Special Reports

Historical Perspective: Jacob & Co.

Every town needs a place for residents to buy goods and link up to the rest of the world. One of the first places for Fresnans to do those things was Jacob & Co.

In a small wood-frame building at the southeast corner of Mariposa and H streets, Jacob & Co. was a general merchandise store, a post office and a Wells Fargo & Co. Express office. The business had an essential piece of technology for the Wells Fargo service attached to the building: a telegraph pole.

Along with its goods and services, Jacob & Co.'s proximity to the Central Pacific Railroad line that cut across the plains helped make the little store a hub of activity.

Built by Millerton storekeeper and postmaster Otto Froelich, who arrived in the newly settled town in 1872, Jacob & Co. was the second store established in the area.

Elias Jacob and Louis Einstein, who ran stores in Visalia, Centerville and Kingston, joined H.D. Silverman to buy out Froelich in 1874. That year, there were only 55 buildings in the town, including four general stores, three hotels, saloons, law offices, blacksmith shops and the printing office of a newspaper called the Fresno Expositor.

In an 1874 photo of Jacob & Co. -- one of the earliest known Fresno photographs -- the three proprietors are believed to be at the center on the porch. A man at left stands with a hand cart while a woman, dressed in her finery, stands on the steps with her little girl.

A scarce commodity in the new, hot, dusty, settlement is seen in the foreground center and at right: young trees, planted no doubt for future shade, and thus protected by wood frames.

The store's place at this prominent corner was short-lived.

In 1875, Jacob sold his interest to Einstein and Silverman, who built one of the town's first brick buildings and moved the business to an adjacent lot.

After Silverman's death in 1877, Einstein took on partners Leopold and Henry Gundefinger, and the business became known as Einstein and Co.

Related stories from Fresno Bee