothschild & Lafitte. Edward’s brother and partner Charles August remained in the U.S. and concentrated on expanding the joint mercantile business. As part of that expansion he made philanthropic contributions such as providing funds for the Dutch-Reformed and Presbyterian Churches in New York and made sure that in August 1832 the New York Spectator reported the generosity of Chas. A. & E. Heckscher, which had donated $50 to the central committee of the congregations for the benefit of the poor. Compared to the donation of $100 of W. B. Astor, the son of the millionaire John (Johann) Jacob Astor, the donation of the Heckschers was modest. Nevertheless, it did attract attention from the well-established Dutch dignitaries of New York. The following year the Heckscher Company donated money to the American Colonization Society.[14]

Ch. A. & E. Heckscher Company, 1830-1837

The Heckscher brothers formed their company in order to seize opportunities that arose from newly opened trade links between America and Europe, especially with the port cities of the former Hanseatic League. Even before they established the Ch. A. & E. Heckscher Company they made good use of their connections with the Hamburg merchant house Parish & Co. and the French-born Philadelphia banker Stephen Girard in order to secure a share in the Mexican silver trade. According to the New York Morning Herald, the Heckscher brothers imported goods from Mexico for the first time prior to March 22, 1830. In the same year Ch. A. & E. Heckscher, along with merchants from Boston and Hamburg, also entered the China trade, starting a direct import business of tea, gunpowder, and silk from Canton in China. In April 1833 a number of local newspapers reported the arrival of the Mary under Captain Christianson in New York after a swift journey of about 100 days from Canton, China. The Heckschers’ freight contingent in the Mary and another ship, the Omega, was, however, quite small.[15]

These successful business ventures prove that the Heckscher brothers’ strategy to establish their company in New York worked. Word of their success got around: the Grand-Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin appointed Charles A. Heckscher his consul in New York. For the offspring of a Jewish family, this was indeed a remarkable recognition of success as well as a high honor. His proud brother Carl Martin Adolph Heckscher forwarded from Hamburg the colorful full dress uniform that went along with the appointment. On July 15, 1833, the subscribers to the New York Spectator read in their paper: “Charles Augustus Heckscher, Esq. of this city, has been recognized by the President as Consul of the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg for the United States.”[16] Other merchants from Hamburg who had established successful businesses in New York received similar honorary appointments as consuls for Hamburg, Oldenburg, or Prussia. Yet no other merchant received this honor at such an early age. Even some bothersome court cases, in which the Heckschers’ company was involved and which were reported in detail by the local papers, were unable to impede or slow the successful business activities of the company.

Building on this success, Heckscher broadened and intensified his New York merchant business connections by marrying Georgiana Louisa Coster, the daughter of Johann G. Coster, in 1834. Coster had emigrated from Haarlem in the Netherlands in the early 1770s to New York where he and his brother Henry A. Coster had founded the company Coster Brothers & Co. The company specialized in the trade of gin, textiles and “Krollenvogel”, a type of tape made of hemp. Walter Barrett in his 1863 study The Old Merchants of New York described the owners of the company as model merchants — scrupulous, frugal to close-fisted, honest, old fashioned and incredibly rich and very well connected.[17] The Coster brothers were Freemasons and belonged to the Holland Lodge No. 8, over which John Jacob Astor presided. They were partners in the Manhattan Bank, on the board of the Phoenix Insurance Company and the Globe Insurance Company, and co-founders of the New York & Schuylkill Coal Company. Heckscher’s wife had personal charms and brought an extremely attractive dowry of $200,000, which elicited the approval of the bridegroom’s friends and relatives in Germany.[18] The good news spread fast. Georg Oppenheimer reported to his daughter Mathilde Lieber from Heidelberg: “…von Hamburg berichtet man, dass A. Heckscher in New York eine sehr reiche Parthie gemacht hat, wie man schreibt, eine Miss Cosstar [sic.] mit $200000 eignes Vermögen.“[19] The opulent wedding feast made “even inveterate pleasure-seekers somewhat exhausted and left them a trifle dismayed at their extravagance.”[20] Heckscher gained new energy and drive from his marriage and his fast growing number of children. Heckscher’s private correspondence reveals him to be a caring husband who worried about his wife when she was pregnant and when she had a hard time giving birth and who grieved for their stillborn daughter in 1835.[21]

In the later 1830s the flourishing Ch. A. & E. Heckscher Company added new trade routes, including interoceanic links between the Pacific and the Caribbean, in particular St. Thomas, Puerto Rico, and Cuba, and South America (Buenos Aires), without neglecting further expansion of its business across the Atlantic to London, Le Havre, Amsterdam, and Hamburg and also with occasional trade activities with Sydney, New South Wales.

Heckscher, Coster & Matfeld Company, 1837-1843

The company of Ch. A. & E. Heckscher continued to expand in a number of directions despite the severe national and international financial crisis from 1837 through 1842. The Heckscher brothers broadened the basis of their financial assets in two ways. They accepted Gerard H. Coster, the brother of Georgiana (née Coster) Heckscher, as a new partner. They did so, in part, to please Charles August Heckscher’s father-in-law because, although Gerard H. Coster was wealthy, his aptitude for business was limited. Walter Barrett, a man not known for his taciturnity, commented laconically on Coster, “Gerard H. Coster was another son, and remarkably handsome.”[22] Francis Lieber, always envious of others who lived in financially comfortable circumstances, showed little restraint in his remarks when he reported to his wife: “yesterday I dined at Costers’, Heckscher’s brother-in-law, a good-natured fellow, with whom I cannot talk anything but cegar [sic.], wine, and Horse, but who has all these exquisitely, and knows the subject to perfection….”[23] Nevertheless, by accepting the rather incapable brother-in-law as a partner, Heckscher took a burden off the shoulders of his father-in-law. This decision was similar to accepting Gustav Matfeld as partner. On the recommendation of their most important Hamburg business partner, Salomon Heine, they made Matfeld a partner, which meant that from July 1837 onwards their company was known as Heckscher, Coster & Matfeld.[24] The company’s activities in the Atlantic trade, as well as the presence of the new partners, strengthened the company’s standing on both sides of the Atlantic but particularly in New York and Hamburg. Francis Lieber confided to his wife in 1838 about Heckscher, whom he had met frequently in soirees during his stays in New York:

I have seen a good deal of Heckscher. He gets on famously indeed. I have seen letters from Uncle Jacob [Oppenheimer, uncle of Heckscher und Matilda Lieber] to him. The latter speaks in the most flattering terms, and says right out that if he goes on cautiously as he has done he must become the first merchant in New York.[25]

Although Jacob Oppenheimer’s predictions did not quite come true, by 1845, as a result of the success of the company, Charles August Heckscher was reputed to be worth some $200,000 (approximately 6 million dollars in 2010$) and therefore belonged to the small group of “wealthy citizens of New York City.”[26] Heckscher’s impressive rise and accumulation of substantial wealth were the result of his excellent contacts in New York’s influential financial circles as well as the knowledge he had acquired before he immigrated to the United States, his network of European bankers and merchants, and his business with the Old World. Some examples taken from correspondence with regard to Heckscher’s business show the Atlantic networks that linked international trade with astute financing by banks in London and Hamburg and thereby enabled the company to develop and prosper:

March 31st, 1837:

Der Überreicher dieser Zeilen ist Herr G. Matfeld von Hier, künftiger Associé meiner Freunde, der Herren Chs A & E. Heckscher in Newyork, welchen ich mir erlaube Ihrer freundlichen Aufnahme ergebenst zu empfehlen. Sie werden mich sehr verpflichten wenn Sie demselben mit Ihrem Gütigen Rath und Beistand an Händen gehen und zur Erreichung seines Zweckes so viel möglich beitragen wollen. Ich werde jede Gefälligkeit und Aufmerksamkeit welche Sie dem Herrn Matfeld beweisen werden mit vielem Dank erkennen, und wünsche mir Gelegenheit Ihnen solche auf alle Weise erwidern zu können, indem ich Sie bitte, bei jeder Gelegenheit über meine Gegendienste zu verfügen. Genehmigen Sie die Versicherung meiner Hochachtung! …Salomon Heine….[27]

Heckscher, Coster & Matfield to Nathan Meyer de Rothschild & Sons London, New York July 7th, 1837:

Gentlemen, we had the pleasure of addressing you on the 1st inst with our circular of same date. Having procured our mutual friend Mr Salomon Heine, Hamburg, a further consignment of cotton from Charleston, without any interest for himself, we beg to wait upon you with Bill of lading for one thousand Bales Upland Cotton in ship Charlotte, Nils Bergsten Mr, from Charleston to Hamburg, endorsed to us by the shipper & by us to Mr Heine.

Our advance on this consignment for acct of Mr Heine, amounts to £4400… against which we have this day in virtue of the credit opened by him for this purpose valued on you for:

£1550… 1450…) 60 ds favour G.S.Darby

on ourselves

£4400 together, which please protects to the debit of said friend.

The order for Insurrance went in due time to Mr Heine & we beg further to mention for your….[28]

Salomon Heine/Hamburg to Nathan Mayer Rothschild, London, August 8th, 1837

Den mir eingesandten Brief der Herren Heckscher Coster & Matfeld in Newyork nebst Connossement über an mich verladene 1000 Ballen Baumwolle p Charlotte Capt Bergsten von Charleston habe ich erhalten, und creditire Sie gebührend für die von denselben unterm 7. July auf Sie entnommenen £4400 60 Tage Sicht in meiner laufenden Rechnung, indem ich auch hiervon vorkommend die Verfallzeit erwartend bleibe….”[29]

Heckscher, Coster & Matfield to Nathan Mayer de Rothschild & Sons London, New York August 15th, 1837

Our mutual friend Mr Salomon Heine, Hamburg…we have this day remitted Mr Heine the Balance of our drafts on your goodselves of the 23rd May, and the Hambro’ house will no doubt give you the necessary advice as to the renewal of the credit.

We have no novelty in the state of matters here to advise & remain, respectfully

Gentlemen, your obt servts

Heckscher Coster & Matfield

We again take the liberty of troubling you with an enclosure for Hamburg, which please forward by first mail”: inclosed is a copy of a letter by Heckscher & Co to Messrs Nathan de Rothschild & Sons/London, New York August 5th, 1837: “Gentlemen, by the present we beg leave to open a Credit with your goodselves in favour of Messrs Sanchez & Kabbe of Masanyas & for account of Salomon Heine esq of Hamburg, to the extent of five thousand pounds sterling & you will please accept the drafts of Messrs Sancheys & Kobbe at 60 days sight to the said extent if accompanied by shipping documents of consignments of sugar & coffee to the address of Mr Salomon Heine of Hamburg & the amounts advanced on such consignments, not to exceed two thirds or three fourths of Invoice. The Insurrance order for such consignments is to be given direct to Mr Heine & the order letter or letters to that effect [loch] effect to pass thro’ your hands. This credit to stand inforce until the 1st October next came….[30]

Heckscher Coster & Matfeld to Nathan Meyer de Rothschild & Sons London, New York November 23rd, 1837


Referring to our last respects of the 15th inst as p annexed copy, the purpose of the present is to advise that we have this day remitted Mr Solomon Heine, Hamburgh the equivalent of the remainder of our Drafts, on your goodselves of 23 aug say £41500 likewise of our draft of 23 sept 60 ds of £250 and £1400 to acct of our drafts of 30 sept, so that 14 days hence a sum of £5800 will be open for further drafts, which said friend will no doubt confirm in due course. Our Exch continue to droop, but London kept firmer than Paris, the latter closing at 5.05, while the transaction in £were from 14 3/4 c 15pc spice is about 1pc lower than last packet. We are respectfully


Your mo ob servts

Heckscher Coster Matfeld.[31]

Heckscher Coster & Matfeld to Nathan Meyer de Rothschild & Sons London, New York December 9th, 1837:

We beg to refer to our respects of 7th inst pr Lpool Packet, advising our Drafts on account of Mr Sal. Heine, Hamburg £5849. 14.2 which we herewith confirm.

Not doubting that said friend has renewed the Credit for £1200 upon our remittances of the 30 ult as agreed between him & ourselves, we have to day taken the liberty of valuing on you for his account, for £500..60 DS favour J B Hotte & sons which we recommend to your protection to the debit of Mr Sal. Heine. There is every appearance of our Exchr continuing to droop.

We notice that in our respects of 7th inst, it was omitted to state in an explicit manner that our drafts f £5849.14.2 are for acct of Mr Sal. Heine which however we trust you would have considered as understood.

We are respectfully Your obt servts….[32]

Heckscher, Coster & Matfield to Nathan Meyer de Rothschild & Sons London, New York January 15th, 1838

We beg to advise for regularity sake that the credit which we opened under 5 Aug last in favour of Messrs Sanchez & Kobbe Matanzas for £5000 to be used for advances on consignments to Messr Sal heine , hamburg, has expired without having been availed of.

We have now again taken the liberty of authorizing Messrs H Mooyers & Co, Havana to value on you for acct of Mr Sal heine to the extent of five thousand pound sterling, accompanying their drafts with shipping documents of consignments to said friendm & the amount of such advances not to be exceed 3/4 to 4/5 of Invoice. This credit to go against the original credit for £20/m opened for the purpose of consignments.

We have moreover requested Mr Heine by this packet to confirm the above credit…we remitted Mr Sal. Heine by the last packet already £1500 to cover our drafts on your goodselves….[33]

Heckscher, Coster & Matfield in commercial partnership with Aymer & Heckscher, exported agrarian raw materials from Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. to European markets with London and Hamburg banks providing the financing for these ventures. On their return voyages the ships were laden with a variety of European goods for American markets: Madeira and French wines, metal and manufactured goods, hemp, downs, and books; also wheat and rye from Poland and Mecklenburg, which were shipped to New York through European ports such as Cronstadt, Hamburg, Göteburg (Gothenburg), and Le Havre.[34] Charles August Heckscher’s position as the Mecklenburg consul served him especially well in besting his New York competition in the tumultuous supply and provisions market in the United States, where profits were often tight. In return for these goods, Heckscher exported not only coffee and tobacco but also large quantities of sugar and cotton to Salomon Heine in Hamburg.[12] Some of the sugar that Heckscher exported came from plantations close to Ponce, Puerto Rico, which relatives and friends from Hamburg owned, operated with slave labor, and financed with the support of Heckscher’s business partners and bankers. The cotton for export, on the other hand, was acquired by Heckscher from plantations in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina, some of which were owned by the influential politician and governor of South Carolina, James Hamilton Jr. (1786-1857), who was part of Heckscher’s network of business partners, friends, and relations and whose son, James Hamilton, moved to Hamburg, where he married into a Jewish merchant-banker family. Heckscher also used his friendship with James Hamilton for expanding his circle of business activities in the South. Together with his father-in-law, John G. Coster, other New York partners, and his brother Edward, he acquired land in Georgia with the plan to grow his own cotton which he intended to sell to his customers in New England and Europe. His lively business relations with the lawyer, planter, and Southern politician James Hamilton Jr. drew even wider circles. As a man of culture and education who was, too, concerned about the wellbeing of his friends, Heckscher began to act as a cultural broker in 1835. In that year he appealed to Hamilton Jr., who was trustee of the College of South Carolina in Columbia, for help creating an academic position at the college for his friend Francis Lieber. Thanks to the combination of friendship and business interests, Lieber was offered a professorship in History and Economics at the small college the same year. Decades later Francis Lieber again profited from Heckscher’s close relations to influential industrial tycoons in the northern states. Notwithstanding Lieber’s growing critique of Heckscher’s commercial egoism in the 1840s, Heckscher promoted Lieber’s fine capabilities as a university teacher to his wealthy business partners, friends, and philanthropists Moses Taylor (1806-1882) and Peter Cooper (1791-1883) because they were very active and influential within U.S. higher education circles. Finally, in 1856, Heckscher was successful in winning the support of his friend and partner Alexander Ogden, who was a trustee of Columbia College (later Columbia University) in New York City, to offer Francis Lieber a position at the college in 1857.

Coal Merchant, 1842-1866

Despite Heckscher’s impressive success as a merchant in the transatlantic trade that linked America with Europe and notwithstanding the recovery from the economic crisis of the late 1830s, he eventually lost interest in the international import and export business in favor of more stimulating challenges of the mining and iron industries serving American domestic markets. As early as 1839 he had confided to Francis Lieber: “…es ist kein Vergnügen heutzutage Kaufmann zu seyn.”[35]

Heckscher’s entry into the coal mining industry in Pennsylvania was possible because of the connections his father-in-law had forged long before Heckscher immigrated to New York. In 1823 John G. Coster and other New York industrialists founded the New York & Schuylkill Coal Company. The Forest Improvement Company, which Heckscher started in 1837, was a direct offspring of the New York & Schuylkill Coal Company, which cooperated closely with railway companies and their owners. Ever mindful of the key principles that he observed and learned during his early training, foremost among them the importance of thorough knowledge of an industry or trade and connections to influential merchants and bankers whose interests aligned, or could be made to align, with partnership in a particular enterprise, Heckscher asked George Parish, a Hamburg entrepreneur with iron manufacturing interests and the owner of a large estate in upstate New York, for books on metallurgy. With the help of investments from friends and relatives who belonged to the world of high finance, Heckscher started to produce, market, and transport Pennsylvania coal as well as coke. Partnership in Heckscher’s Forest Improvement Company was limited to large investors and select family members. One of the large investors was the German-American C. E. Detmold, whose brother was a friend of the poet Heinrich Heine. Another large investor was Moses Taylor, the founder of the National City Bank of New York and director of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad, who left a fortune worth about $70 Million. Taylor supported Heckscher’s mining enterprise with $225,000 in 1850. Other investors included John Austin, the director of the Bank of Commerce in New York and, beginning in 1857, the father-in-law of Heckscher’s cousin Richard Heckscher (born 1822 in Hamburg; died July 7, 1901in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), as well as the financial tycoon Salmon Chase. In 1843 Charles August Heckscher also granted holdings in his Forest Improvement Company to his brothers Edward Heckscher, a merchant in Paris, and Dr. Moritz Heckscher, a lawyer in Hamburg:[36]

Whereas Gustavus Moritz Heckscher Doctor at Law residing in the city of Hamburg, Germany and Edward Heckscher Merchant formerly resident of New York US, now residing in Paris, France, have entered into a certain arrangement with each other in virtue of which the said GM Heckscher Dr has advanced to the said Edward Heckscher the sum of Eleven Thousand two hundred and sixty five 10/100 Dollars lawful money of the United States of America in the deposit transfer and security to him the said GM Heckscher Doctor of Six hundred full shares (in which fifty Dollars p share is paid in) in the Capital Stock of the Forest Improvement Company in Schuylkill County in Pensylvania ( a Company chartered by the Commonwealth of Pensylvania) under the following conditions, that is to say: First that the said G M Heckscher Dr shall charge and the said Edward Heckscher shall pay on the aforesaid advance of Eleven Thousand two hundred & sixty five 10/100 Dollars US Currency, interest at the rate of Eight per Centum per annum, payable in the city of New York US , half yearly, say in the first of May, and on the first of November of each year, the first payment of such half yearly interest becoming due on the first of November next come.

Secondly, that the said GM Heckscher, Dr shall encash through his attorney in the United States the yearly or half yearly Dividend or Dividends which may become due in the aforesaid six hundred Shares of Stock in the Forest Improvement Company and shall be at liberty to retain said Dividend in part or in whole until the aforesaid yearly interest in his said advance is paid to him in full but that after the aforesaid yearly interests are paid in full the yearly dividends are to be paid over to the said Edward Heckscher, or his agent or assigns.

Thirdly that if at any time the aforesaid GM Heckscher Dr shall deem it advisable to discontinue the aforesaid advance the said Edward Heckscher shall be bound to refund said advance with interest due therein at the rate of eight pCt pr annum as aforesaid within sixty dayes after receiving notice thereof and that in default of the repayment of said advance within sixty days after receipt of such notice the said GM Heckscher Dr shall be at liberty to sell at public sale in the city of New York or Philadelphia as much of the aforesaid six hundred shares of stock in the Forest Improvement Company as will repay the said advance in full with interest as agreed, and that in case the sale did not produce sufficient to repay the said advance with interest that the aforesaid Edward Heckscher shall be bound to pay any deficiency after having notice thereof.

Fourthly, that the said Edward Heckscher shall on his part not be at liberty to discontinue the aforesaid loan on said stock and of the interest payment therein as aforesaid, but that only in case of the death of the aforesaid GM Heckscher Dr the aforesaid Edward Heckscher shall be at liberty to repay to his heirs the aforesaid advance with interest due therein and to claim the retransfer to him or his assigns of the aforesaid six hundred shares of Forest Improvement Comp Stock. And whereas the said GM Heckscher Dr has entered upon the aforesaid arrangement with the said Edward Heckscher upon the express condition, and understanding that the latter shall furnish to the former the guarantee of the subscriber for the due fulfilment of every condition of the aforesaid agreement on the part of the said Edward Heckscher, Now know all men by these presents that I Charles A. Heckscher of the city of New York in the United States, merchant, in consideration of the premises do hereby for myself, my heirs Executors and administrators covenant and agree with the said Gustavus Moritz Heckscher Doctor at law in the city of Hamburg in Germany, the faithful and due fulfilment in the part of said Edward Heckscher of every condition in all respects, contained in the above agreement And in this behalf, I become the sundry and thereby substitute myself for the said Edward Heckscher so far as to undertake that he shall in all respects perform discharge and faithfully comply with, and conform to the said agreement in all its parts And in case of any default on the part of said Edward Heckscher in relation to said contract I do herby promise to the said GM Heckscher Dr and agree to indemnify him against any loss he may sustain or be made subject to by or through the default of said Edward Heckscher while acting under said agreement and to hold him the said GM Heckscher Dr harmless from all damage and injury which may fall upon him by or through the neglect of said Edward Heckscher to fulfil said agreement or any part thereof. And for the faithfull performance of each and all the said convenants promises and agreements I hereby bind myself, my heirs executors and administrators each and all of them firmly by these presents.

In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of May in the year One Thousand and eight hundred and forty three

Witnesses to signatureChs A Heckscher[37]

These detailed contractual arrangements were designed to maintain harmony among Heckscher family members. The privilege of partnership was tied to the ability to invest at a certain level and anyone unable or unwilling to commit in that fashion was denied the opportunity to participate in the venture even if they belonged to the circle of Charles August Heckscher’s friends. Francis Lieber was greatly disappointed. More than once he deplored Heckscher’s reserve and at the same time envied him his undeniable success:

He [Heckscher] is getting fast and safely very rich. I know this from others, and judge from his concern. I think he might have given me a small share at an earlier period, as he has done to some friends and all relations, especially when, years ago, I begged him to take a few thousand dollars from me, But he evidentlly does not like the idea of anyone knowing of his affairs, and is perhaps right….[38]

Heckscher positively refused allowing me to put in $2000, and that too when he had told me how his brothers had gained etc and this is only that as he said no one shall be able to calculate what the company is doing. Heckscher is very selfish. He is like so many selfish people, deeply interested for all his nearest kin, and believes that they are great lights.[39]

To compensate for Lieber’s disappointment when his $2,000 investment proved insufficient for him to be granted a share in the Forest Improvement Company and to indicate to him that his business decision did not affect their friendship, Heckscher arranged for Lieber to join a party of rich young men on a tour of Heckscher’s coalmines. Lieber sent a report of his field trip to his wife. In it the aesthete and scholar was clearly delighted about Heckscher’s efforts to sing his praises to Taylor; at the same time he enjoyed the lovely countryside, which, despite the industrial works, Lieber perceived as romantic, and he described the mining villages as truly idyllic abodes.[40]

Last Wednesday Heckscher, a Mr Moses Taylor (who, not yet 30 years old I [Francis Lieber] should think, has himself made by good sound business and not by wayward speculation, a fortune of $ 400 000, clear and positive) a Mr Popham, coal-merchant, and myself started at 5 o’clock afternoon, and arrived at 11 o’clock at Philadelphia. Taylor and myself slept in dormitories joining the same parlor, and we had a great deal of laughing. Thursday we started at 6 o’c fr[om] Phil on the Pottsville Rail R, passed through Reading and arrived at Schuylkylhaven, 95 miles, at about 11. the road lies first through one of the chosen spots of this earth, gentle hills, waiving wheatfields, fresh and smiling meadows, substantial houses… good ale, German bretzels… and what not all! At Schuilkyll-Haven Mr de Forest, the agent of Heckschers’ mining company took us in his carriage to his house, situated in a paradise. His wife, one of the finest housewives, and mother of 11 children, gave us a choice dinner…the house is comfort… itself. After dinner we went in a private Railroadcar into the mountains, and found a village of English miners, whose wives in their comfortable houses told us how happy they were… we went into one of the mines… the tea was corresponding to the dinner and… in Mr De Forests’ wagon to Pottsville, a charming road; from P. to Minersville… on horseback to another mine (all Heckschers and that set’s)… at Philad (95 miles) seing the coal docks where Heckschers’ coals are shipped…. In going to Pottsville I was sitting with De Forest in the front seat, Taylor and Heckscher on the seat behind, when Heckscher thinking I did not hear him, gave a description of me to Taylor; and such a one, as I never in my life should have thought H. to give of me.[41]

In 1843 Heckscher made use of an American custom: the right of the founders of settlements to give those places their own names. Just as John Potts had christened a nearby Pennsylvania village “Pottstown” in 1761, Heckscher as an important investor, landowner, and industrialist planted his mark in “his” region when he named the main seat of his Schuylkill County anthracite enterprise, which included large parts of Reilly, Foster and Cass townships, “Heckscherville.”

In an 1856 letter to his wife, Lieber wrote “Heckschers industrial system is almost fabulous. He paid last year to the Reading R.W. alone for freight many hundred thousand dollars, he owns himself 150 large canal boats. His whole establishment is the largest private industry in the whole U. States….”[42] Heckscher transported the coal and coke produced by his enterprise on his own skiffs and barges named Charles A. Heckscher and Georgiana Heckscher to his business partners and friends, to Lowell and Fall River, Massachusetts, to Providence, Rhode Island, to upstate New York to the estates of George Parish, and after the foundation of California in 1850, even to that far away state. In 1861 Heckscher’s combined tonnage accounted for eleven percent of the region’s total, that is, 284,613 tons. In fact, coal production from Heckscher’s enterprise surpassed that of the thirty smallest operations combined”.[43]

The basis for Heckscher’s wealth and influence as a coal merchant was his intelligent and clever combination of investment in, and use of, landed property and mines and far-reaching plans for local and regional infrastructure improvements. Land ownership did not necessarily convey control over mineral rights on the property. Heckscher combined landownership and mining activities despite the potentially questionable legality of the matter. Heckscher disguised his business interests as philanthropic concerns for residents of the region. He portrayed himself as concerned pater patriae, a founder of towns who worried about the physical wellbeing and cultural improvement of his workers, who built churches, and, most broadly, accepted the responsibilities for “his” people. His daughters maintained this image in their charitable activities. They funded his charities liberally and saw to it that the same philanthropic causes that Heckscher supported, churches in Pottsville, Heckscherville and Minersville, continued to be cared for. Despite all these patrimonial manners and behaviors, Heckscher’s paternalistic attitudes toward the people who worked for him did not protect the Forest Improvement Company from industrial strikes, sabotage, and boycotts during the Civil War period.

In his successful work as a coal merchant, Heckscher did not lose sight of his family and friends in the German lands. He commented with pride on the exploits and successes of his brother in the 1848 Frankfurt Paulskirche parliament during the German revolutions; and he also expressed concern for his less prominent German friends. Heckscher’s interest in German relatives, friends, and politics remained strong as he continued to adapt admirably to his American environment. Commenting on American exploits during the Mexican War, he wrote to Lieber in 1847 with some self-mockery, “don’t we Yankees fight well?”[44] He was focused on the U.S. and his children also perceived themselves as Americans. During the Civil War his oldest son, John Gerard Heckscher (born 1837; died July 4, 1908, in New York), joined the Twelfth Infantry of New York State at the rank of lieutenant. All the children of Charles August and Georgiana Heckscher married into New York’s high society; their spouses belonged to socially and financially well-established families of Dutch and French descent, like the Van Rensselaers, Lydigs or Thebauds.

Unfortunately there is hardly any detailed evidence of Charles August Heckscher’s business dealings during the Civil War due to the unavailability of source material. He died in the fall of 1866. “The relatives, and friends of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral at Grace Church, on Broadway, near Tenth Street, on Saturday morning, at Half-past 10 o’clock.” After the funeral, the friends of the departed were kindly invited to a reception in the glamorous New York residence that Heckscher had built in 1856 in Manhattan, at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Thirteenth Street, during the height of his career as a successful entrepreneur. Even in far-away Charleston, South Carolina, people were interested in the lifestyle of the man who for a long time had played a large and influential role in the cotton and naval stores trade of that state and whose ships had been frequent visitors to Charleston’s port:

One of our most elegant houses [in New York City] is that of Charles A. Heckscher… which is said to have cost… one hundred and fifty thousand dollars, although the building is of moderate dimensions compared with some others being thirty-nine by sixty-two feet, besides an extension of thirty-five by twenty-four feet, which forms the library and dining-room, … In the main entrance there is a vestibule fitted for the reception of ordinary visitors, and close by the staircase ascends through an ellliptical opening toward a stained glass dome.

Beside his splendid mansion in the most fashionable section of Manhattan, Heckscher owned a fine country mansion in neighboring Orange, New Jersey. Almost daily Heckscher commuted sixty miles between his family’s New Jersey home and his office in Manhattan. It was a long way to return to the rural delights of his Orange estate, which probably reminded him of the splendid country estates around Hamburg. Francis Lieber visited the Heckschers often and enjoyed the hospitality of his wife’s cousin many times. In 1847 he described Heckscher’s mansion in Orange on top of a hill: “Orange/NJ Beau-séjour (as Heckscher calls his lovely villa at Orange)… Heckschers’ place is most charming, convient and airy.”[45] The Heckscher Family owned a third residence in Pennsylvania close to their mining establishments. In the tradition of Hamburg and English merchants and the American nouveau riche, Heckscher had invested some of his capital in a rural mansion that served as a summertime retreat that allowed the family to escape the hot New York climate.

Faithful to the tradition of his Jewish forefathers, Heckscher invested not only in earthly valuables, but also in prestigious gifts like endowments and charities. He supported African-Americans who had suffered in the 1863 draft riots, and in 1853 he took part in fundraising efforts for a new building for the New York opera house. He spent liberally for the education of his children and enabled them to live in the style of upper-class New Yorkers. His New York library included the books of German writers like Goethe and Schiller; he supported contemporary art; his houses contained bronze sculptures by August Karl Eduard Kiß (1802-1865), the celebrated German sculptor and pupil of Karl Friedrich Schinkel, and marble sculptures, such as allegories of industry (figurine of a miner) and trade (figurine of a mariner) by Emma Stebbins (1815-1882), which he had commissioned in 1860. Fittingly both sculptures are today preserved in the Heckscher Museum of Art founded by Carl August Heckscher (born August 27, 1848, in Hamburg; died April 26, 1941, in the United States), the son of his brother Dr. Moritz Heckscher, in 1920 in Huntington, New York. Thus the next Heckscher generation, in particular August Heckscher, who in 1867 had migrated to the United States and cofounded Richard Heckscher & Co with his cousin before starting the Zinc and Iron Company in New Jersey, left many traces in New York State. Besides the Heckscher Museum of Art, these included the Heckscher Building in New York City at Fifth Avenue and Fifty-Seventh Street, the Heckscher Foundation for Children, the Heckscher Playground in Central Park, the Heckscher Park in Huntington, New York, and Heckscher Drive.


Through education, training, marriage, family connections, business and economic expertise, and thanks to his charming manners, captivating personality, and language skills (French, English, Spanish, and German), Charles August Heckscher was able to gain access to, become closely connected with, and capitalize on his integration into the mercantile elites of Dutch, French, and New England stock in Philadelphia, Charleston, South Carolina, New York City, and Boston. He started his American trading venture as a merchant doing business with friends and colleagues around the Atlantic basin, and ended his career as one of the leading American coal producers who, in 1860, employed nearly half of the miners in Pennsylvania’s collieries.[46]


[1] Thanks to Hermann Wellenreuther, Göttingen, who translated the text. Staatsarchiv der Freien und Hansestadt Hamburg (hereafter StaHH) 741-2 GS 1 Stammtafel Heckscher.

[2] Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein, “The Children of Martin Anton Heckscher,” 147,3x 114,3 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City, Oil on canvas, gift of the family of August Heckscher II, in his memory in 2002.

[3] Consolina Vigliero, ed., Rahel Levin Varnhagen. Briefwechsel mit Ludwig Robert (Munich: C.H.Beck Verlag, 2001), 80, 641.

[4] Saint Lawrence University Libraries Special Collections & University Archives (hereafter StaLUL) Canton, NY, Parish-Rosseel Papers box 9, folder 367 John Parish to David Parish, Bath, UK, August 24,1809.

[5] StaLUL Parish-Rosseel-Papers box 9, folder 378, John Parish to David Parish, Weymouth, UK, September 30, 1809.

[6] I want to thank Ms. Marlene Bode at the Salzmann Gymnasium, Schnepfenthal, Germany, for her help with regard to the whereabouts of the Heckscher brothers at the famous school.

[7] Rothschild Archive, London, UK, XI/38/132B Martin Anton Heckscher, Carlsbad, to Nathan Mayer Rothschild, London, 1819ff.

[8] Lubec, Bremen, and Hamburg, December 20, 1827.

[9] “Mr. Heckscher, a sociable and amiable young man, will facilitate the postage of these letters to Boston, so you [Lieber’s parents and siblings in Berlin] may send thick letters to him, since postage is so expensive. Young Heckscher’s acquaintance has been most dear to me here in New York, he looks out for me and we find each other most agreeable.” Editor Translation. University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC, (hereafter USC) Francis Lieber Papers, box 4, folder 118, Francis Lieber to his family in Germany, New York, September 7, 1829.

[10] The Henry Huntington Library (hereafter HHL) Francis Lieber Papers (hereafter LI) 1617 Charles A. Heckscher to Francis Lieber, New York, May 13, 1847: “Weib & Kinder sind Gottlob alle wohl & grüßen Sie & Ihre Gemahlin bestens… Stets der Ihrige….”

[11] HHL LI 5040 Matilda Lieber to Francis Lieber, Boston, May 21, 1830.

[12] HHL LI 5041 Matilda Lieber to Francis Lieber, Boston June 3, 1830, “per steamboat Doctor Francis Lieber care of Charles August Heckscher Esq New York… sage Heckscher, daß ich allen Menschen schreibe, daß James kommt u. daß er sein Wort gar nicht wieder zurück nehmen kann… Könnten wir nicht dabei ein kleines Geschäft machen? Get a procentage from all parties for the commission….“

[13] HHL LI 4747 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, June 15, 1838.

[14] New York Spectator, August 23, 1832; November 11, 1833.

[15] New York Public Library (hereafter NYPL) Moses Taylor Papers, Daniel P. Parker to Charles A. & Edward Heckscher, Boston April 17, 1833: “Gentlemen, Our mutual friend Mr Parish, has no doubt made you acquainted with the substance of my reply to his request, on your behalf respecting your wish that the ship Omega should proceed to Canton to the address of Messrs Blight & Co instead of Messrs Russell & Co. agreeable to our contract; which was, that I had no objection to change the consignes provided that it would promote our mutual interest, and provided also, that I should have satisfactory security that my credits should be negotiated on the very lowest terms….”

[16] The notice was reprinted by other periodicals including the American Railroad Journal and Advocate of Internal Improvements, July 20, 1833, 461 (accessed May 3, 2013).

[17] See chapter 19 of Walter Barret, The old merchants of New York City, Third Series (New York: M. Doolady, 1863), (accessed May 3, 2013).

[18] NYPL Moses Taylor Papers, J. Reimarus to Charles August Heckscher, Hamburg, November 28, 1834, “Deinen Brief vom 23ten October habe ich den 24 dieses erhalten-Ueber den Inhalt desselben habe ich Freuden thränen vergossen mein guter August. Du bist also ein glücklicher Verlobter du willst dich mit einem liebenswürdigen Mädchen verbinden. Nehme dazu aus einem dich liebenden Herzen, das stets es treu mit dir gemeint hat, den Glückwunsch aus der Heimat, gebe dir all das Glück und die Freuden die du jetzt von deiner Zukunft zu erwarten berechtigt bist, möge dir nie dem Kranz häuslicher Freunden wie eine Blume welken- sage deinem Fräulein braut von mir den freundlichsten Grüße und dass ich mich aufrichtig freuen werde sie kennen zu lernen. Ich schließe mit der bitte dass unsere freundschaft stets unverändert bleibe und nun noch ein Lebewohl der liebe Gott sey mit dir und erfülle die wünsche die für dich in meiner Seele leben.

J. Reimarus

Hamburg , 28 November 1831

Mit deinem Briefe in der Hand und Freudenthränen in den Augen, eilte meine Frau zu mir aufs Comptoir,um mir selbst die frohe Nachricht von deiner Verlobung mit Miss Coster zu verkünden; Gott gebe dazu seinen Segen, lieber August und mögest du so glücklich werden wie wir es dir wünschen…gute Wünsche auch an den Schwiegervater, dein treuer Freund


[19] “From Hamburg, it is reported that A. Heckscher in New York has made a great partnership with Miss Cosstar [sic.] in which, people say, she brings $200,000 in assets.” Editor translation. USC Lieber Papers box 1, folder 12, George Oppenheimer to his daughter Matilda Lieber, Heidelberg, June 1, 1835.

[20] W. D. Rubinstein, Wealth and the wealthy in the modern world (London: Taylor & Francis, 1980),181.

[21] HHL LI 1614 Charles A. Heckscher to Francis Lieber, New York, October 23, 1835.

[22] Barrett, Chapter 19.

[23] HHL LI 4769 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, New York, September 1-4, 1841.

[24] New-York American, July 6, 1837.

[25] HHL LI 2940 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, New York, June 24, 1838.

[26] Moses Yale Beach, The wealth and biography of the wealthy citizens of New York: being an alphabetical arrangement of the names of the most prominent capitalists whose wealth is estimated at one hundred thousand dollars and upwards, with the sums appended to each name, and genealogical and biographical notices of the principal persons, Also, a valuable table of statistics concerning the wealth of the City and State of New York (New York: The Sun, 1845), (accessed May 3, 2013). All monetary conversions to 2010 dollars have been done using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The conversion provides a rough approximation of current values for historical monetary sums based on the changing costs of household purchases including food, housing, medical care, and so forth. Conversion calculations were conducted via MeasuringWorth.

[27] Rothschild Archive XI/38/140 A 1837.

[28] Rothschild Archive Heckscher, Coster & Co, New York XI/38/133 1837-1841.

[29] Rothschild Archive XI/38/140 A 1837.

[30] Rothschild Archive Heckscher, Coster & Co, New York XI/38/133 1837-1841.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34]New York Spectator July 30, 1835; August 3, 1835; October 29, 1835; June 15, 1837; June 19, 1837; June 22, 1837; September 14, 1837. August 9, 1838; May 20, 1839; June 3, 1839; July 15, 1839; April 28, 1841; August 3, 1842. Morning Herald, January 15, 1838; February 26, 1838; April 2, 1838; May 28, 1838; August 20, 1838; September 24, 1838; February 21, 1840. North American, August 2, 1839. New York Herald, April 26, 1841; January 18, 1842; March 19, 1842; November 20, 1843; November 2, 1844; November 12, 1844. Weekly Herald, August 7, 1841; North American and Daily Advertiser, November 12, 1844.

[35] “There is no pleasure today in being a merchant.” Editor translation. HHL LI 1615 Charles A. Heckscher to Francis Lieber, New York, November 22, 1839.

[36] North American and Daily Advertiser, November 11, 1844. “Notice Is hereby given that an election of Directors of the Forest Improvement Company will be held at the Office of the company, No 44 south street, New York, on Wednesday the 11th December next at 12 o’clock, By order of the President. Chs A Heckscher Secy NY 8th November 1844” North American and Daily Advertiser, 20.12.1844

“New York, 11th December 1844”

At a meeting of the Board of Directors of this company, held this day, Charles A. Heckscher esq. was unanimously elected President and General Manager of this Company

Richard Hecksher secretary”.

[37] NYPL Moses Taylor Papers, Charles A. Heckscher’s financial arrangements, May 13, 1843.

[38] HHL LI 4853 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, Orange, NJ, August 1, 1847.

[39] HHL LI 4856 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, August 12-13, 1847.

[40] HHL LI 4781 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, New York, July 23-24, 1843.

[41] Ibid.

[42] HHL LI 4913 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, July 7, 1856.

[43 Grace Palladino, Another Civil War. Labor, Capital, and the State in the Anthracite Regions of Pennsylvania 1840-1868 (Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press 2006), 30.

[44] HHL LI 1617 Charles A. Heckscher to Francis Lieber, New York, May 13, 1847.

[45] HHL LI 4853 Francis Lieber to Matilda Lieber, Orange, NJ, August 1, 1847. For more information regarding Francis Lieber and his position within Atlantic networks during Heckscher’s lifetime, see Claudia Schnurmann, ‘Citizens in an Atlantic republic of letters’: The Atlantic correspondence of Francis and Matilda Lieber, 1827-1872 (Hamburg: Lit Verlag, forthcoming).

[46] Palladino, 60-63.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Charles August Heckscher: A Model Self-Made Man and Merchant in the Atlantic World in the First-Half of the Nineteenth Century
  • Coverage 1806-1866
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date April 22, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018