Leopold Harris: Jewish Pioneer Merchant of Men’s Clothing in Los Angeles

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Leopold Harris

Leopold Harris of Harris & Frank Department Stores

Values Code I-E-H-P

Leopold Harris was born in 1836 in Loebau, Prussia, the town whence came so many pioneer Jewish families of Los Angeles.

He was well educated in Prussia and spent time throughout his life reading and studying in his spare time.

Originally Lewin Hirshkowitz, Harris arrived in America in 1852, at the age of sixteen.

Along the way . . . .

Leopold Harris first settled in Louisville, Kentucky, where his brother resided., but he soon headed West.

He engaged in a number of business ventures in San Francisco, San Gabriel and San Bernardino.

Leopold Harris became a United States Citizen in 1857.

Los Angeles

Business Ventures

Harris & Frank Store, Los Angeles

In  the early 1860’s Leopold Harris decided that Los Angeles offered better business opportunities.

In 1870, Leopold Harris took over a Main Street stationary store which had been operated by Herman W. Hellman.

In the 1880’s he established a retail men’s clothing firm known as the Quincy Hall Clothing Company, and later as the London Clothing Co.

He also operated a wholesale menswear company called L. Harris & Co.

Harris was the first merchant in the city to establish a line of credit with New York clothing manufacturers.

His retail firm’s name became Harris & Frank when Herman W. Frank, a highly trusted manager within Harris’ business, married Harris’s daughter.

By 1903, Leopold Harri’s two sons-in-law, Herman W. Frank and M.C. Adler, and his son, Harry L. Harris, were running the business.

Inside of Harris & Frank Store, Los Angeles

Real Estate Ventures

Leopold Harris was the first in Los Angeles to erect buildings on long term leases, among those being the Allen block, which he built in 1885, at the corner of Temple and Spring Streets.

In 1887, he secured a twenty-year lease on Spring Street lots and built the Salisbury block.

In 1898 he built the Harris & Frank Building at 437 South Spring Street near Fifth Street.

Harris & Frank Store, Los Angeles, Vintage Postcard

Harris & Frank Store, Los Angeles, Vintage Postcard

 

Leopold Harris also made investments in sheep – which turn out to be a good stroke of business.

Community

Leopold Harris served as an officer of B’nai B’rith Congregation.

Leopold Harris gave largely to various city charities, Jewish and others – but in a manner so quiet that, not until his death stopped his support, did any save those directly concerned know whence came the money so received.

Family

In 1868, Leopold Harris married Minna Jastrowitz and had four children: Mrs. H. W. Frank, Mrs. M. C. Adler, Mrs. Alfred Stern, and Alfred Harris.

 

Leopold Harris passed away in 1909 as he returned from an extensive trip on the European continent.

“Leopold Harris was a man true to his word and always met his obligations, both as a family man and in the world of business.

“The community in which he spent the greater part of his useful life will ever bear the impress of his work and industry.” –Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916.

 

[Click here to see our Harris Family Exhibit in San Bernardino]

 

More information can be found in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:

  •  Frank, Herman and Leopold Harris; Interview with Lawrence P. Frank; Beverly Hills; 1968; Norton Stern; 41/3
  • Harris; Leopold; Meeting with Mrs. Jospeph Kustiner, Nee Irma Katz, San Bernadino, 1967; Norton Stern; 41/3
  • Harris, Leopold; 183601910; Rabbi William M. Kramer; 42/2-3

More Sources:

  • Scrapbook of a Western Pioneer, by Herman W. Frank, 1934, Times-Mirror Press.
  • The Jews in California, by Rabbi Martin A. Meyers, Emanu-El, San Francisco, 1916.

 

David Epstein is the Curator for this Leopold Harris Exhibit

 

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.

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