Morris Greenberg: Brass Foundry Owner & First Supplier of Fire Hydrants, San Francisco

Morris Greenberg

Morris Greenberg WS16/2251

Morris Greenberg, #WS16/2251

Values Codes  I – E – L

 

Morris Greenberg was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1823.

As a young man Greenberg left Poland and to become an apprentice in a foundry in Paris.

There, he married Annette, and in 1851 they immigrated to America with their first two children.

They made their way around the Horn to San Francisco.

 

Greenberg Eagle Brass Works WS 16/2252

M. Greenberg’s Sons Eagle Brass & Machine Works, #WS16/2252

San Francisco

In 1854, Morris Greenberg established the Eagle Brass Foundry in a small frame building on Halleck Street.

Sand for his molds came from the dunes near Rincon Point.

Copper was “mined” from the copper coated bottoms of beached and aban­doned ships, whose crews were in the Sierra foothills looking for gold.

Soon, he was making keys, hinges, and chandelier parts for homes, as well as bronze spikes for ship construction and church bells.

Later, Greenberg cast cannons of bronze and monitor nozzles for hydrau­lic mining — a major mining method that suc­ceeded the placer (surface) mining process.

As his business grew, Morris Greenberg moved his plant a number of times.

His son, Leon Greenberg, became active in the business as the bookkeeper, and in a few years became the manager of the firm.

Morris’ other son, Joseph Greenberg, who was born in San Francisco in 1854, joined the foundry business in the early 1880’s.

In 1871, Morris Greenberg achieved a memorable breakthrough by perfecting a reliable new fire hydrant, which delivered steady and dependable water pressure for fire fighters.

Eagle Brass Fire Hydrants WS 16/2258

Eagle Brass fire hydrants, #WS 16/2258

The Greenberg fire hydrants sold well throughout the West, from San Diego to Seattle and eastward, for many years.

By the early 1880’s Greenberg & Co. was also known as the Eagle Brass and Bell Foundry and Finishing Works.

Through the years, the firm made fittings for lighting fixtures, ship rudders, valves of all sorts, plumbing fixtures, gold-plated shower doors for the Hearst Castle, bronze swimming pool ladders, bronze bearing plates for the Bay and Golden Gate Bridges, and nozzles for fireboats.

After 1884, the foundry was known as M. Greenberg’s Sons.

In 1954, when the Greenberg foundry was 100 years old, it had 250 employees, did 4.5 million dollars in business annually, and was “the largest manufacturer of bronze products in the West.”

 

Community

Greenberg joined Congregation Sherith Israel in the 1860’s.

 

Morris Greenberg suffered a stroke and died in 1884.

His wife, Annette, had passed away four years before.

Sources

  • “Brass and Bronze Foundry of Morris Greenberg, San Francisco: A Picture Story,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 15/2.
  • Norton B. Stern, “Morris Greenberg,” Western States Jewish History 41/1.
The Eagle Brass & Machine Works WS 16/2254

Eagle Brass & Machine Works, #WS 16/2254