Northern California Independent Bookseller Association’s 2009 Best Book Award Winner
San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller
"Visionary financier Isaias Hellman was the Warren Buffett and Alan Greenspan of early California rolled into one. He arrived in L.A. as a practically penniless, 16-year-old German Jew when there were only 300 other Europeans in town. Three decades later, he controlled much of the booming city’s capital, land, and public works—then he acquired Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco through a merger, earning headlines as the West’s richest man. Hellman starred in so many aspects of the state’s phoenixlike rise between the Civil War and the Depression that he became our Zelig, only with a really thick portfolio. The banker’s bonds with the financial elite—fellow Jews like Meyer Lehman (his brotherin- law), gentiles like Collis Huntington—made skittish pioneer depositors in both cities less prone to panic. Still, this giant figure had been lost to history until local journalist Frances Dinkelspiel, Hellman’s great-great-granddaughter (and the sister of this magazine’s president), stumbled onto his papers at the California Historical Society. Eureka! Many underappreciated developments in California’s astonishing adolescence—the emergence of SoCal, the UC system, post-1906 San Francisco, Hiram Johnson, Lake Tahoe, Southern Pacific Railroad, Hetch Hetchy, U.S. Zionism, you name it—are recovered here in elegantly restrained prose. A-"--San Francisco Magazine
"Impressively researched and engagingly told...Dinkelspiel does an excellent job of tracing Hellman's career as a financier, and sketches in a crisp portrait into the glittering San Francisco Jewish community into which he and his family ultimately settled. [A] compelling account of Hellman the giant of finance."--The Los Angeles Times
"Carefully researched and superbly written memoir...Dinkelspiel's biography not only brings to life the transformation of California into the state with the strongest economy in the nation, and the outside personalities that forged it, but rescues from the proverbial dustbin of history the remarkable life and achievements of a man whose energy, creativity, resourcefulness and love for his adopted country had been all but forgotten. A marvelous resource, a dramatic slice of Western history and a splendid read."--The San Francisco Chronicle
"Journalist Dinkelspiel has filled a notable gap in California's history by writing a much-needed biography of her remarkable great-great grandfather Isaias Wolf Hellman (1842-1920). As one of California's pioneer financiers and an advocate of modern banking methods, Hellman became founder, president, or director of 17 banks, including Wells Fargo Bank, Nevada Bank of San Francisco, and the Farmers and Merchants Bank. He is attributed with stabilizing the financial panic of 1893 in Los Angeles by stacking $500,000 worth of gold coins on the counter of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in plain public view, hence the title of this book. The author personalizes Hellman's life by recounting his emigration from Bavaria to California in 1859 and comparing the vastly different social acceptance of Jews in those places. Many details of his family history are provided, along with insights into his relations with a broad swath of other early legendary California business families. Recommended for public and academic libraries with interests in early California financial and Judaic history."--Library Journal
This story is written by his great-granddaughter and is expertly researched.
Frances Dinkelspiel's telling of the true story of Isaias Hellman brings to life the history of modern California, from its most humble beginnings.
If you're into California or Banking history at all, this book is a must read!
Hellman was an amazing man. This story is written by his great-granddaughter and is expertly researched. This is a must-read for those interested in the history of the West.Published 2 months ago by R. Carpenter
A book about the founder of Wells Fargo, Isaias Hellman, written by his grand niece. Isaias Hellman was a tipical Jewish financial pioneer in the late 1800s and early 1900s based... Read morePublished 4 months ago by P. M. MUROYAMA
I'm from San Francisco and lived in LA for a few years while attending USC. This history probably meant more to me than to mist because it is all so familiar to me. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Deborah M Smith
This book brings the story of the California's birth to life through the life of Isias Hellman, founder of Wells Fargo Bank. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Jody Powell
Definitely worth reading if you have any interest in the way life got started in LA and how this one man had such a far reaching influence in all of California and its many areas... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Louise Sherrill
I found this book to be very interesting. Amazing how some people are able to start with nothing and go on to build an empire.Published 6 months ago by Stuart Hershaff
What one person can go. A look into a little known contribution to the development of the west particularly in San Francisco.Published 8 months ago by Sky Trails
I read this book with a view of the entire SF Bay from my office window. Took me back in time!Published 8 months ago by Ronald Scholtz
Hellman founded the wealthiest bank in Los Angeles, and then stepped up in class and did it again in San Francisco before taking over Wells Fargo. Read morePublished 9 months ago by E. Naftaly