Simon Baruch, Bernard’s father, was born in Germany near Posen, then part of Prussia, in 1840 and came to the United States at fifteen to avoid conscription in the Prussian army. He became a doctor and took part in the Civil War as a surgeon on the Confederate side. According to Baruch:
Father was a man worth looking at – six feet tall, erect and military, with a dark beard and mild, unwavering blue eyes. His dress was rather formal. Never do I recall seeing him in his shirt sleeves. Yet he had a kindly manner, and a soft voice which had no trace of accent to suggest his foreign birth (My Own Story, 2-3).
He became a pioneer in hydrotherapy, establishing the first public baths in New York City. He was also among the first doctors to successfully diagnose and perform appendectomies.
Belle Wolfe came from a wealthy old South Carolina family which had suffered ruin following the Civil War. She became acquainted with Simon Baruch during the war when he was a frequent guest at her home when on furlough. In 1867 when Simon established himself as a country doctor in Camden, they were married. They had to struggle at first with his medical practice. Belle taught piano and singing lessons at 25 cents a lesson and sold milk and butter. Nevertheless she never neglected her duty of raising her children as Baruch relates:
Each morning my three brothers and I would present ourselves before her for inspection ‘Let me see your fingers. Let me see your ears, Did you clean your teeth?’ Frequently these examinations meant another trip to the wash basin (My Own Story, 23).
Hartwig (“Harty”) Baruch, the eldest of the Baruch children and Bernard’s closest companion, was born in 1868. They were inseparable and shared a room at 144 West 57th street, with the rest of their family occupying the second room.
I don’t know if I could have stood those first days in New York if it had not been for the stalwart example set by Harty. Nothing ever daunted Harty and he waded into the big, tough city as if it were just another big, tough boy who was trying to pick a fight with him (My Own Story, 42).
Harty aspired to become an actor. Bernard was so convinced that Harty would be successful that he sponsored the first play staring his brother in Centerville, New Jersey. The play was a complete flop and before it was over, the whole cast decided to make a run for it.
Like the Duke in “Huckleberry Finn,” I went backstage and told the troupe that fortunately I had bought round-trip tickets and it was only a short walk through a dark street to the depot. I think we were at the railroad station before the audience realized there would be no third act. A train had just pulled in. We climbed aboard without even noticing which way it was going. Luckily it was headed for New York (My Own Story, pg. 70).
Regardless of this less than ideal start, Harty became a Broadway actor. However, he consented to follow his brother into Wall Street when Bernard bought a seat on the stock exchange for $19,000, and immediately offered it to Harty to make him settle down.
Herman Baruch, the third Baruch brother was born in 1872 and was the only sibling of Bernard’s who did not directly follow him to Wall Street and the only one, other than Bernard, to achieve a college education. Graduating from the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University, he worked as a doctor for a number of years. In large part based on the fame and influence of his famous brother, Herman embarked on a career as an ambassador, serving in Portugal and then Holland.
Sailing Baruch, the baby of the family, was born in 1874 and briefly attended a military academy before being expelled. He had many jobs before following Bernard to Wall Street.