Leidesdorff exhibit opens April 2 at history museum

By: Laura Newell Telegraph staff writer
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William Alexander Leidesdorff was dubbed Folsom’s first millionaire and will now be featured near the street that honors him. Curator and historian Queue Rolo of San Francisco will present the exhibition, “The life of William Alexander Leidesdorff, Folsom’s First Millionaire,” April 2 through May 15 at the Folsom History Museum in the historic district. Museum hours are from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays through Sundays. Admission to the exhibit is $4 for adults, $2 for youth and free for children 12 years-old and younger. Leidesdorff lived from 1810 to 1848, and was the son of a Danish father and an African-American mother. “He was so incredible,” said Rolo. “He was in the center of so many things.” Rolo has researched Leidesdorff for the past five years and hopes to turn his work into a book in the near future. In Folsom’s history, Leidesdorff became known in 1841 after he received a 35,000-acre Mexican land grant that eventually became the City of Folsom. “I would like people to know that Joseph Folsom purchased the estate (for the city), but it was Leidesdorff that got the land grant,” Rolo said. “Leidesdorff is the original land-grant holder and Folsom purchased his estate.” The exhibit shows Leidesdorff’s accomplishments and how he broke the ground for Folsom and then the transition of how Joseph Folsom took over, Rolo said. Rolo said Leidesdorff’s other accomplishments include establishing the first hotel in San Francisco, building the first waterfront warehouse in San Francisco, establishing the first public school in California, introducing the first steam powered craft in the San Francisco Bay, becoming the first African American to represent the U.S. as Vice-Consul to Mexico, elected to be the first City Treasurer of San Francisco and the first African American to become a millionaire in America. The museum exhibit will feature historic photos, furniture, clothing and contemporary research of the era, said Mary Mast, Folsom History Museum director. This is the second exhibit Rolo has featured on Leidesdorff. Rolo said one of Leidesdorff’s greatest accomplishments was doing all that he did while being a mixed race. “His accomplishment (in Folsom) happened in a slave owning country and this man who was of mixed race accomplished this in a slave country,” Rolo said. “We want to show his early success, perhaps the most successful at his time.” For information, call (916) 985-2707 or visit