Mendel Esberg: Pioneer Jewish Cigar Merchant and Manufacturer of San Francisco

Mendel Esberg

Mendal Esberg

Mendal Esberg

Values Codes I – H – E – L – P


Mendel Esberg was born in 1834 in Hanover, Germany where his parents were well-to-do and had lived there for many generations.

When Mendel Esberg was 13 years old, his family had financial reverses and Mendel was apprenticed out to a cigar maker.

By the time he reached his 18th birthday, Esberg was the foreman of the factory.


Along the way

Hearing of the opportunities in America, Mendel Esberg  took a ship to New York City.


San Francisco

Learning of new discoveries in the California Gold Country, Esberg headed West, arriving in San Francisco in 1854.

Settling first in Marysville in the Gold Country for a short while, he returned to San Francisco, opening his cigar store on Kearny Street.

He soon enlarged the business and began manufacturing his own brands of cigars, becoming a “substantial” firm.

In 1870 he entered into partnership with Simon Bachman and bought out their largest competitor, A. S. Rosenbaum & Co.

The new firm was soon joined by Julius Ehrman, creating the firm of Esberg, Bachman & Co.

The new firm branched into every line of the tobacco industry, and established houses in New York City, Portland, Oregon, and Havana, Cuba, and manufacturing centers in Pennsylvania.

Typical Cigar Store in the 1890's, Vintage Postcard

Typical cigar store in the 1890’s, Vintage Postcard


Mendel Esberg became a director of a number of Banks and Loan Associations in San Francisco.

He was also treasurer of the San Francisco Commercial Club.

“His sagacity and quick sympathy made him an advisor whose counsel was eagerly sought, and promptly followed.”

— Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916



Esberg was an early Master of Fidelity Lodge #120, F. & A. M. of the Masons.

For years, he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of their Widows’ and Orphan’s’ Fund.



In 1868, Mendel Esberg married Miss Matilda Hirschfeld.

Together they had five children: Alfred, Henry, Milton, Edith, and Justin.


Mendel Esberg died in 1896.

Matilda Esberg died in 1934.

They are buried in the Emanu-El section of the Home of Peace Cemetery in Colma, California.


  • Martin A. Meyer, The Jews of San Francisco (San Francisco: Emanu-El, June 1916).
  • Fred Rosenbaum, Visions of Reform: Congregation Emanu-El and the Jews of San Francisco, 1849-1999 (Berkeley, CA: Judah L. Magnus Museum, 2000).

David Epstein is curator for this Mendel Esberg exhibit.