August Belmont - Encyclopedia


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BELMONT, AUGUST (1816-1890), American banker and financier, was born at Alzei, Rhenish Prussia, on the 8th of December 1816. He entered the banking house of the Rothschilds at Frankfort at the age of fourteen, acted as their agent for a time at Naples, and in 1837 settled in New York as their American representative. He became an American citizen, and married a daughter of Commodore Matthew C. Perry. He was the consul-general of Austria at New York from 1844 to 1850, when he resigned in protest against Austria's treatment of Hungary. In 1853-1855 he was charge d'affaires for the United States at the Hague, and from 1855 to 1858 was the American minister resident there. In 1860 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention at Charleston, South Carolina, actively supporting Stephen A. Douglas for the presidential nomination, and afterwards joining those who withdrew to the convention at Baltimore, Maryland, where he was chosen chairman of the National Democratic Committee. He energetically supported the Union cause during the Civil War, and exerted a strong influence in favour of the North upon the merchants and financiers of England and France. He remained at the head of the Democratic organization until 1872. He died in New York on the 24th of November 1890.

His son, Perry Belmont (1851-), was born in New York on the 28th of December 1851, graduated at Harvard in 1872 and at the Columbia Law School in 1876, and practised law in New York for five years. He was a Democratic member of Congress from 1881 to 1889, serving in 1885-1887 as chairman of the committee on foreign affairs. In 1889 he was United States minister to Spain.

Another son, August Belmont (1853-1924), was born in New York on the 18th of February 1853 and graduated at Harvard in 1875. He succeeded his father as head of the banking house and was prominent in railway finance, and in financing and building the New York subway. He was also instrumental in making the Cape Cod Canal a reality. In 1904 he was one of the principal supporters of Alton B. Parker for the Democratic presidential nomination, and served as chairman of the finance committee of the Democratic National Committee. August junior was an avid sportsman and like his father a thoroughbred racing fan. While a sprinter in college he introduced the spiked shoe to the US. In the thoroughbred sports world he was credited by Time magazine, in 1924, with saving the sport in the East, after the repeal of the New York Racing Law. He owned several champion race horses and was the breeder and original owner of the great Man O War who was named after August Jr by his wife while he was serving in the Army Air Corps overseas during WWI. His Kentucky farm bred 129 American Stake winners.

A volume entitled Letters, Speeches and Addresses of August Belmont (the elder) was published at New York in 1890.

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