Gerstle, Lewis

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GERSTLE, LEWIS (1824–1902), U.S. merchant. Gerstle, born in Ichenhausen, Bavaria, immigrated to America about 1845, settling in Louisville, Ky., and then in California. After prospecting for gold briefly, he joined Louis Sloss and Company of Sacramento, general merchandise dealers. During this time, Gerstle and Sloss married the sisters Hannah and Sarah Greenebaum. Moving to San Francisco in about 1860, Gerstle and Sloss entered the stock brokerage business, bought and sold hides, operated a tannery, and acquired shipping interests. In 1868, after the American purchase of Alaska, they and others organized the highly successful Alaska Commercial Company for trade in the new territory. They received a fur seal concession, established trading posts, and supplied miners during the Klondike gold strike of 1897. Gerstle was a director of Congregation Emanu-El and the Pacific Hebrew Orphan Asylum and Home Society, a member of the Vigilance Committee, and treasurer of the University of California. He promoted manufacturing establishments and directed two banks.


G. Mack, Lewis and Hannah Gerstle (1953); M.A. Meyer, Western Jewry (1916); R. Glanz, Jews in American Alaska (1867–1880) (1953); L.D. Kitchener, Flag Over the North (1954); M. Zarchin, Glimpses of Jewish Life in San Francisco (1964).

[Robert E. Levinson]