How Marcus Goldman Found Fortune in Finance

On this day, December 9 in the year 1821, one of the pioneers in the commercial paper business was born in Bavaria, Germany. His name was Marcus Goldman, the co-founder of Goldman, Sachs & Company, now one of the world’s largest financial services providers.

Marcus Goldman
Marcus Goldman (Credit: wiki commons)

Marcus Goldman was the eldest of five children of Jewish couple who were engaged in farming and dealing of cattle. After studying in a Christian school where he excelled in Mathematics and English, he enrolled for further studies in a synagogue. In 1848, he travelled to the United States to escape the harsh life in Germany. He settled in Philadelphia where he found work as a peddler of tobacco and household goods. He worked all day long without tiring, learning as much as he could about the art of salesmanship. After his marriage to another German immigrant who knows something about dressmaking, he used all his savings to make a down payment for a sewing machine with a promise to pay the rest in installment. Soon, he became a reliable supplier of clothing. His business expanded all the more after he included clothes made by other manufacturers in his merchandize.

After the Civil War ended in 1865, Philadelphia’s growth began to wane. At the same time, the star of New York City started to shine even brighter. In 1869, Marcus sold his clothing business and moved with his family to New York where he started Marcus Goldman & Company as a one-room, one-person operation specializing in buying and selling of IOUs. His initial clients were mostly engaged in jewelry. In early 1873, he joined the New York Stock Exchange as a broker. A financial crisis erupted that year and most investors avoided railroad stocks and fled to gold and metal businesses. Because Marcus has strong presence in this sector, his business grew while other more established brokerages declined.

In 1885, Samuel Sachs, a son-in-law of Marcus, joined the business as a partner and it was soon renamed Goldman, Sachs & Company.

Marcus Goldman died in 1904. He had five children with his wife Bertha. His company is one of the few companies that still exist, surviving several financial crises especially the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Great Recession of 2007-2008. In 2019, it had revenues of over $53 billion ranking #60 in Fortune 500.



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