Posts Tagged ‘arthur kahn’

One family legend maintains that the three brothers (sons of Victor Kahn) were involved in a transatlantic gold rush, hoping to make their fortunes. If true, they must have shipped out from Liverpool to the 1896/8 Klondike in Canada, because the former more famous Californian rush took place in middle 19th century, much too early for them.

The story tells of two brothers (Arthur and Gaston Victor) travelling across the Atlantic, leaving Charles at home to hold the family fort and to act as cashier. Money was sent back to Liverpool for safekeeping, but when the two pioneering brothers returned, coffers were empty (allegedly), causing a schism in the family.

After all our researches, little is really known about the brothers’ lives. Bare bones need fleshing out with motivations and aspirations; too many questions remain. So is the story mere speculative hearsay or can we find supporting evidence?

Charles was undoubtedly the wealthiest of the brothers, but perhaps he was also the most entrepreneurial. The Kahns is not the most close-knit of extended families, but even today traces of links between Arthur’s and Gaston’s families seem firmer than with Charles’s. Perhaps this hints that division was real.

We know from passenger lists that all brothers made trips across the Atlantic during the relevant time, but solely to the USA. According to Wiki, the majority of British prospectors favoured landing in Canada for patriotic reasons and to avoid USA border controls, so would Arthur and Gaston have chosen a USA port as the first leg of what must have been an arduous journey across the continent to the Pacific coast and Yukon Territory?

Arthur was a licentiate of the Chicago Ophthalmic College which suggests he qualified as an optician in the USA, so would he have been able to split his time between his studies and panning for gold in a distant remote part of the frozen north? Doubtful, I’d suggest. They were all opticians, which hardly ties in with mining, but then gold rushes attracted hopefuls from all walks of life and occupations.

All three brothers married relatively late in life, suggesting they had other early ambitions (or activities) – and their ages:  Gaston for example would have been about 40 when gold fever set in. So for one reason or another they focussed on matters other than marriage.

Perhaps that clarity of vision was prospecting for gold. But then maybe those rich seams of glittery stuff were more allegories for a golden future to be found in ophthalmics. Probably we’ll never know.


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As far as I’m aware, the Kahn line has modern-historical origins primarily in Ashkenazim Jews (those settling in northern Europe, especially Germany, Poland and Russia) but we also have a link through marriage with Sephardim Jews (those who settled in the Iberian Peninsula).

Moses Gomes Silva (1786-1858) married in 1824 Elizabeth Bathsheba Mesquitta (1805-1875) both of whom have their roots in Portugal although their ancestors appear to have migrated to Jamaica to escape persecution, perhaps as early as the 17th century.

Moses and Elizabeth had several children, including Esther Gomes Silva who became the second wife of Isaac Moses Marsden, bearing him quite a bunch of children, including Madeline Moses Marsden (1846-1880) – and she was married in 1867 to Salomon Fallek (1838-1893).

Salomon and Madeline had several children, including Eugenie Fallek and she married Arthur Kahn, one of the sons of Victor, or Great Uncle Arthur as we are wont to call him.

A few years ago I ordered from the USA a difficult-to-find book on Jewish European history, but the seller sent the wrong one and in the meantime sold the one I wanted to another customer. The book they sent (and allowed me to keep while giving a full refund – very generous) was “A History of the Marranos” written by Cecil Roth and published in 1932. Marranos was the name ascribed to those Spanish Jews professing to convert to Christianity to escape the terrors of the Inquisition while in secret continuing to practise their true faith. Many went from Spain to Portugal and then emigrated to the New World. The book settled dustily on my bookshelf unread until I became aware we have connections to Spain and Portugal. The deckled pages have taken on a new lease of life as I turn them slowly, hoping to find a reference pertinent to our extended and growing family, so far without success. However, it does help to put into perspective (or present a different viewpoint on) even today’s religious imbroglio. If I find anything of special scientific interest to our family’s concerns, I shall of course post them here.

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In the process of trying to resolve genealogical mysteries I stumbled a little off piste and found myself reviewing information relating to the forebears of Arthur Kahn’s wife, Eugenie. As usual nothing is straight forward, but slowly a few snippets of information dropped into my notepad, not necessarily new but certainly forgotten by me. Because they came together from a number of sources, I’ll need to spend time to collate the details, but I came across the following website which seemed oddly familiar:


Even if you’ve visited that blog before, the information it contains makes it worth reading again. For a start, it helps to verify the number of children produced by Algernon’s parents. In one source on ancestry I read that his mother, Esther, had produced “11 sons and 27 daughters.” On examination I found that many offspring had been recorded  more than once. Even so, the total appears to be an impressive 11 daughters and 4 sons, plus 5 children born to Algernon’ father by a previous marriage. That makes 20 children and possibly more could come to light. Fortunately, the family had up to 11 servants (1881 census), so Algernon’s father, Isaac Moses (he seems to have changed his name to Marsden between the 1851 and 1861 census reports) had it easier than first glances would suggest. Not that Esther ever had it too easy, of course.

More much later.



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Opticians appear to run in the family. A surprisingly high number of our ancestors took up the calling, too many to be coincidental.

Charles Jasmine Kahn (a great uncle) had a practice at 108 The Strand in London, although at some stage he jumped the boundaries and became a hearing expert, having purchased the business of F. C. Rein, one of the world’s first inventors and producers of hearing aids. His son, Leslie Victor, also became a hearing specialist and at some stage changed his name to Leslie Kahn-Rein, presumably for business reasons.

Grandfather Gaston Victor (Charles’ brother) became an optician sometime before the turn of the century. He joined the 2132 Egerton Masonic Lodge in Cheshire in 1898, describing his occupation as “oculist” and in 1904 he became a member of 1668 Samson Lodge in London, showing his address as Oxford Street and his occupation as “optitian.” I hope he was better at eye tests than spelling. In 1910, a year before his death, he appears in a London Trade directory as “Vickers & Kahn,” oculists, opticians and spectacle makers, still trading from 57 Oxford Street, London.

His brother, Arthur, was an optician by 1893 and he appears to have had a business at 19 Ludgate Hill, London. We know that by 1924 Arthur was a licentiate of the Chicago Opthalmic Hospital, USA, and had an interest in, or owned, the National Silex Optical Company.

Arthur’s son, Victor Leon, became an optician in 1926, trading in London, Penzance and Bromley. By 1967 he was registered as operating from 34 Greenwich High Road, London. Eric Saloman Kahn (Victor Leon’s brother) is also believed to have been an optician, as is another sibling, Cyril Maurice Kahn, who became a member of the College of Optometrists in March 1930. He traded from premises in Bromley, Twickenham and possibly Brighton.

One more optician was Moses Marks Samuels, the husband of Elmelia, a great aunt (Gaston Victor’s sister). In 1901, he was recorded in the census as an “optician shopkeeper” in Kinmel Street, Rhyl, north Wales.

I can’t help wondering why with all these eye specialists in the family I’m as blind as a mole if I remove my glasses. And as a final personal note, what annoys me is that I worked in Greenwich High Road from 1963 to 1965 and never knew that a close relation had a shop not far away. Perhaps I’d at least have earned a family discount.But then maybe not.

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At least three generations of Kahns embraced freemasonry.

As far as we’ve discovered so far, Victor Kahn was the first to join. He became a member of St. John’s Lodge No. 461 (Liverpool) in 1862. On the Grand Lodge certificate he signed his name as Kahnn and described himself as an interpreter, born in ‘Luxemberg, Germany.’ According to our researches, he remained a member until only 1868 when he apparently resigned.

Victor’s three surviving sons all followed in father’s initial footsteps.

Charles Jasmine Kahn was initiated into Willing Lodge No. 2893 (London) on 1st May 1902. He was passed on 17th July 1902 and raised on 11th September 1902. Then he gave his age as 44 and described himself as an optician residing at 108 The Strand, London. In 1911 he became Master of the lodge and he resigned freemasonry in 1924, a year before his death.

Arthur Kahn was initiated into Samson Lodge No. 1668 (London) on 11th February 1896, passed on 12th March and raised 12th May of the same year. Then his address address was given as 19 Ludgate Hill, London EC and his employment as optician. On 24th November 1902, Arthur joined also the Joppa Chapter No. 188 (London) and was ‘First Principal’ in 1907, 1908, 1913 and 1915, then ‘Scribe E’ from 1919 until his death in 1925. He was also awarded the LGCR, but we don’t know when or what it is. Perhaps some kind Freemason will enlighten us?

Gaston Victor Kahn joined the Egerton Lodge (Egremont, Liverpool) in 1898. Then he was describing himself as an oculist living in New Brighton, Lancashire. He resigned this lodge in September 1901, presumably when he moved to London. Like his brother Arthur, Gaston joined the Joppa Chapter  No. 188 on 24th November 1902 and in 1904 he joined the Samson Lodge 1668 (London) in 1904. Then his address was shown as 57 Oxford Street, London and his occupation as optician. We believe he remained a mason until he died in 1911.

The third generation freemason is represented by Leslie Kahn-Rein, the son of Charles. Leslie changed his name at some stage, we believe for business reasons (more about this in another blog). He joined his father’s lodge, Willing No. 2893 (London) on 6th November 1919. At the time he described himself as an artist with an address in Barnes and his age was given as 23. As far as we’ve discovered, he held no formal offices and resigned from freemasonry on 3rd April 1951, five years before he died.

This gives us the skeleton; we’d like to add some flesh. If you can help with any information at all we’d love to hear from you, so please: contactus@kahngene.org.uk

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A brief history of Arthur Kahn and family has been posted under the heading of ‘biographies.’ Please click on the biographies tab to view the page. As ever, if you have anything to add: contactus@kahngene.org.uk or leave a friendly comment.

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