Two hundred years ago this month – on 21 July 1816 – Israel Josaphat, founder of the ‘Reuters’ part of Thomson Reuters was born in Kassel, Germany. In 1878 – as Paul Julius Reuter – he retired as managing director of Reuters Telegram Company, one of the most famous institutions of the Victorian era. Reuters News Agency was part of the glue which bound the British Empire together. By then a household name, no one could imagine life without it. Queen Victoria herself referred to Reuter as “one who usually knows”.
How did it all start for Reuter? The 1840s and 1850s were the ‘pioneering days’.
A tale told in five parts over this week.
Mrs. Reuter – Ida Maria Elisabeth Clementina Reuter
Clementina Reuter was never destined to be a typical ‘nineteenth century wife’. Tall and blond (while her husband was small and dark-haired), she was a ‘strong’ personality. Following some initial opposition from her father (and possibly his mother), the couple had married. Undoubtedly it was a love match, but from day one, Clementina was determined that this marriage – and her new husband’s career – would be a success. Most especially in the early days , ‘shy, passive, retiring and behind-the-scenes’ were never words which were going to define Clementina Reuter.
Israel Josaphat changes his name to Julius
In 1845 we first find Josaphat employed as a bookseller by Reuters – a Berlin Publishing House – and living in Scheunviertal, the city’s old Jewish Quarter. No longer Israel, Josaphat had replaced his first name with Julius, the Roman name for a boy born in July. It was here that he met – not a nice Jewish girl, but a nice Lutheran one – Clementina Magnus – the well-educated daughter of Pastor Magnus of Grenadier Strasse. Later that autumn Josaphat’s firm asked him to travel to London to increase business and, perhaps, open a London branch. The couple travelled to Hamburg from where, probably having undergone some form of civil marriage ceremony – with Clementina shown on the passenger list as ‘Mistress Josaphat’ – they sailed in the Steamship, ‘Neptune’, reaching London on 29 October.
From the moment she set foot on dry land, Clementina had an agenda. She wanted a Lutheran/Christian marriage ceremony. This took precedence over everything else. Soon after they disembarked the couple went to see Louis Cappel, the minister at Alie Street German Lutheran Church in Whitechapel, east London. Did Clementina regard a Hamburg marriage (if any) as only ‘partial’, sufficient for them to respectably travel but firmly nothing more? If so, she held the strongest card of her life.
St George’s Lutheran Church, Whitechapel
Paul Julius Reuter is ‘born’
As a first step Julius had to be baptised a Christian. The date was set for 16 November. It was resolved that he would take the additional Christian name of Paul ( referring to St Paul who, after his conversion on the road to Damascus had changed his name from Saul). In addition – and there was no religious requirement for this – the couple changed their surname. Rather than ‘Herr Josaphat’ of Reuter’s, Julius became ‘Herr Reuter’ of Reuter’s. The name was a well-known and solid German one. What his Berlin boss thought of such an audacious move is not recorded.
The following Sunday afternoon, the couple returned to Alie Street and there – quietly – accordingly to the rites of the Lutheran Church, they were married.
Julius’s attempt to develop a London-based opening for Reuter’s Publishing House was unsuccessful. The Reuters returned to Germany.
Look for more dispatches from our archive this week as we celebrate the birth of Julius Reuter.