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 the city-state of Hamburg, a co-owner for 48 years (1788–1836) and head (1790–1836) of the Hamburg firm Joh. Berenberg, Gossler & Co. (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. He served as President of the Commerz-Deputation, one of the city-state's main political bodies, and as a member of the Hamburg Parliament.[1][2] Ludwig Seyler was a son of the famous theatre director Abel Seyler and a son-in-law of the bankers Johann Hinrich Gossler and Elisabeth Berenberg.

Background and early life[edit]

Ludwig Seyler was born in Hamburg and was the son of the Swiss-born Hamburg 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 and who founded the Seyler Theatre Company,[3] and Sophie Elisabeth Andreae (1730–1764), a daughter of the wealthy Hanover court pharmacist Leopold Andreae (1686–1730), owner of the Andreae & Co. pharmacy. On his father's side he was descended from many of Basel's leading patrician families, including Seyler, Burckhardt, Socin, Merian and Faesch. After his mother died in 1764, he grew up in Hanover with his uncle, the noted Enlightenment natural scientist J.G.R. Andreae. His father remarried in 1772 to Friederike Sophie Seyler, Germany's leading actress of the second half of the 18th century and the author of the opera Oberon, a major influence on the libretto of The Magic Flute. Ludwig Seyler's sister Sophie Seyler (1762–1833) was married to the Sturm und Drang poet Johann Anton Leisewitz, the author of Julius of Tarent.

Berenberg Bank[edit]

Mortzenhaus, Berenberg Bank's head office from 1788

He joined the Berenberg company as an apprentice in 1775, aged 17.[4] On 20 May 1788, he married Anna Henriette Gossler (1771–1836), the eldest daughter of the company's owners, Johann Hinrich Gossler (1738–90) and Elisabeth Berenberg (1749–1822), and a member of one of Hamburg's most illustrious Hanseatic families, the Berenberg/Gosslers. His mother-in-law Elisabeth Berenberg was the only heir and last member of the Flemish-origined Berenberg banking family which established the firm in 1590.

Shortly after his marriage, his father-in-law made him a co-owner of the Berenberg company. Upon the death of his father-in-law in 1790, he became the company's head, while his mother-in-law was a partner in her own right from 1790 to 1800. In 1798 his brother-in-law, the later senator Johann Heinrich Gossler, joined the company as a partner. Ludwig Seyler remained one of the two dominant partners until his death in 1836.[5][6]

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.

Seyler was elected to the Commerz-Deputation, one of Hamburg's three main political bodies, in 1813, and served as its President from May 1817 to July 1818. He was also a member of the Hamburg Parliament during the same period.

Issue and family[edit]

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 the Norwegian industrialist 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. Ludwig Seyler was an uncle of Hamburg head of state Hermann Gossler.



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. ^ 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


  • 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)