The Paris house under the sons of James de Rothschild, 1868-1905
When James de Rothschild died in 1868, his son Alphonse (1827-1905) took over as head of the business. Alphonse had been educated to take his place at the head of de Rothschild Frères, and spent time in the other Rothschild houses in Europe, learning his 'trade'. In 1848, he was sent to the United States, from where he sent back enthusiastic reports about the prospects for a Rothschild House in that country. It was not to be. Under Alphonse, the business continued to flourish; Alphonse felt secure, that 'notwithstanding the many new banking houses, the governments always turn to us'.
Railways and oil
The French House continued to fund and build railways, playing a major role in the development of the French and European rail network. However, of greatest significance was the loan to the Tsar of Russia in return for a petroleum concession in Baku. This concession was so large that the Rothschilds quickly became the chief competitors of Rockefeller’s company, Standard Oil. By the 1890s, the Paris house had reduced its mercantile business and took an important role in the creation of several great industrial companies with railway, mining and metallurgy concerns. At the same time, the firm participated in large public credit operations. The bank’s industrial concerns continued to play a major role throughout the twentieth century, although in 1912 the French Rothschilds interests in Russian oil were sold in exchange for shares in the Royal Dutch and Shell oil companies. The sale prevented the loss of their assets in the wake of the Russian Revolution of 1917.