Mayer Amschel Rothschild was the start of the legendary rise of the Rothschild family to become the world's greatest private bank.
Mayer Amschel himself was born in 1744 in very modest circumstances in the rear building of the Pfanne. His parents died when he was 12, forcing him to become independent at an early age. He went to Hanover to learn the business at the Oppenheimer bank, and on his return to Frankfurt he founded a moneylending and banking business, which he combined with dealing in antiques and medals. He established contacts with a number of German royal courts, for example as a moneychanger, and particularly the court of the Elector of HessenKassel, who later appointed him court factor. This was the foundation for the family's commercial rise.
In 1770 he married Gutle Schnapper, who gave him five sons and five daughters. In 1785 the family moved into the Grünes Schild, which it later regarded as its family home, although the sons and daughters quickly moved away when they grew up.
By around 1800 Rothschild was worth only about 60,000 guilders, a substantial sum in those days but by no means the largest fortune among the Frankfurt Jews. At that time the Speyer family was the richest Jewish family in Frankfurt, worth 420,000 guilders.
The business of Mayer Amschel and his five sons, who he made partners, expanded sharply during the Napoleonic period, but the greatest successes and the high point of the financial might of the Rothschild family in Europe and America came later under the five sons.
Mayer Amschel Rothschild always promoted the interests of the Jewish community. He was a major factor in the municipal emancipation of Frankfurt's Jews in 1811 under the administration of Dalberg: for example, he was willing to finance the large payment Dalberg demanded in exchange.