Asher Hamburger & Sons: A Pioneer Jewish Los Angeles Department Store Merchant Family

Asher Hamburger & Family

Asher Hamburger

Values Codes: I-E-L-P


Asher Hamburger was born in the village of Altenschoenbach, near Wuzburg, Bavaria, in 1821.

At a very young age he was apprenticed to a rope-maker.

At the age of 18, Asher Hamburger, along with a brother, immigrated to the United States, arriving in 1839.


Along the way

Asher Hamburger found work in a tassel factory in New York.

As soon as he had saved enough money he started a small general store in Pennsylvania.

It was in Pennsylvania that he gain the reputation as “the honest retailer.”

In 1843, another brother arrived, and the three of them moved to Alabama where they opened three stores along the Tombigbee River.

In 1850, when word of the California Gold Rush reached the South, the Hamburger Brothers started for the West by way of the Isthmus.



Sacramento was their destination, but did not prove to be the ideal spot, so in 1851 two brothers moved to San Francisco.

There they started a wholesale merchantile house under the name of Hamburger Brothers.

Asher Hamburger was left in charge of the Sacramento store.

In spite of fires and floods, Asher Hamburger, and his two sons kept the business going until, in 1881, when David and Moses Hamburger convinced their father that Los Angeles offered far better opportunities.


Los Angeles

Located on Main Street, the Hamburgers called their Los Angeles new establishment The People’s Store, catering to working class customers.

The business thrived and, in 1908, the Hamburger Building was built, housing Hamburger’s Department Store the largest building of it kind, and built with a modern steel frame.

It quickly became Los Angeles’ largest and most important store.

Hamburgers’ Peoples Store in the Phillip’s Block, their first location in Los Angeles.

Attached to the south end of their building the Hamburgers built a theater – Hamburger’s Majestic Theatre.

It was built for full stage shows and even opera.

The Majestic later became a beautiful movie theater.

Today – it is a parking lot.


After World War I, there was a large flow of immigrants into New York.

The Industrial Relief Office was formed to help move immigrants to other parts of the United States.

The Hamburgers were very active in this program offering free transportation to qualified immigrants to work in their store..


The store was sold in the 1920’s to David May of the May Company of St. Louis.

This was to be the May Co.’s first large “branch store.” [click here]


The Hamburgers & Mays on sale of Hamburgers to the May Co., 1931

Hamburgers Department Store under Steel Frame Construction, 1907



David Hamburger was a member of the board of La Fiesta de Los Angeles as part of his membership in the Merchant’s Association of Los Angeles.

David Hamberger was also the organizer of the Employers’ Association, a group founded to help control trade union problems.



Moses Hamburger served as President of the Semi-Tropic B’nai B’rith Lodge.



Asher Hamburger married  Hannah Bien, in 1855.

Together they had seven children, six who survived to adulthood: David, Moses, Belle, Mrs. Otto Sweet, Mrs. Jennie Marx, and Miss Evelyn Hamburger.

The two of their children were involved in the business were:

Moses Hamburger 1857 – 1944

David Hamburger 1860 – 1930


Asher Hamburger died, in 1897, and is interned in the family crypt at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Hannah Bien Hamburger died, in 1907, and is interned in the family crypt at the Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles.

“Hard, honest labor, upright methods, and taking for his precept the teachings of his early childhood, ‘De ye unto others as ye would have them do unto you.’

“These laid the foundation upon which his children build.”

— Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916


  • The Jews in California, Rabbi Martin Meyer, Emanu-El, San Francisco, June 1916.

For more Early Los Angeles Jewish Pioneers click here for the Table of Contents.

Some, but not all of the Los Angeles Pioneers, can be reached by clicking on their name on the list near the upper right of this page.


Hamburger’s Giant Los Angeles Department Store




Hamberger's Department Store & the Majestic Theatre by Stan Kline.

Hamburger’s Department Store & the Majestic Theatre: Painting by artist Stan Cline.

David Epstein is the Curator for this Hamburger Family Exhibit

Any more information on the Hamburger family will be appreciated.

Painting by Stan Cline, Nostalgia Graphics, see

“Thank You” to Natalya Lukin for German location spelling correction..

Some More

Multi-Generational Jewish Department Stores of the West

Neiman-Marcus of Dallas, Texas

Hamburger’s Department Store of Los Angeles, California

Gump’s of San Francisco, California

Meier & Frank of Portland, Oregon

Auerbach’s of Salt Lake City, Utah

Goldwater’s of Phoenix, Arizona

May Co. of St. Louis, Missouri


David Hamburger (rt.) with 3 Hellmans, 1927


Moses Hamburger

David Hamberger