America pays tribute to Paul Revere and George Washington with legends, statues and even currency, but a small crowd gathered in Kew Gardens Hills Sunday to remember an unsung hero of the Revolutionary War.
Haym Salomon was a Polish Jew who immigrated to the 13 Colonies and became the primary fund-raiser of the Revolutionary army.
“There are many people who helped the struggle in different ways,” said Jeff Gottlieb, president of the Queens County Jewish Historical Society, which hosted the event. “There are front-line warriors or foreign diplomats ... and others who stayed the course, but what this guy did was so good.”
Salomon raised money by selling bonds throughout the war, but he also played a crucial role toward the end of the fight.
“He managed to raise enough money in the last years of the war to pay for Washington’s armies,” Gottlieb said.
And yet, Salomon died penniless, passing off the money he made to the war effort, according to Gottlieb.
The ceremony was held at a triangular parcel of land between Main Street, 72nd Road and Veigh Place — curiously named Haym Salomon Square.
The color guard of the Sons of the Revolution and members of the Junior ROTC marched with historic and contemporary flags to kick off the ceremony.
In attendance was Bill Sachs, a filmmaker who is creating a book and documentary about Salomon.
“Most people don’t know who he is,” Sachs said. “He is almost a Founding Father. Without him we might not have won the war.”
Salomon also loaned money to Revolutionary icons like James Madison.
But not only that, Salomon has some legendary stories that would rival other figures of the time.
Salomon first came to New York City where he became involved with the Sons of Liberty and survived two trips to the notorious and fetid prison ships that were anchored along the East River — although he would later die from tuberculosis he contracted during one of his internments.
Just when he was about to be hanged for his role in stirring up opposition to the British forces after his second prison sentence, he was spared because of his knowledge of German and business acumen.
Salomon then walked to Philadelphia to escape British detection, Sachs said, and began to feverishly raise funds for the Continental army.
And that is why Salomon deserves to be remembered, according to Gottlieb.
“He had a choice,” Gottlieb said. “He first came to New York, he could have become a Torry, he would have made a great deal more money in the city. He could have become a power broker, but instead he stayed the course. He went to Philadelphia and cast his lot with the American side.”
The Queens Jewish Historical Society commemorates Salomon each year.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2011 Community News Group
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