Jewish-American Copper Company
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:
“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.