Mayer Rothschild Biography
ROTHSCHILD, rot'shĭlt, Eng. pron. rŏths'-child. A family of European bankers, financiers, and philanthropists. The founder of the family, Mayer Anselm (1743–1812), was born at Frankfort-on-the-Main, the son of a Jewish merchant. After some experience as clerk in a counting house at Hanover, he returned to Frankfort and opened a money-exchange business. Being a man of good character and considerable information, he attracted the attention of the Landgrave (afterward Elector) of Hesse-Cassel. In 1806, when the Elector fled before the French, he intrusted Mayer Anselm with the care of his private fortune. The merchant justified the trust reposed in him; his fame as a financier spread, and he accumulated a large fortune. His three sons, Anselm, Salomon, and Nathan, became associated with him in business, and later on his two youngest, Jakob and Karl, were taken into partnership. All his sons were made barons by the Emperor of Austria in 1822. The oldest, Mayer Anselm (1773–1855), carried on the business at Frankfort, where he died without issue. The Frankfort business was carried on by the sons of Karl, on the death of the younger of whom in 1901 that firm went into liquidation. Salomon (1774–1855) became head of a banking establishment at Vienna. He was succeeded by his son Anselm Salomon (1803–74), who was followed by his son Albert (1844–1911). The third son, Nathan (1777–1836), founded a branch of the house at Manchester in 1798 and removed in 1803 to London. Large sums of money placed at his disposal were invested with so much judgment that his capital multiplied with rapidity. Karl (1788–1855) founded a banking house in Naples. Jacob (James) (1792-1868) became chief of the family interests in Paris in 1812 and was succeeded by his son Alphonse (1827-1905). In addition to their five principal establishments the Rothschilds established agencies in many other cities both of the Old and New World.
Lionel (1808–79), eldest son of Nathan and head of the London house, was born in London and was educated at Göttingen. He was elected to Parliament for London in 1847, 1849, 1852, and 1857 and at each election claimed the right to take the oaths and his seat in the House of Commons. The last words of the oath—"on the true faith of a Christian"— he insisted upon omitting, "as not being binding on his conscience." He was then desired to withdraw from the House. In 1858 he was placed on a committee which was to hold a conference with the House of Lords, and this was virtually the means of establishing Jewish emancipation. The Commons sent up another bill, and the Lords gave way, merely taking measures to prevent the admission of Jews into the Upper House. Lionel Rothschild there-upon (July, 1858) took the oaths and his seat. (See Russell, Lord John.) He sat till 1868, when he was defeated, but was reëlected in 1869 and again lost his seat in 1874.
Lionel's son, Nathan Mayer, first Lord Rothschild (1840–1915), who became head of the English house, was born in London and was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge. He succeeded his uncle in a baronetcy in 1876 and his father as an Austrian baron in 1879. As Liberal member for Aylesbury he sat in Parliament from 1865 to 1885, when he was raised to the peerage, the first representative of his faith to be so honored (Disraeli was a Jew by race but not by creed). Regarded as the leader of English Jews, Lord Rothschild served as president of the United Synagogue of London and was active in protecting Jewish interests in all countries, refusing to make profitable loans to Russia because of the treatment of his race in that country. He made donations to all sorts of public movements and at the time of his death was president of the British Red Cross, which by April 1, 1915, had raised $7,500,000 for the care of soldiers wounded in the European War. Lord Rothschild was often consulted by Gladstone and Disraeli, whom he aided in the Suez Canal (q.v.) coup. From Cambridge he received the degree of LL.D. At the time of his death the total wealth of the Rothschild family in its various branches was estimated to be $2,000,-000,000.—Lionel Walter (1868– ), eldest son of Nathan Mayer Rothschild, succeeded his father in the family title, but his interests were largely scientific. Born in London and early a student at Bonn and at Magdalene College, Cambridge, he sat in Parliament as a Liberal Unionist from 1899 to 1910. He wrote much on zoölogy and in 1911 was elected a fellow of the Royal Society.
The New International Encyclopaedia, Vol. XX (New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1920) 174-175.