One of my favorite websites is called FoundSF.org. It has such great articles about San Francisco and all of its colorful history. Sometimes when i am bored, i go to it to just read. My ancestors were some of the founders of San Francisco. I did not learn this fact until i was the age of 19, at which point i began studying San Francisco history as well as my own lineage.
When i came across this article this morning, i could not believe how perfect it was… like it was written just for me!
I have always had trouble understanding just how my ancestors lives influenced my own. It is several generations away and clearly lifestyles have changed greatly. But i feel the past. I feel my relatives around me. They push me to become a better person and to continue to be proud of the Koshland name as well as my closely related relatives.
It would be nice if one of them (especially a female) had written a diary. However i suppose a hand written professionally bound single edition of family recipes put together into a book is going to have to do… So without further ado… I would like to introduce you to my very successful ancestors who i can very proudly say helped to build this city that we call San francisco.
The Gilded Circle
by Kate Shvetsky
The “Gilded Circle”: interrelated clans linked by blood, marriage, and business.
In Gold Rush San Francisco, the most economically successful Jewish families formed their own clique–an exclusive Gilded Circle, forged of interrelated clans linked by blood, marriage, and business. This exclusive clan included the families Sloss, Gerstle Family, Greenwald, Levi Strauss, Stern, Seligman, Lilienthal, Steinhart, Fleishacker, Zellerbach, Brandentstein, Koshland. The Gilded Circle members had a strict code of behavior:
1. Make money
2. Marry one’s own kind (German Jewish)
3. Belong to Reform Temple Emanu-El or to no other congregation
4. Acquire tastes of people of rank
They built houses on the same street and went to the same summer retreat.
Gilded Circle on summer picnic, 1890s.
Photos: Judah Magnus Museum
Large families staffed a minimum of six servants and entertained lavishly. Until the early 1900s, guest lists were confined to the Gilded Circle, other socially acceptable Jews, and a smattering of affluent gentiles. Young women who accepted more than the occasional invitation to non-Jewish parties were roundly criticized.
To prepare them for a life of privilege, young women received disciplined training. Nurses and governesses instructed them in proper manners. Tutors gave them art, music, French and German languages. Most boys were permitted to attend public schools before sent east to Harvard or Yale or, alternatively, kept closer to home while attending Stanford or the University of California. The less studious rushed directly into business. Most girls attended private schools.
By the early 20th century, when the third generation of San Francisco Jews were coming of age, the circle’s code of behavior had solidified into a tradition to be conformed to or, frequently, rebelled against. Circle members had by then begun to mingle freely with non-Jews at social, cultural, and charitable events, and intermarriage was clearly on the rise.
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