Louis Sloss: Jewish 49er & Pioneer of San Francisco & Alaska

Louis Sloss

Louis Sloss, Alaska Commercial Co., WS1880

Louis Sloss, Alaska Commercial Co.,

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Louis Sloss was born in Bavaria in 1823.

He came to the United States in 1845, where he found work in a small town in Kentucky.

News of the Gold Rush brought him to California in 1849.

Louis Sloss began his journey as part of a wagon train, but left the slow-moving group and headed West on horseback with Dr. Richard H. McDonald and a Mr. Swift – arriving in Nevada City, California, in that summer.

Together, they moved to Sacramento, where they formed a partnership to seemingly sell everything needed by other new arrivals.

They bought and sold horses, mules, oxen, milk cows, wagons, harnesses, etc.

Their store was a seven-foot space between two tent stores with a canvas over the top. A feed lot was in the back.

Louis Sloss conducted daily auctions on the lot.

After spending that first winter in the tent, Louis Sloss and McDonald formed a partnership with Simon Greenwald and Lewis Gerstle, operating a wholesale grocery firm.


San Francisco & Alaska

Alaska Commercial Co. San Francisco WS 14/2005

Alaska Commercial Co., San Francisco,

After the great flood in Sacramento, Louis Sloss and Louis Gerstle moved to San Francisco, where they established themselves as stockbrokers.

In 1868, when the United State purchased Alaska from Russia, Sloss and his partners formed the Alaska Commercial Company.

In the 1870’s, the company signed a 20-year lease agreement with the United States Treasury for the seal concession of the Pribilof Islands.

During that 20-year period, the Alaska Commercial Company “opened up Alaska,” also operating village stores where gold, fish, and furs were bartered for necessary dry good supplies.

Louis Sloss insisted that the natives got their full share for their exchange.

The Alaska Commercial Company set up and maintained schools, built houses, and provided provisions for the Aleut Indians on the islands.

During the company’s lease, the Alaska Commercial Company paid more fees to the United States’ Treasury than the United States had paid to Russia for all of Alaska.

Seals on Pribilof Islands, Alaska, Vintage Postcard

Seals on Pribilof Islands, Alaska, vintage postcard


Louis Sloss was a member and Treasurer of the Board of Regents of the University of California and a trustee of the San Francisco Public Library.

When the Society of California Pioneers was organized, Sloss was a founding member and served a term as president.


During the 1850’s, Louis Sloss served as president of Congregation B’nai Israel of Sacramento.


Sloss traveled to Philadelphia in 1855, where he married Sarah Greenebaum.

Five children were born to them: Bella, Leon, Louis, Joseph, and (Judge) Marcus C. Sloss.


Louis Sloss passed away in 1902.

A newspaper referred to him as California’s “best citizen. His reputation for business ethics, personal morality and philanthropy was without equal.”


  • Norton B. Stern, “Louis Sloss,” Western States Jewish History 41/2.