Born on January 10, 1760 and baptized on January 23 that same year, in Harlem, NY, he was the son of Isaac Roosevelt and Cornelia Hoffman, and the great-great-grandson of the first Roosevelt in America, Claes Maartenszen Van Rosenvelt. He graduated from Princeton in 1780.
James was a sugar-refiner (his father’s trade) and banker in post-revolutionary New York, and amassed a large fortune in addition to his inheritance. An active Federalist, he served in the New York State Assembly in 1796 and 1797 and was an alderman in the New York City Council for the Fourth Ward in 1809. However, his interest in politics was less than previous Roosevelts, especially his father, and he was the last of his branch of the family to engage in politics until Franklin D. Roosevelt. He engaged in some philanthropy with the large fortune he acquired through business.
He was also involved in the Bank of New York like his father, by creating Roosevelt & Son traces its history back to 1797. The firm was founded originally as a hardware business by Jacobus James Roosevelt at 97 Maiden Lane in Manhattan. James’ son Cornelius Roosevelt would join the business in 1818 as a partner and the firm would be renamed James I. Roosevelt & Son. Roosevelt & Son entered banking in the early decades of the 19th century by discounting the notes of various customers of the hardware business and later other merchants in New York City. In 1824, the Roosevelts were involved in the formation of Chemical Bank (now is BankAmerica). By 1850, Roosevelt had transitioned from the hardware trade to the importation of plate glass which was an important component of the construction boom going on at that time in New York.
In 1865, Cornelius Roosevelt retired from the company and by that time, in the mid-1860s, Roosevelt & Son had begun the transition toward becoming a full-fledged banking house, primarily focused on private banking and investments. In 1876, the company sold its plate glass business to an English company and from that point forward was focused exclusively on financial services. The firm was known primarily for its “unbiased investment counsel” which the firm provided to a client base that included institutional investors, high net worth individuals and various trusts and estates.
At one point he owned a bowery of land was subdivided into twenty-two equal plots, of about 6 to 8 acres each.stony farmland at Harlem first owned by Abraham Storm, including thirty-one acres (east of Fifth Avenue between 110th & 125th St., and the East River), were sold by Storm’s widow Catherine to Rockefeller in 1795. Lacking long range vision, he sold it for $25,000, partly to John Jacob Astor (which we think became Astor Row on 129th Street, between Lenox Avenue and 5th Avenue). In 1819, late in life, he removed to Poughkeepsie and bought a large tract of land on the Hudson River, called Mount Hope.
He married three times and had thirteen children, several of whom died young. He was the father of Isaac Roosevelt, grandfather of James Roosevelt, Sr., and great-grandfather of U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
This branch of the Roosevelt family subsequently moved to the town of Hyde Park, but several of Roosevelt’s children remain interred in Harlem.
He died in 1847.