Harris Weinstock (1854-1922) was born in London, England, and immigrated to the U.S. in 1855. He relocated to California in 1869 and became a San Francisco merchant. With David Lubin, he established the Mechanic's Store in Sacramento, Calif. (1874). In 1888, the Mechanic's Store incorporated as the Weinstock-Lubin Company, which went on to become one of the West's largest department stores. Weinstock-Lubin's one-price policy revolutionized retail business and led to the proprietors having reputations for placing principle above gain. In addition to his business endeavors, Harris Weinstock held official positions in public service. His public service was especially concerned with labor and industrial affairs. He served as a member of the U.S. Industrial Relations Commission, to which President Woodrow Wilson appointed him (1913). As a State Market Director of California (1915, 1917), Weinstock facilitated the formation of growers' cooperative associations. He was also a philanthropist and an active member and officer of numerous civic and social organizations, including the Jewish Publication Society and the Commonwealth Club of California, of which he was founding president. He also served in the National Guard and wrote the book, Jesus the Jew and other addresses (1902). Harris Weinstock married Barbara Felsenthal in 1878 and together they had 4 children: Alice, Helen, Robert, and Walter.
The collection includes a small number of family papers, letters, and materials relating to Weinstock's business ventures and Weinstock's work on agricultural cooperatives. The collection consists primarily of Harris Weinstock's diaries and photographs. Aside from two small general diaries from 1881 and 1922, the diaries mostly document Weinstock's travel, some of which he undertook as a member of the American Commission (formed in 1912 at David Lubin's instigation to investigate farm finance and cooperative credit in Europe). These diaries consist of typewritten text, including observations on many topics of interest to Weinstock, as well as photographs and postcards (often used as illustrations of his points). There are three groups of travel diaries: first, a lengthy diary (487 pages) kept in 1889 which documents Weinstock's trip to Philadelphia and then to Europe with Rabbi Joseph Krauskopf, a prominent nineteenth-century American rabbi (then serving a congregation in Philadelphia); second, diaries from Weinstock's travels in 1908-1909 to the following places: Italy, Austria, Russia, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, France, England, Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, India, Ceylon, Australia, New Zealand,the Philippines, China, Korea, Japan, and parts of Africa; and third, diaries kept by Weinstock on his investigative trips, including one to Panama with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce in 1912 (with accompanying photographs of the construction of the Panama Canal) and a trip to Europe with the American Commission in 1913. The American Commission trip diaries include Weinstock's general observations as well as more specific observations about agricultural practice in various European nations. The collection also includes pages from three scrapbooks. Two consist of clippings of Weinstock's newspaper articles and reviews of Weinstock's book, Jesus the Jew (1902). The third is a scrapbook relating to the American Commission trip to Europe in 1913. Photographs in the collection (those not already in the travel diaries) include some personal and family photographs as well as pages of photograph albums from Weinstock's travels throughout Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa in 1908 and 1909. Some of these photographs provide examples of the handcoloring of photographs that was popular at the time. The collection also contains the document testifying to Weinstock's appointment to the Industrial Relations Commission, which was signed by President Wilson and Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, and the marriage certificate of Samuel Frankenheimer and Helen Weinstock (1920).