Harris Newmark: The First Jewish “Patriarch” and Historian of Jewish Los Angeles

Harris Newmark

Young Harris Newmark, 1850's

Harris Newmark in Los Angeles during the 1850’s

Values Code I-E-L-P

“Not many names of Los Angeles merchants or financiers are better known nor more honorably associated with the history of that city’s commercial development than that of Harris Newmark.” –Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916.

Harris Newmark was born in Loebau, West Prussia in 1834.

Harris Newmark profited from early youth by traveling with his father, Philip Newmark to neighboring countries selling a special type of printer’s ink.

Harris Newmark came to Los Angeles in 1853, at the age of 19, by way of New York, crossing Nicaragua to get to San Francisco – then sailing south to Los Angeles.

At the Port of San Pedro he was met by the Harbor Master, Phinias Banning, who became a lifelong friend and associate.

He was not the first of his family to come to Los Angeles. His brother, Joseph P. Newmark had arrived two years earlier.

Los Angeles

At first, Harris Newmark worked as a clerk in his brother’s wholesale clothing store until Joseph P. gave up the business in 1854 to become a commercial broker and moved to San Francisco.

Harris Newmark continued in the wholesale clothing business until 1861, when, he too, decided leave the business, because of its long hours, and become a broker, focusing on hides and wool.

While still in the clothing business, Harris Newmark convinced his nephew, Kaspare Cohn to come to America and work with him.

[to see Harris Newmark’s actual citizenship papers, click here]

Sarah Newmark

Sarah Newmark, Wife of Harris Newmark

Joseph Newmark Family

When Harris’s uncle, Joseph Newmark (no P.) arrived in 1854 young Harris moved in with him. One bonus was that his Aunt, Rosa Newmark, helped him learn English.

As a second bonus, Harris married the Newmarks’ daughter, Sarah, in 1858

Newmark Wedding Invitation, 1858


Harris Newmark at Groundbreaking of the Jewish Orphan’s Home

Shortly after his arrival in Los Angeles, the Hebrew Benevolent Society was established as the first organized charity in the Los Angeles. When the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society was started in 1870, Harris Newmark became one of its three advisors.

In  1887 he served a President of Congregation B’nai B’rith. (now Whilshire Boulevard Temple.)

The Jewish Orphans Society was also supported by Harris Newmark. This was the beginning of the organization now known as Vista del Mar.


Harris Newmark had the honor of digging the first shovel of dirt for the groundbreaking of the Jewish Orphan’s Home of Los Angeles.


Harris Newmark was a founder of the original Los Angeles Public Library.

He was a Charter Member of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.

Harris Newmark helped found the Los Angeles Board of Trade that was responsible from bringing the railroad to Southern California.

He was also a major factor in the developing of the Southwest Museum, created by his close friend Charles Loomis. The magnificent collection of the Southwest Museum was recently “rescued” and is being refurbished by the Autry National Center.



Harris Newmark was a leader in both the Odd Fellows and Masonic Lodge.

Hides, Wool & Real Estate

Harris Newmark Co., Amstoy Block at Los Angeles.St.,1884

When HarrisNewmark tired of the confines of the wholesale business and became a broker for hides and wool he rapidly became the center of this trade in Los Angeles shipping hides and wool to customers around the world.

In 1872 he and his cousin, Kaspare Cohn, purchased the Santa Anita Ranch of 8,000 acres for $85,000. A short time later they sold it to “Lucky” Baldwin for $200.000 – in cash!

They then purchased land on what we now know as Wilshire Boulevard as well as beachfront property in Santa Monica, when it first opened for development.

In 1886, he purchased the Repetto Ranch with Kaspare Cohn and planned development of a new town to be called “Newmark.” However, his partners convinced him to change the name to “Montebello,” – Beautiful Mountain.

In 1877, Harris Newmark purchased the Temple Block, a “towering structure” of three stories at Temple and Main Streets. He sold it soon after to the city as a site for a new City Hall.

Wanting to see the city grow, Harris Newmark was active in encouraging the Southern Pacific Railroad to construct tracks to Los Angeles.

By 1882 the telephone had been introduced to Los Angeles. H. Newmark & Company subscribed immediately and was given the number, “5.”

The Newmark "Block" is the square building in the middle - not the entire city block. Note that S. Hellman's Stationary Store, where Isaias Hellman worked as a newcomer in on the ground floor of the Newmark Building. Desmond's Store, which became the Desond's Depatment Stores is left of the Newmark Building, and Jacoby Bros, another major retailer in in the larger building on the right.

The Newmark “Block” is the square building in the middle – not the entire city block. Note that S. Hellman’s Stationary Store, where Isaias Hellman worked as a newcomer in on the ground floor of the Newmark Building. Desmond’s Store, which became the Desmond’s Department Stores is left of the Newmark Building, and Jacoby Bros, another major retailer is in the larger building on the right. circa 1880s lithograph.

Sixty Years in Southern California 1853-1913

Harris Newmark’s most lasting contribution to Los Angeles was his book, Sixty Years in Southern California 1853-1913. His two sons edited the book and brought it to press. It is one of the most important sources of Los Angeles history – and reads well today.

Much of the material in our Los Angeles Exhibition Hall has been derived from Newmark’s book.

Harris Newmark, Los Angeles Jewish Pioneer



Harris Newmark died in Los Angeles in 1916 and is interred at the Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles.








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

  • Newmark, H. Did the Jews Destroy a Los Angeles Bank in 1875? J.A. Graves.; 38 3&4.
  • Newmark, Harris. Harris Newmark: Leading Citizen of Los Angeles for 60 Years, 1834-1916.; Norton B. Stern and William M. Kramer.; 38/3&4.
  • Newmark, Harris. Historical Quotes by Harris Newmark, edited by Dr. Harris Newmark, III.; 38/3&4.
  • Newmark, Harris; Remembering Los Angeles Jewish Pioneers: Harris Newmark and Isaias W. Hellman; Los Angeles; Stern, Norton B.; 29/4
  • Newmark, Harris and Sarah; And 1858 Wedding; LA; 1858; Norton Stern; 41/3
  • Newmark, Harris; Pioneer Merchant and Historiophile; LA; 1896; Rabbi William M. Kramer; 42/2-3

And . . . .

  • Sixty Years in Southern California 1853-1913, by Harris Newmark, edited by Maurice H. and Marco R. Newmark.


For more information on Joseph Newmark and Joseph P. Newmark, click on their names.


Newmark Picture Gallery

Harris Newmark Building, Los Angeles, 231 S. Broadway, Los Angeles


Harris Newmark's Plauque at Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles

Harris Newmark’s Plaque at Home of Peace Cemetery in Los Angeles












More Early Los Angeles Jewish Pioneers

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.