BlackPast.org Facebook BlackPast.org Twitter

Donate to BlackPast.org Donate to BlackPast.org

NOTE: BlackPast.org will not disclose, use, give or sell any of the requested information to third parties.

10 + 7 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.

Shop Amazon and help BlackPast.org

Blackpast.org in the Classroom/ border=

Leidesdorff, William Alexander (1810-1848)

 

Image Ownership: Public Domain

Although little remembered today, Leidesdorff was a social, economic and political force in pre-gold rush San Francisco, with a number of “firsts” credited to his name. When he was named the U.S. Vice Consul to Mexico in 1845, he became the nation’s first African American diplomat.   He was elected to San Francisco’s first city council and its first school board in 1847.  He built the first hotel, the first shipping warehouse, he operated the first steamboat on San Francisco Bay, and he laid out the first horse race track in California.

Born on the island of St. Croix in the Danish West Indies in 1810, William was the son of Danish sugar planter Alexander Leidesdorff and Anna Marie Sparks, a light-skinned woman of mixed race ancestry.  In 1841 Leidesdorff sailed his 106-ton schooner Julia Ann around Cape Horn to California and settled in the Mexican village of Yerba Buena on San Francisco Bay.  Over the next three years he became a successful merchant by making frequent trips between California, Mexico and Hawaii.  In 1844 governor Micheltorena confirmed his land grant of 35,000 acres on the American River.  Ranch Rio de Los Americanos was located near the spot where James Marshall discovered gold in January 1848. When Leidesdorff died unexpectedly in May 1848 he was given the honor of being buried inside Mission Dolores Church, where his gravestone may still be seen today.

Sources:
Gary Mitchell Palgon, William Alexander Leidesdorff: First Black Millionaire, American Consul and California Pioneer (Atlanta: Lulu Press, 2005); Sue Bailey Thurman, “William Alexander Leidesdorff” in Pioneers of Negro Origin in California ( San Francisco: Acme Publishing Company, 1952) http://www.sfmuseum.net/bio/leidesdorff.html

Contributor:

National Park Service

Entry Categories:

Copyright 2007-2011 - BlackPast.org v2.0 | blackpast@blackpast.org | Your donations help us to grow. | We welcome your suggestions. | Mission Statement

BlackPast.org is an independent non-profit corporation 501(c)(3). It has no affiliation with the University of Washington. BlackPast.org is supported in part by a grant from Humanities Washington, a state-wide non-profit organization supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the state of Washington, and contributions from individuals and foundations.