Mayer Anselm Rothschild, a German banker, born in Frankfort in 1743, died there in September, 1812. He belonged to a poor Jewish family, and was a clerk in Hanover before establishing himself at Frankfort, where his integrity and ability brought him into relations with German governments, and particularly with that of Hesse-Cassel. The elector William, on his flight in 1806 after the invasion of his states by the French, deposited about $5,000,000 for safe keeping with Rothschild for eight years without interest, and subsequently received from his heirs an annual interest of 2 per cent., the capital being repaid to the elector's son and successor in 1823. The judicious investment of this capital was the source of the colossal fortune of the Rothschilds. Mayer Anselm's five sons, Anselm, Solomon, Nathan, Charles, and James, respectively became chiefs of houses at Frankfort, Vienna, London, Naples, and Paris, and all were made barons by the emperor Francis; and they acquired world-wide celebrity by making loans to governments and by other financial and mercantile operations. The firm is continued by members of the family at all these places excepting Naples, the London and Paris houses being the most important; and special agents of the firm are established in all parts of the world.

The eldest son of the London Rothschild, Lionel Nathan, the present head of the firm (1875), was elected to parliament from the city of London in 1847. He declined to take the customary oath "on the true faith of a Christian," and did not take his seat, although regularly reelected, until the removal of the disabilities of the Jews in 1858. He was the first Jew that ever sat in the house of commons.