(p. A13) Before World War I, Edgar Speyer headed the London branch of the German-based Speyer banking conglomerate. Among other things, he was a great lover of music. His mansion on Grosvenor Square was a cynosure for composers– Debussy, Elgar, Richard Strauss, Schoenberg–all of whom availed themselves of the luxuries of the house, playing or conducting their work in private performances. “We live even more elegantly than kings and emperors,” Grieg wrote, referring to the mansion’s suite of rooms for visitors.
Not all of Edgar Speyer’s interests were so ethereal. The British Speyer branch was a key source of railroad finance, and Edgar himself was best known for creating–in partnership with Charles Yerkes, a Chicago entrepreneur–the London tube system, with its innovative “deep-tube” design. Edgar persisted in expanding the system despite its precarious finances and for many years functioned as its chief executive.
. . .
The Speyer bank, Mr. Liebmann tells us, had roots going back to the 14th century, at the threshold of a long surge in international commerce. New forms of paper–bills of exchange, letters of credit and much else–allowed traders to leverage up their businesses quite remarkably. Over time, houses like those of Baring, Rothschild and Speyer shifted out of their traditional-goods trading for the higher volumes and higher fees available from trading just the paper claims. The Speyers were known as the leading investment and trading house in Frankfurt, Germany, usually ranked just behind the Rothschilds in the Jewish financial imperium.
For the full review, see:
CHARLES R. MORRIS. “BOOKSHELF; Second Only to the Rothschilds; Speyer banks funded the London underground, placed the first Union Civil War bonds in Europe and built the Madeira-Mamore railroad.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Jan. 26, 2016): A11.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 25, 2016.)
The book under review, is:
Liebmann, George W. The Fall of the House of Speyer: The Story of a Banking Dynasty. London: I.B. Tauris & Co., 2015.