The Hive JQ

The Hive is a community hub for Birmingham in an historic building, with an award-winning organic café and bakery, craft workshops, exhibitions and event spaces.

Israel Rosenthal was born on 26th July 1866 in Hartlepool, Durham. He was the son of Falk and Esther Rosenthal, a Jewsish couple who migrated to the UK from Poland. Falk Rosenthal’s occupation in various census years is stated as Picture Seller, Jeweller and Travelling Jeweller.

I. Rosenthal & Co. was founded by Israel in 1890, when he was 24 years old. It is unclear when the family moved to Scotland, but it was initially registered in Glasgow. Israel owned one half of the business and his two brothers, Abraham and Harry, owned a quarter each when they joined the company in 1894. From 1890, the premise was listed at 1 Regent Place, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.

In 1900, the business was described by Kelly’s Directory as a ‘watchmakers’ and ‘jewellers’, although very few of their products have survived. The Birmingham Assay office has a record of the company’s maker’s mark, which details the initials ‘I.R & Co’. This silver pocket watch fob from 1901 is one of the few examples of I. Rosenthal & Co’s products which are still in circulation; it sold recently for just £23.


Silver pocket watch fob by I. Rosenthal & Co. Image credit:

Maker’s mark from the Birmingham Assay Office

Although the business is listed in Birmingham from 1890, it is likely that Israel and his family did not actually live in Birmingham until 1898 at the earliest. We know that he had 8 children with his wife Johanna Levinson, who was the daughter of Fibus Levinson, a Jewish Rabbi. Israel and Johnanna’s five first children, Grace, Rachel, Herschel, Louis, and Arthur, were born between 1891 and 1898 and were all registered in Newcastle Upon Tyne and Glasgow. It was not until the birth of their sixth child Frank, who is registered in Birmingham, that we know for sure that the Rosenthals were living in the city. Israel is also registered with the Birmingham Freemasons as of 1899.

The partnership between Israel and his brothers had dissolved by 1904, but the business continued to be registered at Regent Place until 1905. Both brothers moved to London and left the jewellery trade; Abraham worked as a journalist on Daily newspaper, and Harry became a General Manager of a public company manufacturing metal filament lamps.

During his lifetime, Israel fell victim to a number of thefts. Before his move to Birmingham, he reported that a suitcase containing over £100 worth of jewellery had been stolen from the lost luggage desk of Bridge Street train station in Glasgow - the jewellery was never recovered. Years later, on 19 October 1907, his house was robbed by William Read aged 43, and George Stephens aged 38. They both pleaded guilty at their trial on 31 October 1907 to breaking and entering Israel’s home. They stole 2 bronzes, 1 set of fish knives and forks, 2 pictures, 2 nutcrackers, 3 fruit knives and other articles. Both men were sentenced to 3 months hard labour.

(Thank you to Suzanne Hayes for the research)