Emanuel Manasse: Pioneer Jewish Tanner of Napa, California


Emanuel Manasse

Emanuel Manasse

Emanuel Manasse

Values Codes  I – E – L


Emanuel Manasse was born in Germany in 1842.

The son of a tanner, Manasse immigrated to America in 1864.

He married Amelia Hellwig, the daughter of a German tanner, in New Jersey.

The young couple traveled to San Francisco a few years later.



In 1871, Emanuel and Amelia Manasse came to Napa City, California

Emanuel began working as superintendent for Sawyer Tanning Co.

A gifted tanner, he developed the Nap-A-Tan waterproofing process.

He is also credited with developing Patent Leather and creating Napa Leather, an extremely soft leather used for gloves.

Emanuel Manasse became a partner in the Sawyer Tanning Co. in 1880.

The firm was in operation for 120 years, closing its doors in 1990.

Sawyer Tanning Co. of Napa, California

Sawyer Tanning Co. of Napa, California


Emanuel Manasse married Amelia Hellwig before coming to California.

Together they had six children.

In 1886, Manasse built a magnificent 12,000-square-foot mansion for his wife and children, located at 443 Brown Street.

The house was designed by noted Napa architect W.H. Corlett.

Manasse Mansion, now the White House Inn & Spa

Manasse Mansion, now the White House Inn & Spa, courtesy of H. Michalski postcard collection

Emanuel Manesse died in 1899.

After his death, Amelia Manasse divided the large home by constructing a wall in the center and adding a second staircase thereby converting the home into a duplex.

In the 1940’s, the home was further subdivided into 6 apartments.

In 1990, the Morris family purchased the structure and converted it into a Bed & Breakfast.

Today, it is the White House Inn and Spa.



  • Lin Weber, Under the Vine and the Fig Tree: The Jews of Napa Valley (Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley, 2003).
  • Henry Michalski and Donna Mendelsohn, Napa Valley’s Jewish Heritage (Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2012).
  • Jewish Historical Society of Napa Valley, info@jhsnv.org

Lauren Chevlen is curator of this Emanuel Manasse exhibit.