Friday, January 30, 2009

Francis Dinkelspiel - Towers of Gold

Marilyn Alexander hosted this event held on January 27, 2009:

Highlights: This biography of Isaias Hellman, the author's great-great-grandfather, involves a substantial slice of California history. Frances knows her material well having spent 8 years on the project. She went through over 50,000 pages of archival documents. She traveled around the country and to Germany for her research. When Isaias Hellman first came to Los Angeles, English was the third language after Spanish and French. There was no telegraph line, and the only way to get there from San Francisco was by steamer which took 2 days. Hellman started with one store and expanded to the point where he was the California's leading financier in the late 19th and early 20th century. He was the owner of 3 banks and on the board of 14 others. In the incident that gives the book its name, he stopped a financial panic in 1893 by piling up on a bank counter $500,000 of his own money in gold coins. (There were $20 gold coins then.) He had a significant impact on the development of both Los Angeles and San Francisco. He donated the land for USC; he was actively involved in the financial recovery of San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake; and he was a UC Regent for 37 years. He was a major investor and promoter of eight industries that shaped California: banking, transportation, education, land development, water, electricity, oil, and wine.

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