Sigmund Steinhart: Pioneer Jewish Food Broker & Philanthropist of Early San Francisco

Sigmund Steinhart

Sigmund Steinhart WS13/1887

Sigmund Steinhart

Values Codes   I – H – E – P


Sigmund Steinhart was born in Sulzbach, Bavaria in 1833.


Along the way

Sigmund Steinhart came to the United States in 1850, at the age of 17.

Sigmund’s brothers were Ignatz and Frederick. Ignatz is a well-known banker in San Francisco Pioneer history and endower of the Steinhart Aquarium, which memorial­ized both Sigmund and Ignatz.

Sigmund’s sister married prominent banker and businessman, Joseph Seligman.


San Francisco

In 1852, Sigmund Sigmund and his brother Frederick arrived in California and opened a store in Placerville, better known at that time as Hangtown.

A few years later, Sigmund and Frederick settled in San Fran­cisco, where they established a wholesale dry goods business, which became one of the largest such firms in the West, supplying hun­dreds of country stores with the merchandise.

Ignatz Steinhart WS22/3165

Ignatz Steinhart, #WS22/3165

In the early 1860’s, Steinhart Bros. was described as “importers and jobbers of for­eign and domestic dry goods.”

Early in the 1870′s Sigmund Steinhart retired from the wholesale dry goods business and became a stockbroker. His partner was Meyer Ehrlich.

Steinhart became a member of the Board of the San Francisco Stock Exchange and maintained an office in the Merchants’ Exchange Building.

Much of Steinhart’s activities as a stock­broker dealt with mine stock, and he was himself a heavy investor in mining ventures.


Sigmund Steinhart was a founder of the Pacific Union Club, Bohemian Club, and the Argonaut Club.


Steinhart was a member of Congregation Emanu-El.

Sigmund Steinhart was a very charitable person, particularly to Jewish causes and older Californians.

He was listed as a “Life Patron” of the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home Society, which was the highest category of givers.

Steinhart Aquarium Postcard

Steinhart Aquarium, vintage postcard

From the 1880’s on, Sigmund lived with his banker brother Ignatz.

Sigmund never married. He died in  1910, at the age of 77.

His obituary in the Jewish newspaper, Emanu-El, noted that though he was “known for his munificence to the poor, he gave without ostentation.”

Sigmund Steinhart was interred at Home of Peace in Colma, south of San Francisco.

Steinhart Aquarium Seal Pool, circa 1900, #WSPostcard Collection

Steinhart Aquarium Seal Pool, circa 1900, #WS Vintage Postcard Collection


  • Norton B. Stern, “Ignatz Steinhart,” Western States Jewish History 41/2.