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The Frankfurt house: history

M A Rothschild and M A von Rothschild and Söhne, Frankfurt

Origins

Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) laid the foundations on which his five sons would build their Europe-wide banking businesses. From humble beginnings he became Court Agent to numerous princes, and holder of the monopoly on the management of the finances of the immensely wealthy Elector of Hesse-Cassel. As a result of these dealings, Mayer Amschel amassed a not inconsiderable fortune and, in 1810, renamed his firm M A Rothschild und Söhne, establishing a partnership with the four sons still in Frankfurt.

Mayer Amschel died in 1812, and his eldest son, Amschel Mayer (1773-1855), took over the management of what was now the Frankfurt House in the Rothschild banking business. The House took a lead in the business of government bonds, while Amschel’s partners, his brothers Salomon (1774-1855) and Carl (1788-1855), travelled from court to court and congress to congress, making connections and negotiating contracts. Salomon and Carl eventually set up satellite Houses, in Vienna and Naples respectively, and continued to conduct major bond transactions on behalf of the Frankfurt House. 

M A von Rothschild & Söhne (from 1828)

The brothers were enobled by the Austrian Emperor in 1822, and by 1828 the Frankfurt bank had become M A von Rothschild & Söhne. However, the change in status could not conceal the fact that business in Frankfurt was stagnating. Amschel Mayer Rothschild (1773-1855) died childless, and the sons of his brothers (Anselm (1803-1874), son of Salomon (1774-1855), and Mayer Carl (1820-1866) and Wilhelm Carl (1828-1901), sons of Carl (1788-1855)) assumed responsibility for the business from 1855. Wilhelm Carl died in 1901 leaving no male heir.

Closure of the Frankfurt business in 1901

By 1901, and the death of the bank’s last remaining partner, Wilhelm Carl (1828-1901), Frankfurt was no longer a significant financial centre. No family members in London, Paris or Vienna wished to move to the Prussian city, and the decision was taken to liquidate the House. The Frankfurt house closed in 1901, and the remaining business being transferred to the Disconto Gesellschaft of Berlin, which established a Frankfurt office in order to handle it's new business. Joseph Nauheim, a senior clerk at the London house, managed the liquidation on behalf of the Nathaniel, 1st Lord Rothschild (1840-1915).

The former Rothschild bank’s building at 146 Fahrgassse was lent to the Jewish community for various uses. One of the rooms at 146 Fahrgasse was used to display a Judaica collection. The original banking offices of the family were preserved on the first floor, and many family heirlooms and pictures were added to the collection. In 1902, the Judisches Haushaltungsschule (the Jewish School of Domestic Science), which had been established in 1897 to train Jewish school girls in ‘domestic knowledge’, moved to refurbished premises at 146 Fahrgasse. In 1903, the premises were given to the school by the Rothschilds, rent-free.  In 1922, Adelheid (neé von Rothschild) (1853-1935), the wife of Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934), with the aid of her mother Hannah Mathilde (1832-1924), Wilhelm Carl's widow, made a significant donation to the museum, renaming it the 'Museum jüdischer Altertümer und von Rothschild Museums' in honour of Hannah Mathilde's 90th birthday. The museum was liquidated under the Nazis in 1938, and the contents dispersed; it is believed that much of the collection remained in Frankfurt where it was lost during air raids. Two portraits of the Rothschild family that were on display in the Rothschild Museum were recovered after the war, marriage portraits of Charlotte (1819-1884), daughter of Carl Mayer (1788-1855) from the Naples branch, and Lionel (1808-1879), son of Nathan (1777-1836) from the London branch. These are now in the Israel Museum Jerusalem.