The Money Kings: The Epic Story of the Jewish Immigrants Who Transformed Wall Street and Shaped Modern America (Hardcover)

The Money Kings: The Epic Story of the Jewish Immigrants Who Transformed Wall Street and Shaped Modern America By Daniel Schulman Cover Image
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The New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice • The incredible saga of the German-Jewish immigrants—with now familiar names like Goldman and Sachs, Kuhn and Loeb, Warburg and Schiff, Lehman and Seligman—who profoundly influenced the rise of modern finance (and so much more), from the New York Times best-selling author of Sons of Wichita

Joseph Seligman arrived in the United States in 1837, with the equivalent of $100 sewn into the lining of his pants. Then came the Lehman brothers, who would open a general store in Montgomery, Alabama. Not far behind were Solomon Loeb and Marcus Goldman, among the “Forty-Eighters” fleeing a Germany that had relegated Jews to an underclass.

These industrious immigrants would soon go from peddling trinkets and buying up shopkeepers’ IOUs to forming what would become some of the largest investment banks in the world—Goldman Sachs, Kuhn Loeb, Lehman Brothers, J. & W. Seligman & Co. They would clash and collaborate with J. P. Morgan, E. H. Harriman, Jay Gould, and other famed tycoons of the era. And their firms would help to transform the United States from a debtor nation into a financial superpower, capitalizing American industry and underwriting some of the twentieth century’s quintessential companies, like General Motors, Macy’s, and Sears. Along the way, they would shape the destiny not just of American finance but of the millions of Eastern European Jews who spilled off steamships in New York Harbor in the early 1900s, including Daniel Schulman’s paternal grandparents.  

In The Money Kings, Schulman unspools a sweeping narrative that traces the interconnected origin stories of these financial dynasties. He chronicles their paths to Wall Street dominance, as they navigated the deeply antisemitic upper class of the Gilded Age, and the complexities of the Civil War, World War I, and the Zionist movement that tested both their burgeoning empires and their identities as Americans, Germans, and Jews.

About the Author


DANIEL SCHULMAN is the New York Times best-selling author of Sons of Wichita, a biography of the Koch family that was a finalist for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award. The deputy Washington bureau chief of Mother Jones, he lives in Massachusetts, with his wife and sons.

Praise For…


"Schulman offers a rich account of [the modern financial] system, and of his subjects' role in shaping it . . . He anchors his narrative in intimate personal details, creating a compelling portrait of a close-knit Gilded Age aristocracy, which, though its members possessed nearly infinite wealth, was locked out of many of the country’s élite institutions. Schulman doesn't shy away from the unsavory, rendering his subjects with satisfying complexity." The New Yorker

"Stellar . . . [A] wonderful book . . . A striking portrait of how Jews, and specifically these most elite Jews, set out to determine what it meant to be Jewish in America . . . Rich in both historical detail and as a character study, and readers will come away with a newfound appreciation for the heft of the legacy of these men, and a realization of how bittersweet that legacy is." —Emily Tamkin, The Washington Post

“A sprawling history of the German Jews who came to the United States in the 19th century and helped create the modern economy while navigating their own identities as Jews, bankers and Americans . . . Schulman is a thorough reporter with an eye for delightful details.” —Jacob Goldstein, The New York Times Book Review

“An illuminating group portrait . . . Schulman’s tale begins with pushcart peddlers in the1830s who rose within a generation to become titans of finance . . . With U.S. campuses today being shaken by anti-Israel demonstrations and American Jews fearing a renewed antisemitism, The Money Kings sounds a disquieting and timely note . . . The plight of Schiff and his peers will surely echo with American Jews today, suddenly feeling their standing fragile again.” —Roger Lowenstein, The Wall Street Journal

“A deeply reported and readable chronicle of a group of German-Jewish immigrants who arrived in the US in the 1800s and earned fortunes that lasted generations. Schulman vividly portrays their profound impact on Wall Street and the world . . . A timely corrective to historical distortions that have helped feed antisemitism.” —Joshua Franklin, Financial Times

"A well-researched eco­nom­ic his­to­ry of the foun­da­tions of Jew­ish wealth and phil­an­thropy in Amer­i­ca . . . Schul­man sea­sons his account with enter­tain­ing anec­dotes [and] is alert to themes that res­onate today . . . While it’s [Jacob] Schiff who stands out, he’s well sit­u­at­ed in the con­text of his net­work, so the read­er gleans a fuller pic­ture of turn-of-the-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can Jew­ish life and is shown a robust study of late nine­teenth cen­tu­ry, ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry Amer­i­can finan­cial history." —Bettina Berch, Jewish Book Council

“Not merely an engaging account of the lifestyles of the rich and famous—although that part of the story is unavoidable—but, more importantly, a history of how a handful of industrious immigrants were able to have such an outsized impact on both America and American Jewry . . . Today’s battles over immigration, antisemitism, and even US-Russia relations are also amply represented in the era under Schulman’s scrutiny.” —Rafael Medoff, New York Post

"Full of illuminating information about Americans’ attitudes toward Jews . . . Tells the not always well-known stories of these men, their families, and their impact on modern corporate finance, IPOs, anti-trust legislation, the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank, philanthropy, Jewish life in the United States, Zionism, and antisemitic conspiracy theories . .  . Daniel Schulman has brought [Jacob Schiff] back to life." —Glenn C. Altschuler, The Jerusalem Post

"An ambitious and captivating group portrait of Jewish financial dynasties 'with profound legacies' in the U.S. from the 1830s to the present . . . Schulman presents a wealth of fascinating detail . . . Full of vivid personalities and intriguing tales of alliances and rivalries, this is a sensitive and compassionate portrait of the families that built Wall Street." Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A spirited account of the first great American financiers, many of them German Jewish immigrants, [and] a welcome, highly readable contribution to American financial and social history." Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“With The Money Kings, Daniel Schulman becomes our foremost historian of the American business dynasty. The story behind Goldman Sachs and other famed financial institutions takes readers to unexpected places: not just Wall Street, but Germany and Alabama, the Middle East and the Lower East Side. Schulman contends with both the good and evil that concentrated wealth can thrust upon the world—all without losing sight of the human tales behind the creation of modern finance.” —Beverly Gage, author of G-Man (winner of the Pulitzer Prize)
 
The Money Kings is more than just a riveting unraveling of the history of high finance in America. It gives voice to the Jewish peddlers who remade Wall Street, debunks antisemitic conspiracy theories, and offers inspiration to new generations of big-dreaming immigrants.” —Larry Tye, author of Demagogue
 
“The origin stories of America’s great Jewish banking families—among them, the Lehmans, the Schiffs, the Goldmans, and the Seligmans—have always been shrouded in some mystery. But no longer. Thanks to Daniel Schulman’s endlessly riveting and triumphant Money Kings, the fascinating details of how these determined men made their marks and their fortunes on Wall Street are revealed, many for the very first time.” —William D. Cohan, author of Power Failure
 
“Daniel Schulman’s fascinating book tells the story of not one but two Jewish communities in New York more than a century ago. The relationship between them—the wealthy uptown elite and the poor downtown immigrants—makes this an absorbing tale.” —Adam Hochschild, author of American Midnight
 
“A must-read for anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the roots of modern finance and its foundational families. Schulman weaves a masterful tapestry of history, bringing to life the untold stories of a group of trailblazing pioneers who left an indelible mark on global business and Jewish life. It’s a monumental work.” —David de Jong, author of Nazi Billionaires
Product Details
ISBN: 9780451493545
ISBN-10: 0451493540
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: November 14th, 2023
Pages: 592
Language: English