At Keizersgracht 444-446 you find the white building of the former Hope Bank. Around 1660 members of the Hope family (originally from Scotland) settled in Rotterdam. Archibald Hope (1664-1743) and his wife Anna Claus had eight sons and three daughters — six of their sons were merchants, active in shipping, storage, insurance, stocks and credit in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. The financial collapse of 1720 (South Sea Bubble, speculators had paid hugely inflated prices for stocks based on English government debt) ruined a large number of people, but the Hopes survived.
Son Henry Hope Sr. moved to Boston in the United States in 1730, where 5 years later grandson Henry Jr. was born. Archibald Jr. and his brother Thomas moved to Amsterdam. Younger sons Isaac and Zachary remained in Rotterdam — they helped organize the 1735 transatlantic crossing by Swiss Mennonites to Pennsylvania.
As an aside: the Pennsylvania Dutch were actually German. Seeking freedom from decades of religious persecution in Switzerland and Germany, entire communities of Mennonites emigrated to Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The word “Dutch” in “Pennsylvania Dutch” came from a corruption of the Swiss German “Deitsch”, which means “Deutsch” (German). That being said, there were indeed many close and friendly relations between the Mennonites in Holland and those in Pennsylvania.
History of the Building
The building on Keizergracht is now called De Witte Keizer (White Emperor) and dates from around 1665. Before 1720 there was a sugar refinery here. After 1758 it was owned by Thomas Hope, who lived here with his brother Adrian. After Thomas Hope and his wife Margareta Marcelis had died, their son John Hope became the owner. In 1803 the heirs of Thomas Hope sold all their properties at Keizersgracht and Prinsengracht to John Williams Hope, adopted son of nephew Henry Hope, who had remained unmarried.
Changes to the construction were made in 1725, 1758 and 1881. Around 1770 the gables of the buildings were remodelled and the Hope family coat of arms was added. In 1881 it was a freemason lodge, followed in 1884 by a gas company. In 1911 the city bought the building and from 1919 until 1990 there was a public library here. In 1993 the building was restored and became an apartment building, the double doorstep rebuilt (it had been removed in 1881). The building has been a national monument since 1970.
Quakers, Slave Trade & Speculation
Initially the Hope brothers made their money organizing shipment for Quakers out of Rotterdam (under direction of Archibald, Isaac and Zachary) and the slave trade in Amsterdam (under direction of Thomas and Adrian). Top years for the Quaker transport to Pennsylvania were 1738, 1744, 1753 and 1765, paid for by the city of Rotterdam and the local Mennonite church. The firm got 60 guilders per Quaker during top years, in off years 11 guilders.
The slave trade was much less lucrative, but much more brutal — 16% of the slaves died during transport. The Hopes also financed plantations in the Dutch Caribbean, Danish West Indies and United States — and they were actively involved in how the plantations were managed. Around 1780 almost half of their profits came from slavery-related matters and the trade in sugar, coffee and diamonds. Despite the movements to abolish slavery, Hope & Co remained active in slave-related matters until the end (slavery was abolished in the Netherlands in 1863). In 2022 ABN AMRO publicly apologized for this past involvement.
Rotterdam based merchant and ship owner Zachary Hope’s son Archibald Hope (1747-1821) became an offical Amsterdam citizen (poorter) in 1774. From 1776 until 1786 he was director of the WIC (Dutch West Indies Company) and in 1786 he was director of the colonial Surinam Society. He was briefly alderman of Amsterdam in 1789 and from 1792 on he was a member of the Council for the West Indies Colonies.
Early Days of the Hope Firm
Thomas and his brother Archibald were first mentioned together in 1726. Younger brother Adrian joined the firm in 1734. The Hopes thrived, mostly through marine insurances and trade with England, America and the West-Indies, working from their homes at Herengracht 64 and 106. Thomas and his brother Adrian played a major role in the finances of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) from 1750 on. Thomas bought Keizersgracht 444-446 as well as many houses and warehouses behind it in 1758. During the Seven Years War (1756-1763) the Hopes made huge profits on loans to the warring nations England, Prussia and France. The house at number 448 was bought in 1763 for Henry Hope, their American nephew.
Hope & Co
The name of the firm was changed to Hope & Co when in 1762 American nephew Henry Hope became a partner in the firm, together with Thomas’ son Jan (John) Hope. Henry’s adopted son John Williams joined the Hope company in 1782. Henry also hired Pierre César Labouchère in 1790, who then became a partner in 1802. Labouchère played an important role in negotiations with France, handling most of the financing with that country. He also dealt frequently with Francis Baring of the Baring Bank in London and married Baring’s daughter Dorothée in 1796, making Hope and Baring associates. In 1792 Alexander Baring started to work at Hope & Co.
Hope & Co was located in Amsterdam until 1795. Their motto was “At Spes Non Fracta” (With Unbroken Hope). By the end of the 18th century Hope & Co was one of the world’s biggest banks and the Hope family were among the richest in Europe at the time. They focused on financing commercial transactions and money loans to monarchs and governments in Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Portugal, Spain, France and America.
Among their customers were French Emperor Napoleon and various Russian tsars. Catherine the Great of Russia was their client too — Adrian supplied her several times with diamonds. Hope & Co played a major part in handling of the debt of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), propping them up with loans when their reign ended. In 1791 they even helped keep the Amsterdam Wisselbank alive. At the start of the 19th century the company invested huge sums in the United States and Russia.
Intertwined Banking Families
Three members of the Sillem family worked at Hope (Jérome Sillem had been one of the main members of Hope & Co since 1815), as well as six members of the Van Loon family (the powerful Van Loon family was involved in the Amsterdam Exchange Bank, the VOC and WIC). The oldest and youngest sons of Hendrik Maurits Jacobus van Loon and Louise Catharina Antoinetta Borski (granddaughter of the famous Widow Borski) also became partners at Hope & Co. Many marriages between various banking families ensured the continuity of their business.
Financial crises of 1763 and 1772
At the end of the Seven Years’ War there was an Amsterdam banking crisis, when the supply of credit dried up due to the decreased value of collateral goods. Many of the Amsterdam banks were over-leveraged and interlinked by complex financial instruments. Leendert De Neufville’s bank (infamous for its risky practices and reckless lending) failed, together with many smaller financial enterprises. Isaac de Pinto, for example, got into difficulties and had to give up his house from 1605 on Sint Antoniesbreestraat.
Hope & Co and Clifford did attempt to set up a private rescue fund, but banking house Pels refused to cooperate, as it apparently bore a grudge against the De Neufvilles. Eventually, Leendert de Neufville’s possessions were auctioned off in June 1765. Among his 122 paintings was Johannes Vermeer’s famous painting The Milkmaid, which was sold for 560 guilders. The provision of additional liquidity by the Bank of Amsterdam mitigated the crisis. In 1773 Pels & Co and Clifford were bankrupted.
The British credit crisis of 1772 originated in London and then spread to the Dutch Republic, as result of an unregulated financial market. It came about after a period of rapid economic growth and widespread overoptimism about the prospects for English joint-stock companies such as the English East India Company.
After these financial crises ruined many competitors, Hope & Co emerged as the leading banking house, their capital equal to that of the Bank of Amsterdam. Amsterdam’s well-developed financial ecosystem made it an attractive place for European governments and monarchs to finance their debt. Hope & Co continued to flourish through international loans and stocks dealing.
Thomas Hope (1704-1779)
Thomas Hope was a banker, trader and regent of the VOC (Dutch East India Company). He became an attorney in 1724 and registered as a poorter (official Amsterdam resident) in 1730. He was an important confidant of Stadtholder Willem IV and led a commission to reform the ailing Dutch Republic. Stadtholders William IV and William V appointed Thomas Hope as their representative at the VOC (Dutch East India Company) and the WIC (Dutch West Indies Company).
Thomas’ only son Jan (John) Hope was about the same age as American nephew Henry Hope — the two nephews had been traveling companions on their Grand Tour of Europe (as part of their education). Together they would continue to build the Hope’s name internationally. In 1770 Thomas retired and passed his responsibilities to his son John, who remained with the VOC and Hope & Co until his death. Thomas was buried in the Westerkerk (Western Church), together with his wife Margaretha Marcelis and their son John. Their grave has the family motto on it.
Henry Hope (1735-1811), Banker & Art Collector
Boston born nephew Henry Hope worked for his uncles (Thomas and Adrian) in Amsterdam from 1762 on. His father had sent him (at age 13) to London for schooling. From 1754, only 19 years old, he worked at a London bank for six years. Henry went on to become the driving force for the growth of the Hope firm in the 18th century. Where Adrian and Thomas had provided Dutch and English connections, Henry had big international ambitions. Under his guidance the firm concentrated on huge profitable loans to heads of state, governments and nobility.
From 1862 on Henry was one-third owner of Hope & Co and proved to be as much of a financial genius as his uncle Thomas. Under Henry the Hope bank lent enormous sums to Sweden, Spain, Poland, Russia and Portugal. Henry declined to accept a Russian nobility title because he thought it would hinder him in his transactions.
Henry pulled his protégé John Williams into the firm, arranged a marriage between him and his sister’s daughter, and hired Pierre César Labouchère in 1790. Under his management the bank enjoyed its most successful period and was heavily involved in the Dutch East India Company (VOC). As many important Europeans had a debt with Hope & Co, this made Henry one of the most influential people in the Dutch Republic.
Henry spent large sums on his art collection since 1783, initially shown at Keizersgracht 448. After buying up several pieces of land in the Haarlemmerhout, he started the six year build of the neo-classicist country home Welgelegen, designed by Amsterdam architect Abraham van der Hart (1747-1820). All of the garden statues were imported from Italy. Here Henry showed his impressive art collection with works by Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Rubens, Benjamin West and Joshua Reynolds in various large halls.
Henry was extremely rich and quite famous in his time, having contacts with many artists and scientists. His guests included Swedish theologist Emmanuel Swedenborg and American politicians Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Hope & the Louisiana Purchase
Although the bank tried to keep up the appearance of a neutral stance during the American Revolutionary War, in 1804 Hope & Co issued shares to finance the Louisiana Purchase, thanks to the negotiations of Henry Hope and Francis Baring. The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the territory of Louisiana by the United States from Napoleonic France in 1803 (Napoleon needed money urgently for his continued European wars). The United States bought 828,000 sq mi (2,140,000 km²), at roughly eighteen dollars per square mile. France actually only controlled a small fraction of this area, most of it was inhabited by Native Americans — so they really only bought the right to obtain “Indian” lands by treaty or by conquest.
In 1803 Francis Baring of London had become the U.S. government’s official banking agent. Barings had a close relationship with Hope & Co of Amsterdam, and the two banking houses worked together to facilitate and underwrite the purchase. They settled on a price of $ 15 million ($ 323.5 million now), which was a sum the Americans could not afford and the financers could not provide. Because Napoleon wanted to receive his money as quickly as possible, Barings and Hope purchased the bonds for 52 million francs, agreeing to an initial payment followed by 23 monthly payments. From 1803 until 1821 Hope & Co ran an office for American funds, together with R. & Th. de Smeth and Willem & Jan Willink. Alexander Baring was in charge of the joint operations led by Baring & Sons and Hope & Co in the United States of America.
Later Years of Hope & Co
The Hopes were supporters of the Orangists and had many close connections to the House of Orange. When in 1794 the French were about to invade and install a Patriot Republic, Henry shipped 372 paintings, his library and archive to London, where he continued his banking activities. In 1807 Henry left Welgelegen to his adopted son John Williams Hope, who sold it to French King Louis Napoleon in 1808. Henry died in England in 1811, 76 years old and unmarried. His heirs sold their shares to the Baring Bank. Pierre César Labouchère took care of the business in Amsterdam for a while after Henry’s death.
In 1803 a division had been made (at least on paper) between the London and Amsterdam offices, mostly for bookkeeping reasons — some 82% of the profits made in Amsterdam ended up in London. Labouchère in Amsterdam forged financial deals with foreign nations, in close consultation with Henry Hope in London. In 1803 and 1804 the heirs of Thomas Hope sold all their real estate to John Williams Hope, who returned to England in 1808. After Henry’s death the London offices of Hope & Co merged with Baring Brothers & Co. John Williams Hope steered towards the liquidation of the Amsterdam Hope & Co and the transfer of their capital to England. Adriaan van der Hoop inherited the Amsterdam portion of the investments, together with Alexander Baring.
By 1813-1814 the heirs of Henry and Jan Hope had all withdrawn from Hope & Co, selling their shares to Alexander Baring in London. Alexander was in charge of joint operations led by Baring & Sons and Hope & Co. in the United States of America. In 1820 that firm placed, together with the firm of Widow W. Borski, Russian loans worth 120 million guilders, an exorbitant amount for that time. Labouchère moved to England where he joined Baring & Co in London. During the 19th century Hope & Co specialized in railway investments in the United States and Russia. In the 20th century the emphasis shifted from international transport to Dutch investments.
In Amsterdam the company moved to Nieuwe Doelenstraat 9 in 1813 and to Keizersgracht 579-581 in 1821. In 1920 the house at Keizersgracht 577 was also added. Hope & Co and Van Loon & Co remained in these buildings until 1962. In 1854 Hendrik Maurits Jacobus van Loon married Louise Catharina Antoinetta Borski, granddaughter of the famous Widow Borski — their oldest and youngest sons became partners at Hope. Certificates issued to Widow W. Borski were still guaranteed by them, until Barings closed. After Barings went bankrupt, due to speculative transactions by Nick Leeson, it was bought by the ING Group in 1995 for a symbolic sum of £ 1.
Endless Bank Mergers
- 1720 – Mees & Zoonen founded in Rotterdam.
- 1840 – The Nederlandsche Handel-Maatschappij (NHM, 1824) was meant to be a successor to the VOC, but became more of a credit company. The firm of Widow W. Borski kept the NHM afloat with credits to compensate for the (involuntary) advance payments to King William I.
- 1863 – Rotterdamsche Bank founded.
- 1885 – Hope & Co joins with Van Loon & Co (formerly Wed. Borski).
- 1937 – Hope & Co acquires Van Loon & Co.
- 1942 – Boissevain & Co merges with Heldring & Pierson to continue as Pierson, Heldring & Pierson.
- 1962 – Hope & Co merges with Mees & Zn to become Mees & Hope.
- 1964 – NHM merges with Twentsche Bank (1841) to form ABN Bank.
- 1964 – The Amsterdamsche Bank (1871) merges with the Rotterdamsche Bank to become Amro Bank.
- 1967 – ABN acquires the Hollandsche Bank Unie (HBU, 1933).
- 1969 – Mees & Hope merges with Nederlandse Overzee Bank (NOB).
- 1975 – ABN Bank acquires Mees & Hope.
- 1975 – Pierson Heldring & Pierson becomes a daughter company of Amro Bank.
- 1991 – ABN merges with AMRO to become ABN AMRO Bank.
- 1993 – Pierson, Heldring & Pierson (daughter company of AMRO) merged with Mees & Hope (daughter company of ABN) to become MeesPierson.
- 1995 – ING Group acquires Barings.
- 1996 – MeesPierson is acquired by Fortis bank and becomes Fortis MeesPierson. MeesPierson had been under heightened scrutiny from the Dutch National Bank since 1995 because of their huge foreign losses on stocks and raw materials, information which Fortis used to pay a much lower price for the take-over. MeesPierson had some 4,000 employees and a large valuable portfolio. After the take-over by Fortis, Belgian, Swiss, Luxemburg and Spanish private banking departments were added to it.
- 2005 – Fortis renames its private banking to Fortis Private Banking worldwide, but makes an exception for MeesPierson because of its powerful name and history. Since 2009 the bank continued without the Fortis addition as MeesPierson.
- 2008 – Fortis went belly-up.
- 2010 – ABN AMRO merges with Fortis. ABN AMRO Private Banking and MeesPierson continue from there on as ABN AMRO MeesPierson.
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