Saturday, February 11, 2012

Hidden history in the Financial District

One of my tasks these days is to pick up the campaign mail from a private mail box and haul it through downtown streets to our office. There are all sorts of interesting oddments in small byways along the way. This plaque is one.

Who was William Alexander Leidesdorff and why does he merit a plaque affixed to a bank tower?

According to Wikipedia, this early Californian businessman (1810-1848) was very like the sort of people of mixed ethnic and racial heritage who are so much of the population of modern California. He was a West Indian of Afro-Cuban, possibly Carib, Danish, and Jewish ancestry who became a U.S. citizen in New Orleans in 1834. Migrating to California, he became a Mexican citizen in 1844 and was given a land grant along the American River near present-day Sacramento -- a land grant where after his death rich seams of gold were mined. The far west turned out well for this migrant.

This classic California racial and ethnic mutt became a prominent and important citizen of early San Francisco. After the United States annexed California, he was again a citizen of the republic and was chosen president of the growing city's first public school board and later city treasurer.

A financial district alley is named for Leidesdorff. There's more of interest among the granite canyons than I would have thought if I'd never walked here.
leidesdorff alley sign.jpg

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