The first Senator of the Jewish faith, Jacob was the son of Michael and Miriam (Simon) Gratz of Philadelphia. His illustrious family included sister and brothers: philanthropist Rebecca, abolitionist Hyman, Simon, Joseph, and Benjamin. He received a classical education, entered the University of Pennsylvania in 1807, graduating with an M.A. in 1811; pursued merchandising; director of the Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, 1820; elected president of the Union Canal Company, 1822; officer of the Congregation Mickveh Israel, Philadelphia; elected to the state House of Representatives, serving 1838-1841; elected to the state Senate to fill a vacancy during the 1842 session; died on December 24, 1856, Philadelphia, interred in the Mickveh Israel Cemetery. The senator never married.