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September 27: Seligman, Missouri

September 26, 2015

The town of Herdsman, Missouri (also known as Roller’s Ridge), on the Ozark Plateau, was renamed Seligman on this date in 1880, to honor Joseph Seligman (1819-1880), a financier of railroads. The Atlantic and Pacific Railroad had transformed the town from a small settlement of railroad workers, with only a liquor store, a drug store, and a post office, into an 80-acre town with named streets, a hotel, a local newspaper, and much more, by building a line from Pierce City to Herdsville, a two-day trip by wagon. Seligman’s widow, Babet, also contributed an acre of land and $500 towards the construction of a church. Joseph Seligman had come to the U.S. from Germany at age 18 and began working as a peddler in rural Pennsylvania. His activity, joined by his brothers, grew into an export-import business, and he then made a fortune during the Civil War by selling uniforms and floating bonds to finance the Union military. After the war, he invested heavily in railroads and other industries and became one of America’s leading financiers. In 2010, the town of Seligman had 851 residents. In the photograph above, a traveling circus arrives in Seligman in the late 19th century.

“Joseph wanted the war to end so he could see a conclusion to the terrible bloodshed and financial waste in his adopted country and resume his plans for establishing an international banking network. Within hours of the announcement in 1864 by General Grant that he would pursue the Confederate Army to the end, Joseph announced the creation of J. & W. Seligman & Co. as merchant bankers with headquarters in New York and offices in London, Paris, Frankfurt and San Francisco.” —Elliott Ashkenazi, Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present