Frederick Delger (March 11, 1822 – April 25, 1898) was a successful self-made businessman who began as a shoe repairman, then a retail shoe shop owner, then later made his fortune in real estate speculation, and was considered to be the first millionaire in Oakland, California. When asked about acquiring his wealth, he said he realized that shoes would always cost about the same, but real estate in a growing city (like Oakland) must go up in value.
Frederick's middle name is frequently written as William, but according to a descendant, that is an error introduced by a later newspaper article. (However, the streets between Telegraph and San Pablo Ave. above 19th were once Frederick St., William St., and Delger St. Maybe his son-in-law?)
Frederick and Ernestine Blücher (Delger) (December 1829 – January 6, 1906), both born in Germany, were married in New York in 1848, before traveling via ship around Cape Horn in 1852-53 to make California their home. Together they had four children:
- Matilda Delger (June 24, 1849–April 16, 1920), disowned after eloping with Captain John Brown, but who still inherited later 1
- Anna ‘Annie' Delger (December 24, 1854-October 11, 1930) (spouse William Moller)
- Edward Frederick Delger (October 24, 1859-December 10, 1923) (who was also disinherited for a while) 3(spouse: Margaret Pryor)
- Lillian ‘Lilly’ Delger (February 21, 1866-January 9, 1953) (spouses: Harry Trowbridge; William John Sweasey Powers)
Delger was a Director of the Oakland Bank of Savings, as well as one of the major stockholders.
At one time Delger owned a section of land from Telegraph Avenue between 17th Street and 20th Street, running west to San Pablo Avenue. After selling 3½ acres, and subdividing the rest of the land, Delger named Frederick Avenue (which is now 19th Street), William Street (between 19th Street and 20th Street) and Delger (now 20th) Street.
Ownership of the section of Frederick Street (on the north side) was retained by Delger for his “Delger Estate,” where he lived until his death in 1898. The historic estate was eventually demolished. Part of it later became the Sears parking lot, and is now the Uptown ArtPark.
Delger built on a large proportion of the lots in his subdivisions, later selling most of them.
Trowbridge House, the honeymoon home given to his daughter Lillie upon her marriage to Harry Trowbridge, was saved from demolition and moved to Preservation Park, where it was fully restored.
Among his many accomplishments, Delger was one of the founders of Mountain View Cemetery in 1863.
Frederick Delger was the father of noted Freudian psychoanalyst Dr. Lillian Powers, as well as the grandfather of the renowned industrial engineer Dr. Lillian Evelyn Moller Gilbreth.
There were stories that his fortune had begun with a lottery ticket his wife had accepted as payment for a pair of shoes, but Delger always denied this.
Death and Burial
After a several-month battle with illness, Delger died in 1898. His funeral was held at the First Congregational Church (though Delger was a member of the English Lutheran Church), and F. K. Shattuck was one of the pallbearers. Many Freemasons attended, as Delger had been a member. The women of the Fabiola Hospital Association attended; Delger had donated at least $10,000 to their cause. 3 Frederick Delger is buried in a Gothic mausoleum, complete with spire and stained glass window in Mountain View Cemetery at the crest of the hill known as Millionaire’s Row. Delger had the mausoleum designed before his death, and used to visit the site. 2
Ernestine Delger died at the family home at 524 - 19th Street, and is interred with her husband. The plot around the mausoleum is the resting place of many Delgers, Mollers, Trowbridges, Browns, and Bells.
Links and References
- Frederick Delger Find A Grave
- The San Francisco Call (Thursday, January 9, 1906)
- Edward Frederick Delger Biographical Sketch (Letter written to George H. Morrison, Jan. 13, 1888, and biographical sketch of his father, Frederick Delger, businessman in San Francisco and Oakland.)
- Property Divided by Delger Heirs, San Francisco Call, March 18, 1910
- Worked Hard, Died Wealthy, San Francisco Call, April 26, 1898
- Young Delger Not Cut Off, San Francisco Call, April 27, 1898
- Frederick Delger Approaches Death, San Francisco Call, February 26, 1898