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Papers of Seixas Family

 Collection
Identifier: P-60

Scope and Content Note

The children and descendants of Isaac Mendes and Rachel Levy Seixas included individuals who had a great impact on communal affairs and colonial Jewish life in New York, Philadelphia, Newport, and Richmond. Though this collection does not preserve the total volume of papers produced by every family member, the documents contained herein demonstrate the importance of the family in both Jewish and secular life in late 17th and early 18th century North America.

The collection is valuable to researchers studying the Seixas family; civic, mercantile, and religious contributions of Jews in the colonial era; Jewish communities in New York, Philadelphia, Newport, and Richmond; the importance of religion to Colonial Jews; Jewish participation in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and World War I; Jewish converts to Christianity; Jews as masons; and Congregation Shearith Israel of New York.

Prominent individuals in this collection include: Ephraim Hart, Grace Seixas Judah, Mrs. Jesse Judah, Israel Baer Kursheedt, Sarah Seixas Kursheedt, Hayman Levy, Nicholas Low, Isaac Moses, Naphtali Taylor Phillips, Benjamin Mendes Seixas, David G. Seixas, Gershom Mendes Seixas, Isaac Benjamin Seixas, Isaac M. Seixas, Jacob B. Seixas, Joshua Seixas, and Moses Mendes Seixas.

The collection includes: account records, books, circumcision instructions and register, correspondence, drawings, estate papers, a eulogy, family trees, legal documents, petitions, photographs, prayer books, a sermon, and shipping records.

This collection is arranged into four series: Series I: Family Papers; Series II: Moses Seixas (1744-1809); Series III: Gershom Mendes Seixas (1746-1816) and descendants; and Series IV: Benjamin Mendes Seixas (1748-1817) and descendants.

Dates

  • undated, 1746-1911, 1926, 1939

Creator

Language of Materials

English, Hebrew, and French.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers, except items that may be restricted due to their fragility, or privacy.

Use Restrictions

No permission is required to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection, as long as the usage is scholarly, educational, and non-commercial. For inquiries about other usage, please contact the Director of Collections and Engagement at mmeyers@ajhs.org.

For reference questions, please email: inquiries@cjh.org

Biographical Notes of the Seixas Family

This Collectiom contains the records of the Seixas family, specfically of the descendants of Isaac Mendes and Rachel Levy Seixas, Portuguese Jews who immigrated to North America in around 1734. Their children and descendants held important roles in the colonial Jewish communities of New York, Philadelphia, Newport, and Richmond. Many were active in the establishment of civic economic institutions--such as the Bank of Rhode Island, and the New York Stock Exchange--as well as in philanthropic organizations. Family members served in the Revolutionary War, and in the War of 1812.

Please find below a listing of significant members of the Seixas family, whose records are included in this collection.

Isaac Mendes Seixas, September 5, 1709-November 3 1781/2.

Son of Abraham Mendes and Abigail Seixas, Isaac Mendes emigrated from Lisbon, Portugal to North America in 1734. He was naturalized in New York in 1745, and settled in Newport until the Revolutionary War, at which point he moved to Stratford, CT. He returned to Newport after the war, and died shortly thereafter.

Isaac Mendes married Rachel Levy in 1740; they had eight children together: Abraham (died in infancy), Abigail (1742-1819), Moses (1744-1809), Gershom (1745-1816), Benjamin (1747-1817), Abraham (1751-1799), Grace (1752-1831), and Raphael (died in infancy).

Moses Mendes Seixas, March 28, 1744-November 29, 1809.

Son of Isaac Mendes Seixas, Moses Mendes Seixas was one of the founders of the Bank of Rhode Island. The bank conducted its business out of his house until 1818.

Moses remained in Newport when it was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War, where he was among the signatories of a document pledging loyalty to the patriot cause. Later, he welcomed George Washington in a historic letter of welcome. In 1790 he served as President of Congregation Jeshuat Israel in Newport; and he was a charter member, and, in 1802 became the first grand master of, St. John's Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Newport.

Moses Mendes Seixas married Jochebed Levy in 1770. They had eight children together: Rachel (1773-1822), Benjamin (1775-1843), Judith (1777-1829), Isaac (1779-1786), Bella (1781-1860), Abigail (1782-1854), Gershom (died in infancy), Grace (1786-1865), and Hetty (1790-1854).

Gershom Mendes Seixas, 1746-1816.

Son of Isaac Mendes Seixas, Gershom was the first native-born minister in the United States, and one of the most noted of Early American Jews. During the Revolutionary War, he fled to Stratford, CT, and resided in Norwalk, CT. In 1780, he moved his family to Philadelphia, where he served as minister in and helped to establish Congregation Mikveh Israel. He returned to New York in 1784, where he may have been present at the 1789 inauguration of George Washington.

As Hazzan (prayer leader) of Congregation Shearith Israel, he also served as the community's mohel (circumciser), teacher, and shochet (ritual slaughterer). He founded the oldest existing Jewish philanthropic organization in New York, the funeral society Hebra Hased Va-Amet. He also initiated the formation of a charity society, Kalfe Sedaka Mattan Basether, and was a trustee of Columbia College between 1784 and 1814.

Gershom married Elkalah Myers-Cohen (1749-1785) in 1775. They had four children together: Isaac (died in infancy), Sarah Abigail (1778-1854), Rebecca Mendes (1780-1867), and Benjamin (1783-1847). After Elkalah's death, Gershom married Hannah Manuel (1766-1856) in 1786. Gershom and Hannah had eleven children together: David (1788-1864), Grace (1789-1826), Samuel (1792-1852), Joseph (b. 1794), Elkalah (d. 1831), Rachel (1801-1827), Joshua (b. 1802), twins Theodore J. (1803-1882) and Henry (1803-1822), Lucy Orah (1804-1825), Selina (1806-1883), and Myrtilla (1807-1859).

Benjamin Mendes Seixas, January 17, 1747-August 16, 1817.

Son of Isaac Mendes Seixas, Benjamin was born in Newport, RI. He moved to New York as a young man where he became a freeman, and owned a saddler shop on Broad Street.

He served as third lieutenant in the Fusiliers Company of the First Battalion of the New York Militia, and joined his parents in Stratford, CT when the British occupied New York.

During the American Revolution, Benjamin moved to Philadelphia, where he engaged in privateering with Isaac Moses, and joined the masons. He also served as a trustee for the Philadelphia congregation Mikveh Israel.

He returned to New York in 1784, where he opened a dry goods store, and later co-founded the New York Stock Exchange. There, he was active in Congregation Shearith Israel, and served on its board, as a trustee, and as its President. Later in his life, he took work as an auctioneer.

Benjamin married Zipporah Levy on January 27, 1779 while living in Philadelphia. They had twenty-one children together: Abigail (1779-1782), Moses (1780-1839), Isaac (1781-1839), Rebecca (1782-1868), Abigail (1784-1860), Abraham (1786-1834), Solomon (1787-1840), Esther (1789-1872), Sarah (1791-1834), Madison (died in infancy), Hayman Levy (1792-1865), Grace (1794-1866), Jacob (1795-1854), Aaron (1796-1849), Rachel (1798-1861), Daniel (1800-1886), Miriam (1802-1833), Leah (1805-1886), and three more whose names are not known.

Sarah Abigail Seixas Kursheedt, February 10, 1778-August 4, 1854.

Daughter of Gershom Mendes Seixas, Sarah Abigail was born in Stratford, CT, where her parents fled following the British occupation of New York. She maintained lifelong correspondence with her father and other family members.

On January 18, 1804, she married merchant, broker, philanthropist, and scholar Israel Baer Kursheedt. Together, they had had nine children: Elkaleh (1805-1883), Jeanette (1807-1901), Asher (1808-1893), Alexander (1811-1884), Isaac Mendes (1814-1886), Anna Augusta (d. 1876), Gershom (1817-1863), Rebecca (1819-1875), and Miriam (1821-1866).

Isaac Benjamin Seixas, November 22, 1781-August 10, 1839.

The third of Benjamin Mendes Seixas' 21 children, Isaac Benjamin Seixas moved to New York as a child in 1784 when his parents returned there after the Revolutionary War.

In 1806, Isaac owned a store, and served as reader for Congregation Beth Shalome in Richmond, VA. He served in the War of 1812, and in 1813 he was a second corporal in the Richmond Light Infantry Blues. From 1828 until his death he was the hazzan for Congregation Shearith Israel in New York.

He married his cousin Rebecca Judah on May 31, 1809 in Richmond. The couple had eight children: Abigail (b. 1811), Benjamin (died in infancy), Hillel Mendes (1814-1874), Zipporah (1816-1839), Benjamin (1818-1840), Gershom (b. 1820), Rachel (b. 1822), and Sloe Virginia (died in infancy).

David G. Seixas, 1788-March 19, 1864.

Born to Gershom Mendes Seixas in New York, David G. Seixas spent most of his life in Philadelphia. There, he owned a small crockery store; he has been credited as father of this art in the United States. He established a brewery in New York in 1834; in 1840, he was among the first to introduce daguerreotypes in the United States; and he discovered ways of burning anthracite coal, and manufactured sealing wax, printer's ink, and enamel-surfaced visiting cards.

David served in the military during the War of 1812 and, in 1819, he began bringing deaf children into his home to care for and teach them. In May 1820, he established the Deaf and Dumb Institute in Philadelphia, serving as Principal until his retirement in 1821.

He joined his brother Theodore J. Seixas in South Bend, IN, where he lived until his death.

Grace Seixas Judah, December 7, 1789-August 20, 1826.

Daughter of Gershom Mendes Seixas, Grace married her cousin Manuel Judah; an auctioneer and merchant of distilled liquor, and one of the founders of the Jewish community Richmond, VA. Together, they had three children: Abigail (1816-1898), Louisa Leah (d. 1838), and Gershom. Abigail, their only child who survived until adulthood, married Ashur Kursheedt, a Seixas cousin, in 1839.

Jacob B. Seixas, July 30, 1795-March 15, 1854.

Son of Benjamin Mendes Seixas, Jacob Seixas was a performer, a music teacher, and choir director.

Joshua Seixas, June 4, 1802-187?.

Son of Gershom Mendes Seixas, Joshua converted to Christianity early in his life. He taught Hebrew at Oberlin College, and at Western Reserve College. He published his first edition of A Manual of Hebrew Grammar in 1834.

Joshua Seixas married Henrietta Raphael in Richmond; they had ten children together: Julia Ann (b. 1822), Esther H. (b. 1825), Myrtilla (b. 1827), Grace (b. 1827), Virginia (b. 1829), Theodora (b. 1831), Henrietta Francis (1833-1902), Gershom Arnold (1835-1919), Selina (1838-1917), and Seraphine (b. 1840).

Naphtali Moses Taylor Phillips, December 5, 1868-April 30, 1955.

Grandson of Rachel Seixas Phillips and Napthali Phillips, N. Taylor Phillips was a lawyer active in public service. He was one of the founders of the American Jewish Historical Society, and served as both its treasurer and Vice-President. He served as clerk for Congregation Shearith Israel for thirty-two years, and as its president for eight years.

He served in the New York State Legislature for three years, and as the deputy and then acting comptroller of New York City for eight years.

At the age of fifty, he requested military duty during World War I, and held the position of captain based in Washington, D.C.

He married Rosalie Solomons in Washington, D.C. on March 9, 1892. he couple had no children.

References:

Berman, Myron. Richmond's Jewry, 1769-1976. Charlottesville, 1979.

Ezekiel, Herbert T. and Gaston Lichtenstein. The History of the Jews of Richmond from 1769-1917. Richmond, 1917.

Greenspahn, Frederick E. "The Beginnings of Judaic Studies in American Universities." Jewish History, vol. 20, no. 2, 2000, pgs. 209-225.

Grinstein, Hyman. The Rise of the Jewish Community of New York 1654-1860. Philadelphia, 1976.

Gutstein, Morris A. The Story of the Jews of Newport: Two and a Half Centuries of Judaism, 1658-1908. New York, 1936.

Libo, Kenneth and Abigail Kursheedt Hoffman. The Seixas-Kursheedts and the Rise of Early American Jewry. Block Publishing Company, 2001.

Marcus, Jacob R. American Jewry: Documents, Eighteenth Century. Cincinnati, 1959.

Marcus, Jacob R. Early American Jewry, Volumes I and II. Philadelphia, 1951, 1953.

Marcus, Jacob R. The Handsome Young Priest in the Black Gown; the Personal World of Gershom Seixas. Cincinnati, 1970.

Morais, Henry Samuel. The Jews of Philadelphia. Philadelphia, 1894.

Pool, David and Tamar de Sola. An Old Faith in the New World. New York, 1955.

Pool, David de Sola. Portraits Etched in Stone. New York, 1952.

Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society. Volumes 4 (1896), 6 (1897), 19 (1910), 27 (1920), and 45 (1955-1956).

Rosenbloom, Joseph R. A Biographical Dictionary of Early American Jews: Colonial Times through 1800. University of Kentucky Press, 1960.

Stern, Malcolm H. First American Jewish Families. Baltimore, 1978.

Wolf, Edwin and Maxwell Whiteman. The History of the Jews of Philadelphia from Colonial Times to the Age of Jackson. Philadelphia, 1975.

Extent

.5 Linear Feet

Physical Location

Located in AJHS New York, NY

Acquisition Information

The Marriage Settlement Contract between Abigail Judah, daughter and heir of Grace Seixas and Manuel Judah, to Asher Kursheedt, son of Israel Baer Kursheedt and Sarah Abigail Seixas, Grace’s sister, dated Nov. 7, 1839 is on permanent loan to the AJHS from conservator Konstanze Bachmann, given to AJHS care August 20, 2014.

Digitization Note

Collection was digitized in its entirety by Adam Matthew Digital in 2010, with the exception of Folder 3, added to the Seixas family papers in 2015, and several books that have been cataloged and transferred to the rare book collection. The digitized material has been made available for research by the American Jewish Historical Society, on the folder level, in 2016.

Related Material

American Jewish Historical Society

Archives

William Brownejohn Rent Rolls (P-299) (Gershom M. Seixas)

Gratz Family Papers (Michael and Bernard Gratz) (P-8) (Gershom M. Seixas)

Jacob Levy, Jr. Estate Inventory (P-674) (Judith Levy Seixas)

Aaron Lopez Papers (P-11) (Moses Seixas)

Jacques Judah Lyons Collection (P-15) (Seixas family)

Moses Family Papers (P-1) (Seixas family)

Nathan Family Papers (P-54) (Grace Seixas Nathan, Sarah Abigail Seixas Kursheedt)

Samuel Oppenheim Collection (P-255) (Seixas family)

Benjamin Franklin Peixotto Family Papers (Estate Papers of Moses Levy Maduro) (P-195) (Isaac B. Seixas)

Phillips Family Papers (P-17) (David G. Seixas)

Touro Family Papers (P-214) (Seixas family)

Congregation Shearith Israel Records (I-4) (Gershom M. Seixas, Isaac B. Seixas)

Congregation Beth Elohim (Charleston, SC) Records (I-107) (Isaac Seixas)

Mayor's Court (New York, NY), Selected Briefs (I-151) (Abraham Seixas, Benjamin Seixas, David Seixas, Harman L. Seixas, Hyman Seixas, Hayman Seixas, Isaac Seixas, Jacob Seixas, Jonah Seixas, Joshua Seixas, Moses Seixas, Solomon Seixas)

New York (County) Hall of Records, Selected Insolvent Debtors Cases (I-153) (Abraham Seixas, Benjamin Seixas, Hayman Seixas, Moses B. Seixas, Solomon Seixas)

Israel Baer Kursheedt papers, 1815-1831 (P-196)



Rare Books

Carvalho, Emanuel Nunes. A Sermon Preached on Sunday [11 be-Tamuz, 5576] July 7, 1816 : on Occasion of the Death of the Rev. Mr. Gershom Mendes Seixas... Philadelphia, PA, 1816 (Rosenbach #181)

Congregation Shearith Israel. Form of Service at the Dedication of the New Synagogue of the Kahal Kadosh Shearith Israel : in Crosby-Street, New York. New York, NY, 1834 (Rosenbach #382)

Congregation Shearith Israel. Report of the Proceedings in the Case of Mrs. Anne Seixas. New York, NY 1823 (Rosenbach #S-379)

De La Motta, Jacob. Funeral Address Pronounced in the Synagogue, Previous to the Interment of the Relics of the Rev. Gershom M. Seixas... New York, NY 1816 (Rosenback #185)

Levy, David (Translator). The Form of Prayers... According to the Custom of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews. London, England, [1790-1793] (Library call # BM665.L28)

Machzor (Sephardic), 1726 (Library call # BM675.F45 M25a)

Molloy, Emma F. Authentic Account -of the late- St, Jo River Calamity.... South Bend, Indiana, 1868 (Soble #388)

Seixas, Joshua. Manual Hebrew Grammar: for the Use of Beginners. Andover, MA, 1833 (Rosenbach #368)

Siddur (Sephardic), 1727 (Library call # BM675.F3 A3 1727/28)

Congregation Shearith Israel (New York, NY)

Contracts with Clergy (Isaac Benjamin Seixas)

Lyons Family (Grace Seixas Lyons)

Manuscript Collection (Gershom Mendes Seixas)

New York Historical Society

Auction Records (Solomon Seixas)

Touro Synagogue (Newport, RI)

Moses Seixas letter to President George Washington

Western Reserve Historical Society (Cleveland, OH)

Cleveland Jewish Collection (Joshua Seixas, Seixas Family)

Yeshiva University. Special Collections. Rare Books and Manuscripts (New York, NY)

Four Documents of American Jewish Leaders (Moses Seixas, Newport)

Separated Material

Several books that were part of the collection or were owned by the Seixas family have been placed in the cataloged rare book collection. Three books were digitized by Adam Matthew Digital in 2010 and made available for research by the American Jewish Historical Society in 2016.
  1. BM674.27 1750
    Siddur (Sephardic)1750
    [Seder ha-tefilot :ke-minhag ḳ.ḳ. Sefaradim : mide ḥodesh be-ḥodsho u-mide shabat be-shabato ].
    View the book
  2. BM674.47 1727
    Maḥzor (Sephardic). Pilgrim Festivals 1727
    Seder tefilot la-moʻadim ṭovim :ke-minhag ḳ.ḳ. Sefardim, ṿe-hosafnu ʻal ha-reʼshonim kamah devarim ṿe-maʻalot ṭovot.

  3. BM675 .F45 M25a
    Maḥzor (Sephardic).1726.
    Seder tefilot ha-moʻadim :ke-minhag ḳ. ḳ. ha-Sefaradim /muga ... Shemu'el Rodrigez Mendez.

  4. BM675 .H5 .A3 1728
    Maḥzor (Sephardic).High Holidays.1728. Volumes 1 and 2
    Maḥazor Sefaradim la-yamim ha-noraʼim :ṿe-seder seliḥot le-lele ashmorot ṿe-seder tefilot le-Rosh ha-shanah ule-Yom ha-kipurim.

  5. BM675 .H5 .A3 1740
    Maḥzor (Sephardic). High Holidays 1740
    Maḥazor Sefaradim le-yamim noraim :ṿe-seder seliḥot le-lele ashmorot ṿe-seder tefilot le-Rosh ha-shanah ule-Yom ha-kipurim.

  6. DS135 .F82 .A8 1806
    Procès-verbal des séances de l'Assemblée des députés français professant la religion Juive /imprimé d'après le manuscrit communiqué par M. le president.
    View the book
  7. G650 1746 .E47
    A voyage to Hudson's-Bay, by the Dobbs Galley and California, in the years 1746 and 1747, for discovering a North West Passage.
    View the book
Title
Guide to the Papers of the Seixas Family, undated, 1746-1911, 1926, 1939   *P-60
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Alisa M. Flatow, updated by Adina Anflick.
Date
© 2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
Conservation and Microfilming for this collection has been made possible through a generous grant from the New York State Library, Division of Library Development.

Revision Statements

  • March 2016: Added dao links by Eric Fritzler.
  • April, June 2020: EHyman-post-ASpace migration cleanup

Repository Details

Part of the American Jewish Historical Society Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States