Philip Becker - Table of Contents

Philip Becker

Philip Becker was the first German emigrant to be elected mayor of Buffalo, 1876-1877 and 1886-1889, and he was Buffalo's first three-term mayor.


Portrait hanging in City Hall
Artist:J. P. Sellinger

Detail of previous illustration

1887 campaign ribbons
Source: On display in 2002 at Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society

Becker's house, 55 W. Mohawk

Mr. Becker lived there until about 1889. Mr. Becker had already been elected Mayor once, in 1875, before he moved into the house, and he was elected Mayor the second time when he was living there, in 1885, and, again for his third term in 1887. Source: The Y.M.C.A. Site

Caption: Former residence of Townsend Davis and Cyrus Clark, Mohawk and Genesee Streets. Next to it, on the left, former residence of John S. Noye, later of Hon. Philip Becker. These sites now covered by the Y.M.C.A. Building.

Source: "The Picture Book of Earlier Buffalo," Frank H. Severance , ed. Buffalo Historical Society Publications, Vol. 16, 1912, p. 401

Becker ended his days at 534 Delaware.
Buffalo City Directories list this address as Becker's residence from at least 1893-98.
Other directories list his address as 55 W. Mohawk from at least 1885-88
Architect: Richard A. Waite

In 1869 Becker founded and was first president (1869-1898) of the German Insurance Company
Photographer: George Barker
Source: The Buffalo photo collection of Dale and Janice Rossi

Becker sat on the commission which planned and built the City Hall

Becker and Jacob Schoellkopf were the principals in building the music hall
Photographer: George Barker
Source: The Buffalo photo collection of Dale and Janice Rossi

Becker Monument.
Forest Lawn Cemetery... Truncated obelisk ... Polished Quincy black granite ... Weighs 48 tons ... Crafted by McDonnell & Sons,  the heaviest all-polished block of granite ever manufactured in its day

Becker Monument.
Bas-relief likeness of Mayor Becker, 1-1/2 times life size

Becker Monument.

Becker Monument.

Philip Becker  was born in Oberotterbach, Bavaria, Germany, on April 25, 1830. He was one of nine children born to well-to-do people in that country. Philip was sent to public school until he was thirteen years old; went to college in France for two years; and then finished college in a German institution, where he graduated from at sixteen years of age.

He and his older brother came to America in 1847, and traveling via the Erie Canal headed for their aunt and uncle in Buffalo , Shortly after arriving, Philip found employment as a grocer's clerk with Jacob Dorst, at the corner of Main and Mohawk Streets, at a salary of $4 per month. Seven years later, with $400 of his own and $2,000 borrowed, he opened a delicatessen on Main near Court. The business, Philip Becker & Company, grew rapidly into one of the largest wholesale groceries in Western New York.

In 1869 he founded and was first president (1869-1898) of the German Insurance Company and in 1896 donned the same hats in the case of the Buffalo Commercial Insurance Company.

At the beginning of the 1890s, about the time he moved into 534 Delaware, he retired to spend his last days in peace. There he died in 1898.

Becker the Public Servant

Becker played an important role in the public life of his adopted city. As Buffalo Germans became more prosperous, they became more Republican. In 1876 Becker was a delegate to the Republican National Convention which nominated Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1888 he was a presidential elector.

He was elected mayor in 1876, 1886, and 1888 on the Republican ticket, the first German-American in that position. In 1830 Buffalo's population was nearly half German-born or descendants of German heritage. It was their support which helped elect Becker to the position of mayor, the first German-born mayor of Buffalo. He, Diehl, Fuhrmann, and Schwab were among eight German-American mayors.

He sat on the commission which planned and built the City Hall, which was opened in 1876 and for which he was called "The Centennial Mayor."

In 1891 he contended for the Republican nomination for governor, but was defeated by "The Machiavelli of Tioga County," Thomas Collier Platt.

Becker and his neighbor across the Avenue at #553, Jacob Schoellkopf, were the principals in building the music hall and designating Buffalo as the site of the great 1883 German Sangerfest.

Family life

In 1852 Philip Becker  married Sarah Goetz, sister of his partner George Goetz. They had no children.

That same year, Mr. Becker's parents and siblings arrived from Bavaria. Both parents also died that same year.

Sarah was an Alsatian, who lived into her eighties at #534.

Becker  retired from active-business in 1893.


One of the first homes of Becker was a brick home on Pearl Street near Court Street. From there he moved to a modern brick mansion at the northeast corner of Franklin and Mohawk Streets.

In 1890 he erected a mansion at 534 Delaware Avenue near Allen Street, which "up to his death (1898) was the pleasant gathering place of his many relatives and friends."

Becker died on July 4, 1898. He left an estate valued over $750,000. He was credited with being Buffalo 's third millionaire many years earlier. Several trusts were set up in his will and his wife was paid annuities until her death.

In his will, Becker left money to, among other charities, St. Vincent's Female Orphan Asylum.

Sarah Goetz Becker
By Patrick Kavanagh
History of Women in Forest Lawn Lawn Cemetery

Section 12, Lot 25
Date of Death: 3/10/1923
(Wife of Buffalo Mayor Philip Becker)

The overwhelming love Sarah showed for her deceased husband, Philip Becker, is rather evident. Mayor Becker died on 7/4/1898, and Sarah purchased this lot at Forest Lawn in 1899.

On September 10, 1901, it was written in the Buffalo Express that the large granite marker for Philip, the first German emigrant to be elected Mayor of Buffalo (1876-77 and again 1886-1889), was "... the largest piece of granite ever quarried and worked in one piece." The large solid piece weighs 50 tons. Prior to this, according to the same article, the Blocher monument, specifically the bell and cap erected in 1888, had the same distinction; the largest stone ever cut in this country, only to be surpassed by the Becker monument. Mrs. Becker is to be commended for her contribution to history with this significant memorial tribute to her husband. the once mayor of Buffalo.

At the time of her death she lived at 534 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo.

Ed. note: The granite was supplied by McDonnell & Sons.


Color photos and their arrangement 2002 Chuck LaChiusa
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