Sigmund Steinhart: Pioneer Jewish Food Broker & Philanthropist of Early San Francisco

Sigmund Steinhart

Sigmund Steinhart WS13/1887

Sigmund Steinhart

Values Codes   I-H-E-P

Sigmund Steinhart was born in Sulzbach, Bavaria in 1833.


Along the way

Sigmund Steinhart came to the United States at the age of 17 in 1850.

Sigmund’s brothers were Ignatz and Frederick, the former of whom is well known banker in San Francisco Pioneer history, as the endower of the Steinhart Aquarium, which memorial­ized both Sigmund and Ignatz.

Sigmund’s sister was Mrs. Joseph Seligman of the famed Our Crowd family, and when he arrived from Sulzbach in 1850, he went to work for the Seligmans in Watertown, New York.



In 1852 Sigmund and his brother Frederick came to California and opened a store in Placerville, better known at that time as “Hangtown.”


San Francisco

A few years later Sigmund and Frederick settled in San Fran­cisco where they established a wholesale dry goods business, which became one of the largest such firms in the West, supplying hun­dreds of country stores with the merchandise.

Ignatz Steinhart WS22/3165

Ignatz Steinhart

In the early 1860s Steinhart Brothers was described as “importers and jobbers of for­eign and domestic dry goods.”


Early in the 1870s Sigmund Steinhart retired from the wholesale dry goods business and became a stockbroker. His partner was Meyer Ehrlich

Sigmund Steinhart became a member of the Board of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and maintained an office in the Merchants’ Exchange Building.

Much of Steinhart’s activity as a stock­broker was in the field of mine stock, and he was a heavy investor in many mining ventures himself.



Sigmund Steinhart was a founder of the Pacific Union Club, and a prominent member of the Bohemian Club.

In fact, Rabbi Martin A. Meyer of Congregation Emanu-El observed that the Bohemian Club was Steinhart’s “hobby.”

He was also a member of the Argonaut Club.



Steinhart was a member of Congregation Emanu-El.

Steinhart Aquarium Postcard

Steinhart Aquarium Vintage Postcard


Sigmund Steinhart was a very charitable person, and he was particularly generous to old Californians.

He was a major donor to Jewish causes.

He was listed as a “Life Patron” of the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home Society, which was the highest category of givers.



From the 1880s on, Sigmund lived with his banker brother Ignatz.

Sigmun Steinhart never married.

Sigmund Steinhart died in  1910, at the age of 77.

His obituary in the Jewish newspaper Emanu-El noted that though he was “known for his munificence to the poor, he gave without ostentation.”

Sigmund Steinhart was interred at Home of Peace in Colma, south of San Francisco.


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

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

Photo Gallery [New photos always welcome]

Steinhart Aquarium Seal Pool, circa 1900, #WSPostcard Collection

Steinhart Aquarium Seal Pool, circa 1900,
#WS Vintage Postcard Collection

Note: To enlarge any photo, click on the middle of it.