Speyer family

James Speyer (1861–1941)
Sir Edgar Speyer (1862–1932)
Sir Edgar & Lady Leonora Speyer c. 1921

The Speyer family is a prominent Jewish family of German descent. It can be traced back to Michael Isaac Speyer (1644–1692), who had briefly been the head of the Jewish community in Frankfurt am Main in 1691–92. The family originates from Speyer in Palatinate, hence the surname.[1] In the late eighteenth century the Speyers were the wealthiest Jewish family in Frankfurt, well above the Rothschild family.[2]

The patriarch of the family, Joseph Lazard Speyer, took over the Ellissen bank, inherited from his wife Jette Ellissen, and renamed it to J. L. Speyer-Elissen in 1818.[3] When their son, Lazard Joseph, got to the helm of family business in 1838, the name was again changed to Lazard Speyer-Ellissen. In 1845, Lazard Joseph's brother Philipp established Philipp Speyer & Co. (after Philipp´s death in 1876 renamed Speyer & Co.) in New York City and his brother Gustav set up Speyer Brothers 1861 in London. Early to realize potential in North America, by the 1870s they were one of the top five issuers of United States and Mexican railroad securities, their nearest rivals being Kuhn, Loeb & Co. and J.P. Morgan & Co..[4]

The London branch of the Speyer business, Speyer Brothers, was liquidated in 1922, when Gustav´s son Edgar Speyer left the United Kingdom for the United States. The Frankfurt branch, Lazard Speyer-Ellissen, was dissolved in 1934, shortly after the Machtergreifung, the coming into power of the National Socialist German Workers' Party.[5] The Frankfurt family home, the prominent Villa Speyer was taken away by the National Socialists in 1938.[6] In 1938, James Speyer retired and decided to close Speyer & Co. in New York rather than let his name continue with the remaining partners. Therefore, the last of the three Speyer banking branches was liquidated in 1939.[7]

The Speyer family belonged to Frankfurt’s patrons and made considerable foundations to support science and scientific education. Their funds provided the basis for the University of Frankfurt am Main.

Family tree

  • Joseph Lazard Speyer (1783–1846), married to Jette Ellissen
    • Lazard Joseph Speyer (1810–1876), married his cousin Therese Ellissen (1808-?) in 1832
      • Georg Speyer (1835–1902), banker, married Franziska Gumbert (1844-1909) in1869
        • Alfred Julius Speyer (1871–1927)
      • Jaques Robert Speyer (1837-1876), married Sophie Emilie Cassel (1843-?)
    • Philipp Speyer (1815–1876), emigrated to the United States in 1837 and established in 1845 the New York branch, Philipp Speyer & Co.[8] (1876 renamed Speyer & Co.). Married in 1850 Charlotte Stern (1824-1906), daughter of Jacob Samuel Hayum Stern (1780-1833), the founder of the Bank Jacob S.H. Stern in Frankfurt am Main.
      • Helene Therese Speyer (1857-1898), married Dr. Paul Meyer (1844-1925), a German railway manager
      • Anna Emilie Speyer (1861-1940), married 1885 in Frankfurt am Main Arthur von Gwinner (1856-1931), member of the Vorstand of the Deutsche Bank
    • Gustav Speyer (1825–1883), followed his brother to the US, joined Speyer & Co. in 1845 and set up Speyer Brothers 1861 in London
      • James Speyer (1861–1941), senior partner at Speyer & Co. since 1899, married to Ellin Lowery (1849–1921)
      • Edgar Speyer (1862–1932), moved to London in 1887,[9] married to Leonora von Stosch (1872–1956)
      • Hanna Louise Speyer (called Lucie, 1870–1918), married 1892 Eduard Beit von Speyer (nobled in 1910, 1860–1933), cousin of Alfred Beit (1853–1906)
        • Herbert Beit von Speyer (1899–1961)
        • Erwin Eduard von Speyer (1893–1914)
        • Hedwig Johanna Henriette von Speyer (1896–1966)
        • Ellin Anna von Speyer (1903–1983)


  1. Prominent Families of New York, The Historical company, New York, 1897
  2. Leanne Langley: Banker, Baronet, Saviour, ‘Spy’: Sir Edgar Speyer and the Queen’s Hall Proms, 1902-14
  3. Yiddish-German Correspondence between Two Jewish-German Banks
  4. Leanne Langley: Banker, Baronet, Saviour, ‘Spy’: Sir Edgar Speyer and the Queen’s Hall Proms, 1902-14
  5. Kopper, Christopher (1995). Zwischen Marktwirtschaft und Dirigismus : Bankenpolitik im "Dritten Reich" 1933–1939 (in German). Bonn: Bouvier. p. 246. ISBN 3-416-02529-6.
  6. History of the Villa Speyer in Frankfurt
  7. Susie J. Pak: "Gentleman Bankers - The world of J.P. Morgan", Harvard Studies in Business History (Book 51) 2013 ISBN 978-0-674-07303-6
  8. Supple, Barry E. (1957). "A Business Elite: German-Jewish Financiers in Nineteenth-Century New York". Business History Review. 31 (2): 143–178. JSTOR 3111848.
  9. Barker, Theo (2004). "Speyer, Sir Edgar, baronet (1862–1932)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/36215. Retrieved 4 September 2015.

Further reading

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