First Black Millionaire
William Alexander Leidesdorff



“..a prominent civic leader and pioneer in the successful quest for California to become the 31st state in the United States.  He was elected Treasurer of the City of San Francisco, owned the largest home in the city, constructed the first City Hotel, built the first commercial shipping warehouse, and donated the land to build the first public school in California.”
Then-California Assemblyman Dave Cox in Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 131

 “The life of William Alexander Leidesdorff is the kind of African-American success story that deserves its proper place in history.  Young people, both Black and White, need to know that even during the era of slavery, African-Americans were leaders among the pioneers who settled the West and built our great cities.  The fact that Leidesdorff served on San Francisco's first school board and helped to start the city's first school attests to the importance that African-Americans accorded education even on the frontier and even in that difficult time" 
Dr. Michael L. Lomax, President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund.

"As the original source material in Gary Palgon's biography makes clear, many of William Leidesdorff's most notable accomplishments relate to his participation in the beginnings of business and commerce in California. The achievements of this African-American entrepreneur, diplomat and California pioneer are truly remarkable."

Martin McGuinn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Mellon Financial Corporation

"It is important to share the life and success of such a great African-American with the world.  His story will guide so many others to desire and accomplish much with their own dreams. I salute you for making this information possible to those who might not get the chance to read about William Alexander Leidesdorff.”
Don S. McClure, The largest black history website in the US.

More Testimonials >


History, Love, Lore

First Black Millionaire
   American Consul
        SEND ME A COPY

   California Pioneer

Great for academic studies, book reports,
entertainment reading, history buffs

History galore:
Black History, California History, American History

Vice-Consul William Alexander Leidesdorff assisted in the establishment of the Bear Flag Republic, declared California under American occupation, was San Francisco Treasurer and helped establish the first public school in the State. 

One book covers his life  | Shouldn't he be honored?

He's worthy of a postage stamp  |  What does FBM contain?

How come they do not teach about him in school?

It's true, he's one of the best kept secrets in modern American history, but the fact of the matter is his life story is not all one of glory.  He was born out of wedlock, sent off without his family and a great debate over his sexual orientation since he never married.  This book is based on over twenty years of historical research and is loaded with facts written during and after his life. 

This is the only book published about William Alexander Leidesdorff and brings together documents found in the National Archives, California State Archives, multiple University Archives, and institutions such as the Mission Delores in San Francisco.

One book covers his entire life and the lawsuits for the next 50 years!

He died at the young age of 38 years in 1848 with a wife or children, and because gold was found on his property making his estate worth over $1,500,00, people from around the world came out of nowhere claiming to be relatives of William's attempting to gain a share of his wealth.  Lawsuits ensued for the next half-century in the United States, Danish West Indies and Europe until the last appeal was heard!

Shouldn't he be honored for his contributions to American and Black History?

Absolutely -- and he has to some degree.  He was given the highest honors during burial at Mission Delores and all flags were flown at half-staff and business were closed for the day. There is a street named for him in the financial district of San Francisco, Leidesdorff Way, a highway has been named after him in California along the property that he once owned and other streets, squares and districts have been named for him throughout northern California.

He's worthy of a postage stamp, that's for sure.

While he's deserving of a postage stamp, he hasn't made it yet -- though maybe one day.  He took out Mexican citizenship in 1844 and was granted 35,000 acres of land in the Sacramento Valley. He served as Vice Consul of Mexico from 1845 to 1846. Being fluent in several languages, in 1846 he translated the proclamation that California was part of the United States. He served as a member of the city’s first town council, was instrumental in creating San Francisco’s first school, was the city’s first treasurer, opened the city’s first hotel, and owned and mastered the first steamboat on San Francisco Bay.

What does the book contain?

The book spans his life and has over 35 documents and images giving a clear picture of what life was like for him and those around him at the time.

  • Introduction

  • Born in St. Croix, Danish West Indies

  • Failed Love Relationship in New Orleans

  • Bound for California

  • United States Vice-Consul Leidesdorff

  • Capturing the State of California

  • Leidesdorff and Larkin, a Broken Friendship

  • Life in San Francisco

  • Treasurer and City Councilman Leidesdorff

  • Sailing the First Steamboat on San Francisco Bay

  • Life in Deeds, Not in Years

  • The Discovery of Gold

  • First Black Millionaire

  • Settling William’s Estate

  • Leidesdorff Memorial Highway

  • A Man with Vision

After reading the book, you will have an appreciation for the challenges that he faced, what he did to overcome obstacles throughout his life and the impact his deeds had on the many generations that have followed him.  And while it has been over 160 years since he died, his legacy lives on today - as the City of San Francisco, the California School System, the State of California Flag, horse racing and much more.





© Copyright 2008 Gary Palgon, All rights reserved