Alphonse & Henrietta Weill
Values Codes I-H-E-L-P
Alphonse Weill was born, cira 1853, in Wolfisheim, Bas-Rhin, Alsace.
In 1870, he emigrated to New York City.
From New York City, Weill took the train to San Francisco, intrigued by romance of American mining.
There he headed to Havilah in the San Juaquin Valley, where he worked at his uncle Henry Asher’s hotel for room and board.
In 1872, he worked at (German) Jacob Weil’s General Store in Bakersfield, referred by Henry Jastro.
Alphonse Weill soon became a Partner, and by 1875, was the sole owner of the store – know known as A. Weill’s, and eventually as Weil’s Department Store.
His younger brother, Samuel Weill, was briefly a partner.
Alphonse Weill was one of the original stockholders of the Southern Hotel , the Bakersfield Water Works, and one of the principal owners and incorporators of the Jewett Oil Company.
“A. WEILL, Dealer in Gerneral Merchandise and Agricultural Implements, Agent for the Celebrated Bain Wagon, Tiger Rakes, Tiger Mowers, and Cooper’s Sheep Dip.”—Bakersfield Kern County Californian, January 11, 1890.
Alphonse Weill was a member of the Masons in Bakersfield Lodge, F. & A. M., the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and the Eagles.
Alphonse Weill’s most notable Jewish “Statement” was closing his business on Yom Kippur.
In 1882, Alphonse Weill married Henrietta Levy, sister of Isaac Levy, whom Weill met at the Alliance Francaise, in San Francisco.
They married in San Francisco and honeymooned in Los Angeles.
Together they had four children; Blanche, Irma Adele b. 1886 (died at 17) and Lawrence (b. 1889).
In 1882, Alphonse had a house built for Henrietta with indoor plumbing.
This was the home in which they lived all their lives, and that was a center of Bakersfield society.
In 1911, Alphonse reads about Marie Montessori in a magazine. The entire family travels to Italy to meet her and observe her school.
Blanch and Irma Weill stayed on a year to study with Dr. Montessori.
Henrietta Weill died in 1941.
Alphonse Weill died in 1945.
In 1952, Weill’s Dept. Store was sold.
Henrietta Levy Weill
Henrietta Levy was born in San Francisco in 1863.
She studied Kindergarten teaching methods under Kate Douglas Wiggin.
After her marriage to Alphonse Weill she started the first kindergarten in town in Bakersfield encouraging mothers to take on the expense of hiring of Kindergarten teacher for the Bakersfield School System.
In 1917, Henrietta Weill established a local Red Cross chapter and started a children’s shelter.
Henrietta Weill was a member of the Woman’s Club of Bakersfield – President, 1903-1904.
Henrietta Weill was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star.
She was a supporter of the Children’s Home Society, Kiddie Camp, and Kern County Musical Association.
Weill Family Legacies
The Henrietta Weill Memorial Child Guidance Center.
Weill House, built in 1882, was moved in 1949 to Bakersfield’s Pioneer Village.
There is a Weill Park in Bakersfield.
Blanche (1883-1974) Graduated from University of California and Harvard, worked with Dr. Spock, Dr. Adler, and authored two books on child development and a children’s book. She was the psychologist for a children’s home in Flint, Michigan for many years, and worked with mentally handicapped children in the Bakersfield schools. Eventually Blanche set up in private practice in New York.
Irma (1885-1976) (Masters at Smith for psychiatric social worker) started the first Montessori school in California. Author of About Tom, She translated a children’s book from the French with her sister Blanche. Active member of the newly formed Sierra Club. Interred in Greenlawn Cemetery, Bakersfield.
“Miss Blanche C. Weill (daughter of Alphonse and Henrietta Weill)…yesterday was awarded the degree of Master of Education, with distinction, from Harvard University.
“It was one of 16 degrees awarded with distinction out of 241 granted at the Mid-summer Awards. Miss Weill is now writing her thesis for a doctor’s degree. She is a graduate of Kern Union High School and the University of California (where she did post-graduate work.) The she wet to Europe with sister, Irma, to study with Dr. Maria Montessori at Rome, Italy. They both opened classes in the Montessori Method at Berkeley and also taught in Bakersfield.
“Miss Blanche enlisted in WWI as a nurse and worked in various hospitals as a reconstruction nurse. She studied psychology under Dr. Thom at Cambridge[MA].”
–Bakersfield Morning Echo, March 8, 1927
For more information on the Weills, see the following:
- We Brought Sinai to San Joaquin, The Story of the Jews of Kern County, by Shirley Ann Newman, Temple Beth El, Bakersfield, CA 1998.
- Pioneer Merchants of Tulare County, California, by Annie R. Mitchell, WSJH, Vol. 2, Issue #3, 1970.
- “Jewish Businessmen of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare & Kern Counties,” from Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare & Kern, California, 1891, WSJH, V34, #4, 2002
Regina Merwin is Curator of this Weill’s Family Exhibit.