Louis Sloss: Jewish 49er & Pioneer of San Francisco & Alaska

Louis Sloss

Louis Sloss, Alaska Commercial Co., WS1880

Louis Sloss, Alaska Commercial Co.,


Values Codes  I-E-L-P

Louis Sloss was born in Baveria in 1823.

He came to the United States in 1845, where he found work in a small town in Kentucky.

News of the Gold Rush brought him to California in 1849.


Louis Sloss started his journey as part of a wagon train, but left the slow moving group and headed West on horseback with Dr. Richard H. McDonald and a Mr. Swift – arriving in Nevada City, California in that summer.

Together they moved to Sacramento where they formed a partnership to conduct business selling everything needed by other new arrivals.

They bought and sold horses, mules, oxen, milk cows, wagons, harness, etc.

Their store was a seven-foot space between two tent stores, whose walls became their walls with a canvas over the top. A feed lot was in the back.

Louis Sloss conducted daily auctions on the lot.

After spending that first winter in the tent Louis Sloss and McDonald, formed a partnership with Simon Greenwald and Lewis Gerstle, operating a wholesale grocery firm.

San Francisco & Alaska

Alaska Commercial Co. San Francisco WS 14/2005

Alaska Commercial Co. San Francisco
WS 14/2005

After the great flood in Sacramento, the Louis Sloss and Louis Gerstle moved to San Francisco where they established themselves as stockbrokers.

In 1868, when the United State purchased Alaska from Russia, Louis Sloss and his partners formed the Alaska Commercial Company.

In the 1870’s the company signed a 20 year lease agreement with the United States Treasury for the seal concession of the Pribilof Islands.

During that 20 year period the Alaska Commercial Company  actually “opened up Alaska”also operating village stores where gold, fish and furs were bartered for necessary dry good supplies.

Louis Sloss insisted that the natives got their full share for their exchange.

The Alaska Commercial Company set up and maintained schools, built houses, and provided provisions for the Aleut Indians on the islands.

Also, during the company’s lease, the Alaska Commercial Company paid more fees to the United States’ Treasury, than the United States had paid to Russia for all of Alaska!

Seals on Pribilof Islands, Alaska, Vintage Postcard

Seals on Pribilof Islands, Alaska,
Vintage Postcard


Louis Sloss was a member and Treasurer of the Board of Regents of the University of California and a trustee of the San Francisco Public Library.

When the Society of California Pioneers was organized, Louis Sloss became one of its founders and served a term as President.


During the 1850’s Louis Sloss served as President of Congregation B’nai Israel of Sacramento.


In 1855, Sloss traveled to Philadelphia where he married Sarah Greenebaum

Five children were born to them: Bella, Leon, Louis, Joseph and (Judge) Marcus C. Sloss.

Louis Sloss passed away in 1902.

One newspaper referred to him as California’s “best citizen. His reputation for business ethics, personal morality and philanthropy was without equal.”


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

  • Sloss, Louis, Pioneer Jews of San Francisco, Part Two, M-Z, Norton Stern, 41/2

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