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June 13: No Jews or Dogs Admitted

June 13, 2013
JosephSeligmanJoseph Seligman, a very wealthy and politically influential banker and railroad investor, was denied rooms at a Saratoga Springs hotel, the Grand Union, owned by Judge Henry Hilton, on this date in 1877, in what became one of the first widely publicized anti-Semitic events in the U.S. Hilton, a member of the Boss Tweed political machine, had a personal grudge with Seligman, a former congressional representative who was a member of an anti-Tweed political faction — but the reason offered to Seligman for being denied a room in the hotel (where he had previously stayed several times) was that business was off because gentile customers did not like sharing the hotel with “Israelites,” therefore all Jews were being barred from registering. “[T]he law,” wrote Hilton in a letter to a sarat1friend that the New York Times published, “permits a man to use his property as he pleases, and I propose exercising that blessed privilege, notwithstanding Moses and all his descendants object.” The incident became a national sensation, and a boycott of the hotel caused its failure, yet other hotels were soon posting “Hebrews Need Not Apply” and “No Jews or Dogs Admitted” signs. Within a few years, the mass emigration of Eastern European Jews (1881-1921) would begin, and American anti-Semitism would spike. “When I heard of the unnecessary offense that has been cast upon Mr. Seligman, I felt no other person could have been singled out that would have brought home to me the injustice more sensibly than he.”—Rev. Henry Ward Beecher