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When Money Was in Fashion

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When Money Was in Fashion

Henry Goldman, Goldman Sachs, and the Founding of Wall Street

Palgrave Macmillan,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Goldman Sachs now spans the globe, but it started as a two-family business with plenty of history.

Editorial Rating



The Goldman Sachs colossus straddles the financial world today, but it started as a family business. June Breton Fisher, great-granddaughter of founder Marcus Goldman, draws on information from relatives and her own memories to portray the little-known story of the firm’s founding. Two teenage boys met in a synagogue in Bavaria and throughout marriages, births, deaths, conflict and scandal, they gave life to Goldman Sachs. Whatever you may think of the bank, you’ll find its forebears, particularly Henry Goldman, to be intriguing, innovative and very human. getAbstract recommends this loving memoir for its slice-of-life narrative, though astute readers will need to sort through its scattered inconsistencies and errors. And, it lacks a badly needed family tree. You might quibble over the title – after all, when hasn’t money been in fashion? – but Henry’s quote actually was, “Money will always be in fashion.” How right he was.


In the Beginning

In the 1830s, Mark Goldmann, 16, met Joseph Sachs, 19, at a rabbi’s class in a small-town synagogue in Bavaria. Though just the sons of simple tradesmen, they shared an ambition to achieve greater things. Joseph wanted to teach and Mark wanted to make money, but increasing constraints on the freedom of Jews in Germany diminished their prospects. Regulations did not allow Jews even to vote or marry. Local newspapers told stories about golden opportunities in America, where Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss [of Levi’s jeans] was already a success. In 1848, Joseph, then 27, eloped. Some weeks later, he and his new wife emigrated to the U.S. Soon after, Mark and his brother Simon set sail for America. By luck, Joseph found Mark on his first day in Philadelphia. Mark stayed in Pennsylvania, but Simon went to California for the gold rush.

In 1856, Marcus Goldman (immigration authorities changed his first name, and he changed his last name when he became a U.S. citizen in 1853) married a talented milliner named Bertha. After making their first investment in a $5 sewing machine, they opened a tailor shop, which grew into a haberdashery as they profited from ...

About the Author

June Breton Fisher, Henry Goldman’s granddaughter, lives in Santa Barbara, California.

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