Belmont, August

Belmont, August

(1816–90) banker, art collector; born in Alzei, Germany. He began his career sweeping the Rothschild's offices in Frankfurt when he was 14. Showing a talent for finance, he was transferred to Naples and then to Havana to manage the Rothschild branches, but he saw better opportunities in America and in 1837 he established what soon became the highly successful August Belmont & Company on Wall Street, with his first client the Rothschilds. He became a U.S. citizen, married the daughter of Matthew Perry, and became active in the Democratic Party. Although of Jewish descent, he was accepted into New York society due to his charm and wealth. Between 1844–50 he served as consul general for Austria in the United States. President Franklin Pierce appointed him ambassador to the Netherlands (1853–57). Although a Democrat, he opposed slavery and during the Civil War used his influence to obtain support for the Union. He had been a knowledgeable admirer of art since his youth and he acquired a large collection (auctioned off after his death). He also liked horses and racing; New York's Belmont Park was named to honor his years as president of the American Jockey Club.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.