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James Mayer de Rothschild (1782-1868)

James Mayer de Rothschild was the youngest child of Mayer Amschel Rothschild. He was born in the house of the Grünes Schild in the Jundengasse in Frankfurt on 15 August 1792. Six years later his brother Nathan left Frankfurt to further the family business which James himself was eventually to lead after Nathan's death.

From the age of 19, James was in Paris co-ordinating the purchase of specie and bullion for Nathan, and in 1814 and 1815 he was the linchpin in Nathan's masterplan to furnish Wellington's armies with funds. Remaining in Paris, first at rue Pelletier and then rue Laffitte, James founded the Rothschild firm of de Rothschild Frères. The House funded many loans to European governments and was instrumental in the development of railways in France and the rest of Europe.

James married his niece, Betty, the daughter of his brother Salomon, on 11 July 1824. The couple entertained on a grand scale, first in Paris and then in the château de Boulogne and at Ferrières. James became the trusted adviser of ministers and kings.

James held on to the reins of power within the family firm after the death of Nathan in 1836. His sons, brothers and nephews were in awe of his dynamic authority. Contemporaries remembered his quick wit, expressed in a heavy German accent, though the sharp tongue which went with it was not always benign. James was devoted to his extended family, but it was not beyond him to turn against any member whom he felt to have acted improperly. His response to the marriage of his niece, Hannah Mayer, displayed at once his demand for obedience and his faithfulness to the family's Jewish beliefs. His domination of the firm ended with his death on 15 November 1868.

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, 1817-1891

000/2125, 5 files

Sundry correspondence of James de Rothschild and other members of the French Rothschild family, primarily with Monsieur Castel, General Secretary of the Compagnie des Chemins de Fer du Nord, mainly concerning routine matters such as permissions for travel on the railway by members of the Rothschild family, requests for travel permits, and permission to publish Chemin de Fer du Nord share prices; letter from James de Rothschild to the chevalier de Broval (Private Secretary to the Duke of Orléans, future Louis Philippe), offering his services to the Duchess of Orléans, 1817. 

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, 1848-c.1870

000/1618, 206 items

Collection of autograph letters addressed to James and Betty de Rothschild by members of the French royal family, members of the aristocracy, government ministers and politicians.

List available

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, 1865

000/1696, 1 item

Letter signed by James de Rothschild to the opera singer Adelina Patti, 6 March 1865, congratulating her on the previous evening's performance when she performed one of his niece's (possibly Hannah Mathilde) songs.  He sends her a pineapple from Nice. 

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, 1865

000/2451, 1 item

Letter dated April 29 1865 from Baron James de Rothschild to Frédéric Le Play (1806-1882), organiser of the Universal Exhibition, Paris. The International Exposition of 1867 (Exposition universelle d'art et d'industrie de 1867), was the second world's fair to be held in Paris, from 1 April to 3 November 1867. Over 40 nations were represented at the fair. The letter concerns the financing methods necessary to ensure the success of the 1867 Universal Exhibition. The letter explains that the expenses of the Exhibition are valued at a maximum of 20 million francs; that the State and the City grant a subsidy of 12 million francs, and that the remainder, which must not exceed 8 million francs will be covered by means of a loan, guaranteed by an association of underwriters of the Exhibition, to be paid for by 'products' of the Exhibition. James goes on to say 'I have the honour to inform you, Sir, that I agree to subscribe a guarantee of Hundred Thousand francs in the terms and conditions set out below; but under reserve only if, contrary to forecasts, the expenses of the Universal Exhibition exceeded 20 million francs, the net receipts will remain affected, by privilege to the release of the liability of subscribers of the 8 million before taking anything to repay the excess...'

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, c.1867; 1889

000/1231, 3 items

Letter signed by James Mayer de Rothschild (1792-1868) addressed to Monsieur le Chambellin, written from Compiègne (in French); note signed by R Bischoffsheim, written from rue Taitbout (in French); letter signed by R. Bischoffsheim.

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, n.d.

000/2013, 1 item

Letter from James Mayer de Rothschild: letter to 'My Dear Count' [possibly Felix Baciocchi] explaining that an eye illness prevents his appearing in front of the Emperor as requested.

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, 1848

000/1241, 1 item

Printed Public Letter addressed to M. Rothschild from E Barrault, Paris August 1848, concerning the Saint-Simonism cause and the revolution.

James Mayer de Rothschild, correspondence, 1839; 1868

000/1402, 2 items

Two letters to Baron James from Cavour (n.d.) and Thiers (1839); one letter to Alphonse from Niel (1868).

James Mayer de Rothschild, phrenological assessments, 1869

00/2196, 1 item

The American Phrenological Journal And Life Illustrated: A Repository of Science, Literature and General Intelligence, Vol 49, 1869.  Contains a phrenological assessment of James de Rothschild.

James Mayer de Rothschild, private papers, 1832-1862

000/2169, 1file

Sundry papers including a small photograph of Ferrières; a blank invitation card to a hunting party; a receipt, signed by James, for the purchase of shares on Roman loan; a number of letters addressed to Mr de Beaumont de lapeyrouse; a statement of account;  an official document announcing the awarding of the contract of the Société anonyme du canal de jonction de la Sambre à l'Oise, 1835.

James Mayer de Rothschild and Betty de Rothschild, marriage poem, 1824


Poem on the occasion of the marriage of James and Betty de Rothschild, Frankfurt, 11 July 1824, in German, printed on silk and bound in red velvet with family arms embroidered on the cover, bearing the bookplate of the library of James de Rothschild.  

James Mayer de Rothschild, 70th Birthday Testimonial, 1862

000/2054, 1 item

Testimonial in the form of a song written in the honour of James de Rothschild on the occasion of his seventieth birthday on 5 May 1862.   

James Mayer de Rothschild, funeral invitation, 1868

000/2125, 1 item

Printed invitation to James de Rothschild’s funeral on the 18th of November 1868.

James Mayer de Rothschild, will and codicils, 1868

000/240, 000/2054, 2 items

Copies of the will of Baron James de Rothschild, November 1868 and codicil, 1 September 1868.

James Mayer de Rothschild, press cuttings, 1868

000/1814, 2 items

L'Univers Illustré, 21 November 1868, announcing the death of James de Rothschild, with portrait of James taken from a photograph and a brief obituary; copy of L'Univers Illustré, 28 November 1868, with a front cover illustration showing the James's funeral.

James Mayer de Rothschild, press cuttings, 1868

000/1622, 1 item

Le Monde Illustré, 21 November 1868.  Contains an article following the notice of the death of James de Rothschild and an engraving of the Baron from a Disderi photograph on the front cover. The article, by Pierre Veron, contains a number of anecdotes: about James's appearance; about how he was overcharged for bric a brac; and about his philanthropy.

James Mayer de Rothschild, Manuscript and Library collections, c.1798

000/437, 1 item

Talmudic commentaries, Hebrew manuscript dated c.1798, believed to have been owned by James. Catalogues of James' private library will be found in the Reading Room: Catalogue des livres composant la bibliotheque M. le Baron James de Rothschild, five volumes, Emile Picot (Damascene Margone Libraire, Paris, 1884) (ref 20/2017);  Catalogue des livres composant la bibliotheque M. le Baron James de Rothschild, five volumes, Emile Picot (Burt Franklin, New York, 1965) (ref 19/2017).

James Mayer de Rothschild, Manuscript and Library collections, 1882

000/2565, 1 volume

Volume, Les Continuateurs de Loret. Lettres en Vers de La Gravette de Mayolas, Robinet, Boursault, Perdou de Subligny, Laurent wt Autres (1665-1689), Recueilles et Publiées par le Baron James de Rothschild. Tome Second (Juillet 1666-Decembre 1667)' (Damascène Morgand Libraire, Paris, 1882). A volume of early French verse by various authors in the style of Jean Loret collected and published by Baron James de Rothschild. Jean Loret (c.1600-1665) was a French writer and poet known for publishing the weekly news of Parisian society (including the court of Louis XIV) from 1650 until 1665 in verse in what he called a gazette burlesque. He is sometimes referred to as the 'father of journalism' as a result of his topical writings. After his death, several other writers continued the tradition of gazette burlesque until nearly the end of the century.

James Mayer de Rothschild, Library collections, 1884-1920

000/2656, 5 volumes

Catalogue of the Library of James de Rothschild (1792-1868): Catalogue des Livres composant La Bibliothèque de Feu M. Le Baron James de Rothschild (Paris, Damascène Morgand, Librarie, Édouard Rahir Successeur. 55, Passage des Panoramas). Vol I (1884); Vol II (1887); Vol III (1893); Vol IV (1912); Vol V (1920).