Street View: 32
Address: 69 Lamb’s Conduit Street


It may have been “Mademoiselle Salaman” who made it into the Tallis Street View booklet as milliner and dress maker, but 69 Lamb’s Conduit Street was firmly in the hands of Isaac Salaman, an ostrich feather manufacturer. In 1838, it is his name that appears in the insurance records of the Sun Fire Office, and we also find him in the census records of 1841, 1851, and 1861, although in 1841 the censor mistakenly lists him as John. His wife Jane, however, seems to have been the milliner mentioned by Tallis. She is listed as such in the 1841 census, but the 1851 census no longer gives an occupation for her. In 1841, daughter Betsy is called a milliner’s apprentice, but by 1851 she, and her sister Rachel, have taken up feather making. There need not be any conflict here; the ladies of the household may very well have been making bonnets and such like with the feathers Isaac dealt in.

feather worker from Tabart's Book of Trades, part 2 (1806)

feather worker from Tabart’s Book of Trades, part 2 (1806)

Tabart explained that – of course – geese were used to obtain feathers, but ostrich feathers were the most valuable and

round feathers, such as the woman in the plate is at work upon, are composed of a number of smaller ones: if they are taken from the cock’s neck, they are neatly tied on wire with thread; but if they are small ostrich feathers, they are twisted round an upright wire. The single ostrich feathers have usually a small piece of wire at the end, for the purpose of fixing into the cap, turban, or hair. Women that work at this business can earn two shillings a day. Feathers make a considerable article of commerce, being used for beds, writing-pens, &c. Those imported from foreign countries pay a heavy duty to the revenue. There is also a duty upon ostrich feathers, both in the undressed as well as in the dressed state.

In other words, a luxury product worth stealing, and the Old Bailey records frequently mention the “unlawful possession” of them, but a thief who made it into the Salaman’s house was after other goods. In an Old Bailey case of March 1851, Betsy tells the judge that she lives with her father Isaac whom she describes as a feather-bed maker. Curtains, a shawl and some vases have disappeared from the house and Betsy claimed that, although the street door was usually open during the day, the inner door was kept shut. That may have been the case, but the accused managed to get his hands on the items anyway and since nobody believed his story how he obtained them, he was found guilty and sentenced to transportation.(1) In 1859 and 1860, the Salamans were short of hands and applied for “ostrich feather makers” with “two good hands” and in 1863 they were looking for an apprentice girl.(2) Jane Salaman died in October 1863 and was buried at the Jewish Cemetery at Brompton.(3)

portrait that may or may not be of Isaac (Source: Blackden Trust). See the link for another portrait of a much younger Isaac(?)

portrait that may or may not be of Isaac (Source: Blackden Trust). See the link for another portrait of a much younger Isaac(?)

The year after his wife’s death, Isaac dissolved the partnership he had with Betsy, Rachel and his two sons, Nathan and Myer, as ostrich feather manufacturers at 69, Lamb’s Conduit Street and at 45, Monkwell Street. The four children continued the business for a while, but in December of 1864, Betsy and Rachel withdrew from the partnership. By then 46, Monkwell Street had been added to the business premises.(4) Nathan obtained the freedom of the City in 1866 and he gives his business address as 46 Monkwell Street and his occupation as ostrich feather manufacturer. Myer did the same in 1882, also from 46 Monkwell Street. The 1871 census saw Isaac, retired, and his son Nathan, ostrich feather manufacturer, at 19 Lamb’s Conduit Street. No, they did not move, there had simply been a renumbering of house numbers. Isaac died in May 1872 and was also buried at the Jewish Cemetery, Brompton. Nathan went to live with his sister Rachel and her husband Abraham Simmons, and stayed with them until his death in 1905.(5)

headstone on Isaac's grave (Source: cemeteryscribes.com

headstone on Isaac’s grave (Source – with grateful thanks: cemeteryscribes.com)

After the deaths in 1896 of Myer and Aaron, another of Isaac’s sons, one of the properties of Isaac’s estate was sold and a deed of settlement clearly lists the then beneficiaries of Isaac’s trust. It turned out that besides sons Nathan, Myer and Aaron, Isaac and Jane also had a son Abraham and besides Betsy and Rachel, a daughter Fanny, so four sons and three daughters in total. Betsy is named as Mrs Feist of 43 Rue Chateaudun, Paris, widow, Rachel as the wife of Abraham Simmons, but Fanny seems to have died before her brother as only her children are listed as beneficiaries.(6) Myer had expanded the feather business his father had started and established offices and warehouses in London, Paris, New York & Buenos Aires, and depots in Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Durban, so it should not come as a surprise that Betsy was living in Paris. The head office in London was named Monkwell House after Monkwell Street (see for a photograph here). The generous income of the family had over the years been invested into property, which turned out to be a very sensible move as feathers went rather out of fashion after Word War I and were by then only used for feather dusters, rather than as items to wear. By the 1920s, the Salamans were more or less the only ones left in London trading in feathers and they ceased trading altogether in 1943.(7) And with the end of the Salaman feather business, this blog post also comes to an end.

French post card of a woman with ostrich feathers in her hat (Saved from Pinterest)

French post card of a woman with ostrich feathers in her hat (Saved from Pinterest)

(1) Old Bailey case t1851003-759.
(2) Various advertisements in Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper, 1859-1863.
(3) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1863. Estate valued at under £3,000. Isaac was named as the executor.
(4) The London Gazette, 19 January 1864 and 6 December 1864.
(5) England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1905. Estate valued at over £198,000, later resworn at more than £374,000.
(6) London Metropolitan Archives, CLC/499/MS14743: Deed of settlement of proceeds of sale and stock, by Isaac Salaman, ostrich feather manufacturer, in favour of Nathan and Myer Salaman, 1864, with a deed of release and indemnity from the trusts of the 1864 settlement by Mrs Betsy Feist (nee Salaman) to Nathan Salaman and others, 1897. The LMA has more papers of the family, see here.
(7) T.M. Endelman, Anglo-Jewish Scientists and the Science of Race, in Jewish Social Studies 11/1 (2004), p. 52-92; S.A. Stein, Falling into Feathers: Jews and the Trans‐Atlantic Ostrich Feather Trade, in The Journal of Modern History 79/4 (2007), p. 772-812.


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