Gaunse, Joachim

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GAUNSE, JOACHIM (d. 1619), mining engineer; member of the Gans family of Prague. In 1581 he was in England, where he reorganized the copper mining at Keswick in Cumberland, and later at Neath, Wales. He was arrested in Bristol (1596) for indiscreet remarks during a theological dispute and declared himself a Jew. He was sent to London for trial before the Privy Council and presumably was expelled from England. He is probably identical to the Zalman b. Zeligman Gans whose tombstone in Prague (S. Hock, Die Familien Prags, 1892, no. 997) describes him as having endangered his life to wreak vengeance among the gentiles. Gaunse has one remarkable distinction: In 1584 he was recruited by Sir Walter Raleigh to join the first Virginia Company's expedition to the New World and served as supervisor of mining on the ill-fated Roanoke Expedition of 1595. Gaunse was thus the first known Jew to set foot in North America, at least in the area ruled by England.


M.B. Donald, Elizabethan Copper … (1956), passim; Abrahams, in: jhset, 4 (1903), 83–101.

[Cecil Roth /

William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)]