THE story behind a gold pocket watch inherited by an American family has been traced back to New Year’s Eve in Victorian Bradford.

The watch was presented to Felix Kopetzky by his employers Moser & Edelstein, textile merchants in Bradford.

Bradford historian Nigel Grizzard has been contacted by Mihal Gross, a descendent of Mr Kopetzky, who lives in Virginia, America. Mr Gross sent photographs of the watch, which was from Manoa Rhodes jewellers in Bradford and given to Mr Kopetzky on New Year’s Eve, 1881

In a letter to Mr Grizzard, Mihal Gross writes: “I came upon your articles regarding Jews in 19th Century Bradford as I was trying to track down a potential family connection to a gold pocket watch I inherited after my parents died.

“On the face of the watch was ‘Manoah Rhodes & Sons/Bradford’. The inscription on the inside back cover, indicating the watch was presented to what must have been a highly valued employee, was in German: ‘Herrn F Kopetzky zum Andenken von Victor Edelstein und Jacob Moser Beim Ausscheiden us Derem Geschaefte am 31teh December 1881.’

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The inscription on the back of the watchThe inscription on the back of the watch (Image: Mihal Gross)

“The name Kopetzky was not familiar to me until two recently discovered PhD theses from the University of Vienna revealed that the full maiden name of my (great) Aunt Fine was Josefine Kopetzky, married in 1921 to my (great) Uncle Norbert Hoffmann. And that my Uncle Norbert, a lawyer, was the Editor and Publisher of the Menorah journal in Vienna in the 1930s before fleeing.

“The theses also revealed that Josefine Kopetzky was born in Vienna in 1892 to Felix Kopetzky and Regina Kopetzky. Further research revealed that Felix Kopetzky was born in 1855 in Teplice (Czech Republic). If this Felix Kopetzky is the F Kopetzky of the inscription, he would have been receiving this gold watch and leaving the Moser & Edelstein firm at the, to us, young age of 26.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The watch has been well preservedThe watch has been well preserved (Image: Mihal Gross)

“This opens questions in terms of many threads of family history on my father’s side. My father was born in Danzig, so when I saw that another Bradford notable, Charles Semon, was a native of Danzig, I began to see how many threads could be intersecting.

"The most immediate question when I saw your ‘Making Their Mark’ project is whether the historical business and personnel records for Moser & Edelstein still exist? They would help identify the F Kopetzky whose watch I have, what his job was in the firm, and possibly where he might have gone from there.”

In UK Census records, Mr Gross found a Felix Kopetzky listing in the 1881 census, Occupation: ‘Stuff Merchants traveller’, Place of Birth: Bohemia, Date of Birth: 1856.

“There was no listing for any Kopetzky in the 1871 census, so if this is the same person as in the inscription, it suggests that he worked at Moser & Edelstein no more than 10 years, so from sometime after age 16 to 25. Would it have been the practice then to present a fine gold pocket watch to a departing employee at that age and for that length of service?”

In the 1891 census, there is a Frank, but no Felix, Kopetzky, yet with the same 1856 date of birth, Vienna as the place of birth, and occupation: Courier.

“I conclude that, for whatever reason, he must indeed have been presented with the watch at this young age. Maybe he also worked for Moser & Edelstein in Germany? Did they have offices or warehouses in Germany?”

Mr Grizzard says that "Moser became Lord Mayor of Bradford and paid for the first Hebrew High School in Tel Aviv while Edelstein became the German consul until WW1 started. He changed his name to Elston.”