Polish, Jewish, American
patriot - financier of the American Revolution....
Jewish Conflict and
are part fact.
Myths are part fantasy.
A society creates what it needs out of both and claims that as
No one knows what Haym
Salomon looked like. There was never a portrait, bust, sculpture
mask made of him. Any
representations of Haym Salomon are wishful, artistic expressions.
Did he look Jewish? If he did, few portray him with Jewish
stereotypical racial characteristics. What is known about Salomon
is limited. There are few surviving primary historical documents.
Most of what is known about him is gleaned from indirect sources,
secondary materials and even rabid anti-Semitic canards perversely legitimized by
the myth and reality of his life.
One central fact is
incontrovertible. Salomon was an American Revolutionary Patriot
who personally suffered and sacrificed
much for the American cause.
Haym Salomon, (or Solomon)
was born April 7, 1740 in Leszno, a small town in Western Poland.
Hisfamily was Sephardic Jews, probably of Portuguese background.
Some say his father was an orthodox Rabbi. Others claim his family was
revolutionaries in the failed struggle for Polish independence and liberty.
Salomon left Leszno to
travel in France and Germany as a young man. When Leszno was
surrendered in the first Polish Partition (1772) to the Hapsburgs,
Salomon was in England. The timeline of his life becomes murky.
His associations in Europe were never clarified. Salomon moved
from country to country developing an extraordinary skill in
languages and understanding of finance.
Who financed his travels,
who was he introduced to or trained by was never established.
Sources speculate exactly when,
1772 or in 1775, Salomon arrived in New York, allegedly penniless.
He quickly established himself as a factor, a financial broker, for merchants
engaged in international trade. Where Salomon obtained his initial
financial backing or how he obtained his introductions has never
been explained. The assumption is he was a self-made man. He rose
by his own ingenuity, ability, and financial acumen.
Salomon, very astutely
observed the changing economic and political conditions in New
York. He established a strong mutual friendship with the wealthy and
powerful Alexander McDougall. McDougall was a Scottish firebrand.
A self-made man, McDougall made his fortune as a merchant seaman
and a courageous able Captain of his own privateering ships in the
French and Indian Wars. Flamboyantly dressed, loud with a thick
Scottish accent, he had a distinct disdain for hereditary social
individual initiative, motivation and ability.
By 1775, McDougall's
reputation as a fighter against British arbitrary rule was well
established. He was the street leader of the Sons of Liberty and
willing to bash heads if needed. He organized repeated protests
against British capriciousness. McDougall hated the British Stamp
Act, organizing the New York equivalent of the Boston Tea Party.
He was a member of the Revolutionary Committees ofCorrespondence
and Safety. When New York established a Revolutionary Government
in 1775, McDougall was elected to the New York Provincial Congress.
McDougal would serve as a major General in the Continental Army
under George Washington.
Perhaps it was beshert,
perhaps it was deliberate, perhaps it was coincidental, Salomon
linked his future with McDougall's. He joined the New York branch
of the Sons of Liberty. A relatively recent immigrant, perhaps because of his experiences in
Poland, perhaps because of his experiences with the British in England, Salomon became a revolutionary.
September 1776, Salomon was
arrested as spy by the British. A mysterious fire in New York City
almost a fourth of all the housing that could have been used by
occupying British troops.
General Washington wanted
New York burned. Congress overruled Washington.
Every member of the Sons of
Liberty that could be rounded up by the British was arrested. They
all were assumed, probably correctly, involved in the fire.
Salomon was sentenced to a long imprisonment for his association.
Political conditions in the
Colonies continued deteriorating. The British began building
military forces in New York. Hessian mercenaries were purchased by
the British to fight the Americans. Poorly coordinated, the German
troops arrived without anyone being able to act as a translator,
or intermediary for them with the British. Salomon's remarkable
linguistic ability, as a German/English translator, was discovered
by the British. Salomon had served 18 months of his sentence. He
convinced the British he was not a traitor or spy but could be
useful to them. Salomon was retained as a trusted interpreter and
liaison to the German troops by the Hessian under General Heister.
Heister gave him an appointment in the commissariat department. It
was an extraordinary accomplishment of interpersonal relations for
a Jew to position himself, after arrest and imprisonment as a spy,
and in spite of the traditional anti-Semitism of the British and
Salomon fulfilled his
duties as a translator with secure access to British military
facilities. He did much more. Using his position, Salomon worked
to undermine German support for the British. He promoted
anti-British sentiment with the Hessians. He encouraged and
abetted desertions of German troops. He aided the escape of
1778, the British arrested
Salomon again. He was sentenced to death. Salomon bribed a guard
with gold sovereigns sewn into his clothing and escaped. Salomon
fled sending for his wife, Rachel Franks and infant son, later.
Franks was the poor family member of a prominent, wealthy Jewish
colonial family. The Franks family, like many families in
Revolutionary America, was split between Loyalists and Revolutionaries. David Franks, for
example, served on the staff of George Washington; other members
of the Franks family served the British cause.
The Salomons moved to
Philadelphia. They arrived, again for Salomon, virtually
penniless. Without hesitation, Salomon plunged back into
the financial world of mercantile exchange and brokerage.
Financially, he did very
well, but was far from rich.
himself with American Revolutionary interests, even providing
personal financial support, primarily loans at no interest that
were never repaid, to James Monroe, Thomas Jefferson, James
Madison, James Wilson and Don Francesco Rendon, the Spanish
Court's secret ambassador.
Three years after having
arrived in in Philadelphia, 1781, Salomon's extraordinary
abilities and multi lingualism, positioned him near the
center of the American Revolutionary financial heart. He became the agent of the French consul and the
paymaster to the newly allied French military forces in
NorthAmerica. The French, Dutch (through St. Eustatius) and the
Spanish governments used Salomon to broker their loans helping finance the
Enormous loans passing
through his brokerage business was converted into desperately
needed specie for the American Revolutionary government and
military. Paper money was almost never worth hard gold and silver.
Salomon's fees for his brokerage services to the struggling
American government were extremely modest, if there were any at
all. Perversely, partly because he was a Jew, the French, Dutch,
Spanish and Americans alike viewed Jews in anti-Semitic
stereotypical roles. They saw Jews as Shylocks from Shakespearian
imagery. They saw Jews as medieval money lenders. Ironically their
bigotry greased the way for Salomon's success.
business became so big that he was the largest depositor in Robert
Morris' Bank of North America.
Three days after Salomon
had taken out large advertisements in the Philadelphia papers,
announcing his burgeoning brokerage business; Robert Morris was
appointed Superintendent of Finance of the Revolutionary
government. Morris was responsible for managing the economy. He
was considered, though a civilian, second in power only to George
Robert Morris, Jr. was an
American merchant and signer of the Declaration of Independence,
of Confederation and the United States Constitution. His
administration of the American Revolutionary economy earned him the title of “Financier of the
American Revolution.” Morris kept a detailed diary, as was quite common, of
his life. In Morris's diary, Haym Salomon is mentioned more than 75 times.
Morris turned to Salomon
repeatedly for help as one financial crisis after another arose.
Morris knew and trusted Salomon beyond few others.
The military crisis that
would end in victory for the American cause hung in desperate
balance during the summer and early fall of 1781. British General
Cornwallis had retreated from the Southern Colonies after a series
of major military defeats. He secured his army near Yorktown, Va.,
on the James River, to await reinforcements and resupply by the
British Navy. American forces opposite him were too small and too weak to engage Cornwallis. They
could only delay him. George Washington saw his chance.
The French fleet positioned
itself outside of the Chesapeake Bay. They had defeated the
British Fleet in a quick naval battle.
The British Battle Fleet
was weakened earlier. Admiral Rodney had attacked the arsenal of
the Revolutionary forces on the Dutch Island of St. Eustatius.
Ammunition, weapons, supplies and much war material was being
funneled through the “neutral” Dutch Island to the American cause.
Jewish merchants were major factors in the arms trade on St.
Rodney attacked and
destroyed the vast stores of weaponry and supplies warehoused on
St. Eustatius. He looted and robbed the enormous wealth he found
there paying particular attention to the Jews, whom he detested
with particular anti-Semitic venom.
They (the Jews of St. Eustatius, Caribbean Antilles) cannot too soon be
taken care of - they are
notorious in the cause of America and France."
Admiral Sir George Rodney
commander of the British Fleet, February, 1781
Rodney was not a rich man.
He divided and diverted a large part of his fleet to send back to
England the wealth he stole. Instead of following orders to
support the British army fighting in the Colonies, Rodney lined
his own pocket on Jewish and non-Jewish wealth. His personal greed
and hate delayed the British Fleet enough to lock General
Cornwallis at Yorktown. However, Cornwallis was not totally
trapped. He still had the potential to move on land. Cornwallis
chose to wait for help from British forces in NewYork. It was a
George Washington saw his
opportunity. If he could slip away from the North and trap
Cornwallis in by land with the French Fleet to their back, the war
might be won. It was a risky opportunity and might not have
happened at all except for Haym Salomon. Washington's army, an
army of unpaid, underfed, undersupplied soldiers lacked the funds
to move. It was one thing to say you are going to move your army to a new position but it was
another thing to feed them: that took money. Washington did not have the $20,000 he needed. The
Revolutionary treasury was empty.
Legend crosses with fact,
Robert Morris sent a desperate call for help to Haym Salomon. It
was Yom Kippur, the holiest, the most solemn day of the Jewish religious
year. Dealing in anything other than repentance before God, especially
dealing with money on Yom Kippur, is considered a major sacrilege.
Salomon was at prayer with
his synagogue community, Mikveh Israel, when the message arrived.
Salomon, an observant Jew
and a pillar of the Jewish community, considered the situation. He
left the Yom
Kippur service and hurried out to aid Morris. Salomon felt that
God had placed him in a particular position to aid the struggle for
Robert Morris might have
appealed to others to raise the money for Washington. Morris
turned to Salomon. The Yom Kippur
story, though a good story, is considered Jewish fiction.
Within a day, Salomon had
brokered the loans and paper necessary. Morris reported to
Washington that the general had his $20,000. The American and French army
slipped away and marched to Yorktown. A siege began. Cornwallis completely trapped by
overwhelming forces, unable to obtain
reinforcements or supplies, bitterly surrendered. The war was over. The
American Revolution was won.
British surrender at
The next day, Washington
accepted the surrender of Cornwallis' army. Cornwallis, mortified
at whom he had to present himself to, refused to attend. The
British band played a tune during the surrender. The tune was “The
World Turned Upside Down.” The world had been in fact turned
upside down and for no people more than for the Jew and the
American Jewish story.
The crisis of the future
American Republic did not end with Cornwallis' surrender. A year
later, August 1782, the treasury, completely empty, the American government
faced a very real, existential financial disaster. The financial need was so
critical it threatened to destroy the victories won on the
battlefields. The American government had no credit left. There
was no money to exist.
Morris again turned to
Salomon. Morris wrote in diary:
“I sent for Salomon and
desired him to try every way he could devise to raise money, and
then went in quest of it myself. ‘Two days later he wrote:' “Salomon the broker
came and I urged him to leave no stone unturned to find out money and means by which I can obtain
Salomon came through again.
The crisis was averted.
Salomon's generosity and
financial support, to the best of his abilities, was acknowledged
“James Madison (a later
U.S. President) wrote in a letter (August 27, 1782) urging the
forwarding of remittances from his state, which he represented at Philadelphia,
wrote: “I have for some time past been a pensioner on the favor of Haym Salomon, a Jew broker.” On
Sept. 30 of the same year, when again appealing for remittances to relieve his embarrassments, he
wrote: “The kindness of our little friend in Front street, near the
coffee-house, is a fund which will preserve me from extremities,
but I never resort to it without
great mortification, as he obstinately rejects all recompense. The
price of money is so usurious
that he thinks it ought to be extorted from none but those who aim
at profitable speculations. To a
necessitous delegate he gratuitously spares a supply out of his
Salomon turned his energies
back to business after the war. His family grew. His health got
worse. It was
believed he contracted tuberculosis while imprisoned by the
British. Financial reverses hit and Salomon died bankrupted. No loan,
advanced from much of his own fortune to the United States government or numerous Revolutionary
figures, was ever repaid.
Salomon died in
Philadelphia, January 6, 1785. His obituary appeared in the Brotherly City's Independent Gazetteer.
“Thursday, last, expired, after a lingering illness, Mr. Haym
Salomon, an eminent broker of this city, was a native of Poland, and of the
Hebrew nation. He was remarkable for his skill and integrity in his
profession, and for his generous and humane deportment. His
remains were yesterday deposited in the burial ground of the
synagogue of this city.”
Mikveh Israel Cemetery -
Haym Salomon was buried in
the Mikveh Israel synagogue cemetery on Spruce Street. His grave
His family had no funds for a tombstone. Neither the Mikveh Israel
community nor his Revolutionary
War friends ever marked his gravesite. It is lost today, the exact
location unknown. He was 44 years
Salomon's estate listed
assets of $353,000 consisting of Government bonds and Continental
currency. How the enormous Government debt had been accumulated
and at what price was never determined. The bonds were illiquid
and of questionable value. When matched up against his debts of
about $35,000 in real money, he was broke. The bonds were turned
over to Robert Morris' bank of North America to help satisfy the
At face value, the loans
would have made Haym Salomon one of the wealthiest men in North
If true, it was an
incredible achievement for an immigrant of about ten years.
Years later, Salomon's son,
Haym M. Salomon, and later his family, repeatedly petitioned the
U.S. government for repayment of the loans. Haym M. Salomon was
seeking, with interest, in excess of $600,000, an immense amount
of money. Documentation Salomon turned over to the U.S. government
supporting the claims, disappeared. In future years,
various United States House and Senate Committees reviewed the
Salomon financial claims. They agreed with the appropriateness to
pay back the family. The recommendations for compensation never
got much further. Something always came up to deny any payment.
The family offered to settle for $100,000 in the late 19th century. The offer was never accepted. In 1893, a Congressional
recommendation that a gold medal be struck in honor of Hyam
Salomon also came to nothing.
The end of the 19th century was the age of memorializations. It was the age to
acknowledge history with monuments about the American Civil War.
It was the period that the Sons and Daughters of the American
Revolution organizations were founded. A concerted effort was made
to bring Haym Salomon, the Jew, forward as a part of the
Revolutionary narrative. In 1893, there was a Congressional
recommendation that a gold medal be struck in honor of Haym
Salomon. The recommendation made it past the House Committee on
the Library. It failed in the House of Representatives.
Haym Salomon was pushed
aside, possibly because of the family's search for financial
compensation without satisfactory documentation. A suggested
reason the family was denied compensation was because of
anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism has never been shown or demonstrated
as a cause for nonpayment or honored recognition of Haym Salomon.
The American Jewish
landscape radically changed between the years, 1880-1920. Millions
of Jews, mostly East-Europeans (Polish-Russian) immigrated, rushed would be
a better term, to the Goldene Medina - the United States. The old line Jewish leadership, German Jewry,
was hard pressed to aid the unwashed masses that were
coming in. Many German American Jews viewed the new immigrants
with disdain. German Jews were “uptown”. The other Jews were
“Lower East Side types.” The new Jewish immigration threatened the
integrated social standings of the old line Jews in Christian
America. Efforts were made to send the new Jewish overflow far
into the American interior or the Southwest. The famed, or
infamous, Galveston resettlement project moved tens of thousands
of fresh Jewish immigrants away from the East and into the raw
Jewish immigrants, if given
a choice, remained in the East, New York in particular. Their
voices were the timid voices of the unassimilated. The timidity
would change as their children moved into society as Americans.
America was a land of
immigrants. It was a land of many legitimate histories from many
different lands by many different peoples and cultures. America
was a land where diverse histories merged into a sense of
commonality, even if one's parents were not on the Mayflower.
Everyone wanted to be an American and everyone wanted to have
their historical identity recognized from the Old Country and in
A 1910 edition of the American Hebrew , a widely read Jewish newspaper, announced
that an organization called the Haym Salomon National Monument Committee
wanted to erect a statue honoring
him in Washington, D.C. At first the group achieved some notable success. President Taft endorsed the idea.
Taft addressing a
Washington, D.C. synagogue community said “to second the motion
that a memorial be raised to the Jew who stood by Robert
Morris and financed the American Revolution.” The popular cultural image of Salmon had reached to
and was accepted by President Taft. Nothing came of the effort.
Haym Salomon's story became
the struggle for Jewish American identity. A major proponent for Salomon came not from Jews but from a
Pastor Madison Peters, a
philo-semite, a Christian Minister of God, wrote a short biography
of Haym Salomon that was published in 1911, Haym Salomon, The Financier
of the Revolution. The biography was a glowing recounting of
the many stories, some documented, some not, but assembled into a
flowing tale of the debt, moral, historical and even economic,
owed to Haym Salomon by America. It was followed a year later by a general
history of the Jews in America, published by the Jewish
Publication Society. Peter
Wiernik's, History of the Jews in America, 1912. Wiernik
also recounted the significant, but unrecognized and certainly not
honored, contribution of Haym Salomon to the American cause.
That same year, 1912, the American Hebrew reported on a better organized effort to
The effort was “supposedly
initiated by the Federation of Jewish Organizations, a lobbying
group that represented a small contingent within the East European immigrant
community. The newspaper carried an article announcing that the
Federation had endorsed a campaign to collect on the financial
claims of Salmon's heirs and use the funds to build a Haym Salomon
National University in Washington, D.C.”
The project instantly set
off controversy, both inside and outside the Jewish community.
Inside the Jewish world it was a point of pride for some and anxiety for
others. Outside the Jewish world it was a question of legitimization. Non-Jewish
historians joined the fray denigrating and supporting honoring Haym Salomon for his efforts during the
non-Jewish historian, a former chief of the manuscripts division
of the Library of Congress, published an article in the “The
Nation” magazine. He argued that Salomon did not deserve recognition nor did his family deserve
any compensation. He was countered by Harvard historian Albert
Bushnell who argued the complete opposite position. Bushnell
demanded that Salomon deserved the honor of his nation for his
“For their part, leaders of
the Federation of Jewish Organizations quickly denounced the
project and denied that they had ever endorsed it. Louis Marshall,
the prominent leader of the American Jewish Committee who had been
listed in the newspaper as a supporter of the project, vehemently
plan and sharply denied his own involvement in the affair. “It
seems to me utterly ridiculous and absurd/' ....While almost all parties agreed that Salomon had played a role
in the Revolution, individuals both inside and outside of the
Jewish community remained wary of elevating his public status, for
fear that the claims might be disproved and ultimately reflect
poorly on America's Jews.”
The fears of establishment
Jewry reflected their insecurity about their American Jewish
identity and security. They feared pushing Jewish interests in
America. It was the same fears that a bit over twenty five years
later, as Hitler pushed Jews into the gas chambers and ovens, that
prevented American Jewish leadership from publically demanding
that Roosevelt do something to stop Holocaust. They feared if the
war did not turn out well, Jews would be accused of draining
American blood and resources for a purely foreign Jewish concern.
American organized Jewish
leadership attacked those who did demand that Roosevelt act to
save Europe's Jews. People like the Bergson Group screamed loudly
and publicly about the murder of Jews in the Holocaust. American
Jewry, neutered, meekly acquiesced to Roosevelt's demand they must
first win the war to save Jews. They knew of the slaughter but
feared American anti-Semitism more. Today, Hillel Kook and the
Bergson group, if remembered at all, are still viewed with disdain
by establishment Jewry. Over 500,000 American Jews served in the
armed forces during WWII. By far, the vast majority were of
Eastern European Jewish immigrant backgrounds.
For decades German Jewry,
having arrived mostly in the pre-Civil War period, was the face
and fact of organized Jewish life. They had supplanted Sephardic
Jewry for preeminence in the young Republic. The arriving waves of
East European Jews were assimilating rapidly into American
society. The children of the new immigrants did not identify as
Europeans, but Americans. The political and economic Jewish
American landscape was changing again. The old German American
elite being challenged by the new Eastern -Jewish Americans, did
not want to let go or make room at the top.
The new Jewish Americans
wanted legitimization as Americans. They wanted legitimization not
just as Americans who got off the boat yesterday but as Americans
with a tie to the foundation of America. Haym Salomon was a Polish
Jew. He arrived in America over a century earlier. He had been an
intimate part of the Revolution.
America was turned in to
itself after WWI. Unrelenting forces were unleashed pushing to
close off open immigration to America. The primary target of the
restrictive immigration policies were Eastern and Southern
European immigrants in the East. In the West restrictive
immigration policies were focused on Asians.
For Eastern European Jews
it was a clear threat. Conditions for Jews in Russia and in Poland
were sharply worsening, even worse than the mini-Holocaust of WWI.
By 1920 it looked like open American immigration would be ending.
Eastern European Jews needed legitimization. They needed to be
part of the narrative of America but not as recent immigrants.
They needed legitimization as long time Americans. Haym Salomon,
mythologized, became the symbol of legitimization for Eastern
European Jews as Americans.
In 1925, a new effort to
memorialize and honor Haym Salomon began in New York. The project
was led by the Federation of Polish Jews. Their campaign focused
on Salomon's Polish birth and creatively amplified even further
the mythologizing of Salomon. The Federation of Polish Jews was
engaged in a second fight much more significant within the Jewish
community. They were directly challenging the old guard of German
Jewish leadership that had ruled for 50 years.
Zigmunt Tygel, secretary
and chief spokesperson of the Polish Jews wrote an “information
biography” about Salomon. The biography pushed mythologizing to new levels,
complete with fictionalized accounts. Tygel created a new version of the Morris story seeking
funds for Washington's army prior to the battle of Yorktown. Only
in Tygel's account, it was Washington himself who wrote to Salomon
that fateful Yom Kippur day.
The Federation of Polish
Jews created the Haym Salomon Monument Committee. It was directed
$100,000 for a magnificent monument to Polish Jewry's greatest
American patriot. A monument was
commissioned and submitted to the New York Municipal Art
Commission for review and possible placement near Madison Square Park. The
Commission rejected the project because they were unconvinced
of the merit of recognizing Salomon. The Commission relied on the
historical research of Worthington Ford and his article in the Nation, 14 years earlier.
The Federation of Polish
Jews regrouped. Bitter feelings bubbled in the new effort. Many
felt they had been sabotaged by the old establishment Jews who
were against honoring Haym Salomon. The new committee submitted a
new monument to the Commission. Toned down was the historical
symbolism. They just referenced Salomon's name and dates on the
statue. The new monument, to be located near Lincoln Square, was
preliminarily approved by the Commission in 1928.
The German Jewish
leadership in New York protested the decision vehemently. Again,
they feared that Salomon's Revolutionary accomplishments were much
more modest than were those being represented by the Polish Jewish
community. They feared, if future scholarship bore them out, the
entire Jewishcommunity would suffer from ridicule and disgrace.
Max Kohler, the secretary
of the American Jewish Historical Society, researched and reviewed
the history of
Haym Salomon with an eye to verifying or refuting the Polish
Jewish claims. He was backed by powerful men from the German
Jewish community. Kohler presented his report privately to the
Polish Jews. It was a negative evaluation of Haym Salomon as the
financier of the American Revolution.
Kohler verified that
Salomon had been a patriot, risked his life as a member of the
Sons of Liberty, and suffered severely financially. Salomon
had been an intimate with Robert Morris but as an extremely competent broker. Salomon did not
finance the American Revolution. He was quite poor himself and
could not even send money back to his own needy family in Poland
until very late in the War. He did not have the resources. The
mythologized stories of Salomon and Washington never happened.
Salomon had in fact
provided financial support to a number of American Revolutionary
fathers. His aid to them was never repaid. Salomon did
provide vital aid to Morris, converting the foreign loans to the American government into usable specie
at little or no commission to him. But Kohler asserted Salomon had
acted in his capacity as a patriotic merchant and citizen not as
the principle player in the financing of the American Revolution.
Salomon's efforts were extremely important but not rising to the
level of the Founding Fathers, in Kohler's opinion.
Establishment German Jewry
labeled the effort for Salomon, in the vitriolic words of Louis
Marshal, a monument for “only a money-lender.”
The Polish Jews were
outraged. They publically labeled Kohler and the American Jewish
Historical Society as anti-Semites, using tactics worthy of the KKK,
some of them said. Kohler went public with his information.
Controversy raged in every American Jewish community across the
United States. The New York monument to Haym Salomon was
effectively dead by 1931.
Seven hundred miles to the
West of the Hudson River, in the mid 1930's, in Chicago, Ill.,
against the backdrop of rising Nazism, a new Polish Jewish led effort emerged
to honor Haym Salomon. The project began in 1936 was led by
Barnett Hodes, a lawyer and local politician of Polish Jewish
Mass public acceptance of
the Hyam Salomon narrative was furthered by the movie industry. In
Brothers put out a patriotic two reeler about Haym Salomon staring
Claude Rains. Warner Brothers
Pictures was owned by four Jewish brothers, Harry (Hirsz), Albert
(Aaron), Sam (Szmul) and Jack (Itzhak) Wonkolaser. The brothers
changed their name to Warner for assimilationist and business
reasons. They and their parents had immigrated to the United
States from Poland.
The Patriotic Foundation of
Chicago under Hodes took a different tack to the previous Salomon monument issues. The monument would not
be to Salomon alone but to the great triumvirate of the Revolution, George Washington, Robert
Morris and Haym Salomon. The monument would be a statement about the American Democratic experiment. Haym Salomon was a
part of it, not the focus.
Haym Salomon, George
Washington, Robert Morris
The Great Triumvirate of
Patriots Monument, designed by Lorado Taft, stands, prominently
sited today on
Wacker Drive in Chicago. Haym Salomon stands on the right of
Washington, Morris on his left.
Inscribed on the front of the
monument is Washington's address to the Jewish congregation in
“The Government of the
United States which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no
requires only that they who live under its protection should demean
themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual
On the back of the monument
is an image of the Goddess of Liberty holding her torch with arms extended over the multi-ethnic, peoples of
Poignantly, the monument
originally intended for Haym Salomon, became the metaphor for the
United States. The monument was dedicated December 15, 1941, one
week after the Japanese attack on the American naval base in Pearl
Harbor, Hawaii that brought America into World War II.
The Chicago monument, that
included Salomon, was not to be the only monument in his honor.
January 7, 1944, a monument to Haym Salomon alone was dedicated in
Los Angeles. Sculpted by Robert Paine in 1943, the memorial is 8' in height. It
depicts a stoic Salomon seated George Washington like on a large chair atop a high platform. The
front of the monument is simply inscribed - Haym Salomon 17401785,
American Patriot. On the rear of the monument is inscribed two
sections. The upper text; “Thehuman spirit has flowered only in
freedom, the dynamic reality of our world culture flowed from its
The lower inscription is emphatic about Salmon's importance to the
American cause. “Letall American acclaim Haym Salomon, a Patriot, a Benefactor of his
Country, an inciter to Patriotism, to members of his race, to his countrymen and
to later generations. It looks as though his credit was better than that of the whole thirteen United
States of America - Albert Bushnell Hart, Professor Emeritus of History, Harvard University.”
The inscriptions are
misaligned, poorly designed and are engraved as if by freehand.
The memorial traveled about
Los Angeles, a veritable wandering Jew, looking for a home. A bronze plaque at the base of the current location
document's its history and the changing character of Los Angeles and the Jewish experience. “Rededication of the Haym Salomon Statue, June 12, 2008” next to
the city seal of Los Angeles. “From Hollenbeck Park to MacArthur
Park to West Wilshire Park to Pan Pacific Park, this Statue Stands
as a Reminder of a Jewish American Patriot's Invaluable Service to
his Country in a Time of a Great Struggle. Mayor Antonio R.
Villaraigosa, Councilmember Tom LaBonge Fourth District.”
By 1944 and today, dedication
of a monument to honor Salomon hardly raised a ripple of opposition.
During WWII a liberty ship
was named the Haym Salomon.
Numerous books were written
about Salomon since the 1930's, some popular culture, few of deep scholarship, almost all reflecting the
mythologized Salomon. Many were geared to Jewish youth to give them
pride and roots in the American story.
During the Bi-centennial of
the United States, 1975, the United States Postal Service issued a
stamp in honor
of Haym Salomon. It is an unusual stamp. On the glue side of the
stamp is printed in pale green letters, “Financial Hero - Businessman and broker, Haym Solomon was
responsible for raising most of the money needed to finance the
American Revolution and later to save the new nation from collapse.”
Coincidental, to the issuance
of the Haym Salomon stamp, the state of Israel issued a stamp in
1975 honoring Harry Truman, the first President to recognize the
state of Israel.
March 29, 1975, from the
United States Congressional Record:
“When Morris was appointed
Superintendent of Finance, he turned to Solomon for help in raising
money needed to carry on the war and later to save the emerging
nation from financial collapse. Solomon advanced direct loans to the
government and also gave generously of his resources to pay the
salaries of government officials and army officers. With frequent
entries of “I sent for Haym Solomon”, Morris' diary for the years 1781-1784
records some 75 transactions between the two men.”
The internet is laced with
half-truths both for and against Salomon. Most of the articles are
shallow reflections of much deeper biases.
Anti-Semites have moved
Salomon to the pantheon of conspiracy hatred. They point to the
symbolism of the U.S. dollar bill. Anti-Semites and Black Helicopter
anti-Masonic conspiracy theorists argue that Washington came to
Salomon and asked him what he wished for his great services to
America. Salomon asked to Washington to incorporate Judaic-Masonic imagery into the
Great Seal of America and any future currency. The conspiracy theorists assert that Salomon was a
servant of the secret Rothschild - Jewish -Masonic cabal to create a
one world government under Jewish control.
Though there are many images
to be pointed to that need explanation. One symbol is pointed out
among all the others. On the back of the dollar, on the right side
above the American eagle is a circle with 13 stars arranged into a
pattern. The pattern, if you connect the stars, forms a Star of
The anti-Semites and
conspiracy theorists say this proves that the Jews are secretly
involved in controlling American finance for world domination.
Salomon was a man of money. He controlled Washington through money
and the evidence in on the U.S. Dollar Bill.
There are thirteen stars on
the Dollar Bill because there were thirteen Colonies in the
Revolutionary period. It has nothing to do with any Jewish mystical
The second problem with the
conspiracist argument is that the U.S. Dollar Bill did not have its
design until it was first printed in 1937. George Washington and
Haym Salomon had long passed away. The stories of conspiracy and
collusion between Salomon and Rothschild for control of America are
entirely fictions that has passed into urban myth. A major concern is that even some Jews repeat with pride some of the
falsehoods. They think they are honoring American freedom and
universal Jewish toleration. Jews too are guilty of advancing myth
Haym Salomon ground marker
About 1980, a marker was
finally placed in the ground of the Mikveh Israel congregational
cemetery honoring Haym Salomon. It was placed with great fanfare. 63 years
earlier, a small wall plaque was placed inside on the cemetery wall by Haym Salomon's great grandson
William Salomon, in 1917. The text
reads “To the memory of Haym Salomon, interred in this cemetery,
the location being of now unknown?”
Salomon's bones rest
somewhere in the grounds, no one knows where. Perhaps he lies
quietly, undisturbed. Or perhaps, he lies under a walkway.
Aspects of Salomon's life and
contributions to the American cause have been mythologized. Other important parts of his life and service
were grossly under-recognized.
Haym Salomon was never rich.
He never was wealthy enough to finance the American Revolution. His early history is vague. Much
documentation about him has long been lost by the U.S. Government.
Many records of Salomon's
financial affairs were burned by the British in the war of 1812.
Haym Salomon was an American
patriot and an observant, proud, practicing Jew. He offered all he
had for the American cause. He was imprisoned and even risked his
life for Revolutionary activities. Robert Morris understood and
trusted Salomon beyond anyone else. He drew upon Salomon's financial
ability, skill, personal credit reputation and even personal
guarantees when no one was willing to accept American debt. Salomon did not raise most
of the money needed for the American Revolution. Salomon was able to
broker the loans making money available for the Revolutionary
Government and young Republic when no one else could or would.
Salmon's crucial contribution
to the American cause was his ability to provide liquidity. Enormous
sums of money for the Revolutionary cause, passed through Salomon's
brokerage house. He accepted little if any financial compensation.
To understand Salmon's
contribution it is easiest to understand his actions in personal,
modern, financial terms.
The American government
issued checks drawn on its treasury. No one would cash the checks.
No one wanted the checks. No one trusted the American government.
Imagine going to the grocery store with a payroll check and the
grocer refuses your check because he suspects the check will bounce.
The grocer believes the check is bad. You go home with no food, hungry. You
can't feed your family.
Imagine you are given a loan
from a foreign bank but you have no way to cash the loan. You cannot convert the loan papers into useable money
to pay your electric bill, your cell phone bill, your mortgage. Your
financial system would collapse. You would be homeless as well as
Salomon, not only was he able
to cash the checks for the American government and give them the liquidity and hard currency, not paper
money, to buy the groceries to feed the army, provide for supplies and give Washington the ability
of carrying on the war, but he personally put himself at risk to make money good.
When Salomon died, his estate
held a vast amount of government debt of questionable value. How the
money was held, was it pledged, was it collateral, was it Salomon's
accumulated at face value or discount, is unknown. The central fact
remains, Salomon was the key keeping the Revolutionary Government
and economy viable at the pivotal point of survival.
Haym Salomon personally
provided financial support to a whole range of Revolutionary
of the military, and political figures, keeping them “in the game”
when they had no alternative funding. He funded, from his own
pocket, the unofficial, secret Spanish Ambassador to the
Revolutionary Government. The Ambassador ultimately brought in
Spanish support and loans for the war.
Salomon did what he did for
Patriotic reasons. He did what he did because he believed that the American cause and ideals were different,
unique and idealistic. He did it not just because it would be good for the Jews. He did what he did
because he believed, if the American cause would be triumphant,
there would be a better tomorrow for everyone.
Jerry Klinger is president
of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation
History Lesson, The Creation of American Jewish Heritage, Beth
S. Wenger, Princeton University Press 2010, pg. 186
Op cit pg. 186
Op cit. pg. 187