Friedman & Dora Levinson, Early Pioneers of Napa, California

Freedman Levinson and Dora Shamanski Levinson

Freedman & Dora Levinson of Napa.

Freedman & Dora Levinson of Napa.


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The Levinsons were young Prussian Jews in their twenties who were drawn to California after the discovery of gold in 1848.

Arriving first in New York City, they traveled to California via the Isthmus , up to San Francisco.

The Levinsons settled in Napa City in the Napa Valley.



Levinson's Pioneer Clothing Store

Levinson’s Pioneer Clothing Store

In Napa, Freedman Levinson opened  the Pioneer Clothing Store, on Main Street.

He accepted gold dust as payment for goods.

Freedman Levinson kept a canary in a cage outside of the store to entice shoppers.



As one of the first families, Freedman Levinson became a member of the local Odd Fellows, Lodge 18, established in 1853.



Freedman Levinson had married Dora Shamanski in Prussia, before leaving for America.

The Levinsons arrived in Napa, California with their daughter, Annie.

In Napa, they had five more children.


One of the Levinson’s sons, Joseph Levinson, would later open Levinson’s Pharmacy on the corner of Main and First Streets where it remained for decades.

Levinson's drug store Napa

Levinson’s drug store Napa

Later, it had the only x-ray in the entire area.


Another son, Charlie Levinson, opened a ready-to-wear clothing store and became a founding member of the Native Sons of the Golden West as well as an active member of the Unity Volunteer Hose Company.

Because of Charlie Levinson’s influence within that organization, the Jews of Napa finally had a place to meet for Shabbat services and the High Holy Days – a room on the firehouse’s top floor.


For more information, see:

Under the Vine and the Fig Tree: The Jews of Napa Valley, by Lin Weber, ISBN 0-9667014-4-5, 2003

Napa Valley’s Jewish Heritage, by Henry Michalski and Donna Mendelsohn, ISBN 978-0-7385-8898-8 Arcadia Publishers

Both books are available thru the Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley,



Freedman and Dora Levinson, (courtesy of Claire Erks)

Pioneer Clothing Store, Freedman Levinson on far right (courtesy of Claire Erks)

Levinson Drugstore, Joseph Levinson in front of store (courtesy of Claire Erks)

Click on photos to enlarge them.

Lauren Chevlen is curator of this Levinson Family Exhibit.