Emil Jellinek was born in Leipzig on April 6, 1853. He gave his parents little joy during his school years – he was given private lessons for several years, and later no school could keep him for long. Emil Jellinek resisted any compulsion to learn.
At the age of 17 he was employed as an official by the North-West Rotkosteletz railway company, but left this employment only two years later.
Emil Jellinek now made his way to France, and was then called to Tangiers by the Austro-Hungarian Consul. One year later he went to Tetuan as a consular agent, married a French woman and established himself as a successful trader in North African products.
In 1881 Jellinek returned to Vienna, where he managed the agency of an insurance company and became an inspector. He then followed the call to North Africa again, and his two sons Adolph and Fernand were born in Algiers. In 1889 Emil Jellinek returned to live in Vienna with his family.