1976 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"I am convinced of the essential greatness and nobility of our country. I believe with all my heart in its future, its generous spirit, and dynamic vitality."
Born in Mitau, Latvia, Joseph Hirshhorn was the twelfth of 13 children. His father, a merchant, died when Hirshhorn was an infant. His mother immigrated with her children to the United States when he was six years old. She settled the family in Brooklyn, New York, and worked in a purse factory to support them. A fire gutted their tenement building, sending Hirshhorn's mother to the hospital and scattering the children to live with neighborhood families. Hirshhorn dropped out of school at age 12 to work in a jewelry store. At age 17, with $255 he had managed to save, he set himself up as a broker on the curb market. By the time he was 28, he was making $2 million a year as a broker's broker. In 1936, he had holdings in the Preston East Dome Mines, where gold was discovered. He invested in uranium mines in Canada, and in 1956, he executed an amalgamation with the Rio Tinto Company, Ltd., of London for $50 million. He also maintained interests in silver, lead, zinc, and copper mines. Hirshhorn's real passion was art. In 1966, he donated his entire collection of some 5,600 works to the United States. The collection is housed in the Joseph H. Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on the Mall in Washington, D.C.* Deceased