Solomon Sweet: Early Jewish Pioneer Merchant of Visalia, California

Solomon Sweet

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Solomon Sweet of Visalia, CA, #WS1844

Solomon Sweet was born in Kriegsheim, Germany, in 1827.

He arrived in New York City in 1843 at the age of 16.

During his lifetime, he would be an influential force in the development of the San Joaquin Valley and City of Visalia.


Along the way

Solomon Sweet clerked in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before traveling on sleighs through Canada to Niagara Falls, and from there journeying to Buffalo and then New York City. There, he boarded the steamer, Georgia, to the Isthmus, where he took another steamer, Columbia, to San Francisco.

Solomon Sweet’s diary was concise:

“Left New York on the steamer, Georgia, for Panama.  Walked across the Isthmus and took the steamer, Columbia, for San Francisco.  Landed in 1851.”

Visalia Times Delta, December 9, 1950

Sweet worked for a time in Stocktonthen moved to Agua Fria, a mining town in Mariposa County at the northern edge of the San Joaquin Valleynow a ghost town.


San Joaquin Valley

Solomon Sweet operated his own store until 1857, when he moved to Visalia in the lower San Joaquin Valley.

The buyer of his Agua Fria store decided to build a storage cellar underneath, and in doing so, struck a rick pocket of gold ore.

In Visalia, Sweet purchased the store of Nathan Baker.

He first partnered with James Wells, then J.M. Foxand finally, his brother, Simon Sweet.

The company then became S. Sweet & Co. – the best known mercantile firm on the lower San Joaquin Valley.

S. Sweets & Co. of Visalia, circa 1880., #WSJH V2/#2.

S. Sweets & Co. of Visalia, c. 1880, WSJHQ 2/2

S. Sweets & Co. acted a a bank for its customers before regular banks were established.

Solomon Sweet participated in the long struggle to induce the Southern Pacific Railroad to build a line through Visalia.

As the economy of the San Joaquin Valley grew, S. Sweets & Co. blossomed into a complete department store.

Solomon’s son, Adolph Sweet, and two nephews, Adolph and Leonwere brought into the department store firm as they matured.

Solomon Sweet Co., Visalia, 1890’s, #WS1846


Solomon Sweet became a director of the Visalia & Tulare Railroad and vice president and chairman of the Committee of the California Fruit & Wine Company.

He was member of the Chamber of Commerce and Board of Trade in San Francisco.



Sweet was a Trustee and one of the founders of the Jewish Orphan Asylum of San Francisco.



Sweet was a Royal Arch Mason.



In 1860, Solomon Sweet married Annie E. Phillips of New York in San Francisco.

The Sweets thereafter lived in San Francisco, with Solomon traveling frequently to the San Joaquin Valley by rail.

Together, Annie and Solomon had 9 children: Albert, Milton, Walter, Louise, Estelle, Ida, Bertha, Adolph, and Mabel.


Solomon Sweet died in 1899.

Soloman Sweet Street Sign in Visalia - Today.

Sweet Avenue, named for Solomon Sweet, Visalia, CA


  • Annie R. Mitchell, “Pioneer Merchants of Tulare County, California,” Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly 2/3.
  • “Jewish Businessmen of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare & Kern Counties,” from Memorial and Biographical History of the Counties of Fresno, Tulare & Kern, California (1891), reprinted in Western States Jewish History 34/4.