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Museum Musings

1.7.16: American Roots: The Andrews Family

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We often get research inquiries about Haym Salomon (1740-1785). Students and textbook editors, journalists, history buffs, and bloggers are intrigued by the Polish-born Jewish businessman who helped the Patriot cause at key moments by converting loan paperwork into cash for the Revolutionary government and the army. He played an important role in the war and in the early nation as a broker to Robert Morris’s Office of Finance and it only adds to his mystique to learn that he died young – he didn’t even live to see our first President George Washington’s inauguration. Many founding fathers knew that Salomon had been a hard-working and reliable asset to their cause, but with his death his pregnant wife and young children found themselves in difficult circumstances and his memory seemed to slide into obscurity.

 

Over the centuries, though, his descendants cherished their patriotic legacy while leading pretty fascinating lives themselves. A few years ago some of those descendants donated a trove of artifacts to NMAJH and now a special installation on NMAJH’s first floor features letters, marriage certificates, prayer books, advertisements, and other artifacts from our fascinating Andrews family collection. Dr. Joseph L. Andrews and his nieces, nephews, and children trace their heritage not only to Salomon and his daughter, Sallie, but also to Major Benjamin Nones who served some of the best-known names in the Revolution: the Marquis de Lafayette, George Washington, and Casimir Pulaski. Nones received a citation for bravery in the Battle of Charleston. In the nineteenth century, Andrews family members were among the earliest Jewish residents of far-off cities like Huntsville, Alabama, while others helped establish the Jewish community of Memphis, Tennessee and put down roots in cities from New Orleans to New York City.


 It was a lot of fun to view the installation with several generations of Andrews family members recently. Over lunch, our staff got to know them a little better and we had a chance to invite them into our core exhibition galleries to explore more of the history that their ancestors helped to shape. I hope you will come see the installation, too – it’s on view through February 7, 2016 on the Museum’s first floor, which is always free to visit.

Claire Pingel

Chief Registrar and Associate Curator
National Museum of American Jewish History