Abraham Frères.

Abraham Frères, letterhead, 1918.

Abraham Frères was the import business of my grandfather Moritz Abraham and his brother Haim. Little information exists about the business, but I assume it was created after the two brothers' arrival in Constantinople, possibly as early as the summer of 1908. The earliest confirmed date is 1909, as documented in the 1909 Oriental Trade Directory (1909 Annuaire Oriental). Their parternship would last until its dissolution in 1922. There is no evidence that their two younger brothers, Isak and Mony, were ever involved in the company, although Mony did run a similar business in the same building (Han), at least for a few years.

Haim had studied business in Germany after completing high school, and, I assume, so did Moritz. Since there is no information about Moritz's and Haim's professional activities prior to 1908, it's impossible to know if the brothers were already business partners prior to their arrival in Constantinople. One can assume nonetheless that they may have had acquired some business experience after returning from Germany and had some capital available, since they were able to set up an office with three rooms within the first year of their arrival in Turkey. Moritz was 27 and Haim 29 years old.

About the business, all I ever heard from my parents was that they imported "cheap metal goods such as razor blades" from Germany and other central European countries, and distributed them all over the Levant. This oft-repeated description appears to be a second-hand memory my father got from Morris Halle, a younger relative from Latvia.

In his family memoir, morris Halle wrote that

"[Moritz] Abraham was in the steel business in Germany. At one time he produced safety razor blades which my father tried to sell in Latvia. The attempt was unsuccessful, but we had thousands of sample blades about the house. In fact, we first began to buy blades several years after we came to America. Until that time, the MORA blades that my father had at home made such purchases unnecessary.

Since Morris Halle was born in 1923 and came to America with his family in 1940, his description probably applies to the business Moritz ran on his own later, and not to Abraham Frères. As for my father - Moritz's son - he was only four years old by the time the Abraham Frères partnership was dissolved in 1922, which is why I believe that this description was only based on things he had heard from others.

Abraham Frères.

Abraham Frères stamp, 1916.

Abraham Frères.

Abraham Frères stamp, October 1916.

(Source: ebay)

As was common in Constantinople then, Abraham Frères, the name of the company, was in French, the lingua franca of the middle-class. Interestingly, the name also appeared in Hebrew on their business card: HaAchim Avraham, Koushta: Abraham Brothers, Constantinople. The language used for business transactions however was most likely German, which was the "official" business language and which the brothers spoke. Haim, and most likely Moritz, had studied business in Germany and were both Germanophiles: back home in Ruschuk, Haim called himself Heinrich, while my grandfather - born Moshe - now went by Moritz, as shown, for example, by his 1912 engagement annoucement.

Annuaire Oriental

Entries in the Annuaire Oriental - a Trade Registry that covered the Ottoman Empire - provide some information about Abraham Frères over the years.

Abraham Frères - Constantinople.

Abraham Frères - Constantinople, 1916. Labelled Envelope.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

The company's offices were located in Emin Bey Han (Han = business center) on the South side of the Golden Horn (Halic) in Eminönü, the heart of the walled city of Constantine, where ancient Byzantium was built.

In the "1909 Annuaire Oriental" (1909 Trade Registry), Abraham Frères are listed as "Commissionnaires" under the "Négotiants-Commissionnaires" listing, French for "Brokers." Their offices occupied three rooms, number 26 to 28 on the second floor.

Abraham Frères listed - Annuaire Oriental - 1909

Annuaire Oriental - 1909

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Almost all tenants of Emin Bey Han were listed as "Commissionaires".

They are listed again in the Annuaire Oriental 1913, now occupying two rooms, number 23 and 24:

Abraham Frères in 1913 Annuaire Oriental.

Abraham Frères in 1913 Annuaire Oriental.

The 1921 Annuaire Oriental shows that Abraham Frères in the same location.

Abraham Frères listed - Annuaire Oriental - 1921

Annuaire Oriental - 1921

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Products

The main source of information on Abraham Frères's business are parcel cards that were used for two years during the First World War and identify some of the companies and products that were imported by Abraham Frères. A collection of such cards are listed below.

Abraham Frères imported products manufactured in Germany and from neighboring countries. Based on surviving business correspondance such as parcel cards, they dealt with a wide range of consumer goods, including iron locks, shoe polish, ink, crafstmen tools and paper envelopes. Below are some of the companies whose products they distributed:

Data courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan. *: Additional data from the author's collection.

Parcel receipt cards addressed to Abraham Frères

Here are parcel cards addressed to Abraham Frères between 1916 and 1917. The reason for compiling this list is to better understand the scope of their business, showing the types of products they dealt in. Because parcel cards have only been found for the years 1916/1917, the assumption is that shipping merchandise via postal packages to Constantinople from Germany and neighboring countries (Austria, Hungaria) was a short-term solution which allowed the business to continue to function somewhat during the war years. I assume that before and after these years, merchandises were shipped in larger quantities and with more efficient transit routes. For this reason, these parcel card only provide a glimpse of the business during the worst of the war years. They are however the only sources of information available, and as such are invaluable in imagining what the business may have been.

One curious detail is that all parcel cards below, except for one, list the weight of the related package as 5kg (11 pounds). Since the products being shipped ranged from iron padlocks to envelopes, ink and tools, it's not clear how all these packages could weight exactly 5kgs. In addition, it's not clear what a 5kg shipment of iron padlocks would represent, aside from a sample, unless there were weight restrictions for packages and each order would consist of multiple 5kg packages of the same product.

Three packages sent by Völkel from Solingen on October 5, 1916 help answer this riddle: shipments must have consisted of multiple packages, each limite to a maximum of 5kgs.

Most of these package cards date from the years 1916 and 1917, possibly indicating that the means of importing products had changed because of travel difficulties between Germany and the Levant during the later part of WW1. The disruptions caused by the war meant that a package could take months to reach its destination.

As an example, a thread on philaforum.com describes the path one package addressed to Abraham Frères followed in 1916, reaching Constantinople after a journey that lasted three months and three weeks:

(Condensed from several board members' replies and redacted for clarity)

A package from Otto Jaeger in Siegen, Westphalia was sent to Abraham Frères in Constantinople (Stambul) on June 30th, 1916. The shipment arrived on July 2nd, 1916 in Dresden. Then, a stamp "traffic interrupted" was added. (...) The interruption of the mail traffic may have had to do with the Brusilov offensive (June to September 1916). (...) Probably not a direct interruption of the rail link to Turkey, rather, it must have been caused by the overloading of the railroad capacity. (This would also explain why the package still reached its recipient in October.)

On September 3rd, 1916 the parcel is back (?) In Dresden (stamp on the reverse side). The parcel card then arrived in Stambul on October 19, 1916.

Völkel, Solingen. October 1916

Two packages from Völkel, from Solingen, Germany. All three cards were sent on October 5, 1916, suggesting that large shipments were broken down into multiple packages of 5kg each.
Product line unknown. Solingen was renowned for the manufacturing of knives, scissors and razors, so these packages were likely for one such product, most probably razor blades, which was one product Abraham Frères imported.

Parcel Card, Völkel, Solingen, 1916

Parcel Card from Völkel. October 5, 1916.

(Collection of the author)

Parcel Card, Völkel, Solingen, 1916

Another Parcel Card from Völkel, October 5, 1916.

(Source: stampboards.com)

Germania-Werk

Packet card from Germania-Werk, Solingen, Germany, a manufacturer of razors.

Parcel Card from Germania-Werk.

Packet card from Germania-Werk. October 1916.

(Source: ebay)

Kamphausen & Plümacher

Packet card from Kamphausen & Plümacher, Solingen-Ohligs, Germany, a manufacturer of cutlery and open-blade razors.

Parcel Card from Kamphausen & Plümacher.

Parcel Card from Kamphausen & Plümacher. May or June 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Unknown, from Ohligs, Solingen.

Packet card from unknown company from Ohligs/Solingen, Germany. Solingen was know as the "City of Blades", renowned for the manufacturing of knives, scissors and razors.

Parcel Card from unknown company in Solingen.

Parcel Card from unknown company in Solingen.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

C.F. Schroeder

Two packages from C.F. Schroeder, a manufacturer of metal goods located in Volmarstein and Hückeswagen, Germany. They manufactered padlocks, among other metal products.

According to the great-granddaughter of C.G. Schroeder: "C.F. Schroeder was known for his padlock factories." (December 2020).

Parcel Card, C.F. Schroeder, Volmarstein, 1916

Parcel Card from C.F. Schroeder, Volmarstein. June 1916.

(Source: ebay)

Parcel Card, C.F. Schroeder, Volmarstein, 1916

Parcel Card from C.F. Schroeder, Hückeswagen, Germany. June 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Unknown Company, Hungary

Iron padlocks from Szombathely, Hungary, shipped by Richard Mittler.
Unknown company.

Iron padlocks from Hungary, shipped by Richard Mittler transport, September 1917

Parcel Card for iron padlocks from Hungary, shipped by Richard Mittler transport. Sent in September 1917, arrived in Constantinople in December 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Halbach & Böckmann

Halbach & Böckmann, Barmen, Germany, a manufacturer of small metal goods, including snap fasteners, shoe eyelets, hollow rivets, suspender buttons, cardboard clips and picture eyelets. Not sure what the "Celluloid" stickers mean.

Parcel Card from Halbach & Böckmann, Barmen.

Parcel Card from Halbach & Böckmann, Barmen, Germany. February 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card from Halbach & Böckmann, Barmen.

Parcel Card from Halbach & Böckmann, Barmen, Germany. February 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Gebrüder Heuschen

Oackage from Gebrüder Heuschen,(Heuschen Brothers) from Elberfeld, Germany, a manufacturer of rivets.

Parcel Card from Gebrüder Heuschen, Elberfeld.

Parcel Card from Gebrüder Heuschen, Elberfeld, Germany. September 28, 1916.

(Collection of the author)

William Prym

Packet card from William Prym, Stolberg, Germany. Manufacturer of small metal products: metal haberdashery, needles, zippers

Parcel Card from William Prym G.m.b.H. in Stolberg, Germany, 1917

Parcel Card from William Prym from Stolberg, Germany. May 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Norbert Luffy)

Picard-Werk

Three package cards from Picard-Werk, a hammers and craftsmen tools manufacturer from Cronenberg, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.

Parcel Card, Picard-Werk

Parcel Card from Picard-Werk. November 10, 1916.

(Collection of the author)

Parcel Card, Picard-Werk

Parcel Card from Picard-Werk. November 12, 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card, Picard-Werk

Parcel Card from Picard-Werk. December 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Paulmann & Kellermann

Three package cards from Paulmann & Kellermann, a paper envelope company from Elberfeld, Germany.

Parcel Card, Paulmann & Kellermann, Elberfeld, Germany. 1916

Parcel Card, Paulmann & Kellermann. November 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card, Paulmann & Kellermann, Elberfeld, Germany. 1917

Parcel Card, Paulmann & Kellermann. December 5, 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card, Paulmann & Kellermann, Elberfeld, Germany. 1916

Parcel Card, Paulmann & Kellermann. December 5, 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

F.H. Schmidt

F.H. Schmidt, an envelope factory from Torgau, Germany.

Parcel Card, 1917

Parcel Card from the F.H. Schmidt. Torgau, Germany, June 1917.

(Collection of the author)

Carl Blanke

Carl Blanke, an envelope manufacturer from Wuppertal / Barmen, Germany.

Parcel Card, 1917

Parcel Card from the Carl Blanke envelope manufacture. September 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Hartmann Mittler

Hartmann Mittler, an ink factory from Vienna.

Parcel Card, 1916

Parcel Card from Hartmann Mittler, an ink factory from Vienna. December 1916.

(Scan courtesy of Ron Laby)

Herczeg Geza

Herczeg Geza, chemical factory from Budapest, Hungary. This package card is for shoe polish.

Parcel Card, Herczeg Geza, 1916

Parcel Card for shoe polish from Herczeg Geza, Budapest, Hungary.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Herm. Ibach & Co.

One package from Hermann (?) Ibach & Co, Elberfeld, Germany.
Product line unknown.

Parcel Card from Ibach, Elberfeld, 1916

Parcel Card from Herm. Ibach & Co, Elberfeld, October 1916.

(Source: ebay)

Otto Jaeger

Two packages from Otto Jaeger, Siegen, Wesphalia, Germany.
Product line unknown.

Parcel Card, Otto Jaeger, 1916

Parcel Card from Otto Jaeger, June 1916.

(Source: philaforum.com)

Parcel Card, Otto Jaeger, 1917

Parcel Card from Otto Jaeger, January 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

October 1917

Three cards mailed in October 1917 from Hagen, where Haim Abraham was residing at the time. The only information on the cards is for the transporter (Lersch & Kruse). There is unfortunately no indication of who the manufacturer was or what the shippement contained.

The cards have intriguing Hebrew stamps: "Schalom" ("Peace") and "Ivri" ("Hebrew"). Were these words codes? What did they mean? Could they simply have been the name of a customer? I haven't found anyone named Ivri or Schalom in the 1913 Annuaire Oriental in Constantinople.

Parcel Card, 1916

Parcel Card sent from Hagen, Germany, by Lersch & Kruse (transporter), October 9, 1917.

Card mailed from Hagen with "Ivri" ("Hebrew") stamp.

(Scan courtesy of Ron Laby)

Parcel Card, Lersch & Kruse, Hagen Germany. 1917

Parcel Card sent from Hagen, Germany, by Lersch & Kruse (transporter), October 25-29 1917.

Another card mailed from Hagen, this one with a "Schalom" stamp.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card, Lersch & Kruse, Hagen Germany. 1917

Parcel Card sent from Hagen, Germany, by Lersch & Kruse (transporter), October 26 1917.

Another card mailed from Hagen with a "Schalom" stamp.

(Collection of the author)

July 1917

Two other cards mailed from Hagen, these through the transporter H Münzing.
No indication on the company or product shipped.
There is again a cryptic (?) stamp: "Volma", which might stand for Volmarstein, where C.F. Schroeder was located.

Parcel Card, H Münzing, Hagen. 1917

Parcel Card, H Münzing, Hagen. July 27, 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card, H Münzing, Hagen. 1917

Parcel Card, H Münzing, Hagen. July 30, 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Unknown

Two parcel cards from unknown company, shipped by Friedrich Samuely, Vienna. August-September 1917.

Shipped by Friedrich Samuely, Vienna, September 1917

Unknown company. Shipped by Friedrich Samuely, Vienna. Arrived in Constantinople in September 1917.

(Collection of the author)

Shipped by Friedrich Samuely, Vienna, September 1917

Unknown company. Shipped by Friedrich Samuely, Vienna. Sent around August 8, 1917. Arrived in Constantinople September 15, 1917.

(Collection of the author)

Cards sent by Haim

Parcel Card, Haim Abraham, Vienna. 1916

Parcel Card sent by Haim from Vienna, 8 (or 3?) May 1916.

Hotel Continental, Vienna

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card from Haim Abraham, Vienna. 1916

Parcel Card sent by Haim from Vienna, (8 or 3?) May 1916.

Hotel Continental, Vienna

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card, Haim Abraham, Vienna. 1916

Parcel Card sent by Haim from Vienna, 8 May 1916.

Hotel Continental, Vienna

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Parcel Card from Haim, 1917

Parcel Card sent by Haim Abraham from Wald, to Abraham Frères, December (?) 1917. At the time, Haim lived in Hagen, Westphalia.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Address

Note that although some professional correspondance to Abraham Frères included "Emin Bey Han" in their address, most was simply addressed to "Abraham Frères, Constantinople", or Herrn Abraham Frères, Konstantinopel - Stambul, Turkei.

There are also examples of personal correspondance addressed c/o Abraham Frères, with no additional street or building information. For example, Haim sent this postcard from Vienna in 1913 to his sister-in-law Ronya, and simply addressed it to:
"Riwka Abraham,
c/o Abraham Frères,
Constantinople".

Zionist Congress, Vienna 1913.

Postcard from Vienna - Sept 4, 1913.

WW1

During the second half of WW1, in 1916 and 1917, Haim temporarily moved to Germany, to make it easier to communicate with suppliers and continue to conduct business with Constantinople despite the war. He was first in Elberfeld (where Paulmann & Kellermann was located), then in Hagen, Westphalia (where Lersch & Kruse and H Münzing Spedition were located). While Haim was in Germany, Moritz stayed in Constantinople and continued to run the company from the main office.

Aside from pacakage cards used during the 1916-1917 period, the other surviving postal artifacts from the war period consist of envelopes sent by Abraham Frères to Germany and The Netherlands with red closure labels from the Turkish military censorship.

Abraham Frères - Constantinople.

Abraham Frères envelope, from Constantinople to Augsburg, Germany, ca 1916-1917.

(gittigidiyor.com

Abraham Frères - Constantinople.

Abraham Frères envelope, from Constantinople to Augsburg, Germany, ca 1916-1917.

(gittigidiyor.com

The end of Abraham Frères

Although the last surviving artifacts from the company (mail and business card) date from 1918, Abraham Frères continued to operate for a few more years and the company's name still appears in the 1921 Annuaire Oriental.

At the end of 1922 however, there was an acrimonious falling out between the two brothers Moritz and Haim, as described in a letter from Elfriede (Mädi) to Ronya dated December 8, 1922, and the company was dissolved.

This split coincided with Moritz' move to Dusseldorf (actually his move was delayed by a few weeks while he was attempting to resolve the dispute with his brother); It's not clear what triggered the dispute.

Moritz continued to run his business out of the same building for several years, now renting a single room (No 23). He is listed in the 1923 Register of Bankers, Traders and Brokers: Abraham M. Istanbul, Emin Bey Han, 23. Komisyoncu ("broker"). His name also appears at the same address in the 1927 Registry Book of the Spanish Consulate in Constantinople, and in the List of Professional Tenants in Emin Bey Han .as "Abraham M."

Haim on the other hand moved his business to a new location; in the Registry Book of the Spanish Consulate in Constantinople, an entry dated September 18 1928 shows Haim's business address as Seyh Davud Han, Tahtakale street.

A "Abraham Moni", a "Commissionnaire" with an office in Emin Bey Han (10, 16, 17) is listed in the 1921 Annuaire Oriental. It's not clear if this is indeed Mony as the name is not only spelled differently, but the first and last names are reversed.

The two parcel cards below don't help clarify if Mony did indeed have offices in Emin Bey Han as neither are addressed directly to him. The first card is addressed to Mony Abraham via the "Hungarian goods transport office" (?), in Evkaf Han, while the second card is addressed to him, care of S. & W. Hoffmann, in Emin Bey Han. Could this mean that Mony didn't have his own office?

These package cards are both from a company in Budapest, Hungary, for chemical products used to treat fabric: "eisenvitriol" = Iron sulfate (used as a dye), and "Chlorkalk" = bleaching powder.

Bleaching powder package from Hungary, 1917

Note: the package is addressed to Mony Abraham through the "Ung. Waren verkehrsburo" (Hungarian Products (transport?) Office). The stamp on the left "Hadi Termény Részvénytársaság" is for the war-time Hungarian economic organization War Produce Company which operated in the first half of the First World War until the end of 1919, when its role was taken over by the newly established Ministry of Agriculture.

On the top of the card: "Kistel" may be a typo for "1 Kiste" = "1 box". Chlorkalk = Chlorinated lime (also known as bleaching powder)
"sajat veszelyere" likely means "dangerous".

Parcel Card for bleaching powder

Parcel card for bleaching powder from Hungary, 1917.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Iron sulfate

Parcel Card for iron sulfate from Budapest, Hungary

Parcel Card for iron sulfate

Parcel card for iron sulfate.

(Scan courtesy of Mehmet Sadettin Fidan)

Special thanks:
I am indebted to Ron Laby who generously shared copies of several documents related to the Abraham brothers from his collection of Sephardic-Mizrahi Postal History & Ephemera, and provided background information on package receipt cards.
I am indebted to Mehmet Sadettin Fidan who graciously shared his knowledge of Constantinople's Hans and provided a wealth of documents and data about Abraham Frères.
Links
Emin Bey Han
1923 Register of Bankers, Traders and Brokers

This family history project started September 2009.
All photos and documents belong to the author and are © Daniel Abraham, except for maps and where indicated.
Please have the courtesy to ask before copying any content.

This is a work in progress. Please contact me if you have any more information to contribute.

Last Modified: Sunday, March 6, 2022