Jacob H. Rosewald: Jewish Conductor and Music Teacher of San Francisco

Jacob Rosewald

Jacob Rosewald

Jacob Rosewald

Values Codes  I – H – E – L – P


Jacob Rosewald was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1841, to Bavarian Jewish immigrants, Judah and Bertha Rosewald.

From childhood, Jacob displayed a passion for music.

Despite his father’s staunch orthodoxy, Jacob was allowed to indulge his musical inclinations, receiving musical training in the United States and later in Stuttgart, Germany.


Along the way

Jacob Rosewald worked for seven years as the superintendent of music in the public schools of Baltimore, and was concertmaster of the Peabody Orchestra.

He also directed the city’s oldest singing society, the Liederkranz, and had other engagements as a conductor, composer, teacher, violinist, and occasionally organist and pianist.

In 1866, Jacob Rosewald married Julie Eichberg, a Stuttgart-born opera singer.

The couple was active in Baltimore’s music scene, and regularly performed together for the general and Jewish communities.

Jacob left Orthodox Judaism, in part because of his involvement in European music, and by Rosh Hashanah of 1873, he was organist and choirmaster of Baltimore’s Reform-leaning Har Sinai Temple.

His wife, Julie, sang in the temple’s mixed choir.


San Francisco

Jacob Rosewald’s delicate health impelled the Rosewalds to settle in San Francisco in 1884.

Jacob maintained a busy schedule as an orchestra director and instructor of violin and composition.

With the assistance of Samuel Fabian, Jacob Rosewald instituted a series of historical concerts, in which he gave lectures on the lives and works of famous composers.

Meanwhile, Julie Eichberg Rosewald was made “Cantor Soprano” of the prestigious Congregation Emanu-El, marking the first time a woman led synagogue services in the United States. She served in that capacity from 1884 to 1893.

[Click here for our Julie Rosewald exhibit.]

Jacob Rosewald was also a successful businessman, and he and Julie amassed a considerable fortune.

He was on the board of directors for the Enterprise Mutual Building & Loan Association, and dabbled in real estate speculation.

The Rosewalds lived in an expensive neighborhood and were listed in the directory of San Francisco’s Jewish elite.

They gave generously to Jewish charities and the local community, and often performed at fundraisers.

One of Jacob’s favorite pastimes was writing sketches for the High Jinks, a series of outdoor shows of the Bohemian Club.

Bohemian Club of San Francisco, 1890s, Vintage Postcard

Bohemian Club of San Francisco, 1890’s, vintage postcard

In 1895, Jacob Rosewald was unanimously elected as conductor of the Philharmonic Society of San Francisco.

Less than a month after being hired, Jacob felt pain in his side while visiting friends at the Bohemian Club.

He went home to rest, but the pain increased. He suffered a fatal heart attack early the next morning.

At the time, Jacob Rosewald was among America’s foremost conductors.

His sudden death at age 54 was reported around the country.

During his life Professor Rosewald was governed by the highest principles. He was endowed with rare musical talent and was a man of keen intelligence.  He leaves a widow, Mme. Julia Rosewald, also an able teacher of music, and two sisters, Mrs. Isaac Hecht of this city and Mrs. Joseph Friedenwald of Baltimore.

— The San Francisco Call, October 26, 1895


  • Judith S. Pinnolis, “Cantor Soprano’ Julie Rosewald: The Musical Career of a Jewish American ‘New Woman,”‘ The American Jewish Archives Journal 62/2.

Jonathan Friedmann is curator of this Jacob H. Rosewald exhibit.