Jacob Frankfort, First Known Jew in Los Angeles
The first known Jewish pioneer in Los Angeles was Jacob Frankfort who arrived in 1841 as part of the Rowland-Workman exploratory party, traveling from West from Sante Fe, New Mexico.
He was born in Germany in 1801, based on an 1844 Mexican census or 1810, based on first United States Census of California during 1851.
Jacob Frankfort was a tailor and owned a rifle. These made him an important person in the exploratory party.
He also had some means, as he was listed as being owed $400 in a delclaration of bankruptcy by Rafael Gallardo, filed with the alcalde (mayor) of Los Angeles in 1845.
He acted as an appraiser during 1846.
When a Peruvian brigantine, Ascension, was beached in San Pedro Harbor, Jacob Frankfort was appointed its appraiser, indicating his high level of education.
Bell’s Row / Mellus’s Row
Jacob Frankfort opened his tailor and men’s clothing store on the corner shop of an adobe building called Bell’s Row, close to the Plaza. It was later known as Mellus’ Row, at the southeast corner Aliso and Los Angeles Streets.
Frankfort is recorded as making the loan to Mellus to finance his purchase of Bell’s Row.
Bell’s Row/ Mellus’ Row was considered the “best” location for business in Los Angeles as all traffic crossing the L.A. River from the East came up the hill to the corner of Aliso & Los Angeles Streets where Bell’s Row was conveniently situated.
It was Jacob Frankfurt that lent the money to Mr. Mellus, to purchase Bell’s Row from Mr. Bell – all indicating that Jacob Frankfurt was doing quite well in his own business.
Unfortunately, we have no photograph of Jacob Frankfurt.
The 1850 Census and the First Eight Los Angeles Jews
The 1850 Census, taken in early 1851, shows that the other seven Jews in town all had their own stores located in the same six unit building, some as partners and the others as individuals. All slept in rooms at the back of their respective stores.
The eight original Pioneer Jewish businessmen were: Jacob Frankfurt, Morris (Moritz) Michael, Arnold Jacobi, August Wasserman, Felix Pachman, Phillip Sichel, Joseph Plumer, and Morris L. Goodman.
Other early Jewish pioneers who had businesses at this location during the 1850’s and 1860’s, were Solomon Lazard, Henry Bauman, Maurice Kremer, Samson Laubheim, Wolf Kalisher, Henrey Wartenberg, Simon Ferner, H. Kraushaar, Jacob Rich, Isaac Schlesinger, Baruch Marks, Louis Schlesinger, Hyman Tischler and Samuel and Isaiah M. Hellman.
In the Twentieth Century this corner was moved slightly to make room for a freeway. A Federal Office Building now sits (almost) on this historic site.
More information can be found in the following issue of Western States Jewish History:
Jacob Frankfort: The First Jew in Los Angeles, 1841, by Norton B. Stern, 38/3/4.
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.