Jonas was born in Bingen am Rhein, Prussia in 1845, and became a naturalized British citizen in 1876. The same year he married Lucy Ann Earle; they had 5 sons and one daughter. After Jonas' death his widow remarried, to William Clegg. He had fled his home country in 1867 to avoid military service. He went to Sheffield in about 1870 to start a steel business. He prospered and with partners ran the Continental Steel Works, which by 1890 was one of the most successful in the area, particularly with its production of high speed steel.
He became a town councillor in 1890 and Lord Mayor in 1904, receiving a knighthood the same year. He was a Justice of the Peace and a benefactor of the University of Sheffield, particularly the Applied Sciences, and also helped establish chairs in German and French. His picture now hangs in Mappin Hall of the University, and his mansion became student accommodation, Halifax Hall.
Jonas was stripped of his knighthood in 1918 after being convicted of a misdemeanour as a result of the anti-German sentiments in Britain at the time because of the First World War. (His crime had been discussions with a potential German customer in 1913, a year before the war). In addition, his British citizenship was revoked but he was not deported.
References and notes
- The Story of Old Attercliffe (Part 3) by C.R. Vine, B.Sc as transcribed by Eric Youle
- Joseph Jonas 1845-1921)
- H. Mathers (2005 ) Steel City Scholars - the centenary history of the University of Sheffield; ISBN 1-904022-01-4
- He was charged with a felony - a very serious crime, but only found guilty of the minor offence of aiding someone else's misdemeanour.