Welcome toThe Rothschild Archive'swebsite

Sources for business history: catalogues of bank files

Sources for art history: Catalogue of the pictures of Alfred de Rothschild 1901

Sources for yachting history: Plans for Nathaniel von Rothschild's yacht Veglia 1905

Sources for natural history: Walter 2nd Lord Rothschild and his zebra carriage: c.1910

Sources for global financial history: Map of lines of the Brazil Railway Company: c.1920

Sources for business history: index cards to bank files

Sources for social history: Rothschild Hospital Paris: 1920s

Sources for business history: detail of a Rothschild bond coupon

Sources for architectural history: Halton House: 1890s

Sources for the history of travel: Lionel de Rothschild's tours of Spain: 1909

Sources for local history: Tring Park: c.1900

Sources for Royal history: shooting party with Edward Prince of Wales: 1893

Sources for political history: Lionel de Rothschild: first Jewish MP: 1858

Sources for sporting history: St Amant winner of the Derby: 1904

Sources for local history: gardeners at Aston Clinton: 1899

Sources for Rothschild family history: Lionel de Rothschild's yacht Rhodora: 1927

Sources for London history: entrance to New Court: 1965

Sources for design history: plans for Lionel de Rothschild's Rolls-Royce: 1930

Sources for business history: Rothschild gold bars produced by the Royal Mint Refinery: 1930s

Sources for business history: letters of August Belmont Rothschild Agent in New York: 1860s

October 2020: Portrait of Louise, Baroness Mayer Carl von Rothschild and her daughter Adele, c.1844

Treasure of the Month: The collections of The Rothschild Archive London contain over two million pieces of paper, volumes, files, photographs, artefacts and art works. Each month the archivists will highlight a particular treasure from the collections.

October 2020 is a month that the Archivists have eagerly been anticipating as we await the reopening of the Jewish Museum Frankfurt. After being closed for nearly six years, the museum is due to reopen on 21 October*, after a major building extension, complete interior renovation and reinterpretation of the galleries, achieved with financial support from the city and donors including the Rothschild family. We look here in detail at one of the items that has been lent from the collections of The Rothschild Archive, London.

The Rothschilds in Frankfurt

The Rothschild family have been part of Frankfurt’s Jewish community since at least 1450. Successive generations had been born in the Judengasse, the city’s Jewish quarter, including Mayer Amschel Rothschild (1744-1812) who we often refer to as the founder of the Rothschild businesses. As a boy, Mayer Amschel was sent from Frankfurt to learn his trade in finance with Simon Wolf Oppenheimer in Hannover, but he returned to Frankfurt, and the family's roots. An extraordinary entrepreneur, Mayer Amschel amassed a not inconsiderable fortune and, in 1810, renamed his firm M A Rothschild und Söhne, establishing a partnership with his sons in Frankfurt. Whilst Mayer Amschel’s widow Gutle (1753-1849) was alive, the family returned to the Judengasse for all important matters. For those who had ventured further afield, their acknowledgment of their ancestral home was clear in their business principles and philanthropic endeavours.

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt is the oldest independent Jewish Museum in Germany. It was opened by Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl on 9 November 1988, the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The careful choice of a home for a permanent museum telling the story of its century’s old Jewish community, had been decided upon democratically by the City; it was to be the former Rothschild Palais.  Situated on the bank of the river Main, the Rothschild Palais at 15 Untermainkai had originally been designed in 1821 by Frankfurt's master builder, Johann C F Hess as a luxurious residence for the banker Joseph Isaak Speyer. When one of Mayer Amschel’s sons, Carl von Rothschild (1788-1855), bought the property in 1846 he commissioned the architect Friedrich Rumpf to make alterations. The family continued to spend much of their time at the house, and it passed from Carl to his son Mayer Carl (1820-1886) who lived there with his wife Louise and their seven daughters. In 1894 Hannah Louisa, one of the seven daughters, established the Baron Carl von Rothschild public library in the house in memory of her father and grandfather. The Rothschild business in Frankfurt closed in 1901 but family members continued to live in the city of their ancestors.  The Rothschild Palais was acquired by the city of Frankfurt in 1928. After the Second World War it served as the main site of the municipal and university library, and later as an outpost of the Historical Museum.  In the 1960s the rooms were rebuilt and refurnished to be used as an annexe to Frankfurt's Historical Museum.

The Museum is reborn

Today, after its renovation, the Rothschild Palais stands alongside a new and modern facility which will incorporate a library, event space and café for visitors. The rooms once occupied by the Rothschild family are now shared with other prominent Frankfurt families, between them telling the story of Frankfurt’s Jewish community from 1800 to present day.  Having been approached early on in the development of the concept for the museum’s new permanent galleries, the Archivists worked closely with the Museum’s curators on how to present the Rothschild story. The Rothschild Archive has selected items from its collection which have been loaned for display in the new exhibition space for the next ten years. Having mostly been kept in our archive store, where only a handful of people have occasionally passed them by, they are off to start a new chapter and will no doubt captivate their next audience. 

One item which has been lent from the collection at New Court is a beautiful portrait of Louise, Baroness Mayer Carl von Rothschild (1820-1894) and her daughter Adele (1843-1922).  This piece is particularly poignant, because in a sense Louise is ‘coming home’: the youngest child of Nathan Mayer Rothschild (1777-1836) of the London house married her Frankfurt cousin Mayer Carl in 1842 and set up home with him at 15 Untermainkai, the site of the Jewish Museum today. At least three versions of this portrait by a favoured artist of the family survive. Louise and her daughters, like other members of the family, left their mark on Frankfurt through the many charitable enterprises that they established.  These include the Günthersburg Park, the Carolinum dental hospital, now part of the university, and the Clementine Children’s Hospital which was established by Louise after the early death of her daughter in whose memory it is named.

The portraits were commissioned to be circulated among family members. The interior of the room in which they are portrayed is almost as sumptuous as the material of Louise’s dress. Louise and her daughter are in front of an elaborate fireplace, and part of her husband’s magnificent collection of Schatzkammer (literally 'Treasure Room') is displayed. Mayer Carl was a discerning collector and by the time he died his art collection was so vast it took up the entire Rothschild Palais. During Mayer Carl's lifetime the collection was on display to the general public every Sunday. One can only imagine what it would have been like to step into those rooms and wonder at the precious pieces on display.  Indeed, that wonder can be experienced again with the reopening of the museum as some of the original Rothschild interiors having been retained and restored for visitors to walk through once more. Frankfurt is at the top of the Archivists’ list of places to visit; we hope you will too.

 * Information correct at time of writing, 1 October 2020.

Further information (in English and German) about the Jewish Museum Frankfurt can be found here »

Download a PDF list of all items being loaned from The Rothschild Archive to The Jewish Museum Frankfurt here »

Portrait of Louise Baroness Mayer Carl von Rothschild and her daughter Adele c.1844

Portrait of Louise Baroness Mayer Carl von Rothschild and her daughter Adele c.1844

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt

The Jewish Museum Frankfurt