Marcus Goldman Portrait, c. early 1900s

Marcus Goldman Portrait, c. early 1900s

Marcus Goldman


Marcus Goldman immigrated to the United States in 1848. After twenty-one years working as an itinerant peddler and a shopkeeper, he carved out a niche for himself in commercial promissory notes forming what would eventually become Goldman, Sachs & Co.


Marcus Goldman (Born: December 9, 1821 in Trappstadt, Kingdom of Bavaria; died: July 20, 1904 in Elberon, New Jersey) immigrated to the United States in 1848. Twenty-one years later, after working as an itinerant peddler and a shopkeeper, he embarked on a career in banking in New York City. Carving out a niche for himself in commercial promissory notes, the sole proprietorship he established soon prospered. He worked alone until the early 1880s when family members began to join the business. At age seventy-five, he achieved a professional goal when his firm joined the New York Stock Exchange. He operated within an elite circle of successful German-Jewish-American bankers, although he remained outside the circle’s epicenter of professional and social power. His closely-held, family-owned firm, which prided itself on its customer service and its impeccable reputation, outlasted other larger and older competitors and eventually formed the foundation of today’s Goldman, Sachs & Co., generally regarded as one of the most influential and successful investment banking firms in the United States.

Family and Ethnic Background

Mark Goldmann was born on December 9, 1821, in the small Bavarian village of Trappstadt (located near the northern border between the modern German states of Bavaria and Thuringia).1] He was the eldest of five children born to Jewish parents Wolf Goldmann and Ella Katz Oberbrunner. His parents had met as a result of harsh laws imposed on the Jewish population of the region. Few opportunities existed for Jews to earn a living due to laws that restricted their activities. A decree promulgated by the Catholic diocese in 1813 imposed quotas on the numbers of Jews allowed to settle in each village and required “protection money” from those few granted residence. One way for an individual to circumvent these restrictions was to replace a Jewish resident who had passed away. Through systematically checking official records, Wolf, who had been raised in the town of Zeil am Main (approximately 35 kilometers/22 miles south of Trappstadt), had learned of Samuel Oberbrunner’s death. He introduced himself to Oberbrunner’s widow, who lived in Trappstadt with her five children, and offered his services as a hired hand to care for her livestock in return for room and board. She agreed, and the two married six months later in 1820.[2]

As the family’s livestock business flourished, the family purchased a larger home in Trappstadt. While the Goldmann family was by no means wealthy, the livestock business allowed Wolf and Ella to provide for their growing family. Two years after Mark’s birth in 1821, Samuel was born, but died in infancy. Another boy, Simon, and two girls, Bella and Regina, followed. The family was close and Mark and his brother helped their father transact business on monthly cattle market days and during the annual spring district market in Bamberg. During these excursions, he mastered the art of bartering and proved able to garner the highest prices for the family’s cattle.[3]

The children attended a school for Christian and Jewish students where Mark Goldmann excelled, particularly in mathematics, and began learning English. The schoolmaster advised sixteen-year-old Goldmann to attend advanced classes offered by the rabbi at the Würzburg synagogue. There he met nineteen-year-old Joseph Sachs, the son of a saddle maker, and the two became friends. Meanwhile, the situation for Jews in Germany was deteriorating. Amid anti-monarchist uprisings, a dearth of jobs, a drought and ensuing famine, and the growing possibility of a mandatory military draft, Wolf reluctantly chose to send his twenty-seven-year-old son to the United States where he might be able to live a better life.[4]

Mark Goldmann worried that his absence from home would place an extra burden on his parents as they continued to run the family business. The strain became more pronounced when twenty-three-year-old Simon decided to immigrate to America with his older brother. Nevertheless, with their family’s blessings, 150 Gulden in their pockets, and their mother’s homemade apple cake, the two left home in 1848.[5] After paying a “Jewish tax” in addition to $50 (approximately $1,400 in 2010$) in travel costs, they rode the train to Bremerhaven and embarked on the steamship Miles to London. In London, they boarded the Margaret Evans, bound for Philadelphia. Their difficult, two-week crossing, which entailed sparse rations and rampant illness among the passengers, culminated on September 4 when they reached port. Simon immediately set off for the California gold fields in search of quick riches, but Mark decided to stay in Philadelphia.[6]

According to Goldmann family lore, amid the confusing sounds of an unfamiliar country and a noisy and bustling marketplace, a familiar voice unexpectedly greeted Mark in the first hours of his arrival in Philadelphia. His longtime friend and fellow German-Jewish immigrant Joseph Sachs, who had married and left Bavaria the same year as Goldmann, recognized the new arrival and tapped him on the shoulder. Sachs’ dreams of becoming a teacher had not come to fruition. He was preparing to leave Philadelphia to pursue a potential job opportunity in Baltimore, so he guided Goldmann to the boardinghouse where he had been living, which was run by a German, Frau Muller. Sachs soon departed for Baltimore, but their renewed acquaintance foreshadowed an enduring familial relationship.[7]

Business Development

Goldmann’s first business foray in the United States was as a peddler. His landlady’s son, Manfred Muller, sold tobacco and other consumer goods from a shop on the ground floor of the family’s Philadelphia boarding house and needed assistance with his business. Eager to find employment after his arrival in America, Goldmann accepted the offer. During the next three years, he drove a horse-drawn wagon through Philadelphia’s streets, hawking household wares. A hard worker, he often spent fourteen hours a day winding his way about town, perfecting both his language and customer service skills at the same time.[8]

Not long after his arrival in Philadelphia, he married eighteen-year-old German immigrant Bertha Goldmann.[9] Bertha had also arrived in the United States in 1848.[10] Her family hailed from Darmstadt, near Frankfurt, where her father had been a locksmith and jeweler.[11] She first settled with her family in New Orleans before coming to Philadelphia where she found work as a seamstress and embroiderer for society women.[12]

As the couple settled into a rented two-room apartment located at 13 West North Street and contemplated their future, Goldmann observed the increasing numbers of German immigrants arriving in Philadelphia. He identified a potential market for durable inexpensive clothing that would cater to the needs of these immigrants who arrived with few belongings. A sewing machine had meanwhile captured Bertha’s imagination.[13] After telling her husband of a sewing demonstration that she had witnessed, both of their visions found fulfillment. Goldmann applied for a five-dollar (approximately $150 in 2010$) bank loan the next day. He made a two-dollar down payment for the sewing machine and agreed to monthly installments at a five-percent interest rate to cover the remaining cost. After Goldmann purchased the machine, he used the balance of the loan to rent a nearby storefront on High Street.[14]

Reinventing himself as a tailor, Goldmann soon altered both his first and last names, partly out of accommodation due to clerical error and partly out of a desire to “Americanize. ” On becoming a naturalized citizen in 1853, the immigration clerk erroneously recorded his name as Marcus, a mistake he did not correct. He also chose to drop the second “n” in his surname. That same year, the possibility of a business partnership between Goldman and Sachs first arose when the Sachs family visited Philadelphia. Sachs declined to join Goldman’s tailoring business, however, because he was en route to another out-of-town teaching position.[15]

Both Goldman’s business and family flourished during these years. The Goldmans moved to a larger home in the vicinity that eventually accommodated their three daughters, Rebecca, Rosa, and Louisa (the survivor of twins), and two sons, Julius and Henry.[16] The family business grew as well and Goldman began selling clothing from other manufacturers in addition to items he manufactured in-house. Needing additional assistance in the home and at work, he asked his twenty-two-year-old sister Regina to emigrate from Bavaria and join the family in Philadelphia. She accepted his offer and assisted the Goldman family for two years until she married a neighboring merchant. Six years later, Goldman sold Regina’s husband a partnership in his successful enterprise and opened a men’s haberdashery in a more upscale neighborhood on the major Philadelphia thoroughfare of Market Street.[17]

Philadelphia provided a welcoming start to Goldman’s life in America, but it could not retain him as its economic growth began to wane with the culmination of the Civil War. In 1869, under pressure from his wife who was eager to experience the excitement offered in a burgeoning New York City, Goldman sold his stake in the business and started his career anew.[18] Exactly why Goldman decided to become a banker is not entirely clear, but it is not difficult to understand how he might have arrived at the decision. A few factors coalesced to make the late-1860s a perfect time to begin a financial career in New York City: a steady influx of immigrants created a growing potential customer base; a lack of prescribed industry standards and licensing allowed easy entrée into the field; and a successful German-Jewish immigrant banking community already existed in New York and provided a model for new banking ventures.[19] In fact, some of the most well-known German-Jewish banking families such as the Seligmans and Lehmans had, like Goldman, first peddled wares in the hinterland before branching into finance in the metropolis.[20] These families now headed prominent New York City investment firms.

Goldman’s start in banking was very austere. Unlike the prominent German-Jewish banking families of New York, he operated alone, assisted only by a part-time bookkeeper. He inaugurated his new career by hanging a shingle marked “Marcus Goldman, Banker and Broker” outside his small basement office next to a coal chute on Pine Street in lower Manhattan.[21] Goldman carved out a niche for himself by becoming a banker and broker of trade bills for the wholesale jewelers on Maiden Lane and tanners in “the Swamp” along Beekman Street.[22] Traversing those neighborhoods in the morning, he purchased their promissory notes ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 (approximately $43,000 and $86,000 respectively in 2010$) at a discount averaging between eight and nine percent.[23] Decked out in a Prince Albert frock coat and tall silk hat, traditional banker’s attire at the time, he tucked the documents into the inner band of his hat.[24] By the afternoon, with his hat bulging, he then negotiated the sale of these notes to uptown commercial bankers, earning commissions of one-half of one percent.[25]

By purchasing and reselling merchants’ promissory notes and providing the sellers with access to working capital on terms more attractive than those afforded by commercial bankers, Goldman essentially operated within the antecedent to the commercial paper market.[26] He was not the only “note shaver” in New York, but he transacted business in a yet largely untapped market. Conducting his business by foot, he observed his environs firsthand. He was therefore able to gauge potential competition and to acquire new clients.[27] Business was good. By the end of his first year, he sold approximately $5 million dollars (approximately $86 million in 2010$) of commercial paper.[28]

Goldman had a larger dream, though. He wanted to trade stocks and bonds and to cement his business success by joining the New York Stock Exchange. He first needed to expand his capital base. In 1873, the financial panic spawned by the collapse of Philadelphia banking firm Jay Cooke & Co. hastened the realization of that dream. Searching for a safe haven, investors fled railroad stocks and flocked to jewelry and gemstones, the underpinnings of Goldman’s customers’ businesses. The jewelry industry moved uptown to West Forty-Seventh Street, and the Goldman family followed. They relocated to a nearby brownstone in an upscale neighborhood shared by the heirs of German-immigrant John Jacob Astor’s vast fortune.[29]

By 1882, Goldman’s firm was transacting $30 million (approximately $660 million in 2010$) of business a year and boasted accrued capital of more than $100,000 (approximately $2. 2 million in 2010$).[30] At his sixtieth birthday party, Goldman invited son-in-law Sam Sachs, the husband of his daughter Rosa and son of his long-time friend Joseph Sachs, to join the business.[31] Goldman had admired the resolve and ethics Sam had displayed in operating a small dry goods business and providing for his family following his father’s untimely death.[32]

One-and-a-half years later, Goldman offered Sachs a partnership, which he accepted.[33] According to their agreement, Sachs would purchase his share at a price of $15,000 (approximately $340,000 in 2010$), payable in three equal installments.[34] However, this debt was forgiven at the insistence of Bertha upon the birth of Sam and Louisa’s third son.[35] The firm now went forward as Goldman & Sachs.[36]

In 1885, the firm changed its name to Goldman, Sachs & Co. upon the admittance of son Henry and son-in-law Ludwig Dreyfuss, the husband of Marcus Goldman’s daughter Rebecca and a cousin to the Loeb banking family, as junior partners.37] Henry, a bright young man who had withdrawn from Harvard due to poor eyesight, had felt slighted when initially passed over by his father in favor of Sam Sachs. He had been working as a traveling salesman since 1882 for the firm of Dreyfuss, Willer & Co. , a textiles business owned by his sister Rebecca’s in-laws. In return for that prior favor, Dreyfuss was invited into the business.[38]

For the next half-century, only members of the intermarried Goldman and Sachs families became partners of the firm. By retaining a closely-held family partnership, the firm retained a significant portion of their assets as working capital and savings. In order to withdraw any money for any purpose, a partner needed to petition the senior partners.[39]

Despite a prospering business, the firm was not immune to occasional troubles. In February 1884, Frederick E. Douglas, a note purchaser, sued it for allegedly selling a $1,100 note of an account holder, A. Cramer, whose signature had been forged by Carl Wolff, the endorser. Wolff subsequently fled and Douglas claimed that the firm implicitly guaranteed the note to have been made by Cramer. The jury ultimately sided with Goldman & Sachs, thereby absolving the firm of liability. Nearly ten years later, the firm faced a potential loss of approximately five percent of its capital due to a loan made to N. J. Schloss & Co. , a clothing manufacturer. The company’s bookkeeper had embezzled corporate funds but the firm received its payment due to its creditor status.[40]

In 1896, a year that witnessed the doubling of the firm’s commercial paper sales, Marcus Goldman realized his dream of joining the NYSE. He purchased a seat for $15,000 (approximately $400,000 in 2010$) and joined 1,100 other exchange members. The firm relocated to 43 Exchange Place, which housed the firm’s five partners, ten clerks, and six messengers.[41]

In 1900, Marcus Goldman retired. Henry became full partner, setting the stage for rivalry between himself and senior partner Sam. Henry, sensitive to his father’s perceived favoritism of Sam had resented the loan made years ago and its subsequent forgiveness.[42] For his part, Sam may have begrudged Henry’s easier circumstances and viewed him as spoiled. In terms of their personalities, they were “polar opposites. ”[43] Henry was the brash risk-taker, Sam the more conservative banker, “determined to preserve the firm’s reputation and integrity, no matter what shocks might rock the financial community. ”[44] According to Henry Goldman’s biographer and granddaughter June Breton Fisher, “They found it difficult to agree on anything except endorsing Marcus’s dream of developing a financial partnership that would transcend dealing in commercial paper. ”[45] The two envisioned the firm’s future differently. Sam believed its future lay as an international banking institution, while Henry favored underwriting emerging industries and trading riskier securities.[46]

Despite their sparring, their working relationship produced results. In 1897, with the assistance of August Belmont, the wealthy Rothschild family’s New York-based agent who vouched that “Goldman Sachs is one firm about whom nobody can say anything against,” Sam entered into a joint venture with London banking firm Kleinwort Sons & Company.[47] Through this arrangement, Goldman Sachs established a foreign exchange unit and developed a toehold in Europe through a respected firm.[48] For his part, Henry, who excelled at trading railroad bonds, contributed to the increase in partners’ capital from $2. 5 million in 1900 to $4. 5 million in 1906 (approximately $67 million and $113 million respectively in 2010$).[49]

On July 20, 1904, Marcus Goldman passed away while at his summer home.[50] His will designated Henry as senior partner and co-leader. The relationship between Henry and Sam deteriorated, beset by power squabbles. Nevertheless, the firm had already flexed its muscles successfully in the commercial paper arena and embarked on foreign exchange and underwriting operations. The foundation had been set for the firm established by Goldman thirty-five years earlier, and now run by his chosen successors, to evolve into a leading full-service global investment bank.[51]

Social Status and Personality

Little has been written about Marcus Goldman compared to other German-Jewish American bankers of the era, even though his firm survived all others and is often referred to today simply as “Goldman. ” The man who founded it ascribed to many of the same values, and participated in many of the same activities, as other German-Jewish immigrants who prospered in the financial community. This group, which included families such as the Lehmans and the Seligmans, was later collectively dubbed “Our Crowd” by writer Stephen Birmingham in his book of the same name published in 1967 that chronicles the well-known German-Jewish banking families in New York.[52]

Goldman prized ambition, hard work, and family. He infused those ideals into a professional and personal life that straddled ethnic and societal boundaries. During the workday, he attended to the needs of his working-class customers with attention and diligence. When he negotiated their promissory notes, he entered into the world of the established Gentile banks. Once home, he returned to a culture that was relatively closed to those outside the German-Jewish community.

Shunned socially due to their religion, the families comprising “Our Crowd” turned inward and created almost a parallel world complete with its own snobberies.[53] Living in homes along Fifth Avenue and the Upper West Side, many belonged to Temple Emanu-El, a reform congregation, and gave to an assortment of Jewish philanthropies.[54] Goldman’s name has not been identified on available records of the Temple Emanu-El archives, but several documents evidence his modest charitable giving to various Jewish organizations.[55] The Jewish families dismissed the social climbing among the Astor set, but intuitively took note of their own hierarchy.[56] The Goldman family had a place within this set, but existed more on the periphery than at the center of its vortex, where families such as the Seligmans and Loebs occupied the most prominent spots.[57] The Goldmans socialized most with the Sachses, whom they often entertained at Sunday dinners that included singing German folk tunes.[58]

Once the Goldmans moved uptown from their initial Murray Hill home, his wife reveled in their new residence, which came complete with carriage and driver.[59] Great granddaughter June Breton Fisher writes in her biography of Henry Goldman that “Life at 4 West Forty-Seventh Street straddled the old traditions of Germany and the driving energy that characterized the contemporary American way of life. ”[60] German-Jewish families typically employed “French chefs, Irish maids, English butlers, but German governesses. ”[61] The close-knit Goldmans similarly assimilated to a degree while maintaining their German roots.[62] Their religion seemed more to inform their cultural life than to instill any devout adherence. The children all learned German, both through tutoring at home and at school.[63] Goldman’s sons attended the strict Sachs Collegiate Institute for Boys, founded by Joseph Sachs’ eldest son Julius in 1871, that fostered the classics and German and in which most of the other “Our Crowd” families enrolled.[64] Julius Sachs had also established a school for girls, but it was less popular due to a common view that instilling German culture in girls was less important.[65] For part of each summer, the Goldman children spent summers in Bavaria with their grandmother.[66]

Within his family, Marcus Goldman displayed the hard-driving pressure typically exerted by German-Jewish fathers who harbored high aspirations for their sons. Both of his sons numbered among the small cadre of Jewish students accepted at Harvard, a fact of which Goldman was proud. His elder son Julius studied pre-law there, while seventeen-year-old Henry, showed promise before dropping out during his freshman year due to poor eyesight. Worried about Henry’s future, Goldman arranged for him to work at a friend’s textile firm as a clerk.[67]

While the men of “Our Crowd” were busy blazing paths in American business, the women spent much of their time considering appropriate marriage partners for their offspring.[68] These potential matches came under scrutiny by the men who tried to discern future business partners.[69] In this way, the circle remained closed, with business relationships fostering friendships, which in turn were cultivated for prospective marriages and further cementing of business ties.[70] The Goldmans were no different. With the enthusiasm of both sets of parents, Goldman’s daughter Rosa married Julius Sachs and daughter Louisa wed Sam Sachs.[71] Marcus and Sam later purchased adjoining houses on West Seventieth Street, not far from Henry who resided with his wife six blocks away.[72]

Goldman valued money as security and as a symbol of success but disdained publicity.[73] He reportedly dismissed bantering about the latest fashions while at a dinner party by admonishing, “Money is always fashionable. ”[74] Still, he indulged in one of the fanciest perks enjoyed by his set, a summer home in Elberon, New Jersey.[75] Elberon, a beach resort often referred to as the “Jewish Newport,”[76] was only an hour away from New York.[77] There, the Goldmans and the other families hosted large dinners with prominent guests who were often political luminaries.[78] Writes Stephen Birmingham, “certainly at some point during these great Elberon years New York’s German Jewish financiers and their families had begun to think of themselves as an American aristocracy of a certain sort. ”[79]

It was in Elberon that Marcus and Bertha Goldman celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary.[80] At a party held in their honor at their twenty-four room home, the Altschuls, Gimbels, and Guggenheims numbered among the guests.[81] According to great granddaughter June Breton Fisher, son Julius expressed appreciation to his parents for setting a good example “by reaching for goals that others might have found impossible to achieve and by maintaining solid moral and ethical standards while making their dreams come true. ”[82] Certainly, in business affairs, the idyllic veneer of sibling comity was punctured by the bickering between son Henry and son-in-law Sam that reached a level surprising to Goldman.[83] Perhaps, as his granddaughter suggests, Henry always thought that his father favored daughter Rosa over him.[84] In any event, Goldman expressed his desire for family unity in his will: “It is my earnest desire that after my decease, my children shall always live in such perfect harmony with each other as was the case during my lifetime, and shall ever be ready to comfort, mutually counsel and support, and if need be to materially assist one another. ”[85] His obituary in the New York Times consisted of three sentences that simply noted he had been a senior member of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and left a widow and several children.[86]

Immigrant Entrepreneurship

Marcus Goldman left Germany amid “the first great wave of Jewish immigration to America. ”[87] Between 1846 and 1857, approximately 1.1 million Germans emigrated due to economic constraints and political unrest.[88] He embarked on the path of peddler turned financier, which was a route already traveled by a number of prominent German-Jewish immigrants who preceded him. That journey led him from Philadelphia, where his business affairs catered predominantly to the needs of his own ethnic enclave, to New York City, where his new trade crossed cultural boundaries. Families such as the Seligmans, Lehmans, and Loebs had previously made the transition to finance. In fact, most of the notable German-Jewish figures in American finance had already arrived in New York City by the time Goldman joined the fray.[89] As Stephen Birmingham notes, the former peddlers simply substituted financial instruments for the wares they had previously sold. Goldman was doing with promissory notes “what the Lehmans were doing with their cotton bills, and what the Seligmans were doing on a somewhat grander scale with their bonds. ”[90]

German-Jewish banking success in New York City predated the beginnings of Goldman’s commercial paper business, and he was undoubtedly aware of it. Joseph Seligman, whose firm already had amassed working capital of $6 million (approximately $100 million in 2010$) by 1869, was “readily acknowledged as the leading Jewish banker in New York. ”[91] Although Goldman operated largely alone for much of his career, the established firms provided a model for professional and personal success. The businesses in which they specialized, such as commodities and underwriting, tended to be risky enterprises, which were available because blue-blooded, Gentile bankers chose not to engage in them.[92] As the country became increasingly industrialized, their specialties became more important.

Forming their own network of business and social relationships, “the Jewish Brahmins were wedded to the time-honored role of being gentlemanly custodians of their client’s capital. They were proud of being traditional. Having the proper breeding and background was paramount. ”[93] Although they professed disdain for the high society ways of the Social Register families, in some ways they imitated them.[94] The “Our Crowd” families maintained similar bars of “class and family connections”[95] and looked down on the unpolished and unsophisticated ways of the new poorer and less educated Jewish immigrants arriving from Eastern Europe.[96]

Woven together to a remarkable degree through a web of intermarriages, the German-Jewish families competed against each other to a degree, while business relationships continued to build within their insular world. It was August Belmont, the American representative of the Rothschilds and another member of “Our Crowd,” albeit one who did not readily acknowledge his Jewish roots, who vouched for the integrity of the Goldman firm to London-based Kleinwort & Sons, thereby facilitating that business liaison. 97]

The scale of Goldman’s business paled beside that of the larger German-Jewish firms.[98] Nevertheless, he shared in their way of doing business that emphasized intimate connections among family and colleagues. When he needed help running his Philadelphia business, he first looked to family and brought his sister Regina over from Germany.[99] Once he established himself as a New York banker, a key component of Goldman’s day was walking the streets to attend to business. As he did, he greeted others such as Solomon Loeb, the Lehmans, Seligmans, and Jacob Schiff who similarly conducted trade and assessed the volume of business evidenced beneath their hat brims.[100]

By the turn of the century, Marcus Goldman’s firm was widely considered to be one of Wall Street’s premier entities, sharing that regard with only two other German-Jewish banks, Kuhn Loeb and Lehman Brothers, which had been established in 1850 and 1848, respectively.[101] Once Goldman offered Sam Sachs a partnership, he, too, emulated the German-Jewish practice of keeping his firm within the family. In addition to his son Henry, three of Sam’s sons joined the firm and family members controlled the firm for nearly half a century. Ironically, it was Henry’s ardent support of Germany during World War I that damaged the firm’s reputation and eventually destroyed the participation of the Goldman family in the firm.[102]


Marcus Goldman was a financial entrepreneur. He created his fortune by developing a forerunner of the commercial paper market for merchants otherwise unable to easily gain access to capital at favorable rates. He prospered and ultimately achieved his version of the American dream, a seat on the New York Stock Exchange. Goldman’s basic personality traits of adaptability, a dependable work ethic, and intellect shaped his success. All of these characteristics, apparent since his boyhood days in Germany, underpinned his professional business dealings.[103] He was particularly adroit at spotting business opportunities. First, in Philadelphia he peddled wares to his largely German-American customers and developed a textile business that met the needs of new immigrants. Then, in New York, he carved out a specialized banking niche that operated beyond the bounds of his ethnic enclave.

While other German-Jewish investment firms were already established at the time of his New York City arrival and employed a network of family members, Goldman operated his business largely alone for most of his career. Placing an emphasis on client service and reputation, he traversed the neighborhoods of his merchants on foot, getting to know their needs just like he had catered to the needs of his customers during his peddling days. Goldman’s loyalty to his original customer base was apparent in his admonition to his son and son-in-law never to neglect the commercial paper trade.[104]

The importance of family was paramount to Goldman. While he understood the significance of money and enjoyed the trappings of success, he valued at least equally, if not more, the idea of preserving a close family and passing on a prosperous firm to the next generation.[105] Goldman laid the foundation for a strong business and a robust entrepreneurial legacy. The commercial paper firm that he had established single-handedly in 1869 to service the needs of trades people had begun by the turn of the twentieth century to branch into foreign exchange and underwriting, playing its part in the transformation of the United States from an agricultural to an industrial economy.[106] His firm evolved into a full-service investment bank that outlasted the other major banking institutions begun by the New York German-Jewish banking community. True to Goldman’s wishes, the firm never lost sight of its beginnings. It handled half of the country’s commercial paper volume by the late 1960s.[107] Nor did it stray from the values he held dear. A culture was nurtured that placed emphasis on reputation and client service, and the firm’s image remained relatively unscathed until tarnished in the wake of the 2008 economic downturn.[108] Over a century later, sales positions were still considered more prestigious than trading posts.[109] When the firm debated the question of issuing public shares in the late 1990s, partners grappled with concerns over a potentially diluted corporate culture and sense of stewardship.[110] Nimble at exploiting market opportunities and attracting the brightest talent, the firm established by Goldman employed over 35,700 individuals and maintained more than thirty offices worldwide as of December 2010,[111] representing “one of the greatest financial success stories of the twentieth century. ”[112]


[1] Goldman modified the spelling of his given name and surname after he immigrated to the United States.

[2] June Breton Fisher, When Money was in Fashion: Henry Goldman, Goldman Sachs, and the Founding of Wall Street (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 7; Cordula Kappner, “Marcus Goldmann und der amerikansche Traum,” Main Post, Mar 12, 2008; cf. Stephen Birmingham, “Our Crowd”: The Great Jewish Families of New York (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), 52; Charles D. Ellis, The Partnership: The Making of Goldman Sachs (New York: Penguin Press, 2008), 4. These two latter sources cite Goldman’s birthplace as Burgbrebac and Burbrebae, respectively. “Marcus Goldmann” does not give date of marriage.

[3] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 9-11. Approximately fifty-three Jews resided in Trappstadt during the early 1800s.

[4] Ibid.,10-13.

[5] A very rough approximation based on a conversion from the Bavarian Gulden to the Prussian Thaler, and then the U.S. Dollar would be about $2,000 in 2010$. All 2010 dollar conversions in the article, unless otherwise noted, are based on Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present,” MeasuringWorth, 2011, using the Consumer Price Index.

[6] Ibid.,13-16.

[7] Ibid.,13-17.

[8] Ibid.,18-19.

[9] No relation to her husband despite the same surname. Birmingham, Our Crowd, 52; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 19. Fisher gives 1856 as the date of their marriage but this date cannot be reconciled with the later celebration of their fiftieth anniversary that she describes given that Goldman died in 1904.

[10] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 52; Lisa Endlich, Goldman Sachs: The Culture of Success, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999), 32.

[11] Ellis, The Partnership, 4; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 19. Fisher gives Bremen as hometown.

[12] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 52. Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 19.

[13] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 20.

[14] Ibid., 19-20.

[15] Ibid., 20-21.

[16] Census records do not provide the years of the Goldman children’s births.

[17] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 20-22; Birmingham, Our Crowd, 52.

[18] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 22-23; Birmingham, Our Crowd, 52, 87.

[19] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 27.

[20] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 17, 46; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 27.

[21] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 87-88; Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 71.

[22] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 87. Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 32. Ellis, The Partnership, 5.

[23] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 88; Ellis, The Partnership, 5.

[24] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 87-88; Ellis, The Partnership, 5; Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 71.

[25] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 88; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 27; Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 33; Ellis, The Partnership, 5.

[26] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 87, 88. Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 33.

[27] Endlich,Goldman Sachs, 33; Birmingham, Our Crowd, 88; and Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 27.

[28] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 88; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 28.

[29] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 28-29, 45.

[30] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 33; Birmingham, Our Crowd, 244; Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 33. Birmingham and Endlich cite 1880 as the date by which the firm transacted $30 million of business a year.

[31] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 33.

[32] Ibid., 32-33.

[33] Ibid., 34.

[34] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 244; Ellis, The Partnership, 6. Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 33; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 34. Fisher gives the purchase price as $25,000.

[35] Birmingham,Our Crowd, 244; Ellis, The Partnership, 6; Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 33; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 34.

[36] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 34; cf. Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 33. Endlich states that the firm’s name changed in 1882 to “M. Goldman and Sachs.”

[37] Endlich,Goldman Sachs, 33; cf. Ellis, The Partnership, 6. Ellis gives 1888 as the date of the firm’s name change.

[38] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 32-34, 38. See Birmingham, Our Crowd, 9 (Ludwig Dreyfuss had married Rebecca Goldman).

[39] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 38.

[40] William D. Cohan, Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World (New York: Doubleday, 2011), 29-30.

[41] Ibid., 45.

[42] Ibid., 48-49, 52.

[43] Ibid., 49.

[44] Ibid., 50.

[45] Ibid., 49.

[46] Ibid., 50.

[47] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 135-36.

[48] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 135-36; Fisher, When Money Was In Fashion, 51-52.

[49] Endlich,Goldman Sachs, 34.

[50] “Marcus Goldman Dead,” New York Times, July 21, 1904; Fisher, When Money Was In Fashion, 52.

[51] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 52-53.

[52] Birmingham, Our Crowd, x, 255-56. Birmingham notes the use of this phrase in a 1927 novel written by Emanie Sachs entitled Red Damask that describes German Jewish New York society at the turn of the century.

[53] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 7, 8; Judith Ramsey Ehrlich and Barry J. Rehfeld, The New Crowd: The Changing of the Jewish Guard on Wall Street (Boston, Little, Brown & Company, 1989), 4, 22.

[54] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 5; Ehrlich and Rehfeld, New Crowd, 4.

[55] S. Caplan, Temple Emanu-El Archivist, pers. comm., March 2011; “Bequests and Gifts By Jews or to Jewish Institutions, August 26, 1903 to August 12, 1904”, American Jewish Year Book, Vol. 5 (1903-1904), 357 (accessed June 13, 2011).

[56] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 258.

[57] Ibid., 245.

[58] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 31.

[59] Ibid., 29.

[60] Ibid.

[61] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 132.

[62] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 29.

[63] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 29; Birmingham, Our Crowd, 132.

[64] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 29-30. Birmingham, Our Crowd, 132, 244.

[65] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 132.

[66] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 29.

[67] Ibid., 30-32.

[68] Birmingham,Our Crowd, 244; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 36.

[69] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 244.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 244; Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 31-32; Ellis,The Partnership, 5.

[72] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 258-59.

[73] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 42.

[74] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 251. Fisher uses this phrase as the title to the biography of her grandfather, Henry Goldman.

[75] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 45.

[76] Ibid.

[77] Ibid.

[78] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 259-62.

[79] Ibid., 261.

[80] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 45.

[81] Ibid., 45- 46.

[82] Ibid., 47.

[83] Ibid., 50.

[84] Ibid., 34.

[85] Ibid., 52.

[86] “Marcus Goldman Dead,” New York Times, July 21, 1904.

[87] Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 32.

[88] Kappner, “Marcus Goldmann.”

[89] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 153.

[90] Ibid., 88.

[91] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 106 and 136; Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 33. Using nominal GDP per capita, which measures the average output per-person of the economy, this figure would be $1.4 billion dollars. Samuel H. Williamson, “Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present,” MeasuringWorth, 2011, using the Nominal GDP per capita data.

[92] Ehrlich and Rehfeld, The New Crowd, 24.

[93] Ibid.

[94] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 257-58.

[95] Ehrlich and Rehfeld, The New Crowd, 394.

[96] Ibid., 12, 24-25.

[97] Birmingham,Our Crowd, 135-36.

[98] Endlich,Goldman Sachs, 33.

[99] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 21; Kappner, “Marcus Goldmann.”

[100] Birmingham, Our Crowd, 88.

[101] Ehrlich and Rehfeld, The New Crowd, 26.

[102] Fisher, When Money was in Fashion, 93-113; Birmingham, Our Crowd, 334-35; Ehrlich and Rehfeld, The New Crowd, 26; Cohan, Money and Power, 37-39. Upon the outbreak of World War I, Henry Goldman was an outspoken supporter of Germany, in direct opposition to the political leanings of Sachs. His refusal to vote in favor of the firm participating in a $500 million bond issue to aid the Allied war effort led to the firm’s abstention and exacerbation of tension between himself and his partners. He retired from the firm on December 31, 1917.

[103] Fisher,When Money Was In Fashion, 23.

[104] Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 53.

[105] Ibid., 232.

[106] Ehrlich and Rehfeld, The New Crowd, 19.

[107] Endlich, Goldman Sachs, 34.

[108] Ellis, The Partnership, xv.

[109] Endlich,Goldman Sachs, 126.

[110] Ibid., 232.

[111] The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. December 31, 2010 Form 10-K (filed March 1, 2011), via Securities and Exchange Commission EDGAR System, accessed June 2011.

[112] Endlich,Goldman Sachs, x.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Marcus Goldman
  • Coverage 1821-1904
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date June 24, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018