Sampson "Samuel" Bissinger (1825-1897) was a successful merchant, a tailor and friend of President Andrew Johnson, and the Uncle of Adolph Simon Ochs, founder of the New York Times. Bissinger is considered one of the leaders of early Jewish life in Tennessee.
Sampson "Samuel" Bissinger was born in Ichenhausen, Bavaria (modern day Germany) to Jewish parents, Baruch-Benedig" Bissinger (1783-1834) and Brendel-Babette (Mayer) Bissinger (c. 1790-1856). Baruch-Benedig was a prosperous cotton peddler and horse dealer.
Sometime during the 1840s, Samuel decided to immigrate to the United States. In 1849, he was married to Caroline "Sarah" Ochs, brother of Julius Ochs and future Aunt to Adolph Simon Ochs, founder of the New York Times. For the next forty years, Samuel was an industrious businessman, starting several dry-goods stores and a clothing tailor shop. In the early 1860s, he ran a small hotel. It was also during this time he went into business with Julius Ochs, his brother-in-law. The two ran a goods store which eventually closed, leaving Julius bankrupt. On the 1870 census, Bissinger is shown as a "merchant," employing several servants and a cook.
When the Chattanooga Dispatch failed (a newspaper young Adolph Ochs worked for) the Ochs' was in dire need of financial assistance. For a period of time Adolph lived with his Uncle Samuel, while the rest of his family worked hard to get back on their feet. For the remainder of his life, Adolph never forgot the kindness he was shown by the Bissinger Family and was a frequent visitor of Samuel, his children, and grandchildren.
While President Andrew Johnson was in office, he had his suits made by Bissinger's tailoring company in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The President was a former tailor himself, and often preferred to sew his buttons on personally. Bissinger and Johnson were described as "friends and cronies" in a later profile of the former and maintained a periodic correspondence which is kept in the Library of Congress.
In the 1880s, Samuel Bissinger encountered various setbacks to the shops and businesses he owned. He left many of his holdings in the hands of his children in Chattanooga and Knoxville, Tennessee while he packed up and moved to New York City to live with his daughter. He died in Brooklyn near the end of 1897 and is buried in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Family and Descendants
Samuel married Caroline "Sarah" Ochs in 1849, and lived the first years of their married life in Louisville, Kentucky. They had the following children:
- Benjamin Bissinger (b.1850) Benjamin was a wealthy investor and inventor. Many of his sewing machine patents were used by the leading manufacturers of the day.
- Bertha (Bissinger) Felleman (b. 1857)
- Nancy (Bissinger) Borges (b. 1857)
- Mathilda (Bissinger) Hyman (b. 1852)