Christian Schreiber, the pioneer furniture merchant of San Francisco and Oakland, was born near Carlsruhe, in Baden, Germany, November 14, 1828, a son of Philip and Elizabeth Schreiber. The family came to America about 1835 and settled in New York. The father, a tailor by trade, moved to Rochester a few months later and was there established as a merchant tailor. In 1852 he paid a visit to this coast with his son, the subject of this sketch, remaining a year, and again in 1854 with his wife. The mother died in Oakland at the age of sixty-seven; the father survived her some years and died in that city also, in his eighty-first year.
Christian Schreiber learned the trade of cabinet-maker and moved to Akron, Ohio, in 1849, where he worked in a furniture store until he was struck with the gold fever early in 1850. Borrowing $300, which he repaid two years later, --the original note he still treasures as a valuable relic, -- he left Akron, Ohio, for the land of gold April 15, 1850. The company was numerous at the start and had forty wagons, but gradually divided up and separated until he and a single companion, named Graffelman, found themselves making the journey alone and on foot from Green river, with a single mule as pack-bearer and but little to carry. They would have perished were it not for the kindness of the maligned Indians. At Carson river they were fortunately able to buy some provisions of a Mormon trader. They arrived at Weaverville, July 27, and on the 29th at Coloma, where Mr. Schreiber mined about two months. His health having been impaired by the hardships of the journey and the insufficiency as well as unwholesomeness of the food, he gave up mining and went to Sacramento. Recovering somewhat, his first job of work was to make a bagatelle table, another party supplying the funds and the billiard balls. They got $450 for the table, which they divided equally. Mr.Schreiber then made one trip as teamster to the mines, and in November moved to San Francisco, where he worked a short time as carpenter. Before the close of the year 1850, he went into the furniture and carpet business. Among his earliest jobs in that line was the making of ship mattresses, which were in great demand at that time. But he soon yearned for the mines and was not content until he again tried that pursuit. Remaining, however, but a short time so engaged, he resumed mattress-making in San Francisco, in the spring or early summer of 1851. Mr. Schreiber went East in January, 1852, paid his indebtedness to the money-lender in Akron, Ohio, and went to Rochester, New York, where he rejoined his wife.
He was married in Rochester, in 1848, to Miss Jane Scutt, a native of Monroe county, New York. After six months' absence he returned to San Francisco, via the Isthmus, with his wife and accompanied by his father, his brother Philip, his sister (the late Mrs. Graffelman) and her four children. Resuming business he has continued ever since in the manufacture and importation of furniture, bedding and carpets. He started a branch store in Oakland in 1873, in charge of his brother, Philip, now in Tucson, Arizona. In 1875 he sold out his business in San Francisco and took charge of his store here, to which he has since given his attention, enlarging his floor room from time to (sic) accommodate his constantly increasing trade, until he now occupies the stores 1,064, 1,066, and 1,070 Broadway, the entire floor-room being 20,000 feet. In furniture and carpets and the supplemental lines of goods usually found in such stores, he keeps a large and varied assortment of quality and the latest style. Mrs. Christian Schreiber died in San Francisco in 1865, leaving one child, Lolita J., now residing in this city, the widow of James Mitchell. In 1867, with his daughter, Mr. Schreiber made a trip to Europe, being absent about six months. On his return he was married in Rochester, New York, to Martha Gerald, born in Vermont, a daughter of Carley Gerald, also a native of that State and now living with his daughter at Oakland, at the age of eighty-five. Mr. and Mrs. Schreiber have five children: Mary Elizabeth; Gerald, a graduate of Heald's Business College in San Francisco, and bookkeeper for his father; Martha, now attending an art school in San Francisco; Brock, Christian and Gracie, both attending the Cole School, Oakland.
Transcribed 4-28-05 Marilyn R. Pankey
Source: "The Bay of San Francisco," Vol. 2, pages 65-66, Lewis Publishing Co, 1892.
© 2005 Marilyn R. Pankey.