Year of publication 1993, issue 3

 

Preface

It has been more than a year already, that we had closer contact with each other. About 50 American and Canadian Boissevains joined together in the Town of Boissevain (Canada) in August 1992 and about 75 members of our family had a reunion in the Oude Walenkerk in Amsterdam in October of that year. In that small Canadian town we took the opportunity to unveil a colorful wall painting that honors "founder" A.A. (Adolphe) H. Boissevain. In the Walenkerk, that just had been restored, we were in the opportunity to share the sorrow because of the death of Jolente with her close relatives and be an aid for them with that.

For the perfect organization of both meetings we have to thank Tice and my predecessor Ernst. I emphasize "my predecessor", because in Amsterdam we announced some changes we made in de board the Boissevain-Foundation. Although nobody will see it, Ernst and Bob had to stop with their function as chairman and treasurer of our Foundation, because they reached a certain statutory age. Bob will still be coaching the new team a bit and keep alive the ties with the old board of the Foundation (Ernst, Bob, Daan and Otto van der Aa), that followed the footsteps of familygenealogist Barthold. He started in the thirties the "Familieverband der Boissevains".

Our predecessors in the board have known several highlights and we have to thank them very much for that. Barthold for instance with his beautiful and famous "Green Book" and Ernst with a fully updated genealogy in Nederland's Patriciaat in 1988. The eighties are characterized by the making up of the inventory (and ongoing use by others!) of our 17 meters long family archive, that is deposited with the Municipal Archives of Amsterdam, a number of family reunions and an increasing contact with our American counterpart Tice. We started the nineties with the new Boissevain-Bulletin, of which you now receive the third annual. The new board plans to go on in this way and will stimulate publications on our family. I invite you to take part in that: don't throw away family papers but add them - via us - to the family archives, write a family memory or story for this Bulletin, give us ideas and/or dona­tions when we call on you for that (most of the time together with the issue of a new copy of the Bulletin!).

In this way we hope to keep alive the attention for the history of our family and to strengthen our relations to one another for a long period.

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain

chairman

 

Contact by telephone with Adolphe Boissevain 1843-1921

Introduction

In 1992 I met Jeroen Boissevain (NP p. 145 nr. IX ai) who has some interest in the Boissevain family and saved at an auction some family papers. This "thruh mind" not only brought us a new member in the board of our Foundation, but closer study of these papers also gave us a nice story. It appears to deal with contracts and correspondence between Athanase Adolphe Henri Boissevain (NP p. 93 nr. VII f) and the Dutch Bell Telephone Compagny (NBTM). The papers are on the private telephone connection of his house Prins Hendriksoord in the Town of Lage Vuursche with the local Amsterdam telephone network, that is almost 100 kilometers away. But also about the perils of a fortunate private person in the period, that the State took over the telephone service more and more from the private telephone companies. Reason for me to see what was behind this all, but I must tell you that I only used sources that are available to me in my home.

The introduction of telephone in the netherlands

Alexander Bell invented the telephone horn in 1876 and by adding a microphone, a bell, a battery and some more things we had a machinery that could be used in favor of everybody. Not long after that, the first telephone station was operated in New Haven (Connecticut, USA). The Dutch government only saw advantage in this machinery by giving through by verbal message the already longer existing telegram’s. In operating something like a telephone service the government didn't see a task for itself. Private initiatives came soon in the meantime and - with a government concession - Amsterdam took the lead. City counsel choose the International Bell Telephone Company as the most appropriate one to exploit the operation. This company handed over the concession to the NV Nederlandsche Bell Telephoon Maatschappy (NBTM), that started building and taking care of the infrastructure. On June 1, 1881 the Amsterdam telephone network started as the first one in Holland with 49 subscriptions! Later in other Dutch towns private telephone companies started too.

Adolphe Boissevain and his private connection with the local Amsterdam network

Men busy in trade and industry, that lived outside the area of concession of the local Amsterdam telephone company, wished also to join that telephone community. However, that was only possible in those days by making long connections with wires above the property of a couple of municipalities and private persons. And for that one needed the consent of the involved people and the national government. To be clear, we are talking about private connections with local telephone networks, which is different from local networks that are connected with each other or with an international network (that started in 1887). In this case we talk about a private connection be­tween someone that lives outside the local community and wants to be connected with the local network of that community. The connection of Adolphe Boissevains telephone in Prins Hendrik­soord with the local Amsterdam telephone community was one of the first ones in those days.

In 1885 the 43 year old Adolphe shows interest in a telephone connection for his house. His busy activities in Holland and abroad (see NP p. 93) stimulates this interest. In December of that year the NBTM gets a permit from the national government to build the connection. The NBTM has to pay an annual fee of hundred Dutch guilders to the government. In June 1886 the contract between the NBTM and Boissevain is fixed. Adolphe gets in his house a Bell-telephone and a Blake-transmitter. The transmitter or telltale is named after Francis Blake, who developed a better version of the first real "microphone" of the type that was very much used in the first Dutch networks. Adolphe rented those instruments and was only allowed to use them for himself personal and had to take care for them as a good housefather. The NBTM should take care for the extension with Amsterdam and the keeping up of that connection and the maintenance of the instruments in the house Prins Hendriksoord. If the connection should not function for more than a month, Adolphe should receive back 1/12 of the annual amount of money he had to pay for this service. NBTM and Boissevain had a contract for 10 years for the amount of 700 Dutch guilders a year. 1896 would be the end of the contract, which is the same year when the concession (to exploit to local network) of the Municipality of Amsterdam to the NBTM should end. Poles and bundles of wires: two wires per extension were required to get an optimal quality. Those bundles of wires were located along streets, rail- and waterways. The local wires spread in huge amounts from the so-called "case poles" and from the poles that are located on the roofs of the houses. In many cases the tangle was so enormous, that it looked like a cobweb. Although that was of course not the case in 1886 in Lage Vuursche, Adolphe's extension did trouble his neighbour. And that was not just somebody, but Jonkheer P.J. Bosch van Drakestein, representative of the King in the province of Noord-Brabant and owner of the adjacent estate called Drakestein. The NBTM makes a contract with him for having poles on his estate in favor of the connection with Adolphe's estate Prins Hendrisoord. Every 60 meters a pole was needed and mr Bosch van Drakestein had to point out where they should be placed. He got an annual fee for it of 100 Dutch guilders. But if the Jonkheer would ever also like to have a telephone extension, than he would be connected for free. And of course he should not get anymore the 100 guilders for Adolphe's telephone poles on his property!

Telephone became more and more popular and profitable in The Netherlands. More and more local governments and the national government showed interest to exploit networks for their own. This also happened with the local Amsterdam network that was taken over by the local government in 1896. A year later State took over the local network and so the "Rijkstelefoondienst" started. This is the same year, in which the 54 year old Adolphe joined the board of the Burgerziekenhuis (hospital). His daughter Gerardine, married with the Amsterdam insurance broker Gerrit van der Aa and living on "Zomerlust" in the Town of Hilversum, gets a private telephone extension with Prins Hendriksoord. An important fact in the beginning of this century is the Telegraaf and Telefoonwet of 1904. This law gave more power to the national government to exploit the telephone, that gave a surplus on the credit balance in those days.

In 1918 Adolphe became victim of all these changes. Five years earlier Drakestein was also connected with the telephone net­work - via Adolphe's poles - and by appointment this extension should be free for the Jonkheer. And Adolphe didn’t have to pay his 100 guilders fee anymore for having those poles on his neighbors property. But since the end of the year 1916 there was a new law, that did not allow free connections anymore. Jonkheer Bosch van Drakestein has to pay for his connection now, and he does. But as a compensation for Adolphe's poles on his estate he asks Boissevain an annual fee of 132 Dutch guilders now! In a pithy letter to the director-general of the Post and Telegraph Company Adolphe writes that this is completely against the appointments he made in the earlier days and that he does not want to pay. The answer affirms the portrait of the era. The rapid developments in the field of telephone in the last decade overtook the old appointments concerning the private connections with the local telephone companies. The extension between Prins Hendriksoord and Amsterdam take place now via the inter local telephone network and one has to pay the inter local tariffs for that. Adolphe Boissevain lost his exclusive right on a private telephone connection and had to join the rules that do apply for the many thousands of people that also had a telephone connection in the meantime!

Charles F.C.G. Boissevain

Sources:

  • Nederland's Patriciaat, 1988 (= NP);
  • Honderd jaar telefoon, 1881 - 1981;
  • Contracts and correspondence with A.A.H. Boisse­vain (1886 - 1921).

 

From Caroline to Daniël and back

A few years ago, Radio Noord-Holland interviewed me about the Boissevains in Amsterdam of the previous century. We walked past the different houses and buildings were our family lived and worked. We are going to walk part of it, so please join us.

We start at the Round Lutheran Church (Lutherse kerk) on the Singel, near the bridge to the Haarlemmerstraat (coming from the railway station, to the right). In our mind we return to the first half of the previous century...

The church is on fire! It is one big see of fire. The horses with the fire engines pass with loud noise. Some of the warehouses also start getting fire. Caroline becomes afraid; she lives very near by. She is twentythree and married since a year to Willem de Clerq, who will become famous as a literary man, an improviser and businessman.

She is alone at home, puts on her nice hat with the big feather and flees, running through the rain of sparks to see her father Daniël. We follow her. Maybe she ran across the bridge to the Haarlemmerstraat, then to the left and to the Brouwersgracht. We pass the Melkmeisjes bridge, take the next bridge to the left and are on the Herengracht on the even side. Look around and admire one of the nicest spots in Amsterdam. A few years later, she would surely would have entered at nr. 40 where her husband would work as manager of the Nederland­sche Handel-Maatschappij (Dutch trading company), but at the time of the fire it is not yet so far.

Caroline (and we too) walks on and stops at nr. 60. Later father Daniël lived in this house until he died. His firm, Boissevain & Co was also established here. During the French domination it was an international trading firm in grains, German linen, French wines and if possible in colonial merchandise and English woven. From 1820 on business would concentrate on shipping. Boissevain & Co would then grow into a shipping company of seven ships, mainly sailing on the Dutch Indies. Above the door of nr. 60 you can see a basrelief with Louis XIII, king of France.

Of course is wasn't placed by Daniël but by a previous resident. By the way, the building was only rented by Daniël. It is bigger than you would expect because it continues at the back, around the neighbouring house. On the garden side, it has a large room with five windows. After the death of Daniël, his son and successor in the firm Gédéon Jérémie lived here. During his time the shipping company grew in spite of the difficult political times. He received in this house next to leading Amsterdam families also the captains of his ships. Look at the sailor, with his specially for the occasion neatly combed ring beard, just back from his long voyage to the Indies, standing to give his report.

But Caroline walked on as no family lived yet in this house. We pass along nr. 102 where Edouard (born in 1841) lived a while and past the nicely renovated nr. 112 where Guillaume, Carolines youngest brother lived. He was the only brother without his own firm. As we will encounter all her six brothers in this story, I will already name them: Gédéon Jérémie, Daniël II, Carles Faber, Eduard Constantin, Henri Jean Arnaud and Guillaume.

We continue along the awful house at nr. 124 that replaced the beautiful canal house where Gédéon Jérémie has past his final years. then we pass the Leliegracht and arrive at Herengracht nr. 168, nowadays the Theatre museum. This is where, at the end of the century, Mijhart, a retired banker at 40, son of Daniël II, lived. As many other Boissevains at the time, he lived in Amsterdam in winter and in the country in summer. The house was built by Vingbooms, a famous 17e century architect. Look hoe wonderful it lies in the bend of the Herengracht. The front door is open and you can see the beautiful carved, white and copper, decorated inside of the door.

On the other side of the canal the houses were replaced by contemporary offices. In one of the former houses the firm of Boissevain & Kooy, a shipping company and a trading firm, was started by Charles Faber, a younger brother of Gédéon Jérémie. Charles married miss Kooy with the only consent of her father on the condition that Charles would bring in the firm the newly finished ship of the firm Boissevain & Co. As happened much to the grief of Gédéon Jérémie.

We cross the Raadhuisstraat and continue our way to the Heren­gracht. At the other side we see a big house, 8 windows wide, at nr. 237-239. From 1886 the firm of Adolphe Boissevain was established here. Adolphe (another son of Daniël II) was a great banker. He is the one that gave his name to the city of Boissevain in Canada. This is the story: The Canadian Pacific railway compa­ny wanted to extend her east-west railroad further to the west. Adolphe provided with two other bankers the necessary finances.

 

In gratitude, the three next stations were named after them: Boissevain, Pierson and Tegelberg. Only Boissevain grew into a small town. The firm of Adolphe grew into the well established bankers firm of Pierson. If I remember well, they were established in this house until recently.

Adolphe later resided at Prins Hendriksoord in the Lage Vuursche. The story is told that when the automobile was introduced in the Netherlands, he replaced at once all his twelve coaches and carriages by twelve automobiles. A man has to follow his time, isn't it.

We continue our stroll and pass nr. 316, 320 and 324 where other Boissevains lived for a longer or shorter period. In the far distance we can see Caroline on the doorstep of her fathers house. It is nr. 370, just past the Huidenstraat. It is part of the "Cromhout" houses, built by architect Vingbooms. It is a big house with a garden continuing to the Keizersgracht, where Daniël had a warehouse. I am cheating a bit because at the time of Carolines flight, he already had moved to Herengracht 184. But the house no longer exists, so please forgive me. When he moved, he also brought with him "1 boat with trading goods and 1 boat with cloth" as his firm was established in his house.

We now arrive at the showpiece of the Boissevain houses: nr. 386, a large monumental house, in the bend of the Herengracht. Jan Boissevain, son of Gédéon Jérémie and partner of the shipping company and trading firm Boissevain & Co lived there. The shipping company only owned sailing ships. When the Suez canal was built, sailing ships had a hard time as only steamships were allowed in. Jan understood that the time for the small shipping companies was over, sold the sailing ships and ended all trading activities. He then played a leading role at the foundation of the Stoomvaart Mij Nederland (Steamship company Nederland).

We continue to the Leidsestraat and turn to the right to the Leidsegracht and then to Keizersgracht nr. 482. This where Gideon lived, just another son of Daniël II. He was in those days a well known economist and the founder of the Kas Association, a bank (first called Kas-vereniging, later Kasassociatie). He was also involved with the Banque de Paris et des Pays-Bas.

We follow the Molenpad. At the other side Carolines sister, miss. Gildemeester Boissevain and her husband lived. Further on Walrave, who became alderman in the council of Amsterdam, lived at Keisersgracht 321 (but that was already in this century). One morning he told his wife and children he had sold the house to "some painter". This happened to be Van Mecheren, the later famous Vermeer falsifier.

At nr. 221 you could find the firm Gebr. Boissevain, stock brookers, founded by two younger brothers of Caroline and Gédéon Jérémie: Daniël II and Eduard Constantin. This second Daniël finally moved later to the insurance business.

This was also the field of his younger brother Henri Jean who worked for the firm H.J.A. Boissevain and sons, insurance brokers. He and his firm were established at nr. 143. Later this house was owned by professor Ursul Boissevain, who teached Ancient history and Roman antiquities at the university of Groningen. The house stayed in the family until 1930. A nice gobbelin from this house still can be found in the Haagse Gemeentemuseum in The Hague.

At the end of our walk, we stop at nr. 133 where Gebr. Boissevain were established for a while on the ground floor. Eduard Constantin lived upstairs and the servants, of course, downstairs. So did his son Willem. In summer the family lived in Hilversum. This meant that twice a year they moved. The family went by train and the personnel with the luggage, the earthenware and the table silver by towboat. This meant a little migration when you realize that Willem had twelve children and that a nurse and a nanny accompanied them.

We end our journey at the Huis met de Hoofden (House with the heads) at nr. 123. This wasn't a Boissevain house but the residence of the Public school of commerce for the education until the beginning of this century of the young Boissevains destined for business life. It is clear that it wasn't a bad education after all.

Ernst G. Boissevain