Wednesday, December 6, 2017

San Francisco Gold Rush Merchants

The New York Roots
W Taussig & Co.
Manufactory of California Leather Goods
After immigrating to the United States, sometime after 1848, William (Wilhelm) Taussig starts a purse making business at 238 Delancy Street in New York City. The 1850 -51 New York City Directory lists William Tauhsig (sic) as a purse maker. Also listed in that year’s directory is a Hermann Friend doing business in “trimmings”. The term “trimmings”, used in the description of Friend’s business, was meant as an additional garnishing; a decorative accessory or additional item. It seems Taussig and Friend formed a partnership sometime in 1850 to manufacture some type of leather products. The following listings show Taussig and Friend working at separate locations in New York City.

Listing from the 1850 -51 New York Directory 
1851 -52 New York Directory 
The New York Herald newspaper advertisement for the dissolution of the partnership between Hermann Friend and Wm. Taussig and Co. appears in the September 4, 1851 edition and Taussig reemerges as William Taussig and Co..  1851 would have been the booming of the gold rush in California and goods of any sort would be in great demand in the supply towns of the California gold fields. This notice would be the start of Taussig forming a business to supply the gold rush with “California Leather Goods” These goods would include patent leather belts, holsters, knife sheaths, gold dust bags, buckskin gloves and porte monnaies. Porte monnaies were a small pocket book or purse used to carry coins or other small items.
The New York Herald in March of 1852 has an advertisement by Taussig listing him as WM. Taussig and Co. at 186 Pearl St. offering for sale buckskin for piano manufacturers and the Manufactory of California Leather Goods.
W. Taussig & Co. clasp used on a leather or cloth belt. These clasps are found in the earliest of California gold camps and can be attributed to the 1851 early 1852-time frame when Taussig was working as WM. Taussig & Co. This is the earliest of the Taussig marked stamped brass clasp.
Image courtesy of Nicholas Kane
Taussig Pollack & Co. San Francisco
In July of 1852, just four months after advertising as WM. Taussig & Co, the following advertisement, from the Daily Alta California, appears listing the partnership of Taussig Pollack & Co. Located in the Iron Store in San Francisco. They have just received an assortment of merchandise from the clipper ship “Stag Hound” that included leather belts, holsters and buck skin gloves
Stag Hound was launched on December 7, 1850 in East Boston, Massachusetts. Designed by shipbuilder Donald McKay for the California trade, she was briefly the largest merchant ship in the world. She was in active service from 1851 until her total loss in 1861. (Wikipedia)
Taussig Pollack & Co. clasp manufactured during the 1852 -56 period Taussig and the Pollack brothers are working together. This is the second of the stamped clasps produced by Taussig 
image by author
The Taussig Pollack & Co clasp could have been produced as early as the summer or fall of 1852 but more than likely in 1853 considering the time it would take to manufacture the dies to stamp the brass into a clasp. Both the W. Taussig & Co. and Taussig Pollack & Co. leather and cloth belts and clasps were produced exclusively for the California gold rush market.   

The following information from the 1853 New York City directory places William Taussig and Joseph Pollack working and living in New York. Both Taussig and Pollack share the same business and residence address in New York City.
William Taussig working at 186 Pearl St. and residing at Essex St
Joseph Pollack working and residing at the same address as Taussig
Leopold Pollack is in San Francisco at 117 Sacramento St. working the Taussig Pollack business
It is interesting that both Taussig and Joseph Pollack are working and residing at the same address in New York and Taussig is still listed as a purse maker. Taussig is in business with the Pollack brothers in San Francisco yet still maintains his business in New York as a purse maker.

 The above advertisement from the 1852 -53 San Francisco directory lists Taussig and Pollack brothers, Leopold and Joseph, as partners in the San Francisco manufacturing and importing business. From the New York records it appears William Taussig and Joseph Pollack never left New York and Leopold Pollack was running the San Francisco business. There is no residence listing for Taussig in San Francisco. The statement “Sole Agency for William Taussig & Co. New York” suggests Taussig is the proprietor (owner) and Taussig Pollack & Co. were the agents (persons who act on behalf of another person or group) in San Francisco.
Clipping from the 1855 -56 New York City directory listing Taussig & Pollack Brothers doing business at 51 Cedar 
The above clipping is the last listing showing Taussig and the Pollack Brothers in business together. William Taussig moved both his business and residence address several times from 1851 to 1857. Taussig worked at 238 Delancy,, 186 Pearl St., 15 Dey St. and 51 Cedar St. in New York.

What we call Buckles today were referred to as “Clasps” during the California gold rush


Wetzlar &Taussig New York

Leopold Wetzlar first appears in the 1852 -53 New York City directory 

New York directory of 1854 -55 shows Wetzlar working at the 15 Dey St. address

Wetzlar & Taussig clasp. This is the last of the Taussig marked stamped brass clasps.
Possibly only produced for one year
Image courtesy of Max Bell

1856 listing for Wetzlar & Taussig 15 Dey St. New York City

This clipping from the September 1857 New York Herald shows Wetzlar & Taussig’s business venture fails in September of 1857. Taussig appears to vanish from New York City after the failure of the Wetzlar Taussig partnership in 1857.
One thing that should be noted on the listings from the New York and San Francisco directories is that the information contained in the listings was gathered prior to the directory being published. The information in the listings could have been obtained as early as a year before the directory was published or as soon as a few days before. That being said all directory information is approximate.
New York City Directories 1848 -1862
San Francisco Directories   1850 -1862
LeCount & Strong's Directory of San Francisco 1854
New York Herald various editions 1848 -1860
New York Evening Post
New York Gazette
Daily Alta California
email - oral interviews:
Nicholas Kane
Cal Coyer


  1. Excellent article Rick! Factual, interesting and very educational.

  2. Fantastic article, countless hours of research, a HUGE thanks to all involved!