Schiff, Jacob Henry (1847–1920)

By: Gary Dean Best

Type: Biography

Published: June 1, 1995

Updated: April 28, 2016

Jacob Henry Schiff, investment banker and organizer of Jewish immigration to Texas, was born in Frankfurt am Main on January 10, 1847, the son of Moses and Clara (Niederhofheim) Schiff. He immigrated to the United States when he was eighteen and began a successful career in investment banking. He became senior partner in the Wall Street banking house of Kuhn, Loeb and Company, and by the early twentieth century Schiff and his firm were second only to J. P. Morgan in importance. His and E. H. Harriman's struggle against Morgan and J. J. Hill for control of the Northern Pacific Railroad brought on the stock-market panic of May 9, 1901. He floated Japanese bonds in the United States during the Russo-Japanese War (1904) and marketed the Chinese loan in 1911. Schiff participated in most Jewish charitable organizations and lobbied effectively for Jewish interests in Washington. He and other Jewish leaders succeeded in persuading the federal government to direct official remonstrances to Russia and Romania in 1903 on behalf of the human rights of Jews there. In 1907 Schiff launched the Jewish Immigrants Information Bureau to encourage Jewish immigration to the North American interior. Concentrations of Jewish immigrants on the East Coast, he believed, had encouraged anti-immigration efforts and anti-Semitic sentiment. Schiff committed $500,000 to the JIIB and hoped to move up to four million Jews into the interior of the United States and Canada within ten years. Because the immigrants disembarked at Galveston, the JIIB became known as the Galveston Movement. Because of difficulties with Jewish organizations in Europe and increasingly restrictionist-minded federal immigration officials at Galveston, fewer than 10,000 immigrants had entered through Galveston by 1914, when the Galveston Movement ended. Schiff's poor health prevented him from reviving the movement after World War I. On May 6, 1875, Schiff married Therese Loeb. They had two children. He died in New York City on September 25, 1920.

Gary Dean Best, "Jacob H. Schiff's Galveston Movement: An Experiment in Immigration Deflection, 1907–1914," American Jewish Archives 30 (April 1978). Bernard Marinbach, Galveston: Ellis Island of the West (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1983).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Gary Dean Best, “Schiff, Jacob Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 19, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

June 1, 1995
April 28, 2016