Haym Salomon (or Hayim Solomon) was born in 1740 in Leszno/Lissia, Poland. His father was a Rabbi in Poland, who originally came from Portugal.
Traveling Europe in the 1760s and early 1770s, Haym learned finance, business, and several languages.
He came to New York City about late 1772. In New York City, Haym was a merchant and also had a brokerage firm and commission merchant’s company.
He also became a member of the ‘Liberty Boys’ and ‘Sons of Liberty’. He arranged for arms to be shipped into the colonies from the Dutch island of St. Eustatius, and caused a lot of trouble for the British.
Haym had been imprisoned by the British while in New York City (at the “Old Sugar House”, a warehouse) as a spy in 1776 where he later suffered from tuberculosis. Haym was pardoned and used to translate German with the German soldiers for the British. He also helped American prisoners escape from the British and encouraged hundreds of German soldiers to leave the British service.
Haym married Rachel Franks in January 1777. His first child, Ezekiel, was born July 1778.
Out of prison, Haym continued supporting the rebellion against England. Arrested again for his pro-rebel activities, then tortured and sentenced to death by hanging by the British in Aug. 11, 1778. His property was also taken by British. Haym used his knowledge of German (he spoke eight languages) to convince his Hessian jailer with a bribe of money to escape with him (or help him escape) to Philadelphia, where he arrived penniless.
He escaped with his family back in New York City while he followed General George Washington’s Army and fled to Philadelphia, PA. Haym joined with other Jews who had fled British control.
Haym established himself as a broker, selling currency and bank notes at a discount. He made a good deal of money as a broker, merchant and auctioneer from 1781 to 1784 – he was an official broker in PA – converted bills of exchange and foreign government notes (France & Holland), changing into spendable cash. Often working out of the “London Coffee House” in Philadelphia, he acted as a broker for the Office of Finance. Haym owned a black slave named “Joe” who ran away in 1780.
He always managed to raise necessary funds, especially to fund supplies, food and equipment for the patriot soldiers. Haym was known to give support money (interest-free loans) to patriots in Philadelphia, like James Madison. General George Washington knew he could always count on Haym Salomon to secure money to keep the Continental Army running.
Haym put 350,000 sterling pounds into the Yorktown campaign led by George Washington. He had first used his own fortune (600,000 sterling pounds) and when that ran out secured money from other Jewish communities. He was considered to be the financial hero of our American Revolution.
At the end of the war, 1783, a small portion of the money was repaid but most of it was never repaid.
Commemorative Stamp issued in 1975
Another of Haym Salomon’s contributions was to serve as a trustee and contributor to construction of a building in 1782 (paid 1/3 the costs) for the new Mikveh Israel congregation in Phil., PA, just a few blocks from Independence Hall.
Also, Haym had organized the Jewish War Veterans.
Besides his first son, Ezekiel Salomon, born July 20, 1778; there was Sallie Salomon born Oct. 17, 1779; Deborah Salomon born Jan. 12,1783; and Haym Moses Salomon born April 23, 1785.
Haym Salomon, the financial wizard to the Revolution never got to see his fourth child. Haym’s illness from his time in British prisons caught up with him. Haym died January 6, 1785 in Philadelphia. With his early death at age 45, his wife, Rachel had her hands filled raising the four young children. With the loans and monies given out during the war, the Salomons had no money left. Haym had died poor on January 6, 1785.
Haym was buried at Mikveh Israel Cemetery in Philadelphia.
The obituary printed in the Independent Gazetteer read: “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.”
His descendants in the nineteenth century attempted to obtain compensation from Congress, but were unsuccessful.