Surnames: Rich, Rosenthal, Levy
obituary and biography
contriubted by jchavnar

San Jose Daily Mercury – Monday, January 7, 1901


Acquired Means as Pioneer Taylor and Bought and Developed Street Railroads – Large Real Estate Transactions – Caught by Panic of 1893

In the death of Jacob Rich San Jose has lost a notable figure. For almost half of a century – to be exact for forty-seven years – he had been active in the business of the community. He was a pioneer in the county in point of residence and a pioneer in some of the largest enterprises ever inaugurated here. He was one of the best known men in the valley and none more sincerely regret his death than the “old timers.”

Came From Poland.

Jacob Rich was born in Poland, October 15, 1826. When quite young he moved to Germany, where he learned his trade of tailor and cap maker. After he had mastered his trade and acquired some little means he moved to Manchester, England. He did not remain there long, for lured by the stories of the advantages and wonders of the New World, he sailed for America, landing in New York in 1851 or 1852. He was there a short time only, for the stories of the great fold discoveries in California, drew him west. He came with Herman Levy. The two friends remained in San Francisco a few months and in 1853 opened a partnership tailoring business on Market street. The men married sisters, the Misses Rosenthal.

Prosperous Business.

The tailors prospered greatly. In those days there were no ready made suits and many of the grayhaired old men of the valley well remember when they had their suits made by Rich and Levy in their shop on Market Street. Early in the sixties Rich had acquired much money and retired from the business and devoted his time to making loans and other investments. In those days he was a familiar figure about the Auzerais House, then the “swell” hotel of San Jose. There he could be found daily playing chess with some congenial spirit. About twenty-five years ago he was called to Europe by the illness of his father, whose death occurred while Jacob Rich was with him. According to Jewish custom he mourned for one year and ceased playing his favorite game. His friends say that never since the death of his father was he known to play a game of chess.

Railroad Investments.

But the active, energetic man grew weary of simply leading the life of a money lender. He wanted to be in the thick of the business battle and entered upon the purchase of real estate. It was at this time that he bought the property at St. John and Third streets, where he built himself a residence. Soon after he bought the north side horse railroad and later on the southeast car line. About this time he became engaged in extensive litigation. Others were interested in the line to Santa Clara and they were about to parallel the line through the southeast part of town. After strong contest in the courts he won. Following this victory the contending interests reached a compromise and all the lines were consolidated. Bishop had been the owner of the Santa Clara line.

By this period electricity was being used to run street cars. Bishop went before the Supervisors and Common Council and asked for a franchise for an overhead electric system. Great opposition developed and no franchise for an overhead system could be secured. Instead the authorities granted a franchise for an underground system. This the company constructed. In the meantime Mr. Rich had purchased the First street horse care line from Baker. The underground electric system on the Santa Clara road failed to work satisfactorily and resulted in a loss to the company of about $300,000. The road was sold to J.H. Henry for $230,000.

First Street Road.

Being out of this venture Rich turned his attention to the development of the First street property, and converted the road to an overhead electric system. He always had unbounded confidence in San Jose and its future. He purchased a vast deal of property about town, generally unimproved, but valuable land. He extended his railroad to the Willows and south on First street far into the suburbs. He built the Julian street line, the Hobsen street line and turned the Seventh street horse cars into electric cars. The German Savings and Loan Society of San Francisco was his banker and took up his first mortgage bonds. It was arranged that when he had built certain feeders and extensions to his railroad this financial concern would take up $150,000 of second mortgage bonds.

Financial Crash.

Unfortunately for Rich, as for many others, the great panic of 1893 spread over the country. Money was scarce and hard to get, no matter what the security. To complicate matters the President of the German Savings and Loan Society died and then that bank declined to take the second mortgage bonds. Rich could not float them. In desperate efforts to keep matters in good shape he mortgaged everything he had. This delayed the crash, but it came, and one day about four years ago Jacob Rich went into court with a petition in insolvency. The road went into the hands of receivers and was eventually bid in by the German Savings and Loan Society for $225,000, the amount of the first mortgage bonds.

Rich creditors got all his real estate as far as it would go toward paying his debt. It went for vastly less than it had cost him, as there had been great depreciation in values as a result of the panic and possibly, of the boom, when values had been inflated. For some months he had been seeking his discharge from insolvency. One firm opposed this and the matter remained in the courts. About four weeks ago the case came up and he left a sick bed to go to court. He was represented by S.F. Leib, and to his great joy his petition for discharge was granted.

His financial reverses and business changes preyed on his mind and worried him much. After he got his discharge he was much relieved, but his friends say he left the court then and went home to die. He took to his bed and while his mind was a clear as ever the organs of his body ceased to perform their functions, and, as the doctors said, his body had been dead for days even before his breath left him.

Large Interests.

Aside from his railroad and real estate investments Rich was interested in other business enterprises. It is said that he lost $100,000 in the P.O. Burns Wine Company. He was for years a director in the Commercial Bank and also a director in the San Jose Woolen Mills Company. At one time he was offered a large advance on his real estate holdings and $325,000 for the First street railroad. He had so much confidence in San Jose that he declined both offers.

Rich organized the Jewish Synagogue here and was for years the President and one of the main supporters of the organization. He was a member of the Pioneer Society, a Mason and a member of the I.O.B.B., Ariel Lodge, No. 248, Jewish Fraternal Society. He leaves to mourn his loss, a widow, a brother, Herman Rich of San Francisco, founder of Rich and Blumenthal of this city; Issac Rich, another brother, now in Texas; a sister, Miss Rosenberg of this place, and a large number of nieces and nephews, both by blood and by marriage. Justice Rosenthal is a nephew and he was raised and educated by his uncle, his parents having died. The deceased never had any children.

Funeral Tuesday.

The funeral will be held tomorrow, Tuesday, afternoon at 2 o’clock from the family residence, No. 112 North Third street. Interment will be at Home of Peace Cemetery. The funeral services will be under the auspices of the Masons.

Jacob Rich was a broad-minded, liberal man. There are many people in San Jose who knew his generosity. His confidence in the future for this city was never shaken. He built his lines of roads ahead of the time when population and business were not present to support them, but for the boom, followed by the panic, he would doubtless have carried all to a triumphant conclusion. His death is a distinct loss to the city.