Isaias Hellman, Helen Hunt and NBC’s "Who Do You Think You Are?"

I had the opportunity to appear on NBC’s popular genealogy show “Who Do You Think You Are?”with the Academy Award-winning actress Helen Hunt. In searching for her roots, Hunt discovered she was a descendant of William Scholle, a German Jew who came to San Francisco around the time of the Gold Rush and who became a successful insurance broker and investor.

In 1890, Scholle, who was living in New York by that time, was one of a handful of investors allowed to by shares of stock in Isaias Hellman’s Nevada Bank. Hellman had come from Los Angeles to San Francisco to rescue the failing bank and scores of millionaires lined up to buy in. They were convinced that anything Hellman invested in would be successful. Hellman, however, had more demand for stock than he could supply, so he limited sales to family, like Mayer Lehman of Lehman Brothers, and close business associates, like Levi Strauss. Scholle Brothers got about $25,000 worth of stock.

Hunt knew nothing about this and really liked the idea that her great great grandfather and my great great grandfather were business partners and possibly friends.

But she was even more amazed that the Nevada Bank eventually merged with Wells Fargo Bank, now one of the nation’s largest banks.

Click here for a clip of the show. It first aired on NBC on March 23, 2012.

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  1. Laura Spinella on February 11, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Hi Frances,

    Terrific looking new site! I look forward to reading your blogs!


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