Michael Gratz (1739-1811)

Brothers Barnard Gratz and Michael Gratz were merchants and land speculators from the Prussian occupied territory of Silesia whose commercial enterprises connected Philadelphia to port cities in other continental American colonies, the Caribbean, and Europe, and to the North American frontier.

Updated: February 10, 2015


Brothers Barnard Gratz (born Issachar Ber ca. 1737, in Langendorf, Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia; died April 20, 1801, Baltimore, Maryland) and Michael Gratz, (born Yehiel ca. 1739, in Langendorf, Silesia, Kingdom of Prussia; died September 8, 1811, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) were merchants and land speculators from the Prussian occupied territory of Silesia whose commercial enterprises connected Philadelphia to port cities in other continental American colonies, the Caribbean, and Europe, and to the North American frontier.[1] The Gratzes’ business interests intersected with the political upheaval of the second half of the eighteenth century, and their own setbacks, opportunities, and successes were often tied up, first, with the currents of the powerful but strained British Empire and, later, the young American republic. The Gratzes tapped into an ethnic/religious network that linked them to fellow Jews in the local region and in other Atlantic ports. This network supported their religious practice and reinforced their separate ethnic identity, but it also provided an entrée into the dominant economic culture. Through their successful commercial endeavors they gained acceptance among their Gentile contemporaries.

Family and Ethnic Background

Long before Barnard and Michael Gratz made their way to America, their grandfather Jonathan Bloch, a scholar and religious leader, who was born in Cracow (or Kraków) and educated in Prague, settled in Langendorf, Silesia. He was one of the first Jews to settle in Langendorf, and he established several Jewish communal institutions, including a cemetery, synagogue, and school. Jews in central and eastern Europe were invariably defined as outsiders and were often persecuted. They usually lived in their own homogenous, self-sustaining communities, sometimes by decree of the Christian authorities in the territory and sometimes by choice. Jews embraced this segregation because it provided them with a familiar system for interactions in which they dealt almost exclusively with each other. This enabled them to minimize ever-problematic relations with Christians. While Jews generally lived in insular communities, they still depended on the hospitality of host territories. At best, authorities imposed harsh restrictions and charged onerous taxes in exchange for communal autonomy. Territorial lords regulated many aspects of Jews’ lives including the kind of work in which they could engage. They also curtailed the growth of Jewish communities by restricting the number of marriage licenses that families could obtain for their sons, which forced younger sons to move away from home. Jews were subject to other onerous burdens such as excessive taxes and, often, they were forced to wear distinctive clothing that identified them as Jews. Circumstances improved or deteriorated intermittently according to the whims of rulers and their officials. Thus the status of Jews was perpetually tentative.[2]   

Silesia had been under the control of various noble houses and independent duchies since the Middle Ages, and culturally many of its inhabitants drew closer to inhabitants in the German and Czech lands by the early modern period. By the time the Gratzes’ grandfather arrived in Langendorf during the seventeenth century, the region had come under Austrian Habsburg rule. Although Jonathan Bloch held a leadership position in Langendorf’s Jewish community, his son, Shlomo Zalman, was not shielded from the harsh restrictions that constrained the lives of Jews. He made his way to the Polish village of Grodzisko (presently known as Grodzisk Wielkopolski or Grätz in German) west of Posen toward the end of the seventeenth century in search of better conditions. Not long after his move, however, the region was subject to foreign invasion and Jews became victims of persecution in the midst of the subsequent upheaval. Those who survived the devastation fled. Shlomo Zalman returned to Langendorf some time after the turn of the eighteenth century.[3]

Shlomo Zalman and his wife (her name, parentage, and background are unknown) had four sons and two daughters. Barnard and Michael were the youngest. Their family observed Jewish laws and traditions, and their sons received a Jewish education that was oriented toward the study of Torah. Shlomo Zalman and his wife died in the 1740s leaving Barnard, Michael, and their unmarried sister, Leah, in the care of their elder brothers Hayim and Jonathan. The two older brothers were purveyors of alcoholic beverages, Hayim in Tworog, and Jonathan in Gross-Strehlitz, both towns near Langendorf. This was one of a few profitable occupations open to Jews. The exclusive and expensive license was only available through the patronage of a local count. The license allowed the dealer to supply alcohol in a given area and protected him from competition.[4] Hayim and Jonathan’s relatively secure livelihood obligated them to provide not only for their dependent siblings but also for their extended family, which included the family of their sister Gittel. She was married to her cousin Jonathan Bloch, who had several siblings.[5] The bonds between the Gratzes and the Blochs were especially important for Barnard and Michael Gratz when they eventually left Langendorf.

Just as trying conditions caused the Gratzes’ grandfather and father to migrate, they also gave rise to the family’s dispersal. The Gratzes’ cousins joined the steady trickle of central European Jews making their way westward at the time. Sometime during the 1740s they departed Silesia, which had been conquered by Prussian forces under Frederick the Great in 1742 and incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia. Solomon Bloch settled in London and established a mercantile business there, and his brother Jacob made his way to Philadelphia, each adopting the Anglicized surname Henry along the way. Solomon and Jacob Henry’s move paved the way for their younger cousins Barnard and Michael Gratz, who followed them a few years later.

Barnard Gratz left Langendorf in 1748. He traveled to London via Holland. No surviving source accounts for the time he spent in London. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1754 and took over his cousin Jacob Henry’s position as clerk to Jewish merchant David Franks. Barnard arrived in Philadelphia equipped with a knowledge of English and bookkeeping skills. It is likely that Solomon Henry organized a clerkship for him or that he received some training in Henry’s own business establishment during his sojourn in London. Michael left Langendorf for Berlin in 1750. He found employment there with Itzik and Moses Ries, descendants of the founder of Berlin’s Jewish community and owners of one of the oldest Jewish businesses in the city. By 1752, Michael was on the move again: first to Amsterdam, then London, and from there to the East Indies.[6] There is little information about Michael Gratz’s time in the East Indies other than that he left London in about 1753 and that in 1759 he joined Barnard in Philadelphia.

Adverse economic, political, and social conditions in Silesia contributed to the Gratzes’ departure and the consequent dispersal of the family, but the prospect of participating in a vibrant Atlantic world trade also drew them westward. Even if financial failure was widespread among merchants operating in the Atlantic world and success was far from certain, when the Gratzes departed Silesia they could each hope to make a modest living as traders.

Business Development

Barnard Gratz was approximately seventeen years of age when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1754. His boss, David Franks, was the scion of a mercantile family whose kinship trade network linked London, New York, Philadelphia, and ports in the Caribbean. Franks, a ship-owner, imported manufactured goods and commodities from Europe, the East Indies, and other British colonies. He was also involved in the frontier Indian trade, land speculation, and victualing the British Army.[7] As a clerk working under David Franks’ wing, Gratz gained valuable technical experience that was necessary for participating in Philadelphia’s retail economy, Atlantic commerce, and the Indian trade. Likewise, while performing his duties for Franks, Barnard Gratz became acquainted with a large and diverse set of merchants and traders. Connections with associates would be critical for conducting trade successfully because merchants and traders relied on colleagues to extend credit and serve as agents and factors. Building relationships of trust was, therefore, crucial for Gratz’s success. The merchants and traders with whom he developed relationships while working for Franks facilitated his entry into trade when he set out on his own and some of them would remain his associates for the rest of his career.

In addition to running his dry goods business and a shipping enterprise, much of David Franks’ attention was focused on the western frontier when Barnard Gratz arrived in 1754. With his London-based mercantile kin, and as the owner of a fleet of ships, David Franks was well placed to import goods for the Indian trade and to export furs and skins. His colleague Joseph Simon, a Jewish merchant who lived in Lancaster, extended Franks’ chain of commercial interaction, serving as a middleman between Franks in Philadelphia and settlers in the western reaches of the colony of Pennsylvania. The rich agricultural lands of the mid-Atlantic attracted settlers who pushed toward and beyond the Appalachian Mountains. The growing population translated to an increase in the demand for manufactured goods in these regions, which Simon was well placed to serve. Simon was also well placed to collaborate with Franks in the Indian trade on the frontier, which was spurred by a high demand for furs and deer skins in Europe. Traders who penetrated deep into the frontier to trade with Indians exchanged imported goods for furs and skins, which they provided to their eastern creditors. In 1754, the year Barnard arrived, burgeoning western settlement and the flourishing Indian trade exacerbated tensions between the British and French who vied for dominance in the region. The Seven Years War, or the French and Indian War as it was called in North America, erupted soon after, largely bringing Franks’ western ventures to a standstill for the time being.[8] Nevertheless, through his connections to Franks and Simon, the west would be central in Gratz’s future endeavors.

Barnard Gratz earned £21 per year working for Franks, roughly equivalent to $1,400 in today’s terms, plus board and lodging. As a clerk, Barnard managed the daily transactions in Franks’ counting house.[9]  While working for Franks, Barnard also engaged in small ventures of his own, selling goods that he had obtained on credit or purchased with money that he had earned. In 1759, having gained sufficient experience and having formed connections with some of Franks’ colleagues, Gratz left Franks’ employ and opened his own shop in Philadelphia selling dry goods, textiles, household good, and jewelry that he had ordered from Moses Franks, David Franks’ London-based brother.[10] Coincidentally, Michael had returned to London from the East Indies in 1758 and Barnard suggested that Michael take over the position as Franks’ clerk. When Michael arrived in 1759, Barnard was about 22 years of age and Michael was 20.

As Barnard had learned during his years as Franks’ clerk, trade was unpredictable and fraught with risk. Prices of goods, shipping, and insurance fluctuated; goods spoiled before they could be sold; and more cataclysmic events resulted in significant losses, such as when ships sank or when Indians attacked horse trains, as occurred on the Pennsylvania frontier in 1754.[11] Merchants were also vulnerable to unscrupulous or unlucky colleagues. One person’s loss impacted his colleagues since commerce connected a chain of associates. Thus when Barnard invited his younger brother to join him in Philadelphia, he warned Michael that he was poor and would not be able to support him, as his own future was far from assured. As a new merchant, Barnard could not take Michael on as a partner, and certainly not as a dependent. He recommended that Michael follow in his footsteps and spend two or three years in Franks’ employ learning the business. He also suggested that just as he himself had done, Michael could do a little business on the side if he saved some of his earnings. Michael arrived in Philadelphia with a good deal of vigor and enthusiasm, however. Judging by the way in which he conducted his affairs before leaving London and when he arrived in Philadelphia, Michael’s venture in the East Indies must have yielded some success. Prior to his voyage he wrote a will leaving approximately £150 sterling (about $7,000 today) to his relatives, and he left goods with his cousin Solomon Henry to sell. He also brought a cargo of goods with him to Philadelphia, and immediately began to sell the rings, hats, silver and gold buttons, and other items he brought to locals. While working for David Franks, he continued to import goods and over the course of the next three years he sent cargoes on vessels bound for Georgia, New York, Halifax, Guadeloupe, St. Kitts, and London.[12]

When the Gratzes arrived in Philadelphia they knew few people but they formed relationships with Jewish peers, most of whom were also newcomers from the German lands who trickled into the Philadelphia area during the 1750s and 1760s.[13] The Gratzes’ connections with their coreligionists fulfilled two needs: they relied on one another for religious and social purposes but they also cooperated in business activities. Many of the Gratzes’ Jewish associates owned small shops in the towns and rural areas surrounding Philadelphia. They would acquire goods that they needed for their stores from their Philadelphia colleagues and provide them with products that were produced locally in return. When he arrived and began selling the goods he brought with him, most of Michael Gratz’s customers were part of this group.[14] It was this cohort who founded Philadelphia’s Jewish community and who formed the Gratzes’ social circle. This network continued to expand to include Jews in other colonies. Nevertheless, while the Gratzes continued to deal with some members of their Jewish cohort in business, they did not limit their set of business associates to Jews. They developed their reputations, built up credit, and cooperated extensively with non-Jews in a range of ventures too.

As the Gratz brothers were establishing their business in the 1760s, they sometimes collaborated with each other and sometimes invested in ventures independently. In addition to selling imports to local customers, they also sent goods in the care of factors to North American and Caribbean ports and served as agents in Philadelphia for their colleagues. The Gratzes’ economic dealings with Captain Isaac Martin illustrate their complicated business arrangements. Martin took some goods to Savannah, Georgia, in 1760, including tobacco owned by both him and Barnard, hats that belonged to Barnard, and other unnamed goods that were joint investments by Barnard and Michael. In return, Martin sent the brothers 70 barrels of rice in payment because he could not get a bill of exchange. Martin also shipped skins to Philadelphia for the Gratzes to sell on his behalf. They worked with a number of other agents including Captain Thomas Bruce, who took a cargo of goods for Barnard to Savannah, Preston Payne, and the partnership of Morre and Finlay in Quebec.[15] The surviving papers provide only a few hints about how they formed these connections. It was Martin, for example, who introduced the Gratzes to Thomas Bruce and it is likely that connections with one associate led to introductions to others. Some of these relationships were short-lived and involved transactions consisting of one or two consignments, but the Gratzes also formed associations that endured for a longer period of time. One of these associations was with David Franks’ Lancaster colleague, Joseph Simon, who began using Barnard as his agent in Philadelphia as soon as Gratz left Franks’ employ in 1759. The Indian trade was just reviving at that time, and as Simon received furs and skins from traders in the Ohio Valley, he sent these to Gratz, whose duties included checking and distributing the peltry to Simon’s other colleagues in Philadelphia and sending them overseas. Gratz also coordinated the transportation of goods from Franks to Simon in Lancaster and procured imported goods and commodities for Simon to sell in his stores and merchandize to provide to Indian traders on the frontier.[16] Michael soon became involved increasingly in these duties too.

Through their involvement in the Indian trade, the Gratzes became associated with George Croghan and William Trent, two of the most active Indian traders in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys. Croghan had spent much time on the frontier since his immigration from Ireland in 1741. He established a series of trading posts along the Ohio River and he could speak the Delaware and Iroquois languages. Because of his excellent relationships with the Indians with whom he traded, William Johnson, superintendent of Indian affairs for the Northern District, made Croghan his deputy. His official responsibilities included presenting the Crown’s plans for the region to the western Indians, and working with the military to secure former French forts. These duties enabled him to advance his personal concerns: he would take large quantities of trade goods with him to sell to the Indians when on official business.[17] David Franks and Joseph Simon supplied goods to Croghan for the Indian trade and through them the Gratzes became associated with him and his partner, William Trent. The Gratzes entered this market during the course of the 1760s, supplying goods to Croghan, Trent, and their other colleagues on the frontier, and receiving and shipping overseas the skins they had procured.[18] However, just as their western trade prospects began to look promising, the trade was once again interrupted. Shortly after the Seven Years’ War officially ended, the frontier quickly became embroiled in another war with Indians, Pontiac’s War.

With commercial prospects on the western frontier greatly diminished, the Gratzes sought new opportunities. They nurtured relationships in New York City and Newport, Rhode Island, both of which were home to established Jewish communities. Their new colleagues introduced them to associates further afield and they continued to expand their network. It was through Isaac Adolphus, their new colleague in New York, and his brother Moses Adolphus in Jamaica, that they became associated with Elias and Isaac Rodriguez Miranda, Jewish merchants in Curaçao who also had contacts in Jamaica. The three parties established a partnership whereby they served as each other’s agents, earning a commission on all business that they handled for the others.[19]

Following the Seven Years War, the North American economy was extremely sluggish, particularly in the dry goods sector.[20] Economic stagnation coupled with the imposition of the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, and Currency Act brought economic hardship but the Gratzes managed to stay afloat. They even added their signatures to the 1765 Non-Importation Agreement in protest of the Stamp Act, despite the impact that interruption of trade with England would have on their business activities in Philadelphia. The Gratzes’ business ventures in the West Indies, including their partnership with the Rodriguez Miranda brothers, and their commercial interactions with Isaac Adolphus’s brother Moses in Jamaica, bolstered their earnings for a while. For several years, the Gratzes sent local produce including apples, potatoes, flour, butter, and Indian corn to the Caribbean. Political events led, once again, to complications, however, and gradually slowed their transactions with their Curaçao colleagues. Toward the end of the decade, tough competition in the West Indies market diminished their returns and their business there petered out. However, they continued to do business in North American ports, including New York, Newport, New Orleans, and Quebec, where they shipped an ever-expanding array of goods, including nails, scythes, sugar, molasses, cotton, soap, coffee, pitch and tar.[21]

When the Seven Years’ War ended in 1763, the French ceded almost all of New France to Britain. In spite of the fact that King George III had signed the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which had prohibited settlement beyond the Appalachians, acquisition of this territory signaled an opportunity for merchants and traders like the Gratzes. In the second half of the 1760s, the Indian trade and land speculation showed signs of recovering. With large numbers of settlers moving westward, speculators rushed to purchase immense tracts of land with the intention of surveying the land, dividing it, and reselling smaller plots to settlers at a profit.  Speculators hoped that the British government would cease enforcing the ban on settlement. Furthermore, they expected the Illinois Country to be exempted from the ban because French settlers were already living along the Mississippi River. Even while they were conducting inter-colonial trade, the Gratzes began to participate in this western land rush by serving as land agents for several people including George Croghan, his half-brother, Captain Edward Ward, who lived in Pittsburgh, and William Murray. They earned commissions on the plots that they sold. In 1765, they joined a group of twenty-two investors who were interested in purchasing land along the Mississippi River. The plan faltered for a while, but the Gratzes found opportunities to purchase their own land beginning in 1767 when Michael acquired a plot together with Levy Andrew Levy in Bedford, Pennsylvania.[22] They also began supplying goods to western traders, including George Croghan, William Trent, and another associate, William Murray, who had stores in Kaskaskia and Fort Chartres in the Illinois Country. They soon set up a branch of their business in Pittsburgh, the center of the fur trade, in order to more efficiently supply their colleagues. Because of the importance of their western concern, Barnard or Michael would spend considerable time in the growing western Pennsylvania community.[23]

Having come through an erratic economic period and with their business prospects looking up, the Gratz brothers, about 29 and 31 years of age, respectively, formalized their collaboration in 1768 by forming the partnership B. and M. Gratz.[24] The partnership boosted their ability to manage their affairs, which involved a host of associates in a variety of locations. For the rest of their careers, one brother usually stayed in Philadelphia to handle matters locally while the other travelled elsewhere to oversee business. In this vein, Barnard Gratz left Michael in Philadelphia and embarked on a journey to London in 1769. The reason for Barnard’s trip was that the Gratzes’ cousin, Solomon Henry, who had managed some of their affairs in London for them, had told them that he had resolved not to engage in any business outside of London because he had suffered significant losses. The Gratzes therefore sought to build relationships with other merchants in London and thereby expand their transatlantic trade.[25] Finding suppliers in London was especially important for the Gratzes at this juncture because Benjamin Franklin had departed for the British capital in 1768 as the representative of a group of land speculators – the Vandalia group – to present a proposal before the Board of Trade to open up western land for settlement. Should the Board approve Franklin’s proposal, the Gratzes planned to have plentiful goods available for the western trade.[26]

Among the first people that Barnard Gratz approached in London were David Franks’ brother and son. Both were wealthy merchants who, he expected, would provide goods for him to ship to Philadelphia. Barnard also nursed the hope that the Franks might employ him as a broker in America. These negotiations might have proved fruitful, given their mutual connection to David Franks, but geopolitics interfered. With non-importation agreements in force once again in the colonies due to growing opposition to British imperial policies, the Franks did not want to take any risks associated with shipping goods to the colonies. Neither were merchant captains willing to load goods on their ships, as many vessels had been prevented from unloading their cargoes in North American ports. After months of fruitless efforts, the disappointed Barnard desperately wanted to return home. He implored Michael to send money to cover the debts he had incurred in London and the cost of his passage. He knew that leaving London without settling his debts would ruin his reputation as a merchant. He would lose his associates’ trust and therefore his access to their credit.

In spite of Barnard’s difficulties in London, the Gratzes’ commercial interests were generally favorable. Michael invested in his first vessel, the Rising Sun, in 1770.[27] One of the brothers was almost constantly on the road, in Williamsburg, Lancaster, and Fort Pitt, for example, overseeing their enterprises. Their western interests flourished. In spite of non-importation agreements, they somehow found a way to acquire trade goods. The Gratzes and their associates shipped more than £30,000 worth of goods to traders William Murray and James Rumsay in Illinois between 1770 and 1773. They also supplied George Croghan, who by 1772 was heavily indebted to the Gratzes, owing them £16,000. The Gratzes were not Croghan’s only creditors to whom he owed a lot of money. He was heavily indebted to a number of Philadelphia merchants. While the Gratzes’ association with him represented the potential for an enormous loss, they also stood to gain a great deal from their relationship. Croghan owned vast quantities of land, much of which lay beyond the Proclamation Line and was yet to be recognized by authorities. Confirmation of his claims would enable him to sell or transfer title to the land and thereby settle his debts. When Barnard returned to Philadelphia from London, Benjamin Franklin and others representing the Vandalia group continued to press Parliament to confirm their purchase of millions of acres of land that had been negotiated with representatives of Indian tribes in the Treaty of Fort Stanwix as reparation for losses in Indian attacks in 1754 and 1763. The group was a consortium of Pennsylvania merchants, including the Gratzes’ Jewish colleagues David Franks and Joseph Simon, and their more recent associates George Croghan and William Trent, who had lost goods in these attacks. In addition to Benjamin Franklin, the consortium included co-investors and supporters, such as William Franklin and Thomas Walpole, a member of parliament. George Croghan’s financial wellbeing depended on the scheme, and, as his creditors, the Gratzes were interested in its success.[28]

Expectations that the British government would confirm the grant and allow a new colony to be founded revitalized the plan that had been hatched in 1765 to purchase land in Illinois.[29] The Illinois group, which included the Gratzes, dispatched William Murray to negotiate with Illinois nations of Indians for land. Murray secured two grants, one in 1773, in which the Gratzes were involved, and one in 1775. (The investors in each grant formed two companies, the Illinois Company and the Wabash Company, respectively.) The Illinois grant was purchased with Indian goods.[30]

Once again obstacles arose and interfered with the Gratzes’ business plans. Claims on land that lay west of the Proclamation Line, including the Illinois grant and other properties that the Gratzes’ debtor George Croghan owned in the Ohio Valley, became embroiled in political conflict. Competing groups of speculators believed that they had purchased the same land, leading to clashes. For example, Governor Dunmore of Virginia began to issue land grants to veterans of the French and Indian War, and George Washington also strove to acquire land in the “new colony.” It was not only other speculators who challenged one another’s claims; the British authorities did too. Fearful of conflict with Indians, the British government took steps to prevent further colonization. In spite of the cooperation of some Indian nations in speculation, other tribes, some of whom had previously been dispossessed of land that was situated east of the Proclamation Line and pushed across the Line, objected to further encroachment. Squatters, who paid no heed to the Proclamation Line or to Indians’ rights, also complicated the situation for speculators. Hoping to claim imminent domain, many immediately set to improving land on which they settled. Thus, in spite of the significant sums that the Gratzes and their associates had invested, their ownership of the land was far from secure, especially when, in 1775, Virginians asserted that the state of Virginia had authority over the entire Ohio Valley.[31]

The Gratzes never articulated their position on the increasing tensions with Britain and it is likely that like many other Americans they were of two minds. On the one hand, resistance to Britain was in their interest as speculators, since it was the British who were preventing speculators from confirming land grants and, consequently, from surveying and selling the land. On the other hand, the trade embargoes, which they had supported by signing the non-importation agreement, hurt their interests as merchants. Scarcities of goods made it extremely difficult to conduct trade. However, unlike many merchants in Philadelphia whose businesses suffered during the years leading up to the Revolution, the Gratzes managed to continue their business activities.[32]

For a while the Gratzes managed to bring in goods for local and western markets and Barnard spent much of his time at their store in Fort Pitt handling business there. At the time, both Pennsylvania and Virginia claimed the region and traders, merchants, and speculators from both colonies did business there. As owners of a store in Pittsburgh, the Gratzes developed associations with Virginians who continued to place orders with them. Some customers were individuals who purchased supplies that they needed for their own purposes. The brothers also filled much larger orders. Together with their Lancaster-based colleague, Joseph Simon, who was also Michael’s father-in-law, the Gratzes supplied the Virginia troops that were stationed in the Ohio Valley to deal with ongoing friction between Indians and settlers.[33] As with other ventures, their accounts reflected profits, but collecting payment proved to be difficult. There was a shortage of cash in the colonies and they spent many months chasing debts. While lobbying Virginia delegates at the 1776 Continental Congress in Philadelphia to settle debts owed by the colony for supplies provided by the Gratzes, the brothers signed an agreement with the Virginia delegates to provide supplies for Virginia troops fighting in the Revolutionary War.[34] Their relationships with Virginia authorities went further. Michael extended loans of £10 000 to Virginia’s members of the Continental Congress. They sold goods to individual soldiers and officers, and some of their Virginia associates served as their agents, procuring Virginia agricultural goods, predominantly tobacco, for the Gratzes and selling some of the Gratzes’ merchandize in Fredericksburg, Virginia.[35]

The Revolutionary War finally interrupted the Gratzes’ and their colleagues’ western ventures but they engaged in other enterprises during the conflict, including investing in several vessels. Michael joined a group of Virginia associates in acquiring vessels that had been seized from the British during the war and auctioned off in Fredericksburg to Americans. Together with his colleague, Henry Mitchell, Michael purchased the sloops Olive and Speedwell. Michael also had a brigantine, Industry, under construction at the time and co-owned Success with Robert Morris – signer of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and Constitution, and financier of the Revolutionary War – and two other signers of the Declaration of Independence. Barnard and Michael were shareholders in several other vessels too.[36] They also became obliquely involved in the commissary business in which their colleague and former employer, David Franks, served as an agent to the contractors who supplied the British Army in America. Local suppliers and farmers stopped selling provisions to the British, forcing them to import food from Britain. The Continental Congress, however, permitted Franks to supply British troops held as prisoners, at the expense of the Crown. Franks utilized the services of many colleagues in order to fulfill the complicated task of victualing the British and Hessian prisoners who were held in camps in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. The Gratzes were responsible for procuring the large quantities of clothing, candles, tobacco, and soap required for the hundreds of British and Hessian prisoners.[37]

The status of land purchases in the Mississippi Valley and several other claims that directly or indirectly affected the Gratzes were still in abeyance. The Illinois and Wabash tracts remained under Britain’s control until Continental forces occupied the Northwest in 1778. At that point, Virginia took control of the region and began to disallow claims on land that had been purchased privately. Shareholders in the Illinois Company, in which the Gratzes had an interest, and the Wabash Company continued to work on persuading the American government to confirm their ownership of the land claims. Many of the investors owned shares in both companies and combined their interests in order to lobby the government. Barnard Gratz was made secretary of the joint operation. In hope of swaying Congress in their favor, the group added a series of influential people to their membership, including jurist James Wilson, Superintendent of Finance of the United States Robert Morris, various military figures, and French diplomats. They also began preparing to lay out towns in the western land claims.[38]

It appeared at the beginning of the 1780s that the Gratzes might realize profits on their land investments, but this hope was soon dashed. The Illinois land claim offered a tantalizing opportunity for profit, and, with American forces in control of the Northwest and signs of the Indian trade reviving, the situation looked promising enough that the Gratzes reopened their Pittsburgh business in 1780. They formed relationships with officials whose roles could enhance their prospects. They took on Colonel John Gibson, an Indian trader who took command of Ohio troops in 1781, as a partner. The lack of specie and the instability of the Continental currency made conducting commerce difficult and, to make matters worse, they faced difficulty collecting payment for goods totaling £1425.16.9 in specie that they had supplied to General George Rogers Clark’s expedition to Detroit. Virginia had funded the expedition but refused to cover Clark’s debt to the Gratzes and Gibson. After much effort, Virginia legislators agreed to allow payment and the debt was finally settled with tobacco certificates in 1784.

Trade debts and uncertain western land claims were not the Gratzes’ only difficulties. The American economy languished following the Revolution. Scores of mid-Atlantic merchants’ businesses failed. When the American colonies were part of the British Empire, merchants benefitted from British policies, which granted them access to British and West Indian goods. The end of the war brought economic strain as the British put protectionist trade policies in place and refused to negotiate a trade agreement with the United States. The falling value of the Continental currency and a shortage of specie made it difficult to pay debts to overseas creditors and the Gratzes’ ventures, like those of many other merchants, suffered.[39] While the Gratzes struggled to call in debts and to track down debtors who seemed to have vanished during the chaos of the war and its aftermath, they were subject to demands and lawsuits initiated by their own creditors. By now the Gratzes were in their late 40s and early 50s, and much of their time in the 1780s and 1790s was thus spent trying to settle their finances, sometimes via lawsuits, and confirm their titles to western land claims. These unresolved financial matters were linked to the business affairs of many of their longtime associates, including David Franks and his family, Joseph Simon, George Croghan, and a series of debtors, via companies and partnerships. Not only were they responsible for settling their own tangled commercial affairs, but those of George Croghan too. Croghan died in 1782 leaving unpaid debts and extensive properties. The Gratzes were named as executors of his will.[40]

The issues relating to western land claims remained unresolved until after the Revolution, at which time claimants hoped to have their titles confirmed by the state and federal governments. Barnard spent a good deal of time in Virginia moving between Williamsburg, Richmond, and Fredericksburg trying to settle his and Michael’s land titles, and representing others’ claims before the Virginia Assembly. Their prospects deteriorated when, in negotiations over the Articles of Confederation, Virginia gave up its western land claims, but only on the condition that the land be transferred to the federal government and not to other claimants. This disqualified the Gratzes and their colleagues’ largest claims in the West, though they, and then their heirs, continued to argue the case for decades until it finally collapsed in 1823.[41] Barnard and Michael Gratz nevertheless profited from other land ventures in Pennsylvania and western Virginia (now West Virginia and Kentucky), and they continued to believe in the economic potential that land speculation represented. They soon found another opportunity for indirectly speculating in land sales by dealing in land certificates. A market in these certificates, which had been issued by some states and the federal government to Revolutionary War veterans as compensation for their service, had developed. Investors bought certificates at discounted rates from veterans who needed money and did not want western lands and then later sold the land at higher prices to settlers.[42]

Michael and Barnard withdrew increasingly from transacting business after the Revolutionary War era. By 1799, both had ceased their business activities. Having received their training under the watchful eyes of their father and uncle and their grandfather, Joseph Simon, Michael’s two oldest sons, Simon and Hyman, took over their father’s business activities, including many in which their uncle, Barnard Gratz, had an interest.[43]

Social Status, Networks, Family

The Gratzes were part of the first wave of German-Jewish immigration to the New World. This wave marked a shift in the makeup of Jews in the Americas. Until the early eighteenth century, Sephardim – that is, Jews of Iberian extraction who dispersed as a result of the Spanish Inquisition and the 1492 expulsion from Spain – far outnumbered Ashkenazim in the Atlantic world. A significant number of Sephardic Jews took advantage of European expansion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, seeking opportunities in Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and, later, British colonies.[44] Sephardic Jews and the Crypto-Jews and New Christians associated with them forged connections that were based on family ties, religious sympathies, and active trading collaboration.[45] This facilitated economic activity in far-flung locations. Family members and colleagues spread out and served as partners and agents.[46] Merchants in Jewish communities came from families who had engaged in trade in the Atlantic world for generations and their trade networks had long been in operation. Philadelphia’s Jewish community developed relatively late compared with other Jewish communities in the New World, and it was Ashkenazim (Jews of central- and eastern-European descent) who predominated. Jews began moving from the German lands to England, Holland, and to the colonies toward the end of the seventeenth century. They differed culturally from Sephardic Jews and were not easily absorbed into Sephardic networks. However, they began establishing similar networks, emulating the patterns and strategies that Sephardim utilized to optimize commercial opportunities.

Connections with other Jews afforded the Gratzes an entrée into the world of commerce. Their cousins Solomon and Jacob Henry supported their emigration and helped to train them, and the Gratzes and Henrys continued to collaborate. After leaving David Franks employ, Jacob Henry established a business in Philadelphia and transacted business with his cousins; Solomon Henry served as the Gratzes’ agent in London until he met with business difficulties.[47] Some of the early business associations that the Gratzes developed once they had settled in Philadelphia were extensions of Solomon Henry’s network in London, Henry mentioned colleagues in London who shared the last name of some of the Gratzes’ American associates, such as Adolphus, Hart, and Franks.[48] And the Henrys introduced the Gratzes to David Franks, who had employed Jacob Henry before Barnard’s arrival. Their connection to David Franks was especially consequential. Franks was the scion of a prominent Jewish mercantile family that had put down roots in the Atlantic world at around the turn of the eighteenth century. David Franks, his father, Jacob Franks, his brothers, Moses and Naphtali, his maternal uncles, and his paternal uncles and cousins were dispersed in various ports and were all eminent merchants with extensive connections throughout the Atlantic world.[49] It was under Franks’ wing that Barnard and Michael learned about conducting business in their new environment. Of equal importance, the Gratzes established connections with a number of merchants and traders with whom they would maintain long-term associations, including Lancaster, Pennsylvania, based Jewish merchants Joseph Simon, and Levy Andrew Levy, and other German Jews who arrived in Pennsylvania and other colonies at approximately the same time that the Gratzes settled.

While German Jews formed the closest bonds with one another, many of them in the region interacted extensively with their Christian countrymen.[50] In fact, it is likely that Joseph Simon and some of the Gratzes’ other German-Jewish colleagues made their homes in rural towns because they could communicate with local German settlers with ease since their mother tongue – Yiddish – was a dialect of German. Most German speakers who came to America in the eighteenth century came from small towns in the southwestern German lands, a region that was relatively confessionally diverse. German Jews lived scattered in small towns and hamlets throughout the German lands and despite widespread anti-Jewish sentiment and legal restrictions that constrained Jews’ lives, Jews and their Christian neighbors worked and lived in close proximity. Following this pattern of interaction in the German lands, German Jews and their German-Christian neighbors in Pennsylvania enjoyed considerable economic interactions and worked together to build their communities.[51]

The Gratzes solidified their economic relationships by marrying kin of members of their network. Barnard Gratz married Richea Mears in 1760. She was the daughter of New York merchant Samson Mears. Their marriage made Barnard kin to Joseph Simon’s wife, Rosa Bunn, a cousin of Mears, whose sister married another Philadelphia colleague, Matthias Bush.[52] By the time Barnard married Mears, he and Joseph Simon were already business associates but the union reinforced the men’s economic connection. The two families were brought even closer together when Michael Gratz married Joseph Simon’s daughter Miriam in 1769. Kin networks such as these were an important feature of Jewish Atlantic trade: they maximized trust and accountability in an environment that was fraught with risk.

The Gratzes’ connections to their Jewish colleagues were significant, especially when they began their careers. Because of the amount of risk involved in commerce, trust among colleagues was critical in the eighteenth-century business culture. With few institutions in place to monitor and regulate associates’ behavior, merchants were cautious about doing business with strangers; and while religious commonalities did not guarantee honesty or diligence, the network facilitated accountability.[53] In addition, new immigrants with no credit or connections had a hard time being trusted, so the Gratzes’ employment with David Franks gave them time to prove themselves and build relationships. The Gratzes’ economic network gradually extended beyond their Jewish cohort. As they built up credit, they developed relationships with non-Jews that were based on pragmatism and mutual economic interests. Successful commercial transactions with Gentiles gradually rendered religious commonality inconsequential and their business associations enabled the Gratzes to assimilate into the broader economic culture.

There were other benefits to Jewish networks, however. A religious network enabled Jews to perpetuate their faith and maintain aspects of their culture. A shared heritage united the Gratzes and their Ashkenazi immigrant cohort even when economic links between them weakened. One element of this was their mother tongue, which was Yiddish. While most of the Gratzes’ correspondence was in English, they sometimes communicated in Yiddish with Jewish colleagues who, like them, had migrated to England and the colonies. Some of their correspondents, such as Myer Josephson of Reading, may have been more comfortable communicating in Yiddish, but it is also possible that he was literate in Yiddish but not in English. When communicating with one another, especially in the first years after they immigrated, they dated Yiddish letters according to the Hebrew calendar, used Hebrew names when addressing one another, and referred to the approach of particular significant dates on the Hebrew calendar.[54]

When the Gratzes arrived in Philadelphia there was no synagogue and barely the rudiments of a Jewish community. A plot of land served as a Jewish cemetery. Nathan Levy, David Franks’ uncle and partner who died a few months before Barnard Gratz arrived in Philadelphia, had purchased the lot in the late 1730s when a family member had died.[55] Philadelphia’s Jews are said to have congregated on a regular basis for prayer in a house in Sterling Alley in the 1740s, however there are no surviving sources that confirm this.[56] The Gratzes nevertheless honored their faith to the best of their ability, observing the Sabbath and holidays. Other Jews slowly trickled into the region over the next three decades and they collaborated in performing rituals and observing the laws that dictated Jewish life. While a synagogue is not a requirement, in traditional observance, a quorum of ten men is necessary for the recitation of certain prayers and so the Gratzes and their peers, who were scattered through the region, relied on each other to attain a quorum. Myer Josephson of Reading, for example, informed Michael Gratz that he would be going to Lancaster to join their quorum on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) and urged Gratz to join them. While the community was not large enough to warrant employing functionaries, there were some members of the community who possessed the skills needed to perform certain religious functions such as circumcision, and ritual slaughtering of animals, without which meat would not be kosher.[57]

It was only in 1761 that Philadelphia’s Jewish community obtained a Torah scroll, which they borrowed from the congregation in New York, and then in 1771, a congregation formally established itself in a house on Cherry Alley and made arrangements to purchase a Torah scroll. By this time, the Gratzes were fairly well established and were integral members of the small congregation. Michael Gratz organized the purchase of prayer books, a Yad, a pointer to be used when reading from the Torah, and Rimonin, coronets for the Torah, which he had crafted for the Philadelphia community.[58] In 1773, the governing body of congregation Kahal Kadosh Mikveh Israel assembled for a meeting with Barnard as president and Michael as one of the board members. Each committed to contribute £10 (approximately $580 today) per year for synagogue and communal use. The size of the community swelled during the Revolution because many members of New York’s Jewish community moved to Philadelphia to escape the British occupation. In 1782, together with a colleague, Barnard Gratz was appointed to find a larger building in which to worship.[59] The Gratzes, who jointly donated £114 to the building fund for the new synagogue, retained their leadership positions in the congregation throughout their lives, with the next generation of Gratzes taking up the reins afterwards.

Barnard Gratz’s brief marriage brought much grief. His infant daughter Frances died in about 1762, and his wife Richea’s death followed in about 1763, leaving Barnard the father of an infant daughter, Rachel. Michael married Miriam Simon a few years later and from that point Miriam cared for Rachel Gratz when her father traveled. Michael and Miriam Gratz had twelve children between 1770 and 1792. Ten of their children survived to adulthood: Frances Gratz Etting (1771-1852), Simon (1772-1839), Richea Gratz Hays (1774-1858), Hyman (1776-1857), Sarah (1779-1817), Rebecca (1781-1869), Rachel Gratz Moses (1783-1823), Joseph (1785-1858), Jacob (1789-1869), and Benjamin (1792-1884).[60] Barnard and Michael Gratz’s children followed a path similar to their parents. The two oldest boys, Simon and Hyman, learned the business from their grandfather, Joseph Simon, in Lancaster for whom they worked as clerks.[61] As they gained more experience they began taking over aspects of Barnard and Michael’s business and then started their own partnership. As each of their younger brothers came of age, Joseph, Jacob, and Benjamin became involved in the firm Simon Gratz & Co.

Barnard’s daughter Rachel, and three of Michael’s daughters – Frances, Richea, and Rachel – married the sons of Barnard and Michael’s Jewish associates, knitting together their families more closely, as Barnard and Michael had each done when they married. Of Michael’s sons, only two married – Simon and Benjamin. Neither married a Jewish woman. There is little information about Simon’s wife, Mary Smith, but Benjamin married Maria Cecil Gist, the granddaughter of Colonel Christopher Gist, a friend of George Washington, and stepdaughter of Charles Scott, the governor of Kentucky. The marriage would have brought Benjamin into the fold of an eminent family, but one that was not Jewish. Upon her death, Benjamin married her niece Anna Maria Boswell Shelby.[62]

As Jews living in colonial America, the Gratzes experienced few barriers to acceptance. They could live where they wanted and participate in all social, economic, and cultural realms. They did have one significant impediment until the late 1780s: they were excluded from political office due to the compulsory Christian oath that officeholders had to swear. The United States Constitution, however, ensured religious freedom and in 1790 Pennsylvania eliminated religious qualifications too.[63] Having arrived as poor immigrants, Barnard and Michael Gratz climbed their way up Philadelphia’s social ladder, joining an educated middle class. Their children were acculturated and educated, and at least some of them went on to earn degrees.[64] They enjoyed friendships with their Gentile contemporaries and together with their colleagues they were among the investors, directors, and administrators of institutions aimed at developing the young republic’s infrastructure such as canals, bridges, roads, and banks. They also participated in cultural and benevolent organizations such as Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, the Athenaeum of Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Institution for the Deaf and Dumb.[65]


Several factors made possible Barnard and Michael Gratz’s integration into Philadelphia’s economic culture and their family’s inclusion in the dominant Anglo-Quaker culture. When the Gratz brothers arrived in Philadelphia, global trade had reached a high point and shaped a good deal of British policy, contributing immensely to the social and cultural shifts that characterized the Atlantic world. At the same time, commonalities and ethnic and communal bonds with other Jews of central and eastern-European origin facilitated their earliest opportunities and made possible their inclusion in an expansive network. Their native Yiddish language also facilitated communication with German-speaking, Christian immigrants in the region. These factors notwithstanding, the Gratzes tenaciously learned the skills they needed to participate in commerce, audaciously took on new challenges, and carefully nurtured their relationships with a host of Jewish and non-Jewish colleagues.

While their religion was a barrier to full inclusion in civic life, economic participation did not require them to renounce or hide their faith. As Jews, Barnard and Michael Gratz and their Jewish cohort experienced few obstacles in creating functional, cooperative relationships with non-Jews. Their inclusion in the economic culture opened the door to their acceptance in society and minimized their marginal status.


[1] There is no decisive birthdate for either brother. A Gratz biographer dates Barnard’s birth at about 1732 and Michael’s a year or two later. See Sydney M. Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz: Their Lives and Times (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1994), 1. Genealogist Malcolm Stern dates Barnard’s birth in 1738, and Michael’s in 1740. See Americans of Jewish Descent: A Compendium of Genealogy (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College, 1960), 64. The year of Michael’s birth is inscribed on his gravestone as 1739. For Yiddish names see Jonathan ben Zevi Bloch, Langendorf, Silesia, to Barnard Gratz, Philadelphia, March 24, 1756, Gratz-Sulzberger Papers, SC-4292, American Jewish Archives (AJA), Cincinnati, OH (copies from Gratz Family Papers, 1753-1916, P-8, American Jewish Historical Society, NY).

[2] Paul Johnson, A History of the Jews (New York: Harper Perennial, 1987), 233-310; Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times (West Orange: Behrman House, 1961), 131-142, 157.

[3] Sydney M. Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 2.

[4] Ibid., 4.

[5] Hayim [Hyman] Gratz, Silesia, to Michael Gratz, 1759, in William Vincent Byars, ed. B. and M. Gratz, Merchants in Philadelphia, 1754-1798: Papers of Interest to Their Posterity and the Posterity of Their Associates (Jefferson City: Hugh Stephens Printing Co., 1916), 37; Jonathan ben Zebi Bloch, Langendorf, to Barnard Gratz, Philadelphia, March 24, 1756, Gratz-Sulzberger Papers, SC-4292, AJA; Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 6.

[6] Sydney M. Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 6, 9-13.

[7] Mark Abbott Stern, David Franks: Colonial Merchants (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2010).

[8] Fred Anderson, Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 (New York: Knopf, 2000); Eric Hinderaker, Elusive Empires: Construction Colonialism in the Ohio Valley, 1673-1800 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

[9] See Barnard Gratz account with David Franks, 1756-1760, McAllister Collection, Box 2, HSP; David Franks Account Book 1757-1762, Etting Collection, HSP [This item is mislabeled. It was Barnard Gratz’s Day Book]. For currency conversion see John J. McCusker, How Much Is That In Real Money?: A Historical Commodity Price Index for Use as a Deflator of Money Values in the economy of the United States (Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 2001).

[10] Barnard Gratz, Philadelphia, to Solomon Henry, November 20, 1758, Etting Collection, Gratz Correspondence 1695-1780, HSP; Pennsylvania Gazette, Aug. 2, 1759, June 26, 1769; Aug. 21, 1760; Nov. 6, 1760.

[11] Cathy Matson, “Thoughts on the Field of Economic History,” in The Economy of Early America, Cathy Matson, ed. (University Park: Pennsylvania State University, 2006), 13; Sheryllynne Haggerty, “Merely for Money?”: Business Culture in the British Atlantic 1750-1815 (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2012), 2, 34-44.

[12] Michael Gratz’s Will, April 2, 1759, in W. V. Byars, B and M Gratz, 41; Michael Gratz Ledger 1759, Etting Collection, HSP; Byars, B and M Gratz, 13; John J. McCusker, How Much Is That In Real Money?.

[13] It is unclear how many Jews settled in and around Philadelphia at the time. Ira Rosenwaike estimates that there were 250 Jews in Philadelphia in 1790 based on his analysis of the census. See On The Edge of Greatness: A Portrait of American Jewry in the Early National Period (Cincinnati: American Jewish Archives, 1985). Wolf and Whiteman number the community at one hundred people, Edwin Wolf and Maxwell Whiteman, The History of the Jews of Philadelphia from Colonial Times to the Age of Jackson (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1957), 53; William Pencak estimates that there were about one hundred Jews in Pennsylvania from the 1760s until the 1790s, except during the American Revolution. See “The Jews and Anti-Semitism in Early Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 126, No. 3 (2002), 366.

[14] Michael Gratz Ledger, Etting Collection, HSP.

[15] Isaac Martin, Savannah to Barnard Gratz, Philadelphia, March 20, 1760, McAllister Collections, HSP; Thomas Bruce, Savannah, to Barnard Gratz, Philadelphia, May 25, 1760, Etting Collection, Gratz Corespondence, HSP; Michael Gratz, Philadelphia, to More and Finlay, Quebec, November 1, 1763, Barnard and Michael Gratz Correspondence and Business Papers, APS.

[16] There is a collection of letters from this period between Barnard Gratz and Joseph Simon in the McAllister Collection, HSP. See also Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 90-100.

[17] Fred Anderson, Crucible of War, 25-30, 79-85; Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan: Empire, Nation, and Revolutionary Frontier (New York: Hill and Wang, 2007), 40-42; Eric Hinderaker, Elusive Empires, 40-41; A.T. Volwiler, “George Croghan and the westward Movement, 1741-1782,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (PMHB), Vol. 46, No. 4 (1922); Nicholas Wainwright, “An Indian Trade Failure: The Story of the Hockley, Trent and Croghan Company, 1748-1752,”Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol 72, No 4 (Oct. 1948).

[18] Robert Callender, Pennsborough to Barnard Gratz, Aug 12, 1766, Etting Collection, Gratz Correspondence, HSP.

[19] Letters between the Gratzes and Isaac Adolphus, and between the Gratzes and Isaac and Elias Rodriguez Miranda, McAllister Collection, HSP; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 71-79.

[20] Thomas Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina,1986).

[21] Letters between the Gratzes and Isaac Adolphus, McAllister, HSP; Peter Livingston, New York, to Michael Gratz, Nov. 27, 1767, McAllister collection, HSP;; Stephen Moore in Quebec to Michael Gratz, June 13, 1768; Isaac Hart, Newport to Michael Gratz Dec 2, 1768; Myer Polock,, Newport, to Michael Gratz, May 7, 1769, Francis Murphy, New Orleans to Barnard and Michael Gratz, March 4, 1772, all in Etting Collection, Gratz Correspondence, HSP.

[22] See William Murray, Carlisle, to Barnard Gratz June 8, 1768, Etting Collection, Gratz Correspondence, HSP; Fred Anderson, Crucible of War, 25-30; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 84, 90-91, 118, 125-6; Eric Hinderaker, Elusive Empires, 40-41; A.T. Volwiler, “George Croghan and the Westward Movement, 1741-1782,” PMHB Vol. 46, No. 4 (1922), 273-311.

[23] William Murray, Fort Chartres, to Barnard and Michael Gratz, April 24, 1769, Ohio Company Papers, Etting Collection, HSP; George Croghan Account with Barnard and Michael Gratz, 1769, Ohio Company Papers, Etting Collection, HSP; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 113-114.

[24] William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 14.

[25] Solomon Henry, London, to Barnard and Michael Gratz, August 30, 1768, Barnard and Michael Gratz Correspondence and Business Papers, American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, PA (APS).

[26] William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 14; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 102-109; Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan.

[27] Myer Polock, Newport, to Michael Gratz, Jan. 8, 1771, Etting Collections, Gratz Correspondence 1695-1780, HSP; William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 14; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 77.

[28] Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 81-112.

[29] Barnard Gratz to George Croghan, August 9, 1773, McAllister Collection, HSP.

[30] Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz,118.

[31] Patrick Griffin, American Leviathan, 72-94; Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 100, 121.

[32] Thomas Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise, 199.

[33] Michael Gratz, Philadelphia to Barnard Gratz, New York, August 5, 1774, Wolf Mss., Box 3, LCP. William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 19; Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 100, 116, 118, 135-140.

[34] Sidney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 127, 135.

[35] William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 19; Sidney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 135-140.

[36] Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 149-153

[37] See letters between Joseph Simon, Levy Andrew Levy, Patrick Rice, and David Franks in McAllister Collection, HSP, and in Pennsylvania Counties Miscellaneous Records, Box 4, HSP; Mark Abbott Stern, David Franks: Colonial Merchant (University Park, Pa.: Penn State University Press, 2010) 113-118; Sydney Fish,Barnard and Michael Gratz, 154.

[38] Gratz, Barnard and George Ross, Proposals and Terms for Settling Illinois and Wabash Company Lands, Philadelphia, March 26, 1779, Wolf Mss., Box 3, Library Company of Philadelphia (LCP); William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 17; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 155-159.

[39] See letters from Barnard Gratz, Richmond to Michael Gratz in 1783 and 1784, Henry Joseph Collection, AJA; letters from 1780s in Etting Collection, Gratz Correspondence, HSP; William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 19; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 141-3; 234-5; Thomas Doerflinger, Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise, 256-280.

[40] Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 239.

[41] Ibid., 178.

[42] See for example Barnard Gratz to Michael Gratz, no date; Simon Gratz to Michael Gratz, no date; Barnard Gratz, Richmond, to Michael Gratz, February 20, 1786; Chris Hays to Barnard Gratz, July 27, 1792; Barnard Gratz, Richmond, to Michael Gratz, May 16, 1783; Barnard Gratz, New Yorkk, to Michael Gratz, July 16, 1788, all in Henry Joseph Collection, Box 1, AJA; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 166.

[43] Simon and Hyman Gratz to Jonas Hirschel Bluch, Langendorf, Sept. 15, 1799, Gratz-Sulzberger Papers, SC-4292, AJA.

[44] Richard Kagan and Philip Morgan (eds.), Atlantic Diasporas: Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism, 1500-1800 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009); Paolo Barnardini and Norman Fiering (eds.), The Jews and the Expansion of Europe to the West, 1450-1800 (New York: Berghahn, 2001); Jonathan Israel, Diasporas Within a Diaspora: Jews, Crypto-Jews and the World Maritime Empires, 1540-1740 (Boston: Brill, 2002); Lois Dubin, “Introduction: Port Jews in the Atlantic World,” Jewish History, 20 (2006), 117; David Cesarani (ed,), Port Jews: Jewish Communities in Maritime Trading Centers, 1550-1950 (Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2001) and David Cesarani and Gemma Romain (eds.), Jews and Port Cities: 1590-1990, Commerce, Community and Cosmopolitanism (Portland, OR: Mitchell Valentine and Company, 2005).

[45] Sephardic Jews, Crypto-Jews, and New Christians were descendants of Iberian Jews. Following the Spanish Inquisition and the 1492 expulsion of Jews, some Jews migrated to North and West Africa, Ottoman lands, and parts of Western Europe where Jews were tolerated. Others gave in to Spanish and Portuguese demands that they convert, constituting the groups referred to as New Christians or conversos. A third groups lived outwardly as Catholics in Spanish and Portuguese societies but practiced Judaism secretly.

[46] Jonathan Israel, “Jews and Crypto-Jews in the Atlantic World Systems, 1500-1800,” Kagan and Morgan (eds.),Atlantic Diasporas, 4.

[47] See for example Solomon Henry, London, to Michael Gratz, November 19, 1760, McAllister Collection, HSP; Solomon Henry, London to Barnard Gratz, Etting Collection, Gratz Correspondence, HSP; Michael Gratz Ledger, Etting Collection, 1759.

[48] Solomon Henry, London to Jacob Henry, February 16, 1760, Gratz-Sulzberger Papers, SC-4292, AJA (copies from AJHS); Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 71.

[49] See Edith Gelles, The Letters of Abigail Franks, 1733-1748 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004); Cathy Matson, Merchants and Empire: Trading in Colonial New York (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 139, 188-190.

[50] Jacob Barnard advertisement for retail trade May 25, 1959 and David Levi advertisement, July 6 1959, in Pennsylvanische Berichte, SC-5595, AJA; Bernhard Jacob (unclear whether this is the same as Jacob Barnard) oversaw a lottery held in Mühlbach in Lancaster County for the construction of a church. He was later accused of mishandling funds. See Der Philadelphische Staatsboote, August 26, 1765, in SC 5595, AJA.

[51] Mark Haberlein and Michaela Schmolz-Haberlein, “Competition and Cooperation: The Ambivalent Relationship Between Jews and Christians in Early Modern Germany and Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 126, no. 3 (2002), 409-436. Haberlein and Schmoltz-Haberlein make a strong case for a precedent of cooperative relationships in parts of Germany. This mutually respectful and successful interaction was reproduced in Lancaster.

[52] Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 37-39.

[53] Sheryllynne Haggerty, “Merely for Money?”, 66-96, Francesca Trivellato, “Sephardic Merchants in the Early Modern Atlantic,” in Kagan and Morgan, Atlantic Diasporas, 99-122; Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, “La Nacion Among the Nations,” in Kagan and Morgan, Atlantic Diasporas, 75-98.

[54] Solomon Henry to Michael Gratz, Feb. 16, 1760; Michael Gratz to Barnard Gratz, undated, Myer Josephson to Michael Gratz, May19, 1766, all in Gratz-Sulzberger Papers, SC-4292, AJA (copies from AJHS).

[55] Edwin Wolf and Maxwell Whiteman, Jews of Philadelphia, 24-5.

[56] Ibid., 32.

[57] Barnet Jacobs Record of Circumcision, Mikveh Israel Archives, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; in a letter, Myer Josephson, Reading, asked Barnard Gratz to import kosher cheese for him from London, Jan. 1 1764 Malcolm Stern, “Two Jewish Functionaries in Colonial Pennsylvania,” American Jewish Historical Quarterly, Vol. 57, No. 1.

[58] Receipt for Torah Scroll borrowed from Shearit Israel in New York. Written in Hebrew and signed by Joseph Simon, Matthias Bush, Moses Mordechai, Barnard Gratz, Moses Heyman, and Myer Josephson, Lyons Collection, Publication of the American Jewish Historical Society (PAJHS), Vol. 27, 20-21; Myer Myer, New York, to Michael Gratz, January 26, 1772; William Vincent Byars, B & M Gratz, 121; Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 198; Edwin Wolf and Maxwell Whiteman, Jews of Philadelphia, 41, 58-9.

[59] Sydney Fish, Barnard and Michael Gratz, 198-199; J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, Vol II (Philadelphia: L.H. Everts & Co., 1884), 1436-1437.

[60] Malcolm Stern, Americans of Jewish Descent, 64.

[61] Simon Gratz to Michael Gratz, March 7, 1791, Wolf Mss., Folder 11, LCP; Simon Gratz, signed for Joseph Simon, to Turbett & Stewart, Merchants, Mifflin County, Jan. 20, 1794, Wolf Mss., Folder 14, LCP; Hyman Gratz to Barnard Gratz, May 20, 1793, Etting Collection, Gratz Correspondence, HSP.

[62] David Philipson, Letters of Rebecca Gratz (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1929) xx-xxi; Wolf and Whiteman, Jews of Philadelphia, 240, 341-2.

[63] Jacob Rader Marcus, United States Jewry, 1776-1985, Vol. 1 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989), 78-127; Eli Faber, A Time for Planting: The First Migration, 1654-1829 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992), 127-142.

[64] Hyman and his sister Richea attended Franklin College, founded by Benjamin Franklin in Lancaster in 1787, in its first year. Jacob graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in 1807, as did Benjamin in 1811. See Leon Huhner, “Jews and Colleges of the Original States,” PAJHS, Vol. 19 (1910), 123; “University of Pennsylvania,” United States Gazette, July 25, 1807, Vol. XXXII, Issue 4650, 3; “University of Pennsylvania,” Alexandria Daily Gazette, Commercial & Political, June 04, 1811, Vol. XI, Issue 3054, 2.

[65] Stock Certificate No.31, Philadelphia 10 June 1835, and other stock certificates, Henry M. Gratz Collection, Coll. 251, Box A-27, HSP; Lancaster Journal, Mar. 25, 1814, Vol. XX, Issue 45, 2; Franklin Gazette, Jan 22, 1820, Vol. IV, Issue 592, 2; National Gazette and Literary Register, March 24, 1825, 1; Berks and Schuylkill Journal, Dec 2, 1826, Vol. XI, Issue 28, 2; National Gazette and Literary Register, Dec 2, 1824, 4; The North American, Jan. 5, 1841, Vol. 2, Issue 555, 2; Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, Mar, 3, 1818, Vol XLVII, Issue 12878, 3; National Gazette and Literary Register, Apr. 29, 1820, Vol. 1, Issue 8, p3;  Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser, Mar. 3, 1821, 2; Ralph Gray, “Philadelphia and the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, 1769-1823,” PMHB , Vol. 84, No. 4 (Oct. 1960), 401-423; Charles I Landis, “History of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike: The First Long Turnpike in the United States,” PMBH, Vol 42, No. 2 (1918), 127-140; Nicholas B. Wainwright, “Diary of Samuel Breck,” PMBH, Vol. 102, No. 4 (Oct. 1978), 469-508; “Relics of Union Canal of Pennsylvania,”  PMHB, Vol. 15, No. 3, (1891), 376-7; University of Pennsylvania Biographical Catalogue of the Matriculates of the College (1894) at HSP; Wolf and Whiteman, Jews of Philadelphia, 323.

Cite this Entry

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Portrait of Michael Gratz

  • Portrait of Miriam Simon Gratz
  • Photograph of 230 West Brown Street, Philadelphia, PA. The building housed the Gratz brother’s mercantile operations
  • Compass that belonged to Michael Gratz
  • Michael Gratz’s spectacles

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