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A look back at Lehman


Lehman, Liverpool, cotton and slaves, some historical trivia


The Lehman brothers (Henry, Emanuel and Meyer) were originally from Bavaria. Henry emigrated to Montgomery in Alabama and founded a shop selling dry goods in 1844. After his brothers joined him, this became Lehman Brothers. The shop began to accept cotton in payment for goods.  Within a short space of time, the onward trading of cotton became far more important than the shop.


The brothers (now only two, Henry had died of yellow fever) expanded the business and opened offices in New Orleans and New York.


Meyer Lehman's brother-in-law, Benjamin Newgass, who had been running the New Orlean's business, moved to Liverpool and set up Newgass, Rosenheim & Co acting as Lehman Brothers agent in Liverpool. Liverpool was the main port for the transatlantic cotton trade. By the 1850s cotton imports accounted for half the trade through Liverpool.


It was not until the twentieth century that Lehman Brothers expanded beyond being a very successful cotton broker.


And Lehman's involvement in the slave trade?  Almost certainly none directly, despite what it says on Wikipedia.  In 2003 as a requirement to continue operating in Chicago, Lehman Brothers filed an afficdavit that it may have profited from the slave trade in the early 1850s. However, this was because the original brothers had owned a number of slaves when the business was still a shop, rather than because they had been direct participants in the slave trade.  This says more about Alabama in the 1850s than it does about either the Lehman brothers or Lehman Brothers.


The Exchange Flags in Liverpool where the cotton trading took place was rebuilt in 1939.


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