Immigrants Made Good Archives

Sir Montague Maurice Burton was born on August 13th, 1885, in the tiny town of Kukel in Russian Lithuania. From his humble beginnings, he would go on to found the enormously successful Burton Company, responsible for outfitting so many British men throughout the 1900s.

English: Burton's menswear factory Leeds (now ...

English: Burton’s menswear factory Leeds (now owned by Arcadia) viewed from Brown Hill Avenue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Burton was notoriously cagey about his early life. We do know, however, that he was born Meshe David Osinsky to Hyman Jehuda and Rachel Elky Osinsky. His father was a bookseller; however, he passed away shortly after Meshe’s birth. Following his mother’s remarriage, Meshe was sent to live with his uncle, Soliman Osinsky.

Throughout his childhood, Meshe received a strong religious education and was well instructed in the Talmud. His uncle was a leader in the community and Meshe was well cared for; however, at 15, Meshe struck out on his own with the goal of starting a business in England.

He arrived in England in 1900 with little more than £100 in his pocket, but his keen business intellect more than made up for the money he lacked. He began his business career as a peddler selling accessories from door to door. After just a few years, however, he managed to set up as a general outfitter selling ready-made suits for the working man.

He purchased the ready-made suits from the Zimmerman Bros wholesale clothiers in Leeds and marked the price up by 30% in his retail business. By 1906, Burton was ready to expand, establishing a branch in Mansfield and then another in Sheffield. By this point, his stores offered both ready-made and bespoke (custom-tailored) suits.

In 1909, Burton met and married Sophie Marks. Shortly after his marriage, he changed the name of his stores from M. Burton to Burton & Burton. Children soon arrived in the Burton home. A girl was born in 1910, followed by a boy in 1914, followed by twin boys in 1917. It’s unclear when Burton began going by Montague Burton – and up until this point, he had not changed it legally; however, in the birth records of his twin boys he gave his name as Montague Maurice Burton.

By 1914, Burton had increased his number of stores to 14. The stores were scattered mainly throughout the industrial Midlands, and catered largely to the middle class. They offered a large variety of men’s wear, and soon grew to become the world’s largest wholesale made-to-measure tailoring service.

English: Shop Ventilator, High Street, Hunting...

Shop Ventilator, High Street, Huntingdon The script reads “Montague Burton The Tailor of Taste” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the First World War broke out, business boomed for Burton. He won a lucrative uniform contract, leading him to rapidly expand his workforce and the number of shops. Sales nearly tripled between 1915 and 1917.

Though he was a driven businessman, Burton was an outstanding employer for his time. He was committed to providing healthy working conditions for his employees, providing meals and low-cost dentistry. He even contracted the services of an eye specialist for his tailors, recognizing the strain caused by focused needle-work.

His efforts and business acumen were publicly recognized when, in 1931, he was knighted “for services to industrial relations.” He was a Justice of the Peace from 1930 onward, and was a prominent supporter of the League of Nations.

Burton passed away on September 21st, 1952, at a dinner party for his executives and managers at the Great Northern Hotel in Leeds. His funeral was held at the Chapeltown Synagogue.

Michael Marks immigrated to England around 1882. He was a young Polish Jew with hardly a penny to his name. He arrived unable to speak the English language, and lacking any marketable trade experience. Within his lifetime, however, he would found one of the most widely known companies in the world: Marks & Spencer.

English: Dewhirst's Warehouse - Harper Street ...

Dewhirst’s Warehouse – Harper Street Here Michael Marks met Tom Spencer, Dewhirst’s cashier, and in 1894 they formed the partnership of Marks & Spencer. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marks was born in 1859 to Jewish parents in Slonim, then a part of Russian Poland. In 1882, he sought to escape anti-Jewish repression and looked to England as a solution. He had heard of a company called Barran in Leeds that was known to employ Jewish refugees, so off to Leeds he went.

Despite his lack of trade skills, Marks had a shrewd business mind. He had a knack for understanding what customers wanted and how to provide those goods and services.

In 1884, Marks met a Leeds warehouse owner named Isaac Dewhurst. Marks arranged a deal in which he would purchase products from Dewhurst’s warehouse and then sell them in the villages around Leeds. He learned English fairly quickly as he travelled throughout the towns and villages of West Yorkshire, carrying his bag full of wares.

Using the proceeds from his travelling sales, he invested in a permanent market stall in Leeds’ open market which quickly grew into a bustling little business. The venture was so successful that he opened stalls at markets in Castleford and Wakefield as well. He set himself apart from others in the market by clearly displaying prices on each of his products – a practice that was unusual at the time, but one that his customers clearly appreciated.

Eventually, Marks began renting a space at the new covered market in Leeds, which allowed him to operate six days a week. He had a few stalls, but his most popular by far was his penny stall. Prominently displayed was the message “Don’t Ask the Price, It’s a Penny.” The next few years would see more of Marks’ penny stalls opened in market halls across Yorkshire and Lancashire.

In hopes of further expanding his business, Marks approached Dewhurst with the idea of a partnership. Dewhurst wasn’t interested, but he directed Marks to his cashier, Tom Spencer. Spencer had observed Marks’ steady rise and business acumen, and felt that the required £300 investment was a safe one.

The new partners divided the work according to their particular strengths. While Marks continued to run the market stalls, Spencer managed the office and supply lines, capitalizing on contacts he had made with manufacturers while working for Dewhurst. Marks and Spencer soon had stores running in Liverpool, Birmingham, Middlesbrough, Sheffield, Bristol, Hull, Manchester, Sunderland, and Cardiff.

By 1897, Marks and Spencer were running a miniature empire of thirty six branches. They built new stores in Bradford, Northampton, Preston, Swansea, and Leicester, as well as several branches in London. They also constructed a new warehouse in Manchester, which became their home office.

Marks & Spencer became a limited company in 1903. While Spencer soon retired, Marks continued to grow the company until his death in December of 1907.

In addition to his status as a great businessman, Marks was also remembered as a great philanthropist. He was widely known and respected in the community, and his life, work and generosity were celebrated by the largest attendance ever seen by the Manchester Jewish Cemetery

 

 

Paul Julius, Baron von Reuter was born Israel Beer Josaphat on July 21, 1816 in Kassel, Germany. He was an entrepreneur, journalist and media owner. More importantly, Reuter went on to become a trailblazer in the world of news reporting and telegraphy, eventually founding the Reuters news agency.

Beschriftung der Plakette: Baron Paul Julius R...

Baron Paul Julius Reuter -: 1816 – 1899(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reuter was born to Betty Sanders and Samuel Levi Josaphat, a local rabbi. He spent his younger years working as a clerk in his uncle’s bank in Göttingen. During his time in Göttingen he managed to make the acquaintance of Carl Friedrich Gauss, a prominent mathematician and physicist who was at that time experimenting with the electric telegraph.

In October of 1845, he moved to London where he began using the name Joseph Josaphat. Later that same year, he converted to Christianity, and in a ceremony at St. George’s German Lutheran Chapel, he took the Christian name Paul Julius Reuter.

Just one week later, Paul returned to Berlin where he married Ida Maria Elizabeth Clemetine Magnus. He joined a Berlin-based book publishing firm, and in 1847, he became a partner with Reuter and Stargardt. As Germany tumbled into the Revolution of 1848, however, the firm became involved in publishing and distributing radical pamphlets which brought Reuter under official scrutiny.

After arousing the hostility of German authorities, Reuter took refuge in Paris, where he began working with the news agency of Charles-Louis Havas (which would eventually become Agence France Presse).  He soon founded the Reuters News Agency in Aachen, and began sending news excerpts between France and Germany using a system of carrier pigeons.

Since telegraphy was still being developed, Reuter had one of the fastest sources of news available. The carrier pigeons were considerably faster than the post train, so Reuter was able to capitalize on stock news from the Paris stock exchange before most others got the latest news. He also began translating bits and pieces of news from France and sending the articles on to newspapers in Germany via his pigeons.

UK - London - The City: Paul Julius Reuter statue

UK – London – The City: Paul Julius Reuter statue (Photo credit: wallyg)

In 1851, Reuter returned to England and opened a telegraph office not far from the London Stock Exchange. Initially, he dealt primarily with commercial exchanges; however, as the popularity of daily newspapers grew, Reuter was able to sign on a number of publishers as well. His first major breakthrough in the industry came in 1859 when he was able to transmit a speech by Napoleon III preceding the Austro-French Piedmontese war in Italy.

Competition grew as other news agencies fought to keep up with Reuter’s telegraph techniques. Undersea cables allowed Reuter to further his network to other continents, and eventually, Reuter was obligated to agree on a division of territory with his two main rivals, Havas in France and Wolff in Germany. These three agencies maintained an effective monopoly over the world press for many years.

Reuter became a naturalized British subject in 1857, and was eventually granted baronies by both the German Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Queen Victoria of England. Reuter passed away in February of 1899; however, his news agency is still going strong today. In fact, on February 25, 1999, the Reuters News Agency honored its founder by establishing the Paul Julius Reuter Innovation Award.

Joseph Conrad is regarded as one of England’s great novelists. However, while he wrote in English, became a British national, and even took an Anglicized pen name, Joseph Conrad was always a Pole at heart.

English: Joseph Conrad

Joseph Conrad (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conrad was born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdyczew, Poland, on December 3rd, 1857. He was the son of Appollonius Korzeniowski and Ewa Korzeniowski, a Roman Catholic couple who were part of the szlachta, the land-owning gentry-nobility.

It’s quite likely that Joseph learned his love of literature from his father, who was a writer and translator of the works of William Shakespeare. Appollonius was also heavily involved in underground resistance to the Russian authorities. Under the guise of starting a cultural periodical, Appollonius moved his family to Warsaw where he formed the clandestine “Committee of the Movement”. He was imprisoned just days later.

The little family was exiled to Vologda in Northern Russia, and placed under strict police supervision. When both Ewa and Appollonius fell gravely ill, they were allowed to move to the Ukraine. There, Ewa succumbed to tuberculosis. Appollonius and young Joseph were allowed to return to Poland; however, Appollonius soon passed away as well, leaving Joseph with his uncle.

Like his parents, Joseph was often sickly, and he rarely attended public schools. His father had educated him well, however, and upon his return to Poland, Joseph was tutored at home until he passed his formal exams.

In hopes of improving his health, Joseph was sent to Southern France in 1874. Here he began a maritime career with the French merchant fleet. He had always dreamed of going to sea, and for the next twenty years, he devoted his life to a career as a ship officer’s.

In 1878, he visited England for the first time. He spent some time working on various English ships before officially beginning his career as an officer in the British merchant marines. His voyages took him around the world, not only allowing him to rise rapidly through the ranks from third mate to master, but also providing him with the background for many of the books he would soon write.

While it wasn’t his original intention to remain in England, Joseph chose to become a British citizen in 1886. He soon received command of his first ship, which took him to many ports in Africa and the East.

As he entered the 1890s, Joseph began to consider writing novels based on his experiences abroad. He began work on his novel Almayer’s Folly, and by 1894, Joseph fully retired from the merchant marines, intent on finishing the book.

Rudyard Kipling

Cover of Rudyard Kipling

Almayer’s Folly was published in 1895, and received such favorable reviews that Joseph decided to begin a new career as a writer. He met Jessie George, an Englishwoman, and they were married in 1896. They settled in Kent and had two sons.

Joseph Conrad soon became a prominent name in the world of literature, and he was befriended by a crowd of English and American writers. John Galsworthy was the first, and a significant influence on Almayer’s Folly. Conrad went on to befriend such literary greats as Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and Stephen Crane.

Before his death on August 3rd, 1924, Joseph Conrad would write a full 20 novels along with dozens of short stories and a number of essays. A large number of his works have since been adapted for film and opera. He was buried at Canterbury, England.

The name Joseph Boehm may or may not be familiar to you, but it’s quite likely that you see his work on a daily basis. This prolific medallist and sculptor is responsible for the Jubilee head of Queen Victoria that you may see emblazoned on the 1887 Jubilee coinage.  Further works are scattered in gardens, parks and museums throughout England.

British sculptor, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, with...

British sculptor, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, with Princess Louise, the sixth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in about 1885. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Joseph was born in Vienna on July 6th of 1834. Sculpting and metal-work must have been in his blood, as his Hungarian father was director of Vienna’s imperial mint. Joseph had an early interest in the art form and spent a number of years studying plastic art in Italy and Paris before returning to work as a medallist in Vienna. In 1856, he launched into a full time career by winning the Austrian Imperial Prize for Sculpture.

He moved to England in the early 1860s and began furthering his studies in sculpture. His career skyrocketed in 1862 when he exhibited his work at the 1862 International Exhibition. Owing largely to his success at this exhibition, Joseph decided to leave aside his work with coins and medals and to focus his creative energies primarily on sculpting portrait busts and statuettes.

In 1866, Joseph Boehm became a naturalized British citizen. His works continued to gain notoriety across Britain, and the royal court began to take notice. Some of his first works for the royal court include an enormous marble statue of Queen Victoria for Windsor Castle (completed in 1869) and a monument of the Duke of Kent in St. George’s Chapel.

His star continued to rise, and he was made an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1878. In 1881, he was named sculptor in ordinary, and by 1882, he was elected to the Royal Academy.

Photograph of old bronze statue, of famous wri...

Bronze statue, of famous writer preacher and killjoy, John Bunyan, at the end of Bedford High Street. Statue was given to the lucky people of Bedford, England by the Duke of Bedford in 1874. The sculptor was Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm (1834 – 1890). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1887, he was called upon to design a new effigy of Queen Victoria to be emblazoned on coins in commemoration of the Queen’s 50th year on the throne. Unfortunately, his design received harsh criticism from his artistic peers as well as from the public. Despite his painstaking work, numerous drafts and dozens of tweaks, the final product was the brunt of considerable mockery – particularly due to the “absurdly small crown” that perched on the Queen’s head. The design was eventually replaced in 1893.

Nonetheless, this snafu did little to hurt Joseph Boehm’s career. He continued his work as a prominent sculptor, commissioned by numerous members of Britain’s aristocracy. In 1889, he was granted the baronetcy of Wetherby Gardens in the Parish of St. Mary Abbots, Kensington, in the County of London.

Joseph went on to produce a great number of commissioned works for the Royal Family and members of the aristocracy. His sculpture of St. George and the Dragon can still be seen outside the State Library of Victoria, while his equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington stands today at Hyde Park Corner.

A number of his more notable works also include a sculpture of Francis Drake, a memorial of General Charles George Gordon at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and a large sculpture of the stallion King Tom, which was created for Baron de Rothschild.

While he had an English wife and four children, there were rumours that Boehm was engaged in a romantic relationship with one of his pupils, Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen Victoria. Princess Louise was present at his house when Boehm passed away suddenly on December 12th, 1890 complementing the speculation.

British taste buds might not be so happy today without the innovation and entrepreneurialism of one Carlo Gatti. He is, after all, credited with being the first to offer ice cream at an affordable rate to the general public. He rose from a poor, isolated region in the Blenio Alpine Valley to become one of the most brilliant business marketing gurus of the Victorian era.

Carlo Gatti, 19th century ice-cream pioneer

Carlo Gatti, 19th century ice-cream pioneer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gatti was born in 1817 in Canton Ticino, a predominantly Italian-speaking region in Switzerland. Common speculation puts his place of birth in the village of Marogno which was then within the boundaries of the commune of Dongio. He was the youngest of six siblings born to Stefano and Apollonia Gatti.

As a child, Gatti showed little ambition, and regularly played truant from school. Like many young men in the region, Gatti couldn’t wait to leave in search of greater opportunities throughout industrialized Europe. A harsh beating at school provided the final push Gatti needed, and rather than returning home, he simply set off on a 600 mile walk to Paris, where his father was running a small business selling chestnuts.

Paris at the time was a hub of innovation and business. Cafes throughout the city offered coffee, ice cream and live music to all classes of people, and young Gatti certainly must have absorbed the atmosphere and learned from their management and business strategies. Rather than settling into the family business, however, Gatti turned his eyes on greener pastures.

In 1847, at the age of 30, Gatti arrive at Dover with his young wife, Maria Marioni. He quickly found a home in London and settled into life in the bustling Italian community in Holburn. He started out with a business he knew well, selling chestnuts and waffles from a little stall. Before long, however, two of his children died, and some suggest that this event spurred Gatti to greater ambition in pursuit of a better life for his family.

By 1849, Gatti went into business with Swiss chocolatier Battista Bolla. Together they opened a café restaurant, specializing in chocolate and ice cream – a treat previously reserved only for the very wealthy. The duo set up a Parisian chocolate making machine in their front window to attract passers-by, and soon business was bustling.

hokey pokey manAfter exhibiting his chocolate machine at the Great Exhibition in 1851, he opened the first of five shops in Hungerford Market that thrived on selling the original “penny licks” – a penny’s worth of ice cream served in a shell. His penny ice cream was such a novelty that London’s streets were soon bustling with Italian ice cream vendors – or “Hokey Pokey men” – tempting customers to “ecco un poco” or “taste a little”.

In 1854, Hungerford Hall burned down, damaging the adjoining market. Fortunately, Gatti was insured and he was able to use the compensation to replace the structure with a grand music hall. Just a few years later, he sold his music hall at a healthy profit to the South Eastern Railway, and the hall was turned into Charing Cross station.

With the proceeds, he set up a second music hall which later became a cinema.  Around the same time, Gatti built a huge “ice well” where he could store the tons of ice that he began importing from Norway. In 1862, he built a second ice house, and was established as the largest ice importer in London. Capitalizing on this, he set up a fleet of delivery carts to supply ice for household ice boxes.

Due to his entrepreneurial spirit, and careful business strategies, Gatti went on to found new confectioner’s shops, cafes, restaurants, and even the world’s largest billiards room. When Gatti died on September 6th, 1878 in his home town of Dongio, all of his London businesses closed to pay their respects to the life of this immigrant who had truly achieved greatness.

As one of the richest men of his day, Sir Ernest Cassel left a lasting mark on Britain’s history. He was a generous philanthropist, a wildly successful businessman, a close friend of royalty, and recipient of numerous honors and distinctions. Few would have expected such a legacy from a young, penniless German immigrant.

English: A portrait of banker and capitalist S...

A portrait of banker and capitalist Sir Ernest Cassel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ernest was the youngest of three children born to Amalia and Jacob Cassel. He was born on March 3, 1852, in Cologne, Germany. His father owned a small bank, and Ernest received a standard education up until the age of 14. At 14, he quit school and started an apprenticeship under J.W. Eltzbacher, a local banker who specialized in financing foreign business and large industrial ventures. Ernest had a natural knack for business, and with his outstanding capacity for hard work he quickly learned the ropes in the world of finance.

Shortly before his seventeenth birthday, Ernest set out for England. He arrived in Liverpool penniless, but with plenty of ambition. He quickly found a job working for a firm of grain merchants where he was paid £2 a week.

His true gifts lay in the world of banking, and he was soon working in Paris for a bank. His stint in Paris was short lived though, as the Franco-Prussian War soon broke out. Since he was born in Prussia, Paris was no longer safe for him, and he was forced to return to England where he soon found work in a London bank.

He began working as a confidential clerk for Louis Bischoffsheim in the financial house of Bischoffsheim and Gildschmidt. He became a fast friend of the Bischoffsheim family, and this led to rapid promotion through the ranks of the financial firm. By the time he was 22, Ernest was managing the bank at a salary of £5000 plus commission.

In 1878, Ernest was married to Annette Mary Maud Maxwell in a ceremony at Westminster. They had one child – a daughter, who they named Amalia Mary Maud Cassel. Tragedy struck before long, when Annette contracted tuberculosis and died within three years of their marriage. Ernest’s widowed sister and her children soon came to live in London, where she helped to run the household and look after little Amalia.

Ernest Cassel funerary monument, Kensal Green ...

Ernest Cassel funerary monument, Kensal Green Cemetery, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Despite Ernest’s personal losses, he prospered in the offices of Louis Bischoffsheim and in 1884 he began putting together his own financial deals. He developed business ventures in Turkey at first, and soon had substantial ventures in Sweden, South America, Egypt, South Africa, and the United States. By 1898, his independent business was so successful that left Bischoffsheim and Gildschmidt to open his own offices.

Ernest developed a friendship with Lord Willoughby de Broke and they jointly started a stud farm for breeding race horses. They began racing their bred horses, and it was at the tracks that Ernest met the Prince of Wales (soon to become King Edward VII), and a fast friendship formed between them.

Ernest Cassel received a number of public recognitions as well as foreign decorations. The first was the K.C.M.G. awarded by Queen Victoria for his importance in the financial world. King Edward awarded him the further distinctions of K.C.V.O., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., G.C.B., and a privy councillorship.

Throughout his lifetime, Sir Ernest Cassel gave away nearly £2 million to public works and charities.

 

Ludwig Mond was inarguably one of the most successful and influential industrial chemists of his day. He not only made great strides in scientific research, but he became very successful in business as well, thanks to his unique business sense and enormous energy. He was well known as one of the founders of the alkali firm of Messrs. Brunner, Mond & Company and was an avid inventor, widely known for his philanthropic activities with many scientific institutions.

Mond was born on March 7, 1839 into a Jewish family in Cassel, Germany. His father was a fairly successful merchant, and was determined to provide young Ludwig with the best possible education. After completing his early studies in his home town, Ludwig was enrolled in the Polytechnic Institute of Cassel and went on to attend classes at the Universities of Marburg and Heidelberg.

Ludwig Mond, by Solomon Joseph Solomon (died 1...

Ludwig Mond (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

His professors held him in high esteem, and though he never earned a degree, they provided him with glowing recommendations. Thanks to recommendations from such distinguished educators as Hermann Kolbe and Robert Bunsen, Ludwig was able to find employment at two German chemical companies.

When he decided to move to England in 1862, he put his education to good use once more, and was soon employed by John Hutchinson and Co. in Widnes. He returned to Germany for a short time, where he married his cousin Frida Lowenthal, but in 1866 he returned to Widnes and took up work with John Hutchinson once more.

Hutchinson’s company manufactured soda using the Leblanc process, but this process left a lot of black ash. Ludwig came up with a method for redeeming that black ash – which contained considerable amounts of sulfur – and he formed a partnership with John Hutchinson to recover and repurpose the sulfur through his patented process.

In 1872, Mond heard of work done by Ernest Solvay, a Belgian industrialist who was developing a more efficient soda manufacturing process. He formed a partnership with John Brunner and they began working on bringing Solvay’s ammonia-soda process to commercial viability. Together they set up as Brunner Mond and Company in a factory at Winnington, Northwich. Building on Solvay’s work, Mond quickly worked out the kinks that had hindered mass production, and within 20 years, Brunner Mond & Company had become the largest soda manufacturer in the world.

English: Entrance to Mond House, offices of Br...

English: Entrance to Mond House, offices of Brunner Mond The entrance to Mond House is now flanked by statues of Sir John Brunner, 1842-1919 (left), and Ludwig Mond, 1839-1909 (right), the founders of Brunner-Mond. The terracotta detailing around the entrance and clock is by Jabez Thompson and dates the building to 1899. Brunner Mond became part of ICI and is now owned by the Tata Group. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Commercial success hardly slowed Mond, however. An incurable tinkerer, he continued researching new chemical processes, looking for more efficient ways to produce valuable commodities. One of his greatest accomplishments was the discovery of nickel carbonyl, a compound that was previously unknown. Through the Mond process, he was able to easily decompose this compound to produce pure nickel. Ludwig founded the Mond Nickel Company near Swansea in Wales and began importing huge amounts of ores from mines in Canada.

He had an enormous passion for the sciences, and was a generous benefactor of many scientific societies, including the Royal Institution of Great Britain, the Royal Society, and the Italian Accademia de Lincei. He worked with Henry Roscoe to expand the Lancashire Chemical Society into a national Society of Chemical Industry. He became a member of the Royal Society in 1891, and was granted membership in the German Chemical Society, the Prussian Akademie der Wissenschaften, and the Societa Reale  of Naples. Though he never earned a degree, he was granted honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford, Manchester, Padua, and Heidelberg.

Ludwig Mond passed away on December 11, 1909, at ‘The Poplars’ – his London home near Regent’s Park.

john ellerman

Father and son in the 1920s Photo Credit  -Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Although Sir John Ellerman was not technically an immigrant, his father immigrated to England from Hamburg in 1850 – shortly before John’s birth. He was the only son of Johann Hermann Ellermann, a German corn merchant and shipbroker who served as Hanover’s honorary consul in Hull. The Ellermann family quickly Anglicized their surname by dropping the second ‘n’, instead going by the name “Ellerman”.

John was born in Kingston upon Hull in 1862 to a German father and an English mother. His father died when John was just nine years old, leaving the family an estate of just £600; however, this early tragedy didn’t prevent him from going on to great success in life. He was, in fact, one of the very most successful entrepreneurs in all of British history – though few even know his name.

Though he hardly got along with his mother, she ensured that the young John received a good education. He spent a number of his childhood years in France before attending the King Edward VI School in Birmingham. When he turned 14, he found employment as an accountant which gave him a measure of freedom from his mother and allowed him to live independently.

Once he was fully certified as an accountant, he moved to England to seek his fortune. He was immediately offered a partnership in one of the leading British firms, but he turned it down, choosing instead to found his own practice, J. Ellerman & Co.

He was well ahead of his time, as one of the very first British businessmen with actual certification in accountancy. He put that training to good use, applying modern accounting practices to find floundering companies fit for takeover. He began buying up established businesses, choosing those that offered valuable products but were failing due to poor management. Under his oversight, these once-floundering businesses began to flourish. His first investment, the Brewery and Commercial Investment Trust, appreciated by 1300% in the first nine years of his management.

35029 - 'Ellerman Lines'. Sectioned to show in...

‘Ellerman Lines’. Sectioned to show internal workings of a steam locomotive. NRM, York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Few could have called Ellerman an innovator; however, his cautious investments and brilliant management paid off and assets rarely failed to flourish under his hand. In 1892, he launched into shipping, the industry that would truly make his fortune. He bought the Leyland Line in 1892 and sold it just nine years later to J.P. Morgan for £1.2 million. He immediately invested that capital into other shipping lines, and by 1917, Ellerman Lines owned 1.5 million tons of shipping.

He continued to invest in other interests as well. By 1918, Ellerman held stock in some 70 breweries, and several newspapers including the Financial Times, the Daily Mail, The Times, the Illustrated London News, and others. He launched into the coal industry, and by 1920 he held stake in over 22 mining interests. After WWI, many British aristocrats began selling off slices of their vast estates. Ellerman had cash to burn and he soon became a major landowner in London.

Despite his enormous financial success, Ellerman was an intensely private person. He lived quietly, and though he was made a baronet in 1905, he avoided further honours, choosing instead to live unostentatiously. He was very likely the richest man in England at the time, though his quiet lifestyle left journalists guessing. When he passed away in 1933, his estate was assessed at over £36 million.

 

English: Nathan Mayer Rothschild.

Nathan Mayer Rothschild. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Nathan Mayer Rothschild was born on September 16,  1777 in Frankfurt, Germany. He was one of five sons, and the fourth child of Mayer  Amschel Rothschild and Gutle Schnapper. In his brief 59 years, Nathan Rothschild would lead his four brothers to the peak of the financial world and synonymize the Rothschild name with international wealth and power.

Nathan was certainly the most restless and gifted of the Rothschild brood. He had enormous energy, creativity and ambition, and it came as no surprise when he left Frankfurt at age 21 to launch a branch of the family’s firm in Manchester. He initially worked as a textile merchant, but soon found his true passion working in the world of finance.

He moved to London and began trading bills of exchange through a banking enterprise that he founded in 1805. In 1806, Nathan married Hannah, the daughter of Levi Barent Cohen. This union lifted him into a prominent position in London society and provided him with invaluable access to business contacts among London’s elite. What may have taken years to accomplish was quickly within his grasp, and Nathan wasted no time amassing a substantial fortune.

His brothers, as part of the Rothschild network, were able to build on the foundation that Nathan had established. They were in position to achieve great things in the world of finance, and they quickly gathered fortunes of their own. As their fortunes skyrocketed, so did their social standing, and in 1816, Nathan’s two older brothers were granted noble status by the Austrian Emperor. The brothers prefixed the Rothschild name with von or de to show their new status; however, Nathan chose not to use his aristocratic title though he too was elevated.

He was a popular man, enormously respected and admired. He doted on his wife and children, providing for them indulgently. In the business world, his brusque determination and high standards were legendary. His London house, NM Rothschild, dealt in foreign currency exchange and gold bullion which brought him extraordinary success. The man was brilliant, and while his business dealings and strategies have been examined down through the years, few fully understand how he achieved such rapid supremacy on the world scene.

So enormous was his wealth and business success that he was approached with contracts from the British Government. Through 1814 and 1815, he supplied Wellington’s troops with gold coin, and went on to issue 26 government loans between 1818 and 1835.

slavetradeAside from his business successes, Nathan Rothschild was a prominent campaigner against the slave trade. He spoke out strongly against the slave trade and partially financed the 20 million pound government buyout of the slaves on Britain’s foreign plantations.

As with any figure who achieved such high status on the global scene, legends and conspiracy theories sprung up around the Rothschild name – and particularly around Nathan Rothschild. Many of these stories are largely embellished of have been twisted over time; however, the fact remains that Nathan Rothschild was truly one of the most successful immigrants in history. By the time he passed away in 1836, his personal fortune made up as much as 0.62% of British National income and he had established the Rothschild family as Europe’s most prominent investment bankers.

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