The Toklas Family: Pioneer Jewish Merchants of Washington State & More

The Toklas Family

Values Codes I – E – L – P


Jacob William Toklas

Jacob William Toklas (a.k.a. “J.W.”) was born in 1844 to Simon Wolff Toklas and Amalie Malchen (née Gnadenfeld) in Kempen, Posen (Prussia).

His brother, Marcus Toklas, was the San Francisco merchant who founded Max Toklas & Co.


Along the way . . .

J. W. Toklas came to the United States in 1862, at the age of 18.

He settled in San Francisco and served in the cavalry during the Civil War.

In 1867, J.W. Toklas became a United States citizen.

In 1869, he worked for his elder brother Max’s clothing business, as a trader in the mining settlement of Timbuctoo, Yuba County, in the California Gold Country.

In 1877, J.W. purchased land in Benavides, Duval County, Texas.

In 1881, J.W. Toklas served as the first Postmaster of Benavides, Texas.

In 1885, he visited his Toklas and Kaufman relatives in Washington.

Soon afterwards, he left Texas and settled in Spokane Falls, Washington, where he became the manager of the Great Eastern Company.

The dry goods firm was located on Howard Street, between Main and Riverside Avenue, and was the best stocked store in the Northwest, outside of Portland, Oregon.



J.W. Toklas served as secretary of the Montefiore Lodge No. 51 of B’nai B’rith.

In 1887, he joined the Corinthian Lodge No. 38, the Free and Accepted Masons in Puyallup.



In 1891, when Congregation Emanuel was established, J.W. became its first President.

J.W. Toklas died, in 1925, at the San Francisco Hebrew Home for the Aged.


Feibel (Ferdinand) Toklas

Feibel (a.k.a. Ferdinand) was born in 1845 in Kempen, Posen (Prussia).

His brother, Marcus Toklas, founded Max Toklas & Co in San Francisco, and his other brother, J.W. Toklasmanaged mercantile firms in Washington.


Along the way . . .

Ferdinand Toklas came to the United States in 1863, at the age of 18.

He settled in San Francisco and served in the cavalry during the Civil War.

In 1868, Ferdinand became a United States citizen.

In 1876, he married Emelia Levinsky.

Emelia’s father, Louis Levinsky, invested in the Toklas mercantile empire.

In 1875, Ferdinand Toklas created a partnership with Paul Singerman and Hyman Auerbach.

They opened a store in Seattle, Washington, on Front Street near Cherry.

Ferdinand lived in San Francisco, handling the West coast of Max Toklas & Co.’s bookkeeping and purchasing.

He moved to Seattle and opened a mercantile firm with Paul Singerman called Toklas and Singerman.

Toklas & Singerman Building

Toklas & Singerman Building

In 1891, Ferdinand Toklas and Singerman sold their firm to a new corporation, though they remained stockholders in the endeavor.

Later, around 1892, the partners took over operation of another Seattle firm called the City of Paris, located on Front Street near Columbia.

Ferdinand and his brother, Nathan, were partners in the firm Toklas & Kaufman with Gallewski Kaufman, located at the Mottman building on the corner of 4th and  Capitol.

Eventually, the Toklas brothers parted ways from Gallewski and the firm became G. Kaufman & Sons.

In 1893, Ferdinand and his family moved to Seattle to be an on-site manager of his investments.

In 1894, he helped establish a dry goods store in Juneau, Alaska, managed by his nephews, Leo and Isadore Kaufman.

The 1896 Alaskan Gold Rush proved beneficial to the success of this branch of the firm; Isadore Kaufman opened another branch in Skagway and their brothers, Samuel and Nathan, joined them in Alaska.

The Juneau store closed in 1904.



Ferdinand Toklas was a member of Congregation Ohaveth Sholem, Seattle’s Reform synagogue.



In 1876, Ferdinand Toklas married Emelia Levinsky. 

Their daughter, Alice B. Toklas, was born in 1877 in San Francisco and their son, Clarence Ferdinand, was born in 1887.

In 1893, Alice B. Toklas studied piano at the University of Washington.

Alice became a prominent participant in the Parisian avant-garde of the early 20th century, and was the life partner of American writer Gertrude Stein.

Alice B. Toklas

Alice B. Toklas

Ferdinand Toklas died in 1924 at the Oaks Sanitarium in Los Gatos.


Moses Kaufman Gallewski

Moses Kaufman Gallewski was born in 1838 to Samuel Gallewski and Yettle Saft in Kempen, Posen (Prussia).

Gallewski Kaufman

Gallewski Kaufman


Along the way . . .

Moses Kaufman Gallewski journeyed to England in 1861, where he settled in Sunderland, Durham.

Five of his eleven siblings joined him in England, where they worked in the jewelry, watch, and diamond trade.

In 1864, the brothers’ partnership was dissolved, and Moses Kaufman Gallewski returned to Kempen.

In 1880, Moses immigrated to the United States.

In 1882, he changed his name to Gallewski Kaufman and moved to Seattle, Washington, where he worked with his brothers-in-law, Nathan and Ferdinand Toklas, at their firm Toklas & Kaufman, on Main and 45h Street.

When the partnership dissolved, the firm took on the name G. Kaufman & Sons.

In 1900, Gallewski Kaufman retired from the mercantile business.

In 1920, he moved to San Francisco, where his daughter Minna (a.k.a. Nina) lived with her husband.



Gallewski Kaufman was vice president of the Olympia Board of Trade.



Gallewski Kaufman was a member of the Harmony Lodge of F. A. Masons and served as treasurer for three terms, consecutively.

He was also a Master Workman of A.O.U.W.



Moses Kaufman Gallewski married Leibe (Louisa) Toklas (1839-1923).

Louisa Toklas was the sister of Marcus, Jacob, Ferdinand, and Nathan Toklas, and aunt of Alice B. Toklas.

They had six children, Nathan, Levi, Samuel, Isadore, Adolph, and Minna, whom Louisa raised in Kempen while Gallewski moved to Washington.

Gallewski and Louisa Kaufman  died the same year, 1923, in San Francisco.


Nathan Gallewski (a.k.a. N. G. Kaufman)

Nathan Gallewski, the brother of Moses Kaufman Gallewski, was born in Kempen in 1847.

Nathan Kaufman

Nathan Kaufman


Along the way. . .

Nathan Gallewski moved to England and worked for the family’s jewelry business until it was dissolved in 1864.

In 1868, Nathan traveled back to Kempen and married Hulda Toklas.

They returned to England until 1885, when they immigrated to the United States to join his eldest brother in Washington state.

Nathan Gallewski, then changed his last name to Kaufman, like his brother, and also changed his first name to N.G. so as not to be confused with his nephew, also named Nathan.

In 1889, N.G. Kaufman left the Puyallup store to help manage the Olympia store.

At his urging, the family expanded the store so that it took up the entire block.

The new building opened officially in 1891. Gallewski Kaufman and the Toklases held a gala to celebrate the opening.

N.G. Kaufman moved to Aberdeen in 1888, where he opened a store on Huron and G Streets. He managed this store until a devastating fire in 1903 razed the area.

His nephews, Nathan and Leo Kaufman, bought out his shares in the firm and changed the store’s name to Kaufman Bros.

In 1905, N.G. and a partner opened a store on G Street in Aberdeen.

In 1907, he sold the Aberdeen store and moved to Seattle, where he worked in real estate.



N.G. Kaufman traveled back to Kempen and married Hulda Toklas. Their niece was Alice B. Toklas.

N.G. Kaufman died in 1914 in Tacoma, Washington.

Hulda Kaufman (Neé Toklas) died in 1905 in Aberdeen, Washington and was buried in Seattle.


Nathan Kaufman

Nathan Kaufman was born in Kempen, Posen in  to Gallewski Kaufman (Moses Kaufman Gallewski) and Louisa Toklas.


Along the way . . .

In 1881, Nathan Kaufman immigrated to the United States.

He began his cross country journey in New York, then traveling south to Benavides, Texas, where his uncle, J.W. Toklas, had a mercantile business.

In 1882, Nathan continued his journey West, pausing in San Francisco before settling in Olympia, Washington.

He worked for his father’s firm, Toklas & Kaufmanuntil 1885.

In 1884, Nathan and his brother, Leo Kaufman, opened a Puyallup branch, near Tacoma, located in the old Central Hotel building.

In 1896, Nathan Kaufman moved to Skagway, Alaska to help his brothers Isadore, Leo, and Samuel run their Alaska stores.

Around 1903, after a fire in Aberdeen devastated N.G. Kaufman’s store on the corner of Heron and G Streets

Nathan and Leo Kaufman then bought their uncle’s shares the firm, rebuilt the building, and changed its name to Kaufman Bros.

Nathan and Leo Kaufman managed the Kaufman Bros. firm together until 1905, when Leo moved to San Francisco.

In 1911, the Bellingham store closed.

Nathan continued to operate the Aberdeen store through the 1920’s.

Around 1914, Nathan moved to Portland, Oregon with his family.



In 1896, Nathan Kaufman married Hattie Loeb.

They had one son, Russell, who became a physician.

Nathan Kaufman died in 1943 in Portland, Oregon.



  • Debbie Freedman and Victoria Fisch, “Alice B. Toklas’ Family: A Merchandising Empire in Puget Sound, Washington, Juneau and Skagway, Alaska,” Western States Jewish History 45/1.

Samantha Silver is curator for this Toklas Family exhibit.

Photo credits for Gallewski Kaufman and Nathan G. Kaufmanby: Olympia Historical Society.