Phillip N. Lilienthal: Jewish Pioneer Banker and Philanthropist, San Francisco

Phillip N. Lilienthal

Phillip N. Lilienthal, Bank, San Francisco

Phillip N. Lilienthal, banker, San Francisco

Values Codes I – H – E – L – P


Phillip Lilienthal was born in New York City in 1850, the son of Dr. Max Lilienthal, a leading rabbi of Reform Judaism.

Phillip was educated in Cincinnati, Ohio until the age of 14, when he went to work for Stix, Krause & Co.

At the age of 17, he went to New York, where he entered the office of J. W. Seligman & Co., the famous firm of Jewish bankers.


San Francisco

Phillip Lilienthal rose quickly through the ranks. In 1869, at the age of 19, he was sent to San Francisco to take charge of a Seligman Bank, which had been founded during the Civil War.

In 1873, Lilienthal founded the Anglo-Californian Bank, with Ignatz Steinhart as his co-manager.

Lilienthal also founded the Porterville Bank of Porterville, California, and served as its president.

He was founding president of the Bank of South San Francisco, Bank of Pleasanton, Bank of Willits, and Bank of Eureka.

In addition, he was a director of the California Title Insurance & Trust Company of San Francisco.

Source: Men of the Pacific Coast: Containing Portraits and Biographies of the Professional, Financial and Business Men of California, Oregon and Washington (Pacific Art Company, 1903). Thank you to John Horton of San Francisco for sharing this image.


“No important public or semi-public movement in the city was ever considered well managed unless it had behind it in some capacity, this resourceful and energetic man.”  

— Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916

Phillip  Lilienthal served as Director of the San Francisco Free Library, and was president of the Philharmonic Society.

He was one of the men who made San Francisco’s Midwinter Fair of 1894 a success.

Midwinter Fair SF, 1894, Vintage Postcard

Midwinter Fair SF, 1894, Vintage Postcard


Phillip  Lilienthal was a member of Congregation Emanu-El and an important supporter of most Jewish charities.

When the Russian persecutions drove hundreds of thousands of Jews to America, Phillip  Lilienthal, along with Rabbi Jacob Voorsanger and others, founded the Russian Jewish Alliance.

Lilienthal, then director of the Union Iron Works, procured work for hundreds of these Russian Jews.



Phillip Lilienthal was a prominent member of the Bohemian Family, The Pacific Union, The Union League, The Commonwealthand the Concordia-Argonaut Clubs.


Phillip Lilienthal married Isabella Seligman, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Seligman of New York – his first banking employer – and of Our Crowd fame. [See: Stephen Birmingham, Our Crowd: The Great Jewish Families of New York (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1996.]

Philip and Isabella had 4 children: Joesph L. Lilienthal, Elsie, wife of Dr. Edwin Beer, Phillip N. Lilienthal, Jr., and Theodore Max Lilienthal.


Phillip N. Lilienthal died in an automobile accident in 1908.

“He was a man in the noblest sense of the term.  Jew to the core, his heart throbbed in loving sympathy for the unfortunate of every creed.”

– Rabbi Martin Meyer, 1916


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

David Epstein is curator of this Henry Greenberg exhibit.


Jews in the News

   – About this Time – 

Civil War Veterans in San Francisco — 1887

Commander Solomon Cohen, bless his heart, is a noble type of a Jew and a Maccabee. He was elected this week as Grand Commander of James A. Garfield Post, No. 34, Grand Army of the Republic, by acclamation. He is a credit to the army, and particularly to the Jews.

Comrade Cohen succeeded that grand Jew, General Lucius Salomon, formerly county clerk of Chicago, and subsequently governor of Washington Territory, now a shining light among the legal luminaries of this State and an earnest worker in the Republican ranks.

—American Israelite, Cincinnati, February 4, 1887 [WSJHQ 6/2]