Monday, February 23, 2015

The Founder of the House of Rothschild

The name Rothschild echoes with a sense of wealth and fame. The House of Rothschild was one of the most powerful financial forces in 19th century Europe, and several members of the family even attained titles of nobility.

The story of the Rothschilds began with Meyer Amschel Rothschild, who was born on February 23, 1743* in Frankfurt-am-Main. His father, Amschel Moses, was a trader and currency exchanger. The family had gone by the name Rothschild for several generations and were named such because they had, at one point, lived in a home marked by a red shield.

In 1755, Meyer Rothschild was orphaned. After finishing his education at the Jewish school in Furth, Rothschild went to Hanover and found a position in the firm of Oppenheim. He trained in banking and finance through the firm, but when he started out on his own he returned to an interest that he had learned from his father - coin trading. In the many municipalities of Germany, there was a great need for money changers, since each municipality had its own coins. Rothschild, however, specialized in rare coins and developed such an excellent reputation that he attracted the attention and the business of Crown Prince Wilhelm of Hesse. After the prince became Wilhelm IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Cessel, Rothschild began assisting him with many of his large banking needs, a lucrative business given Hesse-Cessel’s export of Hessian mercenaries.

Rothschild’s greatest asset, however, was his progeny. He established his five sons in five important European cities. His eldest, Amschel Meyer, stayed in Frankfurt-am-Main. Saloman went to Vienna, Nathan to London, Calmann (Carl) to Naples, and Jacob (James) to Paris. Rothschild also had five daughters who survived to adulthood.

As both family and business associates, the Rothschilds were able to move their couriers in and out of countries expeditiously. Their international spread allowed them to act both together and independently, which was particularly useful during the Napoleonic Wars.

Meyer Amschel Rothschild, whom some have dubbed “The Father of International Finance” passed away in September 1812.

*According to Wikipedia and other sources, however, there are conflicting reports of 1744.

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