Samuel Untermyer, ca. 1910-1915

Samuel Untermyer, ca. 1910-1915

Samuel Untermyer


German-American entrepreneurship can be found across the whole spectrum of American business in the period since 1720. The legal profession is no exception. Guggenheimer & Untermyer was one of the most successful and prominent German-American law firms during its life span, approximately 1855 to 1986. The firm was founded in the mid-1850s by Adolph (Abraham) Levinger, a Bavarian-Jewish immigrant. Samuel Untermyer later transformed it into an entrepreneurial Wall Street firm that represented a host of prominent clients, both German-America and native-born, Jewish and Gentile, during the late nineteenth century and throughout much of the twentieth.


German-American entrepreneurship can be found across the whole spectrum of American business in the period since 1720. The legal profession is no exception. Guggenheimer & Untermyer was one of the most successful and prominent German-American law firms during its life span, approximately 1855 to 1986. The firm was founded in the mid-1850s by Adolph (Abraham) Levinger (1831-1876), a Bavarian-Jewish immigrant. His cousins Randolph Guggenheimer (born July 20, 1848 in Lynchburg, Virginia; died September 12, 1907 in Long Branch, New Jersey), Isaac Untermyer (born June 22, 1853 in Lynchburg, Virginia; died August 31, 1926 in New York City, New York), and Samuel Untermyer (born June 6, 1858 in Lynchburg, Virginia; died March 16, 1940 in Palm Springs, California)[1] later transformed it into an entrepreneurial Wall Street firm that represented a host of prominent clients, both German-America and native-born, Jewish and Gentile, during the late nineteenth century and throughout much of the twentieth. The firm achieved success both via litigation and most especially through financial activities and corporate legal representation. Guggenheimer and the Untermyer brothers created a firm that challenged the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant elite’s dominance of corporate legal services in the City of New York. They also promoted corporate social responsibility by serving as advocates for Jewish causes both in the United States and abroad.

Family and Ethnic Background

Adolph Levinger was part of a migration chain that had begun with the 1843 immigration of Süsskind (1806-1856), Nathaniel (1817-1866), and Salomon Guggenheimer (1814-1848), the sons of Abraham Guggenheimer (1779-1865), a cattle dealer, and Dolze Bacharach (1785-1855), to Virginia from the Jewish village of Hürben located in the Kingdom of Bavaria.[2] By 1844 Salomon had founded a successful dry goods store in Lynchburg, Virginia, in partnership with Nathaniel.[3] Historian Rudolf Glanz argues that the most common form of German-Jewish immigrant business was a partnership involving two or more brothers.[4] In 1847 Salomon was able to return to Hürben to marry Therese Landauer (1827-1895), the daughter of ironmonger and wine merchant ‘Black’ Raphael Israel Landauer (c.1777-1845) and Johanna (Haendal) Jonas Schwab (c.1786-1842).[5] It was most unusual for Bavarian immigrants to return home in order to marry. However, this may have been a reflection of Landauer’s pedigree. Her mother Johanna was the daughter of Abraham Jonas Schwab (c.1749-1817), the last court factor (banker and financial adviser to the prince) of the southern German state of Öttingen Spielberg, which had been incorporated into Bavaria in 1806.[6] Therese Landauer’s dowry was 2,100 Bavarian Gulden which was the equivalent of about $860 (approximately $25,000 in 2012 dollars).[7] Salomon Guggenheimer returned to Lynchburg with his new wife. The following July a son, Randolph, was born.[8] Salomon Guggenheimer died in October of the same year.[9] In his will he noted that his wife possessed 11,000 Gulden (the equivalent of about $4,500 at the time or approximately $135,000 in 2012 dollars) on her own account which he wanted to remain her property. There was also $400 invested in the dry goods store which he wanted her to have. R.G. Dun & Co., the first credit reporting agency, estimated that Therese’s total property amounted to $6,000. Therese had probably brought a substantial sum of money with her to America in addition to her dowry.[10] The store was renamed N. Guggenheimer & Co. in which Therese, Nathaniel, and his younger brother Samuel (1826-1899) were partners.[11] In February 1850 Therese Guggenheimer remarried. Her new husband Isadore Untermyer (1811-1866) had immigrated a few years earlier in 1844 from the Jewish community of Kriegshaber in Bavaria.[12] He was the son of a master butcher, Isaak Untermayer (1761-1838) and was related through his mother, Jette Guggenheimer (1771-1839) to both his new wife and her late husband. They had five surviving children together: Ellen (Helen) (1852-1932), Isaac (1853-1926); Samuel (1858-1940), Morris (Maurice) (1860-1909), and Addie (1866-1921).[13] He became a partner in the store, which was renamed Guggenheimer & Untermyer.[14] In 1853 the partnership between Untermyer and Guggenheimer was dissolved and Untermyer founded his own clothing and dry goods store.[15] Historian Elliott Ashkenazi has argued that changing partnerships amongst Jewish merchants was a common business practice in this period.[16] Untermyer also established a clothing factory in 1860.[17] During the American Civil War he produced military uniforms.[18] Untermyer also invested in a short-lived speculative tobacco manufacturing business with tobacconist Samuel W. Shelton.[19] This ill-judged investment left Untermyer heavily in debt. He was bankrupt at the time of his death in 1866.[20]

The Untermyer family should have been completely ruined by Isadore’s business ventures. In fact it was not. During her marriage to Isadore, Therese Untermyer had been conducting business separately from her husband.[21] Therese Untermyer had employed her nephew (and future son-in-law) Max Siesfeld (1839-1920) to acquire a boarding house in Lynchburg and commercial property in Jonesborough, Tennessee.[22] Her first husband’s niece, Ellen Cone (1838-1902), lived in the neighboring property.[23] Cone’s sons Moses and Cesar later founded a major textile mill business in North Carolina. Therese Untermyer had also, according to family tradition, placed $10,000 (approx. $269,000 in 2012 dollars) in gold coins in a New York bank before the war.[24] After the end of the war she was reunited with her son Randolph who had been stranded in New York City. During the conflict he had lived with his step-father’s sister, Adelheid Mendelsohn, and her husband.[25] He also received support from his maternal cousin, Adolph Levinger. Levinger, the son of Bernhard Levinger (1803-1876) and Friederike Landauer (1805-1869), had immigrated from Hürben to New York City in 1854.[26] Within a year he had established himself as a lawyer.[27] He had been a student of law back in the German states.[28] Levinger soon became a well-known member of the German-American community from which he drew most of his clients. Meanwhile in postbellum Lynchburg, Therese Untermyer tried unsuccessfully to reestablish her husband’s former retail business, trading for a time in the name of her son, Randolph, on the ground floor of the boarding house.[29] Randolph was still a minor, which meant he could not be held liable for any debts accrued in his name.[30] However, the defeat of the Confederacy had resulted in what historian Steven Ellliott Tripp has described as the erosion of the Lynchburg’s economic base because of the decline of the tobacco trade in the five years following the war.[31] In 1868 Therese conceded defeat. Adolph Levinger helped her dispose of her real estate in Lynchburg and Jonesborough and relocate to New York City.[32] Therese Untermyer reestablished herself as a boardinghouse keeper in the fashionable Stuyvesant Town district.[33]

Business Development

Levinger’s success as a lawyer inspired Randolph Guggenheimer to enroll at the New York University Law School in 1869 at the age of twenty one. As part of his training as a lawyer, he worked as a clerk at his cousin’s law firm. Martin L. Townsend had become a named partner of Levinger in 1860.[34] At this time the legal profession was dominated by the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant elite who sought to exclude immigrant lawyers from other backgrounds. Townsend was an exception to the rule. Lawyers usually practiced on their own or with one or two partners. Even elite lawyers rarely specialized.[35] Marcus J. Waldheimer was to become a named partner in 1870.[36] When Randolph Guggenheimer graduated in 1870 his cousin formed a separate partnership with him to run a new uptown office of his law firm to better serve the needs of the business clients from New York City’s Little Germany district.[37] When Randolph Guggenheimer’s younger half-brother, Isaac Untermyer, enrolled at Columbia Law School in 1872 he became a clerk in the uptown office. After his graduation in 1874 he became an unnamed partner of his half-brother.[38] In the early 1870s the uptown office’s clients included many prominent German-American brewers, bankers, and manufacturers. A good example was the piano manufacturer Steinway & Co.[39] In 1875 disaster struck the firm. Levinger was accused of embezzling a client’s funds. Rather than stand trial he fled the country. As a Republican politician, Levinger had campaigned against corrupt judges associated with the New York City Democratic Party organization known as Tammany Hall, so he had good reason to fear he would not receive a fair trial. Levinger died of yellow fever in Havana, Cuba, in 1876.[40]

The partners in the downtown office decided to separate themselves from the uptown office. Randolph Guggenheimer succeeded in retaining most of Levinger’s German-American clients. In 1883 he formed a new partnership with his half-brothers Isaac and Samuel Untermyer.[41] The firm subsequently became the second American business to bear the name Guggenheimer & Untermyer. Guggenheimer aligned himself with Tammany Hall which gave the firm access not just to their patronage network but later also the national Democratic Party’s network.[42] He served as a commissioner of the common schools and a member of the city’s board of education from 1887 to 1896.[43] This can be seen as an example of the firm’s early adoption of what has become known as corporate social responsibility because this was an unpaid position.[44] Guggenheimer used the position to promote the teaching of the German language in the city’s public school system.[45] This further strengthened the firm’s reputation in the German-American community. Membership of Tammany Hall probably also helped Randolph Guggenheimer become a major real estate investor and developer in the city. Undoubtedly his interest in real estate had been inspired by his mother.[46] Guggenheimer was also a philanthropist. He became the principal benefactor of the city’s newsboys, who sold newspapers on the city’s streets. Many were homeless abandoned children.[47] In November 1897 Guggenheimer was elected president of the newly created Greater New York City Council. The New York Herald observed he was effectively the vice mayor.[48] In this role he served as acting mayor for a month each summer for the next four years. Guggenheimer was probably the highest profile acting mayor the city has ever known.[49]

Although Randolph Guggenheimer was undoubtedly a very successful businessman, the credit for the transformation of Guggenheimer & Untermyer from an uptown firm to a Wall Street firm belongs to his half-brothers Isaac and Samuel. In 1876 Samuel Untermyer had enrolled at Columbia Law School and at the same time became a clerk at Guggenheimer & Untermyer. When he graduated in 1878 he was still too young to appear in court. So he grew a moustache and a beard to disguise his age. After he came of age he lost the beard but retained the moustache for the rest of his life.[50] It very quickly became self-evident that Samuel Untermyer was a master of cross-examination.[51] In 1883 and 1884 he represented Philadelphia German-American John F. Betz, one of the nation’s largest and most wealthy brewers, in a case where the other party was represented by some of the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant legal establishment’s most esteemed men. Untermyer won the case.[52]

The Untermyer brothers aspired to be as wealthy as men like Betz. However, the fees from their legal work were not sufficient to become millionaires. In 1888 Isaac Untermyer was the first to realize that the low rate of return on British government bonds created an opportunity to float American free-standing companies on the London Stock Exchange.[53] These companies could offer British investors a better rate of return albeit with a much higher risk.[54] Between 1888 and 1892 the two brothers successfully promoted several brewing and other industrial companies in London. Samuel Untermyer was also persuaded by Henry Clausen, a member of one of these mostly German-American owned brewing companies, to take over the promotion of a South Dakotan tin mining company, the Harney Peak Co. This last company promotion involved an unsuccessful speculative venture. It was to result in lengthy litigation on the part of dissatisfied investors. Overall the brothers made a considerable sum of money from the promotions. One innovation that resulted from this episode was the firm’s willingness to accept company shares instead of cash in payment of their legal fees. Others became involved in the promotion of American free-standing companies, in particular the British financier H. Osborne O’Hagan. However, with one exception, the Untermyer Brothers were the only American lawyers to act directly as company promoters in the United Kingdom. By 1893 the reputational damage caused by the Harney Peak affair meant the British had lost their enthusiasm for American free-standing companies promoted by the Untermyer Brothers.[55] So Guggenheimer & Untermyer started promoting companies in the United States instead. This may have not been entirely unconnected to the fact that in 1889 the firm had relocated from midtown to 46 Wall Street.[56]

In the late nineteenth century, litigation was no longer the highest paying area of work for corporate law firms. Large fees could be earned from counseling clients on the reorganization of corporations. The corporate lawyer’s principal place of work had moved from the courtroom to the office. Hence the quality of office accommodation and its location became a source of competitive advantage. Guggenheimer & Untermyer was the only Jewish Wall Street firm. All of the other firms were made up of partners from the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant elite with only the occasional outsider.

During the 1890s there was a wave of business consolidation in the form of what were known as ‘trusts.’ Samuel Untermyer organized a number of trusts during the decade, including an enamelware trust for his brother-in-law, Adolph Steinhardt.[57] Steinhardt had married Samuel Untermyer’s sister Addie in 1889.[58] However, the most important of these trusts, the International Steam Pump Company, was organized in 1899 on behalf of the Guggenheim Brothers.[59] The Lehman family, who were close personal friends of Isaac Untermyer, were chosen as the issue house for the new Steam Pump trust. Lehman Brothers had not previously been in the issue house business.[60] A few years later Benjamin Guggenheim acquired an interest in the company.[61]

Guggenheimer & Untermyer remained a family firm until the 1890s with the exception of Moses Weinman (1862-1912), who had joined the firm in 1883.[62] However, the firm’s business had increased to the point where it was necessary to recruit another non-family member. In February 1894, Louis Marshall (1856-1929) from Syracuse in upstate New York became a new named partner.[63] The son of German-American immigrants Jacob Marshall (1829-1914) and Zilli Strauss (1827-1910), he had been a contemporary of Samuel Untermyer at Columbia Law School and had become his closest friend. As well as being one of the nation’s eminent jurists, he was a man with a flawless reputation. Marshall was a liberal Republican which gave the firm access to another political network. He had recently won a landmark case in the New York Court of Appeals which established the right of foreign (out-of-state) corporations, complying with the laws of the State of New York, to buy, sell and improve real estate.[64] The Syracuse Courier observed that this was a “great triumph for Mr. Marshall, closing his remarkable career at the bar of this city.”[65] Marshall was given responsibility initially for the firm’s equity cases and work in the appellate courts.[66] He helped secure many new clients, in particular from the German-American-Jewish community. He argued many cases for the firm in the highest courts of the nation, including the United States Supreme Court. With the firm’s consent, Marshall used some of his income from commercial legal fees to support his civil rights legal work. He assisted organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People[67] and the American Civil Liberties Union.[68] Marshall also fought anti-Semitism in the United States throughout his career. As early as 1891 he requested a new trial for a Jewish client on the grounds that the district attorney had used anti-Semitic language in his summary during the previous trail.[69] For example, together with Samuel Untermyer, he defended the Jewish community against notorious anti-Semite Henry Ford.[70] After Marshall’s death Untermyer continued to call Ford to account. As in the case of Randolph Guggenheimer, this can be seen as an example of the firm’s corporate social responsibility.

In the late nineteenth century Samuel Untermyer mastered self-publicity. By the turn of the century he had become a celebrity lawyer. He also lent money to Adolph Ochs after he purchased the New York Times in 1896.[71] The New York Times became an important ally of the firm. Untermyer’s high profile undoubtedly helped the firm expand its client base significantly beyond the German-American and Jewish-American communities during the 1890s and 1900s. It succeeded in securing clients such as William Rockefeller, William Randolph Hearst, Fruit of the Loom, United Fruit, Encyclopedia Britannica, and British American Tobacco. By the early twentieth century, the firm had become one of the most important corporate law firms in the United States. In 1907 Samuel Untermyer succeeded his half-brother Randolph Guggenheimer as head of the firm after the latter’s death.

By the beginning of the twentieth century corporate law firms had moved from the periphery of the profession to the core. According to legal historian Robert W. Gordon, success for practicing attorneys “was being redefined as partnership in an independent multidisciplinary firm that served exclusively corporate clients.”[72]Guggenheimer & Untermyer was such a firm with a wide range of corporate clients. It had also become one of the largest American corporate law firms. Its clients included many prominent German-American brewing companies. The firm also represented the regional brewers association and the United States Brewers Association. Many of New York City’s garment manufacturers were clients, probably beginning with those who had been guests at Therese Untermyer’s boarding house in the 1870s.[73] Some of the clients were members of the Guggenheimer-Untermyer extended family, for example the proprietors of Cone Mills of Greensboro, North Carolina.[74] Prominent members of Tammany Hall were clients including Andrew Freedman. Freedman’s diverse business interests included mass transit and the New York Giants baseball team.[75] Freedman introduced the firm to the Shubert Brothers. They were to amass a huge network of theatres from New York City to Portland, Oregon, during the first three decades of the twentieth century.[76] The firm had many other clients from the theatrical community on Broadway, including actors and producers such as David Belasco. It won high-profile clients from the mining industry including the Guggenheim Brothers.[77] Samuel Untermyer became Daniel Guggenheim’s most trusted adviser.[78] In 1910 Samuel Untermyer arranged the merger of the Boston Consolidated Copper Co. with the Utah Copper Co. and reputedly earned the highest fee, $775,000 (approximately $19 million in 2011$), ever paid to a lawyer to that date.[79] The firm also became heavily involved in the railroad industry where there were constant business failures and reorganizations taking place.

Before the beginning of the twentieth century Samuel Untermyer had had a very conservative outlook on life. In 1892 he had observed to union leader Samuel Gompers that labor unions were the curse of America.[80] However, during the early years of the twentieth century Samuel Untermyer’s political views shifted and he adopted a liberal outlook. Untermyer caused great offense to much of the business community by advocating for economic and financial reform. In particular he made an enemy of the investment banker J.P. Morgan Sr. Morgan thwarted Untermyer’s chance for a seat in the United States Senate.[81] When Untermyer was appointed counsel to the United States House of Representatives’ Pujo Money Trust Inquiry in April 1912, he was able to use this as an opportunity to interrogate J.P. Morgan Sr. in December of the same year.[82] When Morgan died a few weeks after his interrogation, his son, J.P. Morgan Jr. blamed ‘the beast’ for his father’s death.[83] Moreover, Untermyer alienated some of his Wall Street clients by interrogating them in the same manner as he had J.P. Morgan Sr. Lehman Brothers, for example, never employed Guggenheimer, Untermyer & Marshall again.[84] It is also worth noting that Untermyer, notwithstanding his campaign for economic and financial reform, apparently aspired to assume J.P. Morgan Sr.’s role as the preeminent American business leader.[85] Although Untermyer’s personal wealth was estimated at $50 million in 1922 (approx.. $685 million in 2012 dollars), this was insufficient to achieve his ambition.[86] (The equivalent 2012 economic power of his wealth is estimated at $10.7 billion.) Untermyer remained involved actively in financial reform and according to Senator Robert L. Owen made a major contribution to the Owen-Glass Act of 1913 that created the Federal Reserve System.[87] However, Carter Glass later disputed this account.[88] Undeterred, Untermyer published a rebuttal documenting his contribution to the act.[89]

In 1912 Isaac Untermyer, Samuel Untermyer, and Moses Weinman announced their retirement as partners in the firm. Louis Marshall became the nominal head of the practice. The intention was that the next generation including Untermyer’s two sons, Alvin (1882–1963) and Irwin (1886-1973) and Randolph Guggenheimer’s son, Charles S. (1877-1953), would take the firm forward. However, while Isaac Untermyer and Weinman retired completely from the legal profession, Samuel Untermyer was unable to abandon the life he enjoyed so much.[90] Retiring to Greystone, his Yonkers country estate, was not an option for this hyperactive man.[91] Following Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s election as president in the 1912, Untermyer had hoped to receive recognition by being appointed to a cabinet post or at the very least the ambassadorship to Germany. Wilson, who was aware of alleged sharp practice by Untermyer in the 1890s, declined to so recognize him.[92] After the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Untermyer acted as counsel to the German and Austro-Hungarian embassies. He also assisted an agent of the German government who wished to covertly purchase newspapers to influence public opinion.[93] After America’s entry into the war, Untermyer had to temporarily suspend his sympathies with the Central Powers. After the war, however, he became counsel for an American syndicate that had acquired a one third share of the confiscated Habsburg Estates.[94] Following the resolution of a dispute between the syndicate and Archduke Frederick of Austria, Untermyer represented the Habsburg heir, who was seeking restitution of the other two-thirds of the estates.[95] He also represented eighteen of the heirs of the late Ottoman Sultan Abdul Hamid II, who claimed ownership of oil fields in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq).[96] The former German emperor, Wilhelm II, turned down an offer from Untermyer to help regain his good name.[97] It is probable Untermyer knew he was descended from a court Jew and was proud to play a modern-day version of the same role.

The Democrats lost the White House in the 1920 general election. As a result Untermyer lost any remaining chance of national recognition for twelve years. He had to be satisfied with recognition by the City of New York. In the early 1920s, Untermyer was counsel to the Lusk Committee which investigated the city’s housing problem. From 1927, as special counsel for the Transit Commission, he spent nearly five years in an unsuccessful attempt to unify the city’s subway system.[98] He also resumed an active role in his law firm from 1920. Untermyer was a great believer in new technology and when the early moving picture industry relocated from the East Coast to Hollywood, the firm continued to represent their clients in the industry. Some of them became the heads of major studios such as Warner Brothers.[99] Albert Einstein also became a client of the firm in the early 1920s.[100] This reflected Untermyer’s interest in scientific progress. It may be no coincidence that his grandson, Samuel Untermyer II (1912-2001), later became a prominent nuclear engineer.

By the 1920s Louis Marshall had been active in the American-Jewish community for many years. He had been one of the founders of the American Jewish Committee in 1905. Untermyer now followed suit. He became one of the founders of the American Jewish Congress in 1922 and a vice president of that organization from 1922 to 1927.[101] He was also president of the Palestine Foundation in the United States from 1921 to 1925 and helped raise money to support Jewish settlement in Palestine. Marshall pursued another Jewish settlement project in the Soviet Crimea. Untermyer’s skepticism about this project was to be proved correct in the years after Marshall’s death in 1929.[102]

Marshall’s death was a great blow to the firm. His son, James, left the firm the following year.[103] The firm’s name reverted to Guggenheimer & Untermyer. Untermyer was still involved actively in the firm, for example, representing Hollywood film mogul William Fox in a case during 1930.[104] The growing amount of work in California may partly explain why Untermyer purchased a villa in Palm Springs in the late 1920s.[105] The Willows became Untermyer’s winter home. In 1933 Untermyer became alarmed at events in Germany. In response he became the leader of the most important anti-Nazi boycott organization in the United States.[106] In February 1934 he predicted correctly that if Hitler could not rid Germany of its Jews by any other means he would resort to mass murder. By the time he resigned as leader of the campaign in early 1938 because of his declining health, he was aware that his campaign had not had the desired impact.[107] Untermyer died in 1940, so he did not live to see his worst fears realized.

Social Status

Randolph Guggenheimer, Samuel Untermyer, and Isaac Untermyer are examples of successful upward social mobility during the Gilded Age. Of the three siblings, Isaac Untermyer was the only one to value his privacy. For example, he made sure his 1914 purchase of Carnwath, a 200-acre country estate in upstate New York with a long frontage on the Hudson River at New Hamburgh, received no press coverage.[108] In contrast, Randolph Guggenheimer celebrated his success with conspicuous consumption. He was famous for the banquets he hosted in New York City on which no expense was spared.[109] However, Samuel Untermyer’s conspicuous consumption far exceeded that of Guggenheimer. He adopted the persona of a Southern gentleman and reinvented his merchant father as a tobacco planter and a Confederate officer. In 1899 he purchased Greystone, a country estate in Yonkers, New York, with a frontage on the Hudson River. A few years later, after he learned that his social rival, J.P. Morgan, competed in dog shows, Untermyer constructed kennels at Greystone, in order to house and bred dogs to compete with the financier. The New York Tribune reported that the kennels were managed on “an almost military basis.”[110] However, Untermyer’s real passion was flowers. After Morgan’s death the kennels were dismantled and henceforth the main activity on the grounds of Greystone was the cultivation of flowers. When Untermyer wanted to be outside the public eye, he retreated with his family to his estate at Brant Lake in upstate New York, or during the summer took the waters in the spa resorts of Central Europe. Unlike his siblings, Untermyer married outside of the Jewish faith. His wife, Minnie Carl Untermyer (1857-1924), the daughter of a German-Protestant immigrant journalist, Manilius Carl (1829-1903), became a patron of the arts. She was to invite many well-known writers and musicians to Greystone. During the 1930s, Untermyer also hosted many celebrities at his winter estate in Palm Springs including Albert Einstein, Mayor Jimmy Walker of New York City, and the Hollywood film producer, Ernst Lubitsch.


Historian Stanley Nadel has observed the lack of a sectarian divide between Jews and Christians in the nineteenth-century, German-American immigrant community.[111] Guggenheimer and his Untermyer half-brothers provide evidence in support of this thesis. Christian, German-American clients made an important contribution to the early success of their family law firm. However, like many German-American businesses from an early stage, they broadened the scope of their client base beyond their own ethnic community. This proved to be fortuitous in the interwar period when Prohibition put many of their German-American brewer clients out of business. In the interwar period German anti-Semitism spread across the Atlantic to significant sections of the Christian, German-American community. This led to a schism between many Christian, German Americans and Jewish, German Americans such as the Untermyer-Guggenheimer family. A good example is chain store owner Claude W. Kress’s forceful opposition to Untermyer’s anti-Nazi boycott campaign.[112] It should also be noted that the children of Samuel Untermyer and the other founders did not support the boycott. Unlike their parents, they felt no affinity with Germany. This disassociation with their heritage was probably typical of this generation of Jewish, German Americans and is marked contrast with that of the comparable Christian, German-American generation.

The firm of Guggenheimer & Untermyer was carried forward into the post-World War II era by the children of the founding family. However, they tended to be more conservative than their fathers. They were less willing to be risk-taking entrepreneurs. The most dynamic of them, Lawrence A. Steinhardt, a nephew of the founders, left the firm in 1933 to pursue a new career as an American diplomat. Although the firm expanded, it never achieved the prominence it had enjoyed during the time of Randolph Guggenheimer, Isaac and Samuel Untermyer, and Louis Marshall. By the 1980s it had lost its way, and the decision was taken to dissolve it in 1986.


[1] The information on Samuel Untermyer’s date of birth comes from his 1894 passport application. Some sources, including 1940 obituary in the New York Times, give his date of birth as March 2, 1858. However, later in life Untermyer celebrated his birthday on June 6 rather than March 2. I have previously used the June 6, 1858 in my entry for the American National Biography.

[2] U.S. Census, 8 N District, Rockbridge County, State of Virginia, December 5, 1850; Malcolm H. Stern, First American Jewish Families: 600 Genealogies: 1654-1988: Third Edition (Baltimore: Ottenheimer, 1991), 89.

[3] Lynchburg Virginian, August 4, 1844; Virginia, Vol.9, p.11, R.G. Dun & Co. Credit Report Volumes, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.

[4] Rudolf Glanz, “The German Jewish Mass Emigration: 1820-1880,” American Jewish Archives 22 (1970): 62-63.

[5] Staatsarchiv Augsburg Bezirksamt Krumbach 2829, Acta des konigl. Landesgerichts Krumbach Betreff: Guggenheimer Salomon Kaufmann von Lynchburgh in Nordamerica, dessen Verehelichung mit Landauer Therese von Hürben 1847 [regarding Salomon Guggenheimer, merchant of Lynchburg in North America, his marriage to Therese Landauer from Hürben], 2; Elias Karl Frenkel, Familytree: Elias & Karoline Landauer (Hürben-Krumbach – Munich) (Privately Published, 1964), 16.

[6] Actum Krumbach am 29ten August 1803, Entnommen aus dem Staatsarchiv Augsburg. Bestand Vorderösterreich VÖ Lit 256, Seite 484–488. (Transcribed by Erwin Bosch, October 2009); Rolf Hofmann, Mario Jacoby and Petra Ostenrieder, Jewish Cemetery Oettingen Grave List, 2006, 3, 9; Rolf Hofmann, Wallerstein Jewish Cemetery Grave List, 2005, 16; Isidore Singer, ed., The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. IX (New York: Ktav Publishing House, 1906), 447-448.

[7] Staatsarchiv Augsburg Bezirksamt Krumbach 2829, 2. The conversion from Gulden into dollars is based on the following exchange rates: 1 Gulden = FrF2.14; FrF25.45 = £1; £1 = $4.8666. Wolfgang Knabe, Aufbruch in die Ferne: Deutsche Auswanderungen nach Amerika, Afrika, Asien und Australien zwischen 1803 and 1814 am Beispiel Bayerisch-Schwaben (Augsburg: DMH-Verlagsgesellschaft bR., 1990), 303; The Economist, June 19, 1847; Lawrence H. Officer, “Dollar-Sterling Mint Parity and Exchange Rates, 1791-1834,” Journal of Economic History 43.3, (1983): 591-592.

[8] Who’s Who in New York City and State: First Edition (New York: L.R. Hamersly Company, 1904), 274.

[9] Herbert T. Ezekiel and Gaston Lichtenstein, The History of the Jews of Richmond from 1769 to 1917 (Richmond: Herbert T. Ezekiel, 1917), 293; Lynchburg Virginian, October 30, 1848.

[10] Lynchburg (VA) Hustings Court, Law Order Book No.5, November 1848-September 1852, 39; Virginia, Vol.9, p.11, R.G. Dun Credit Report Volumes, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.

[11] Lynchburg Virginian, December 7, 1848; Lynchburg (VA) Hustings Court, Law Order Book No.5, November 1848-September 1852, 363; New York Herald, May 26, 1899; US Census 1880.

[12] Entry No.20: Marriage Register, Congregation Beth Ahabah Museum and Archives, Richmond, Virginia. Staatsarchiv Augsburg LgäO Krumbach, NA, Hürben Nr.156, Acta konigl. Landgerichts. Krumbach, Verlassenschaft des Handelsmannes Josef Guggenheimer zue Hürben 1852 [Estate of the merchant Josef Guggenheimer], 23; Staatsarchiv Augsburg NA Augsburg LG 272/1874.; Lynchburg (VA) Hustings Court, Chancery Court and Law Order Book: Justices: February 1846-August 1849, 469. Lynchburg (VA) Hustings Court, Chancery Court and Law Order Book: Justices: February 1846-August 1849, May 4, 1847, 84.

[13] Grave marker, Salem Fields, New York City transcribed by Frank Untermyer. “Isaac Untermyer, Lawyer, Dies At 73: Practiced Law With Brothers, Samuel and Randolph, in City for Many Years,” New York Times, September 1, 1926.

[14] Letter from Phillip W. Rhodes, Research Librarian, Jones Memorial Library to Frank Untermyer, great-grandson of Isidor Untermyer, September 21, 1990; Lynchburg Virginian, April 4, 1850; Lynchburg Courthouse, Untermyer v. Shelton Case File, p.17.

[15] Phillip W. Rhodes, Research Librarian, Jones Memorial Library to Frank Untermyer, September 21, 1990; Untermyer v. Shelton Case File, pp.9, 13.

[16] Elliott Ashkenazi, The Business of Jews in Louisiana, 1840-1875 (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1987), 74.

[17] Lynchburg Virginian, January 19, 1860.

[18] Lynchburg Virginian, December 9, 1862.

[19] Untermyer v. Shelton Case File, 168-171.

[20] Lynchburg News, March 28, 1866; Virginia, Vol.9, p.83, R.G. Dun Credit Report Volumes, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School; Rhodes letter.

[21] Sherrod Library, East Tennessee State University, Johnston City, Washington County Deed Book Vol. 38, 572-573.

[22] Lynchburg Corporation Court, Deedbook W: December 1859 to January 1863, 479-80. Sherrod Library, East Tennessee State University, Johnston City, Washington County Deed Book Vol. 38, 572-573.

[23] Jonesboro District, Washington County, State of Tennessee, U.S. Census, August 15, 1860.

[24] Charlotte Himber, Famous in Their Twenties (Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries Press, 1970), 59.

[25] New York Daily Tribune, January 19, 1901; 1860 Census

[26] Cornelius Grinnell, February 24, 1854, Unpublished Manuscript, Passenger Lists of Vessels Arriving in New York, New York, 1820-97, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG36, M237, Roll 136, National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[27] Wilson’s Business Directory of New York City (New York: John F. Trow, 1855), 235; “Curious Case – A Client Prosecuting His Lawyer,” New York Times, February 4, 1856, 6.

[28] A List of Aliens by the Master of the Fame, December 17, 1853, Unpublished Manuscript, HO3/71, Home Office: Aliens Act 1836: Returns and Papers, – 1853 Oct-Dec, United Kingdom National Archives, Kew Gardens.

[29] Lynchburg Virginian, September 21, 1867; Lynchburg Virginian, January 1, 1868.

[30] Virginia, Vol.9, p.150, R.G. Dun & Co. Credit Report Volumes, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.

[31] Steven Elliott Tripp, Yankee Town, Southern City: Race and Class Relations in Civil War Lynchburg (New York: New York University Press, 1997), 183-184.

[32] Lynchburg Corporation Court Deed Book Aug. 1866 to Jan. 1870, 342, 561-563.

[33] H. Wilson, Trow’s New York City Directory for the Year Ending May 1, 1870 (New York: John F. Trow, 1870), 1117.

[34] State of New York, Documents of the Assembly of State of New York, Ninety-fifth Session – 1872, Vol.6, No.71, Part 2: Charges Against Justice G. Barnard, and Testimony Thereunder, Before the Judiciary Committee of the Assembly (Albany, 1872), 769; “The New-York Bar,” New York Times, 16 February 1870; “The Bar Association,” New York Times, 10 January 1872; “Obituary Notes,” New York Daily Tribune, 31 October 1896.

[35] Robert W. Gordon, “The American Legal Profession, 1870-2000” in Michael Grossberg and Christopher Tomlins, eds., The Cambridge History of Law in America: Vol. III: The Twentieth Century and After (1920 -) (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 75-77.

[36] Charges Against Justice G. Barnard, 769.

[37] General Alumni Catalogue of New York University, 1833-1906: Law, Graduate, Pedagogy, Veterinary, Commerce and Collegiate Division Alumni (New York: General Alumni Society, 1906), 10. “A Lawyer’s Rapid Life,” Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, June 3, 1876, 2 [Reprinted from the New York Sun]; H.C. Ulman, Lawyers’ Record and Official Register of the United States (New York, A.S. Barnes & Co., 1872), 752.

[38] New York Times, September 1, 1926, 23.

[39] Dun Credit Ledgers, New York City, Dun & Bradstreet Collection, Baker Library, Graduate School of Business Administration, Harvard University, Vol.373, 1503, 4 November 1874; Steinway & Sons Records and Family Papers, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution, The William Steinway Diary: 1861-1896, 12 June 1863, 9 May 1873.

[40] Since Levinger never stood trial, it was never proven in a court of law that he embezzled the funds. “Alleged Flight of a Bank’s Attorney,” New York Times, February 28,1876; “Foreign,” Buffalo Evening Republic, May 31, 1876; Milwaukee Daily Sentinel, June 3, 1876; “The German Up-Town Savings Bank,” New York Times, August 8, 1876; New York City, Vol.373, p.1503, Dun Credit Report Volumes, Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard Business School.

[41] “R. Guggenheimer Dead,” New York Daily Tribune, September 13, 1907.

[42] D.T. Lynch, “Boss” Tweed: The Story of a Grim Generation (New York: Blue Ribbon Books, 1927), 377.

[43] Brooklyn Eagle, July 11, 1889, 4; Brooklyn Eagle, August 6, 1899, 4; Henry Hall, ed., American Successful Men of Affairs: An Encyclopedia of Contemporaneous Biography (New York, New York Tribune, 1895), 282-3; New York Times, September 25, 1887, 3; New York Times, November 3, 1887, 5; Theodor Lemke, Geschichte des Deutschthums von New York von 1848 bis auf die Gegenwart (New York, T. Lemke, 1891), 105.

[44] Theodore J. Lowi, At the Pleasure of the Mayor: Patronage and Power in New York City, 1898-1958 (New York, Free Press of Glencoe, 1964), 31.

[45] Richmond Times Dispatch, September 13, 1907, 1; Lemke, Deutschthums, 104-105.

[46] Sophie Guggenheimer Untermeyer and Alix Williamson, Mother is Minnie (Garden City, NY., Doubleday, 1960), 59. Tammany Hall was a society that required membership. All three men were members and Guggenheimer is listed as a sachem (officer) of the society. E. Vale Blake, History of the Tammany Society or Columbian Order from its organization to the present time (New York, Souvenir Publishing, 1901), 188.

[47] “Newsboys at a Banquet: Enjoy a ‘High Old Time’ as Guests of Mr. Guggenheimer,” New York Times, February 23, 1901.

[48] “Vice Mayor of New York,” New York Herald, December 26, 1897.

[49] “Chat with the Acting Mayor of New York,” New York Evening World, August 10, 1901.

[50] Himber, Famous In Their Twenties, 55.

[51] Francis L. Wellman, The Art Of Cross-Examination (New York: Macmillan, 1928), 347-363.

[52] “Mr. Betz Wins His Suit,” New York Times, May 9, 1884; New York State Archives, J2002 New York Court of Appeals, Records and Briefs of Baur v. Betz (1885), Respondent’s Brief, 3.

[53] Mira Wilkins has defined the freestanding company as a “free-standing” unit in the home (headquarters) country operating outside the headquarters nation in another country.

Mira Wilkins, “The Free-Standing Company Revisited” in Mira Wilkins and Harm Schröter, eds., The Free-Standing Company in the World Economy, 1830-1996 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3.

[54] “British Gold in America,” New York Herald, July 21, 1889.

[55] Richard A. Hawkins, “American Boomers and the Flotation of Shares in the City of London in the late Nineteenth Century,” Business History 49.6 (2007), 746-766.

[56] “Four Paper Plants Sold,” New York Times, January 4, 1890; Geschichte des Deutschthums, 103-6; Anon., American Plumbing Practice (New York, The Engineering Record, 1896), 149; Anon., The Bank of America: A Brief Account of an Historic Financial Institution and its Site (New York, The Bank of America, 1918), 36.

[57] “Enamel Ware Trust Organized,” New York Daily Tribune, January 22, 1899.

[58]New York, Marriages, 1686-1980,” index, Adolph M. Steinhardt and Addie Untermyer, 10 Apr 1889, FamilySearch (accessed October 7, 2013).

[59] “Steam Pump Makers Combine,” New York Times, March 9, 1899.

[60] A Centennial: Lehman Brothers, 1850-1950 (New York: Lehman Brothers, 1950), 30-31; Columbia University, Herbert H. Lehman Papers, Hebert H. Lehman Oral History Volume 1, 82-83.

[61] “Steam Pump Co. Expands,” New York Sun, May 2, 1906.

[62] Weinman does not appear to have been a member of the Guggenheimer-Untermyer extended family. “Moses Weinman,” New York Daily Tribune, April 12, 1912; “Moses Weinman,” New York Times, April 14, 1912.

[63] Lucinda Marshall, The Marshall Family Tree (Phoenix: Privately Published, c.1979).

[64] “Taint on Titles Removed,” New York Herald, January 17, 1894.

[65] “To Go To New York: Louis Marshall Will Join a Metropolitan Law Firm,” Syracuse Courier, January 19, 1894.

[66] “Changes in a Law Firm,” New York Herald, February 14, 1894.

[67] Ben Aaron, “Louis Marshall – Champion of Human Rights,” Canadian Jewish Chronicle, August 31, 1956.

[68] Lucille Miller, Education of an American Liberal (New York: Horizon Press, 1954), 171.

[69] “Race Prejudice in Court,” New York Sun, May 8, 1891.

[70] Victoria Saker Woeste, Henry Ford's War on Jews and the Legal Battle Against Hate Speech (Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 2012).

[71] New York Times Archive, Samuel Untermyer to Adolph S. Ochs, June 8, 1899.

[72] Gordon, American Legal Profession, 93.

[73] “Fraud is Charged,” New York Times, April 10, 1889.

[74] “Breach of Contract Suit,” Raleigh News & Observer, February 25, 1896; Paula Kepos, ed., International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.8 (Detroit, St James Press, 1994), 120; Walter C. Noyes, ed., Making of the Modern Law: Trials 1600-1926: Francis A. Lazenby, Etc., Plaintiff against International Cotton Mills Corporation, and Others, Defendents (Gale: Belmont, CA, 2012).

[75] “Andrew Freedman Dies of Apoplexy,” New York Times, December 5, 1915. “No Baseball Trust,” New York Times, September 26, 1901; James D. Hardy, Jr., The New York Giants Baseball Club: The Growth of a Team and a Sport, 1870-1900 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co, 1996), 156-191.

[76] Jerry Stagg, The Brothers Shubert (New York: Ballantine Books, 1969), 42-45, 234; The Shubert Foundation, “About Us,” (accessed October 7, 2013).

[77] Harvey O’Connor, The Guggenheims: The Making of an American Dynasty (New York: Covici Friede, 1937), 109.

[78] O’Connor, The Guggenheims, 109.

[79] “Copper Merger Ratified,” New York Times, January 6, 1910; “Untermyer $775,000 The Biggest Fee Yet,” New York Times, 27 January 1910.

[80] Samuel Gompers, Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography, Vol.1 (New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.), 346.

[81] “Charge That Morgan Defeated Sheehan,” New York Times, May 31, 1911.

[82] “To Broaden Money Trust Investigation,” New York Sun, April 23, 1912.

[83] Archives of The Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, Papers of J.P. Morgan, Jr., Box 9, J.P. Morgan, Jr. to Herbert L. Satterlee, March 18, 1913; Box 32, J.P. Morgan, Jr. to J.P. Morgan, 11 January 1913.

[84] Nanette Dembitz, The Fox And “The Reptile” (Unpublished Manuscript, c.1964), 9.

[85] Yale University Library, Edward M. House Diary: Volume 1: 1912 September 25 – 1913, 162.

[86] Arthur Pound and Samuel Taylor Moore, eds., They Told Barron: Conversations and Revelations of An American Pepys in Wall Street: The Notes of Clarence W. Barron (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1930), 132.

[87] Robert L. Owen, The Federal Reserve Act (New York: The Century Co., 1919), 108-109.

[88] Carter Glass, An Adventure In Constructive Finance (Garden City and New York: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1927), 106-107.

[89] Samuel Untermyer, Who is Entitled to the Credit for the Federal Reserve Act? An Answer to Senator Carter Glass (New York: The Author, 1927).

[90] Richard A. Hawkins, “The Marketing of Legal Services in the United States, 1855-1912: A Case Study of Guggenheimer, Untermyer & Marshall of New York City and the Predecessor Partnerships,” American Journal of Legal History (forthcoming in 2013).

[91] “Greystone Brings $171,500: Samuel Untermyer Buys the Late Samuel J. Tilden’s Country Seat – Will Occupy the House,” New York Times, June 8, 1899.

[92] Colonel House reports in his diary that Wilson was aware of Untermyer’s alleged sharp practice, but he does not say how Wilson knew. Senator Carter Glass is a possible informant. Alternatively Wilson might have read the press coverage of the Columbia Straw Paper scandal a few years earlier

[93] Richard A. Hawkins, “The ‘Jewish Threat’ and the Origins of the American Surveillance State: A Case Study of the Untermyer Family,” Australian Journal of Jewish Studies 24 (2010): 74-115.

[94] “Hapsburg Estates Pass Into Control of American Group,” New York Times, September 12, 1921.

[95] “£50,000,000 Estate Claim,” [London] Times, September 13, 1921; “Get Third Interest In Hapsburg Estate,” New York Times, September 13, 1921.

[96] “To Fight For Billion And Rich Oil Lands For Sultan’s Heirs,” New York Times, December 2, 1922.

[97] Hoover Institution Archives, Karl H. Von Wiegand Papers, 1911-61, Box No.21, Samuel Untermyer to Wiegand, August 18, 1921; Wiegand to Samuel Untermyer, September 8, 1921.

[98] “Untermyer Resigns; Will Fight Delaney and Dahl On Transit,” New York Times, June 22, 1931.

[99] Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University, Untermyer File, E.W. Russell to C.E. Lovejoy, February 1, 1938.

[100] The Jewish National and University Library, Albert Einstein Papers, 45 159, Albert Einstein to Samuel Untermyer, September 15, 1921. [Translated by Dr. Peter Brown]

[101] “Congress of Jews Pass Constitution,” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 23, 1922; American Jewish Yearbook, Vol.29 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1927), 159.

[102] Richard A. Hawkins, “Samuel Untermyer and the Zionist Project: An Attempt to Reconcile the American ‘Melting Pot’ with Zionism,” Australian Journal of Jewish Studies 21 (2007): 114-153.

[103] “James Marshall, Lawyer, Is Dead; Ex-Member of Board of Education,” New York Times, August 12, 1986.

[104] Upton Sinclair, Upton Sinclair Presents William Fox (Los Angeles, The Author, 1933).

[105] The Willows Historic Palm Springs Inn, “History Happened Here… And Still Does,” (accessed October 7, 2013).

[106] Richard A. Hawkins, “’Hitler’s Bitterest Foe’: Samuel Untermyer and the Boycott of Nazi Germany, 1933-38,” American Jewish History 93.1 (2007) 21-50.

[107] “Untermyer Brands Nazi Rule by Extermination,” San Francisco Chronicle, February 14, 1934.

[108] “The Real Estate Field,” New York Times, May 2, 1914; “New Hamburgh Property Is Sold,” Poughkeepsie Eagle-News, June 18, 1925; “Carnwath Is Sold,” New York Evening Post, June 17, 1925; “Isaac Untermyer Sells Carnwath,” New York Times, June 18, 1925.

[109] “Topics of the Times,” March 2, 1899; “New York Freak Dinners,” Salt Lake Herald, May 27, 1903.

[110] “Pure Blood Collies: Samuel Untermyer Adds a $3,500 Dog to His Kennels,” New York Tribune, May 2, 1905

[111] Stanley Nadel, “Jewish Race and German Soul in Nineteenth-Century America,” American Jewish History 71.1 (1987): 6-26.

Richard A. Hawkins, “Samuel Untermyer and the Zionist Project: An Attempt to Reconcile the American ‘Melting Pot’ with Zionism,” Australian Journal of Jewish Studies 21 (2007): 114-153.

[112] “Kress Flays Anti-Nazi Boycott,” The Southern Israelite, February 19, 1937, 1.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Samuel Untermyer
  • Coverage 1858-1940
  • Author
  • Website Name Immigrant Entrepreneurship
  • URL
  • Access Date July 20, 2024
  • Publisher German Historical Institute
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update August 22, 2018