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5 Carrier Pigeon Stories

4

The Rothschild Fortune and the Battle of Waterloo

Pigeons delivered early news of Napoleon's defeat to Rothchild's financial gain.  About 35 years later, in 1850, Julius Reuters, founder of the Reuters news service, would use carrier pigeons to quickly move stock market information between Berlin and Paris, before a reliable telegraph line was established there.
Pigeons delivered early news of Napoleon's defeat to Rothchild's financial gain. About 35 years later, in 1850, Julius Reuters, founder of the Reuters news service, would use carrier pigeons to quickly move stock market information between Berlin and Paris, before a reliable telegraph line was established there.
GLEB GARANICH/Reuters/Corbis | Bettmann/CORBIS (2) | Hulton Archive/Getty Images | FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images | PhotoQuest/Getty Images

The Rothschilds, the infamous European family and banking dynasty, can thank a pigeon for much of their large fortune.

The Battle of Waterloo in 1815 between England and France is now famous for being a pivotal loss for Napoleon Bonaparte. But at the time, before the age of the telegraph, news traveled slowly, and Europe waited anxiously for news of the victor.

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The financial sector also held its breath, waiting to see whether the value of British government debt would rise with a victory -- or sink with a loss. But Rothschild had set up a sophisticated, multifaceted system of messengers and communication, including a pigeon post. Because of this, Rothschild was one of the first to know the outcome and capitalized on that knowledge. He found out a full 24 hours before the rest of London, and even before the government itself.

As it turns out, Napoleon's loss was Rothchild's gain.

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