Painting of Isaac Moses, Patriot of Revolution, Given to Museum
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Painting of Isaac Moses, Patriot of Revolution, Given to Museum

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A portrait of Isaac Moses, a Jewish Revolutionary patriot and financier, was presented to the Museum of the City of New York yesterday afternoon in the auditorium of the museum. More than 600 people listened to an address by Professor Samuel Eliot Morison, of Harvard, who spoke on “Isaac Moses and the Part Played by Jews in the Early Life of New York.”

The portrait, which was painted by John Wesley Jarvis, a well-known colonial artist, was purchased through the efforts of Mrs. Annic Nathan Meyer and Mrs. Solomon de Sola, who presented it to the museum in the name of the Manhattan Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Hitherto the portrait had always belonged to some member of the Moses family.

Isaac Moses, who lived both in New York and Philadelphia, was born in 1742 and died in 1818. He fitted out a number of privateersmen at his own expense to prey on British commerce. He also contributed $15,000 to the Continental Treasury. This was considered an enormous sum at the time.

“At the present time,” said Professor Morison, who is a noted historian, “when in one of the greatest European countries, Jews are being cruelly and systematically misrepresented as recent interlopers, men without a country, subverters of patriotism, and a menace to morals, it is proper to emphasize what all historians know already, that Jews were in America for over a century before the United Sttaes became independent, that they formed an important and respected element in at least three American cities during the 18th century and that they played a useful and patriotic part in the American Revolution.”


Professor Morison traced the history of the Jews in America, beginning with the first Sephardim who had come to New Amsterdam. The first Jewish congregation in the Americas, he said, was founded in Pernambuco in 1642. The Jews were ordered to leave that town, and came to the colony that is now New York on August 22, 1654, on the barque St. Charles, which he said, “we might call the Jewish May-flower.”

The speaker outlined the story of the Jews in the British colony, and their growing importance in financial and commercial affairs. Of Isaac Moses little is known regarding his ancestral origin and parentage. It is believed that his parents came from Germany some time between 1720 or 1730. Isaac was born in Passaic, N. J., in 1742. From the humble profession of cord-waining, shoemaking, Moses arose to the position of a wealthy and respected merchant, a friend of Robert Morris and other American patriots.

“His early sympathy for the American cause,” Professor Morison declared,. “is proved by his leaving New York before the British occupation, in spite of the fact that both home and interests were here, and that the British occupation opened up many and lucrative means of making money by supplying a government that paid in gold. His example is perhaps not without value to the New York financiers of today Mr. Moses rejected England and the gold standard for the United Colonies and their ‘baloney’ continental currency.”


Isaac Moses was a member of the Jewish Synagogue that is now Congregation Shearith Israel, and is mentioned over forty times in its records. At one time he was president of the congregation. He founded the first bank in the United States, in Philadelphia, and after the Revolution organized the firm of Israel Moses & Sons. He died in 1818, and was buried in the cemetery of the congregation.

“This portrait, by John Wesley Jarvis,” said Professor Morison, “shows Isaac Moses as a silverhaired patriarch of about seventy-two or seventy-five years. Modest, retiring, unselfish, Moses never thrust himself forward but was content to do his duty to his country. It is a fine and graceful gesture to have presented this portrait to the Museum of the City of New York.”

Those who contributed to the fund were Mrs. Mark Ash, Mrs. Nelson I. Asiel, Mrs. Paul Baerwald, George Blumenthal, Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo, Miss Florence M. Cohen, Mrs. Solomon de Sola, Dean Virginia C. Gildersleeve of Barnard College, Mrs. A. A. Levi, Mrs. Julian C. Levi, Mrs. Annie Nathan Meyer, Dr. Alfred Meyer, Mrs. Frederick Nathan, Mr. and Mrs. Adolph S. Ochs, Alfred S. Rossin, the late Mrs. Jacob H. Schiff, Mrs. Lionel Sutro, James Speyer and Frederick J. Woodbridge.

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