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Successful mill owners
Raphaël Dreyfus, merchant and real estate developer
The social rise of the Dreyfus family took place in the space of a generation. Abraham Dreyfus left only 15,944 francs in his will in 1810, and his son Jacques left less than 8,000 francs in 1838, along with the joint operation of the store by his sons. Nevertheless, as of his marriage, Raphaël was in possession of 4,000 francs, more than he had inherited. His subsequent real estate operations were of increasing value. Between 1840 and 1869, the average value of each of his purchases, as established by Odile Jurbert, went from 605 francs to 24,927,while the average sale went from 1,312 to 23,032 francs in the same period. These real estate purchases were first made in rural communities, and then in Mulhouse, where Raphaël Dreyfus can be seen as a real estate developer-either 14 or 19 of his operations took place in the Rue de la Filature and the Rue Koechlin.
The Raphaël Dreyfus and Co. mill
At Raphaël Dreyfus's death, his heirs divided an inheritance of 800,000 gold francs, most of it in the form of his limited liability cotton spinning and weaving company, founded on 18 October 1893 and created by the «Raphaël Dreyfus et Compagnie» trading company. This latter company had been set up 31 years prior in partnership with bankers in Basel and the machine manufacturer André Kœchlin. The plant was built near one of France's first housing developments for workers, and was 100 meters long by 120 meters wide. Carding took place on the ground floor, while the cotton was spun in three rooms on an upper floor. In August 1894, the building was gutted by fire, but on 28 September Mathieu Dreyfus requested a reconstruction permit. The family controlled nearly all the shares in the company, since its board of directors was comprised of the three brothers Jacques, Léon and Mathieu, and the supervisory board consisted-with the exception of a Mulhouse manufacturer-of Joseph Valabrègue, the husband of Henriette Dreyfus, and Alfred Dreyfus. Until the company ceased its operations, its capital remained nearly 100% French in origin and, in 1920, its buildings in the Rue Lavoisier were sold to the Boussac group. The Alsatian Dreyfus family were ardent French patriots-three of Raphaël's grandsons gave their lives for France in World War I. The family would pay dearly for its right to remain French.