finding your roots

Jewish-American Copper Company

Kate Fulton January 19, 2012

My Jewish ancestors were early arrivals to the United States (some even predated the union). There are records on my great great great grandmother’s side of the family, that date all the way back to the 17th and 18th centuries. One family member, Uriah Hendricks was born in Amsterdam and arrived in New York City in 1755. (His ancestors most likely immigrated to Holland from either Spain or Portugal around the time of the Inquisition.) Nine years after arriving in the Americas, Hendricks established a metals business that primarily imported copper from Britain. In an effort to make the United States less dependent on outside copper production, Hendricks and his brother-in-law Solomon Issacs (pictured) built one of the nation’s first successful copper rolling mills.During their long career in metalwork, Hendricks and Isaacs serviced a number of well-known Americans, and had a profound impact on the military efforts of the United States. Here’s an excerpt from the American Jewish Historical Society:

Solomon Isaacs

Pictured: Solomon Isaacs, ca. 1813 - Jewish Museum

“One of Hendricks’s most important copper customers was Paul Revere, the famous patriot and metalsmith who lived in Boston and who became a friend. The American Jewish Historical Society’s archives contain letters between the two men. Another good customer was the fledgling United States Navy. The Hendricks firm produced the copper used to sheath three Navy vessels in New York harbor at the same time that Revere was cladding a fourth, the Constitution, now ironically known as Old Ironsides, with copper probably supplied by Hendricks. These copper-clad ships helped the United States fight the British to a standstill in the War of 1812. Hendricks made another contribution to the war effort by subscribing the then-considerable sum of $40,000 to government issued war bonds.

Robert Fulton, who is credited with inventing the steamship, was another frequent customer of Harmon Hendricks’s copper. In the spring of 1807, Hendricks supplied the copper used to build the boiler for the Clermont, the first inland steam driven packet boat in the world. The shipping of goods and passengers by Fulton’s steamships and their successors dominated interstate travel and commerce until the invention of the railroad.”

I feel incredibly lucky to have such a well-documented family line. It’s all too easy to lose significant parts of your family tree in the shuffle of time. Although I’ve never met the majority of the men and women who share a bloodline with me, and who come from such an outrageously different cultural experience, it’s impossible for me not to feel an intimate connection.

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Comments

  • Judy S.

    March 25, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Wish one time, maybe I missed it, research a Native American ( American Indian to some) soon.

  • Sharon

    April 24, 2012 at 1:40 am

    What an interesting family history you have, Miss Fulton. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    Warm regards.

  • Michelle Moreira

    June 30, 2012 at 12:16 am

    History is important because it is a part of who we are sometimes we have a lot to say and no one is listening until it is too late. With this website we can share our imput with our childen or grandchildren even after we are gone or with people who may be woundering am I alone .Where did all my people go? When some people divorce especially along time ago or died young a lot of history died along with them. Maybe we can start a new.

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The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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