Because of their tremendous wealth and their philanthropic generosity, the Rothschild family became one of the the most famous Jewish names in Europe.
The founder of the Rothschild dynasty, Amschel Mayer Rothschild, was born in Germany
in 1743. He grew up in ghetto poverty, a small antiques merchant who collected
old coins. Through manipulation, luck, and some good politics, he succeeded in
becoming a provider of old coins to Landgrave William IX of Hesse-Kassel. He made
some money, but, more important, he made some important financial connections.
Amschel Mayer had five sons. Each son founded a banking branch in a major European country. They were able to succeed by establishing among themselves excellent communications, something that other financial institutions didn't have at that time.
Nathan Mayer Rothschild, who settled in London, was entrusted with large amounts of William IX's money. Through brilliant speculation and insider trading, Nathan amassed a fortune. He arranged a series of flag signals across the English Channel from France. By receiving information faster than others, he was able to make several financial killings which began the Rothschild fortune. He used his brother-in-law, Sir Moses Montefiore, as his stock-broker.
James Rothschild set up a branch in Paris, Karl Mayer Rothschild founded the Naples branch in Italy, Salomon Mayer Rothschild ran the Vienna branch, and Amschel Mayer was in the Frankfort branch.
The first two generations of Rothschilds were involved in huge financial activities that included transmitting the French war indemnity to the allies after the Congress of Vienna, financing Austria's first railroad, financing the Crimean War, and purchasing the Turkish viceroy's Suez Canal shares for Britain.
The philanthropic generosity of the Rothschilds was legendary. The Rothschilds were famous for using their financial and political clout to better the conditions of Jews throughout Europe. Edmund de Rothschild, one of the sons of James (the French branch), became the primary supporter of Jews trying to establish farming settlements in the Land of Israel.