Isaias Hellman might not have the Jewish name recognition of a Levi Strauss or an Adolph Sutro in California history, but he almost single-handedly launched the Golden State into modernity.
“No one man in California has left an impress upon the financial affairs of the state in so many different communities and in such an unquestioned manner as I.W. Hellman,” wrote Ira Cross in his multi-volume “Financing an Empire: Banking in California.”
Frances Dinkelspiel, an award-winning journalist and Hellman’s great-great-granddaughter, meticulously documents her ancestor’s powerhouse biography in “Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California,” an illuminating economic history of the Golden State in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Dinkelspiel spent eight years culling through more than 50,000 pieces of paper, including business ledgers, telegrams, personal letters and even grocery bills, in an effort to mold an accessible portrait of a titan of industry and finance.
Dinkelspiel then pieced together the disparate strands of Hellman’s story, which she found in archives and history books, from his arrival in California from Bavaria in the mid-19th century to his death in 1920. She also filled “Towers of Gold” with fascinating side tours of the other people and events that shaped the state’s development in the modern age.
Causes Frances Dinkelspiel Supports
Judah L. Magnes Museum, Berkeley, CA
Park Day School, Oakland, CA