Naphtali Hart Myers (1711-1788): New Yorker and Londoner

Articles Image

Haim Bolaffey dedicated his 'Easy grammar' of 1820 to Dr Joseph Hart Myers, whose daughter's and father's fortunes I have now traced to serve as the background to reviewing Dr Myers's career in the broad context of the assimilation of Jews in Britain during the late Enlightenment.11 have taken the family of Maria Hart Myers (1794-1868), 'the lady of Longueville Clarke', down to 1929.2 Here I shall concentrate on the earlier generation of Naphtali Hart Myers and his success as an American in London in the late eighteenth century. I acknowledge again the assistance of a New Zealand genealogist, Daryl Coup, himself a descendant of Naphtali's son Simeon Hart Myers (1765-1803), who has both encouraged and followed some of my findings about Naphtali 'cheek by jowl'. For the Anglo-Jewish history of the 1760s I also acknowledge references in Raphael Langham's account of the early history of the Board of Deputies of British Jews on the occasion of the Board's 250th anniversary.3 Against the fact that Naphtali does not appear in this history of the Board, and because the entry for him in the forthcoming Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History subordinates him to his son Joseph,41 offer these traces of his career, presenting him rather as a one-man Board of Deputies in his own right, or, along with the American-born Naphtali Franks, a two-man team. The key factor, I suggest, is that he had become an American as far as his place in London is concerned, so I intro? duce him with a brief survey of his American career.

I have been able to update the Myers family tree5 in further correction of Malcolm Stern's genealogical tables at the American Jewish Archive.

This article is an expanded version of a paper presented to the Society on 17 December 2009.

1 S. W. Massil, 'Two Hebrew grammars and the Enlightenment', Trans JHSE XLI (2007) 99 143

2 S. W. Massil, "'The Lady of Longueville Clarke": Maria Hart Myers (1794-1868) and her Family', TransJHSE XLII (2009) 53-73.

3 R. Langham, 250 Years of Convention and Contention: a history of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, 1J60-2010 (London 2010).

4 W. D. Rubinstein, M. Jolles and H. L. Rubinstein (eds) The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History (Basingstoke 2010).

5 S. W. Massil (see n. 2) 72-3.

Naphtali's dates are usually introduced with a question mark, '1711?'. If, however, the Gentleman's Magazine's brief obituary notice of October 1788 is taken as correct in giving his age as 77,6 then, with the statement of Naphtali's Will7 that he wished the Synagogue to memorialize him annually at Rosh Chodesh Adar, it can be presumed that he was born on Friday 20 February 1711.

What remains uncorroborated is the 'American Adolphus connection' posited by both Stern and Cecil Roth concerning Myers's ancestral connec? tions in New York.8 Intensive investigation fails to trace any substantial Adolphus presence in New York at this period, except for Isaac Adolphus (1725-74) and his wife Charity Hays (1722-73), the sister of Judah Hays (1703-64), who will appear in my account later.

Become a member to read the full article
Become a member today


24 hour access to JHSE online resources

Instant access to over 700 articles View the original articles as a PDF
Learn More


Annual JHSE Membership

Members are entitled to a free copy of the latest Jewish Historical Studies, free access to our online resources and associate membership of the UCL Library in London.  In addition, they receive the JHSE Newsletter, special offers on books for sale and pay less to attend our series of lectures and other public events.
Learn More


Student Membership

The JHSE want to encourage students to engage with Jewish history.  Apply for a Student Membership with your university email account and once we have verified your status you will soon have all the benefits of being a full JHSE member.
Learn More


Associate your Institution with the JHSE

Give your members access to JHSE online resources and special offers on book sales.  Use your institutional email account when applying, and once your status is verified we will explain the scheme.  Preferred payment is by credit or debit card.
Learn More

Your Cart