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de Rothschild Frères, Paris, 1817-1868


In 1760 Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) took over the commercial and coin dealing business which his father had started in 1750. Financial responsibilities for the account of the Royal household of Hesse were soon added to trade in cloth, wine and spices. Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836), Mayer Amschel's third son left Frankfurt for England in 1798. He made his first home in Manchester, establishing a cloth wholesale business, before moving to London to establish himself as a banker. Nathan's increasingly successful business provided a model for his brothers back in Frankfurt. 

Taking advantage of the door which Napoleon, despite the Continental blockade, had left open in order to ensure certain financial and commercial links with England, Amschel’s youngest son, James, went first to the small port of Gravelines in Northern France. From 1811, he was in Paris, co-ordinating the purchase of specie and bullion for his brother Nathan (1777-1836). Between 1814 and 1815 he was the lynchpin in Nathan’s plan to supply Wellington’s armies with funds.

de Rothschild Frères, Paris

Originally trading as J M Rothschild, in 1817, James established a permanent business in Paris, under the corporate name of de Rothschild Frères with his brothers as partners. The business was housed in a mansion on the rue D’Artois which was later renamed rue Laffitte in honour of Louis Philippe’s minister.  James added the adjacent buildings so the offices occupied numbers 19, 21 and 23.

By 1823 the Paris House was firmly established as banker to the French government. After the death of his brother Nathan in 1836, James took over the reins of the family firm and became the trusted adviser of ministers and kings. The Paris House continued to fund many loans to European governments, but the decline in public sector borrowing led James to concentrate on new lines of business. From the traditional products of international commerce, such as corn and cotton, the house began to extend its interests to other products. This began with development into the commodities of gold and silver, together with the products used in refining, in particular, quicksilver, and quickly grew to encompass the financing of raw materials trading, railway construction and manufacturing industries. This diversification was continued when James’ sons, Alphonse (1827-1905), Gustave (1829-1911) and Edmond (1845-1934), became partners in the bank.