Freedman & Dora Levinson: Early Pioneers of Napa, California

Freedman and Dora Levinson

Freedman & Dora Levinson of Napa.

Freedman & Dora Levinson of Napa

Values Codes  I – E – L


Freedman and Dora Levinson were Prussian Jews in their twenties when they were drawn to California after the discovery of gold in 1848.

Arriving first in New York City, they traveled to California via the Isthmus, up to San Francisco.

They settled in Napa City in the Napa Valley.



Levinson's Pioneer Clothing Store

Levinson’s Pioneer Clothing Store


In Napa, Freedman Levinson opened  the Pioneer Clothing Store on Main Street.

He accepted gold dust as payment for goods.

He kept a canary in a cage outside of the store to entice shoppers.



Freedman Levinson became a member of the local Odd Fellows, Lodge 18, established in 1853.



Freedman had married Dora Shamanski in Prussia before leaving for America.

They arrived in Napa with their daughter, Annie.

In Napa, they had five more children.

One of their sons, Joseph Levinson, would later open Levinson’s Pharmacy on the corner of Main and First Streets, where it remained for decades.

Levinson's drug store Napa

Levinson’s drug store, Napa, CA

Later, it had the only x-ray in the entire area.

Another son, Charlie Levinson, opened a ready-to-wear clothing store and became a founding member of the Native Sons of the Golden Westas well as an active member of the Unity Volunteer Hose Company.



Because of Charlie Levinson’s influence within the Unity Volunteer Hose Company, the Jews of Napa finally had a place to meet for Shabbat services and the High Holy Days: a room on the firehouse’s top floor.



  • 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,

Lauren Chevlen is curator of this Freedman & Dora Levinson exhibit.

Photos courtesy of Claire Erks.