William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr., was born October 23, 1810 in the Virgin Islands. His mother, Anna Marie Sparks, was reportedly of African and Spanish decent. His father, Wilhelm Leidesdorff, Sr., a sugar planter, was reportedly of Danish and Jewish decent. Young William arrived in California in 1841 and is credited as one of the founders of the city of San Francisco. He used proceeds acquired as a highly successful businessman to purchase large swaths of land. William played a key role organizing the first public school, launched the first steamboat and opened the first hotel in the area. He died on May 18, 1848 at the age of 38 from “brain fever” in San Francisco.

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