Values Codes I-E-L
The heavy Jewish involvement in retailing and wholesaling in pioneer California, especially in the fields of wearing apparel and dry goods, has tended to make us overlook Jewish participation in other fields. The brass and bronze foundry of Morris Greenberg of San Francisco provides a good example. It was established in 1854 during the Gold Rush period and existed for over a century.
Morris Greenberg was born in Warsaw, Poland in 1823.
As a young man Greenberg left Poland and became an apprentice in a foundry in Paris.
There he married, and in 1851, he and his wife Annette and their first two children, emigrated to America, and then came around the Horn to San Francisco.
In 1854, in a small frame building on Halleck Street, Morris Greenberg established the Eagle Brass Foundry.
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, bronze spikes for ship construction and church bells.
Later he cast cannons of bronze and monitor nozzles for hydraulic mining, which was one of the major mining methods which succeeded the placer (surface) mining process.
Morris Greenberg moved his plant a number of times, as his business grew.
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 had been born in San Francisco in 1854, joined the foundry business in the early 1880s
In 1871, Morris Greenberg achieved a memorable break-through.
He perfected a reliable new fire hydrant which delivered steady and dependable water pressure for fire fighters.
The Greenberg fire hydrants sold well throughout the West, from San Diego to Seattle and eastward, for many years.
By the early 1880s 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 4-1/2 million dollars worth of business annually, and was “the largest manufacturer of bronze products in the West.”
Morris Greenberg joined Congregation Sherith Israel in the 1860s.
Morris Greenberg suffered a stroke and died in 1884.
His wife, Annette, had passed away four years before.
More information can be found in the following issues of Western States Jewish History:
- Greenberg, Morris; Brass and Bronze Foundry of Morris Greenberg; San Francisco: A Picture Story; San Francisco; 15/2
- Greenberg, Morris, Pioneer Jews of San Francisco, Part One, A-L, Norton Stern, 41/1
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