17 December 2008

Who Is Frances Dinkelspiel ?

Frances Dinkelspiel is the author of this wonderful book "Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California". Her book, published by St. Martins Press, just recently hit the shelves of bookstores everywhere.

Isaias Hellman is the great great grandfather of Frances. About 8 years ago she wanted to learn more about her family history and started looking at the California Historical Society in San Francisco. There she found literally dozens of boxes full of papers about Hellman.

From her website :

Frances is a fifth-generation Californian who grew up in San Francisco. A graduate of Stanford University and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, Frances spent more than 20 years in the newspaper business, working as a general assignment reporter for a broad array of papers, from the Syracuse Newspapers in upstate New York to the San Jose Mercury News in northern California.
In 1998, Frances took a leave of absence from the Mercury News to focus on writing personal essays. One day she decided to go to the California Historical Society in downtown San Francisco to peruse some papers of Isaias Wolf Hellman, her great great grandfather. She was astonished by what she saw: her relative had been business partners with many of the iconic men of the 19th century: Collis Huntington, Henry Huntington, Meyer Lehman, Levi Strauss, Harrison Gray Otis, and Edward Harriman.
Frances quickly decided that writing about Isaias Hellman’s life was far more interesting than writing about her own life. She quit her newspaper job and embarked on a decade-long journey to discover the details of Hellman’s amazing business career. Frances went through more than 50,000 pages of archival documents, including letters, receipts, copy books, court cases, and newspaper articles.

Best news of all for me? Remember the research I posted about my sister-in-law's family? You can find them here, here and here . Well....Isaias Hellman had a daughter Clara. Clara married Emanuel Heller. Emanuel is the brother of SIL's 2nd great grandfather!
This book is rich with California history with an insiders look at the San Francisco Jewish community which began in the 1850's.
Reviews of this book can be found at:

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