Winner of the Northern California Independent Bookseller Association's Best Book AwardIsaias Hellman, a Jewish immigrant, arrived in California in 1859 with very little money in his pocket and his brother Herman by his side. By the time he died, he had effectively transformed Los Angeles into the modern metropolis we see today. In Frances Dinkelspiel's history, the early days of California are seen through the life of a man who started out as a simple store owner only to become California's premier money-man of the late 19th and early 20th century.Growing up as a young immigrant, Hellman quickly learned the use to which "capital" could be put, founding Los Angeles' first successful bank, and transforming Wells Fargo into one of the West's biggest financial institutions. He was a key figure in developing the oil and transportation industries and assisted Harrison Gary Otis in acquiring full ownership of the Los Angeles Times. Hellman led the building of Los Angeles' first synagogue, helped start the University of Southern California and served as Regent of the University of California. His influence, however, was not limited to Los Angeles. He controlled the California wine industry for almost twenty years and, after San Francisco's devastating 1906 earthquake and fire, calmed the financial markets there in order to help that great city rise from the ashes.With all of these accomplishments, Isaias Hellman almost single-handedly brought California into modernity. Ripe with great historical events that filled the early days of California such as the Gold Rush and the San Francisco earthquake, Towers of Gold brings to life the transformation of California from a frontier society whose economy was driven by the barter of hides and exchange of gold dust into a vibrant state with the strongest economy in the nation.
Frances Dinkelspiel is an award-winning journalist and the great-great granddaughter of Isaias Hellman. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, San Francisco Magazine, San Jose Mercury News, and other venues. She lives in Berkeley, California.