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Today I can buy a cup of coffee and lunch by just tapping my ‘smart phone’ at the point of payment, and with a couple of taps on the same phone as I drink my coffee, I can visit a web site and purchase furniture and arrange to have it delivered – all without pulling a single piece of money out of my pocket. The merchant who sold me a cup of coffee never physically gets any money from me – only the promise from my phone that his bank can get the price of the coffee from my bank or credit card company.

In 1780, every purchase in the world involved one person delivering hard currency to another person. When great sums of money needed to be moved from a merchant in London to a merchant in Paris, someone needed to pack hard currency into large bundles and travel with that cash from London to Paris, risking the disaster of robbery and theft along the way. A better way to manage the movement of money needed to be discovered.

Mayer Amschel Rothschild was an antique coin collector and money merchant living in the Frankfurt ghetto. His business motto, printed on the red shield that hung outside the door of his home was, “Unity, Industry (hard work), and Integrity.” Mayer had five sons, and he taught them a better way to earn and move money between the five capitals of Europe. Son Amschel started a banking business in Frankfort. Son Salomon began banking in Vienna. Son Carl started business in Naples. Son James began in Paris. Son Nathan, who we follow in this story, set up shop in London.

The system of moving money from one city to another that they created was the inspiration for the system that allows me to buy a cup of coffee with the waving of a smart-phone. If a merchant in London wanted to deliver a sum of money to someone in Paris, he could give this money to Nathan in London, plus a small fee for services rendered. Instead of sending a rider with a large sum of cash that would often be stolen along the way, he would merely send a note of paper to his brother in Paris, instructing him to deliver the sum of cash to the person that it was intended for. The brothers would keep the books between them, very rarely needing to move actual cash from one to the other to balance their books as money moved back and forth between them on paper alone.

The banking world would never be the same again, thanks to the House of Rothschild. Maybe the next time you purchase something without having as much as a coin in your pocket, you will remember how that tradition began, long, long ago, by five brothers. Pop a big bowl of white kernel popcorn with plenty of warm melted butter drizzled over it and enjoy the show.

Directors: Alfred L. Werker, Sidney Lanfield

Stars: George Arliss, Boris Karloff, Loretta Young

88 minutes.