Ludwig Erdwin Seyler

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Ludwig Erdwin Seyler

Ludwig Erdwin Seyler (15 May 1758 – 26 October 1836; also Ludewig and Edwin, known as Ludwig E. Seyler or L.E. Seyler) was a German merchant, banker and grand burgher of Hamburg, a co-owner for 48 years (1788–1836) and head (1790–1836) of the Hamburg firm Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. (commonly known as Berenberg Bank) and a member of the Hanseatic Berenberg-Gossler-Seyler banking dynasty. Seyler was one of the first German merchants and bankers to establish trade relations with the United States and East Asia.[1][2]

Married to Anna Henriette Gossler, he was the son-in-law of Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg. He was President of the Commerz-Deputation (with the Hamburg Stock Exchange) 1817–18 (a member from 1813), and ex officio a member of the Erbgesessene Bürgerschaft (Parliament). During the 1806–1814 French occupation under Napoleon, he was one of a number of prominent Hamburg citizens initially taken hostage by the French, and as Hamburg was annexed into the Bouches-de-l'Elbe département of the First French Empire, he was appointed by the French as a judge on the Commercial Court (tribunal de commerce) as well as a member of the municipal council (from 1813), Hamburg's governing body that had replaced both the senate and the parliament under the French. Berenberg Bank was for some time headquartered in his private home during the Napoleonic Wars.

Descended from the Merian, Burckhardt, Socin and Faesch patrician families of Basel, he was the son of the famous Swiss-born banker turned theatre director Abel Seyler—co-owner of the bank Seyler & Tillemann, who later became "the leading patron of German theatre" in his lifetime[3]—and the stepson of Sophie Seyler, Germany's leading actress of the late 18th century and the author of Oberon, the inspiration for the libretto of The Magic Flute. He grew up with his uncle, the natural scientist and court pharmacist J.G.R. Andreae in Hanover. His sister Sophie Seyler was the wife of poet Johann Anton Leisewitz, the author of Julius von Tarent. His brother-in-law on his wife's side was Senator Johann Heinrich Gossler, a partner at Berenberg Bank from 1798. He was the uncle of Hamburg head of state Hermann Gossler.


He started as an apprentice in the Berenberg firm in 1775, at 17.[4] On 20 May 1788, he married Anna Henriette Gossler (1771–1836), a member of the Hanseatic Berenberg/Gossler family. She was the eldest daughter of the firm's owner, Johann Hinrich Gossler (1738–90) and Elisabeth Berenberg (1749–1822), the only heir of the Flemish-origined Berenberg banking family that established the firm in 1590. Johann Hinrich Gossler had himself married the only daughter of banker Johann Berenberg (1718–1772) and thus become a partner and eventually the sole owner of the firm. In 1788, Gossler took on his son-in-law as the new partner,[5] and following his death in 1790, Seyler became head of the firm. At the same time, his mother-in-law Elisabeth Gossler née Berenberg became a partner in her own right and managed the firm together with Seyler until 1800. In 1798, his brother-in-law Johann Heinrich Gossler (II) (a Hamburg senator from 1821) also joined the company as a partner.[6] Seyler was President of the Commerz-Deputation (including the Hamburg Stock Exchange) (May 1817 to July 1818), a position previously held by several members of the Berenberg family.

Ludwig Seyler was the son of Swiss-born Hamburg merchant and theatre director Abel Seyler, "the leading patron of German theatre" in his lifetime,[3] and Sophie Elisabeth Andreae (1730–1764), a daughter of the wealthy Hanover court pharmacist Leopold Andreae (1686–1730), owner of the Andreae Pharmacy (Andreae & Co.). His paternal grandparents were Abel Seyler (Seiler) (the elder) (died 1767), who was parish priest in Munzach in Liesthal, Basel, from 1714 to 1763, and Anna Cath. Burckhardt (1694–1773), who belonged to the Basel patrician Burckhardt family. After his mother died in 1764, his father remarried in 1772 to Friederike Sophie Seyler, one of Germany's leading actresses of the 18th century and the author of Hüon und Amande that was a major inspiration for The Magic Flute.

He grew up in Hanover with his uncle, J.G.R. Andreae, the Hanover court pharmacist and a noted natural scientist of the Age of Enlightenment, who was a friend of Benjamin Franklin. His sister Sophie was married (1781) to their distant relative, poet Johann Anton Leisewitz.[7]

His wife was the sister of Hamburg senator and banker Johann Heinrich Gossler II (1775-1842) and the aunt of Hamburg senator and First Mayor (head of state) Hermann Gossler (1802–1877).

Ludwig Seyler and Anna Henriette Gossler were the parents of

  • Sophie Henriette Elisabeth ("Betty") Seyler (1789–1837), married to Hamburg businessman Gerhard von Hosstrup, who founded the Hamburger Börsenhalle in 1804
  • Auguste Seyler, married to Gerhard von Hosstrup after the death of her sister
  • Louise ("Wischen") Seyler (1799–1849), married to ship broker Ernst Friedrich Pinckernelle (1787–1868), whose sons founded the G. & J. E. Pinckernelle insurance broker firm
  • Henriette Seyler (1805–1875), married to Norwegian industrialist Jacob Benjamin Wegner (1795–1864).
  • Emmy Seyler, married Homann
  • Molly Seyler

Ludwig Erdwin Amsinck (1826–1897), a son of his niece Emilie Amsinck née Gossler and business magnate Johannes Amsinck, was named after him.



See also[edit]


  1. ^ Johann Heinrich Goßler II, Neue Deutsche Biographie
  2. ^ J. G. Gallois, Geschichte der Stadt Hamburg: Spezielle Geschichte der Stadt seit 1814, Vol. 3 ("Am 26sten October starb einer der Hauptzierden unserer Börse, L. E. Seyler, seit beinahe 50 Jahren Associe von Berenberg, Goßler und Co., ein gleichmäßig als Kaufmann wie als Mensch achtungswerther Charakter")
  3. ^ a b Wilhelm Kosch, "Seyler, Abel", in Dictionary of German Biography, eds. Walther Killy and Rudolf Vierhaus, Vol. 9, Walter de Gruyter, 2005, ISBN 3110966298, p. 308
  4. ^ Percy Ernst Schramm, Kaufleute zu Haus und über See, 1949
  5. ^
  6. ^ Tradition: Zeitschrift für Firmengeschichte und Unternehmerbiographie, Volumes 4-5, 1959
  7. ^ Leisewitz, Johann Anton, Neue Deutsche Biographie


  • Percy Ernst Schramm, Neun Generationen: Dreihundert Jahre deutscher Kulturgeschichte im Lichte der Schicksale einer Hamburger Bürgerfamilie (1648–1948), Vol. I, Göttingen, 1963
  • Percy Ernst Schramm, Kaufleute zu Haus und über See. Hamburgische Zeugnisse des 17., 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, Hamburg, Hoffmann und Campe, 1949
  • Percy Ernst Schramm, "Kaufleute während Besatzung, Krieg und Belagerung (1806–1815) : der Hamburger Handel in der Franzosenzeit, dargestellt an Hand von Firmen- und Familienpapieren." Tradition: Zeitschrift für Firmengeschichte und Unternehmerbiographie, Vol. 4. Jahrg., No. 1. (Feb 1959), pp. 1–22.
  • Percy Ernst Schramm, "Hamburger Kaufleute in der 2. Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts," in: Tradition. Zeitschrift für Firmengeschichte und Unternehmerbiographie 1957, No 4., pp. 307–332.
Preceded by
Jacob Albers
President of the Commerz-Deputation
May 1817–July 1818
Succeeded by
Richard Parish
Preceded by
Johann Hinrich Gossler
(his father-in-law)
Head of Berenberg Bank
Succeeded by
Johann Heinrich Gossler
(his brother-in-law)