Isaac & Mary Ann Cohen Magnin, Early Jewish Pioneer Fashion Leaders of California

Isaac & Mary Ann Cohen Magnin

Values Codes: I-E-L


Isaac Magnin

Isaac Magnin

Isaac Magnin was born in Groningen or Assen, the Netherlands, in 1842.

He was brought to America at the age of 8.


Along the way . . . .

Though mostly self-educated, Isaac Magnin became a linguist and lover of literature.

His first business education was in merchandising in Texas and New Mexico.

Isaac Magnin joined the Union Army at the outbreak of the Civil War and fought in numerous battles.

After the war, Isaac Magnin went to London and opened an art supply store.


Mary Ann Cohen Magnin as a young woman.

Mary Ann Cohen Magnin as a young woman.

Mary Ann Cohen the daughter of a Rabbi, was born in Scheveningen, The Hague, Neatherlands, in 1850.

Her family emigrated to London, where, at the age of 18, she met and married Isaac Magnin in the Great Synagogue, in 1865.



Following the lure of the California Gold Rush, Isaac and Mary Ann Magnin sailed to California in 1875, via Cape Horn – settling in Oakland.

Isaac Magnin worked as a frame carver and gilder for Gump’s [Click here] the art and antique store.

Mary Ann Magnin opened a small store in Oakland, sewing and selling lace-trimmed baby clothes and lingerie.

In 1877, she moved her store to San Francisco and re-named it, I. Magnin & Co.,  adding bridal  and high fashion clothing from Paris – attracting a wealthy clientele.

[A woman’s name on a business enterprise was not yet socially acceptable so she used her husband’s initial in the name.]


Most dresses were modeled in Magnin’s salon, rather than chosen “off-the-rack.”

All the Magnin sons were trained in the business.I. Magnin logo

Emanuel Magnin was sent to New York to run a buying office for I. Magnin.

Grover Magnin became the manager of the San Francisco Main Store as the business expanded.

Mary Ann Cohen Magnin was the driving force behind I. Magnin.

Isaac Magnin had other interests and generally stayed away from the business.


Both Isaac and Mary Ann retired from business in 1900 – but Mary Ann Magnin continued to “visit” and give her strong opinions to her sons for many years.

Magnin's Flagship ArtDeco Store in Oakland.

Magnin’s Flagship ArtDeco Store in Oakland.

The Magnin Family continued the business until its sale to Bullocks in the 1950’s – and then to Federated Department Stores in 1970 – except for Joseph, who had opened his own store – Joseph Magnin & Co.



Isaac Magnin was a Mason of high standing, having originally joined the order in London.



Isaac Magnin married Miss Mary Ann Cohen in London in 1865

Together they had 8 children: Samuel, Henrietta, Joseph, Emanuel John, Victor, Lucille, Flora, and Grover.


One notable grandchild was Edgar Magnin, long time Rabbi of Wilshire Boulevard Temple of Los Angeles – the “Rabbi to the Stars.”


Isaac Magnin died in 1907.

Mary Ann Cohen Magnin died in 1943

“Mr. Magnin was an honorable, upright, honest man.” –Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916

I Magnins, Los Angeles, Vintage Postcard.

I Magnin’s, Los Angeles, Vintage Postcard.


  • The Jews of San Francisco, by Martin A. Meyer, Ph.D., Emanu-El, San Francisco, June 1916.
  • Mary Ann Cohen Magnin, by Ava F. Kahn,

David Epstein is the Curator for this Isaac and Mary Ann Magnin Exhibit

Other family information and pictures would be greatly appreciated.


Jews in the News

   About this Time

Jewish Dogcatcher of San Francisco — 1887

You have never heard of a Jewish dogcatcher, have you? We have a Jew here whose name is Jake Lindo — no matter about his father being known as Leibush Labershinsky — who has the contract of taking in everything in sight, in the shape of a canine corporosity, and he, the same Jake Lindo, is at the head of the dispatching wagons, and his Spanish-Americans snake every dog they see, tag or no tag, and take it to the pound.

Jake makes $500 a month by the operation. What his boss, Christopher Buckley, gets out of the racket is none of your business — certainly none of mine.

The American Israelite, Cincinnati, Sept. 30, 1887, WSJH, Vol. 17, #2. Jacob Lindo had been an auctioneer prior to his dogcatching activities, his warehouse being at 609-611 California St., San Francisco. His brother Joseph, a horse-drawn hack operator, and he lived at 636 Sacramento St.