Marcus Schiller: San Diego’s Jewish Horatio Alger

Marcus Schiller

Values Codes  I – H – E – L – P

Marcus Schiller, San Diego


Marcus Schiller was born in 1819 in Vronka, Prussia.

He and a friend went to Scotland to search for his friend’s inheritance, failing in their quest.


Along the way . . . 

Marcus Schiller arrived in the United States, reaching New York in the 1840’s.

Schiller remained in New York, later traveling South, and then on to San Francisco in 1853, where he operated a clothing business.

He moved San Diego in 1856, wanting a milder climate.


San Diego

Marcus Schiller went into business in what is today called Old Town.

After approximately one year, he formed a partnership with Joseph S. Mannasse.

Their general merchandising business was known as J.S. Mannasse & Co.and lasted lasted over 20 years, until 1888.

Like many Jewish Pioneers in frontier towns, Marcus Schiller invested in real estate.

He purchased the Encinitas Rancho in 1860 with Joseph Mannasse for $3,000.

Schiller later purchased a large portion of the San Diequito Rancho.



Marcus Schiller was involved in San Diego political, social, and cultural life.

Schiller served as a member of the San Diego Grand Jury.

He was involved in forming the San Diego Guards.

He was a member of a committee to study a shorter route to the Colorado River.

Schiller helped fund the first telegraph line to San Diego and helped maintain a lobbying office in Washington dedicated to obtaining a railroad to San Diego.

In 1869, Schiller became both City Treasurer and County Superintendent of Schools.

While a member of the Board of Trustees of the City of San Diego, he helped set aside 1,400 acres of land for what is now the world-famous Balboa Park.

Plaque in Balboa Park

Plaque in Balboa Park


Marcus Schiller was instrumental in establishing the first Jewish synagogue in San Diego, now known as Congregation Beth Israel.

He served as the congregation’s president until his death.

Temple Beth Israel in 1884 WS#1514

Congregation Beth Israel, San Diego, CA, 1884, #WS1514


In 1872, Marcus Schiller became a member of the San Diego Pioneer Society.

He was also a Master in the San Diego Masonic Lodge #35.



Schiller married Rebecca Barnett in San Francisco in 1861.

They had nine children.

Marcus Schiller died at his home in 1904.

He was interred at Home of Peace Cemetery in San Diego.

“Mr. Schiller was a leading spirit in all welfare and charitable work in San Diego.”  

Samuel Fox, San Diego Historian

Rebecca Schiller passed away in 1921 at age 78.

Tombstone of Marcus and Rebecca Schiller, WS#1511

Tombstone of Marcus and Rebecca Schiller, Home of Peace Cemetery, San Diego, CA, WS#1511


  • Donald H. Harrison, “The 19th Century Credit Vise: How Tight Money Squeezed J.S. Mannasse and Marcus Schiller, San Diego, California, 1854-1897,” Western States Jewish History 40/1.

Linda Kern is curator of this Marcus Schiller exhibit.