SPEYER, SIR EDGAR

SPEYER, SIR EDGAR (1862–1932), British railway financier. Edgar Speyer, a member of the famous German banking family, was born in Frankfurt and came to England in 1887 as a director of Speyer Brothers, the family bank, engaged in currency exchange and railway finance. He was naturalized in 1892. From the mid-1890s he was one of the most important figures in procuring the finance and development of London's "tubes," its electric-powered subways, usually in conjunction with the American railway builder C.T. Yerkes. London's Underground system owes much to Speyer. He was made a baronet (a hereditary knight) in 1906 and was made a member of the Privy Council in 1909. During World War I, Speyer was the victim of a concerted, highly unpleasant campaign against him as an alleged pro-German. In 1915 he offered to resign as a privy councilor, but the offer was declined by the prime minister; at nearly the same time, a lawsuit was brought against him and Sir ernest cassel , another German-born member, requiring them to justify their continued membership. As a result of these pressures, Speyer moved permanently to New York. According to historians, however, there seems no doubt that Speyer was, in some sense, pro-German and was in regular touch with his Frankfurt business. In 1921 he was struck off the list of privy councilors and was accused, in a government white paper, of "trading with the enemy" in wartime. He continued to live in New York but died after an operation in Germany, ironically less than a year before Hitler came to power. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: ODNB online; D. Kynaston, The City of London, I (1994). (William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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