Values Codes I-E-L-P
Curator’s Note: Abraham Blochman is a fine example of mobility in early California.
Abraham Blochman was a Jewish Pioneer in the Gold Country, San Luis Obispo, and San Diego. At the end of this exhibit you can return to either three of these Exhibition Halls.
Abraham Blochman was born at Ingenheim, Alsace, France in 1834.
In 1848 his widowed mother and her children came to America.
Abraham Blochman worked as a clerk in a store in Helena, Arkansas and taught French on the side.
In 1851, the attraction of the Gold Rush brought him to California, via the Isthmus of Panama.
Abraham Blochman was naturalized on May 6, 1861.
The Gold Country
From San Francisco, Abraham Blochman went to see his brother Lazar in the gold mining region, and when this brother died he was interred in the Jewish cemetery in Sacramento.
Abraham Blochman tried his hand at placer [surface] mining along the Yuba River, and he clerked in a number of stores in the towns north of Sacramento.
In the spring of 1858, the Jewish Weekly in San Francisco reported that he had been elected Secretary of the Nevada City Hebrew Benevolent Society in Nevada County, California.
San Luis Obispo
In the fall of 1858, Abraham Blochman opened a general merchandise store in San Luis Obispo with Moses Cerf as his partner. They soon expanded to other nearby coastal towns.
These stores took in a great deal of farm produce in trade, and this resulted in Blochman, Cerf & Co. opening an office in San Francisco as commission merchants to dispose of the wheat, hides and wool which they acquired.
Also, Abraham Blochman became owner of a number of cattle and sheep ranches, agent for “IXL Line,” and he had an interest in a number of woolen mills in San Francisco.
A Jewish visitor to San Luis Obispo noted that Blochman, Cerf & Company was one of the two Jewish-owned stores which had the largest amount of business there, and that they were one of the few firms that bought the produce of the ranches in the region.
The Blochman prosperity in the central coast was interrupted by the drought and depression of the mid- and late-1870s. So, in 1881, the family moved to San Diego.
In San Diego, Abraham Blochman founded another general merchandise store, and prospered.
In 1893 Abraham and his son, Lucien, organized a bank, the Blochman Banking Company. For over a quarter century it was one of the most important banks of San Diego, and they carried on considerable business in Mexico.
Abraham Blochman was active in various civic capacities in San Diego.
Abraham Blochman was a member of the San Diego City Council, from 1893 to 1898.
For thirty years Abraham Blochman was San Diego’s acting French Consul.
It was he who welcomed the French naval officers whenever a French battleship came to port.
The Blochmans became active in the life of Congregation Beth Israel of San Diego, which had come into being in 1861.
In 1886, Marie Blochman organized a religious school for the Congregation.
Much of the time San Diego was too small to retain a Rabbi and Abraham Blochman functioned as the officiate at funeral services.
In 1904, Abraham Blochman succeeded Marcus Schiller as President of Congregation Beth Israel.
In 1865 Abraham Blochman married Marie Sarassin, a native of France.
They had eight children, five of whom survived to adulthood.
Abraham’s son Lucien Blochman was elected a San Diego City Councilman in 1897 and 1905.
Abraham Blochman died in 1915.
For information see the following issue of Western States Jewish History:
- Abraham Blochman: Businessman, Banker, & Community Leader, by Dr. Norton B. Stern, WSJH, Vol. 41, Issue #1.
Abraham Blockman’s Exhibit is in the California Central Coast Exhibition – where you are now.