James Lick

James Lick

A talented piano creator, millionaire and patron of science.
Date of Birth: 25.08.1796
Country: USA

  1. Early Life and Career
  2. Challenges and Successes in South America
  3. Settling in California and Entrepreneurial Success

James Lick: A Talented Piano Maker, Millionaire, and Patron of Science

James Lick, a renowned figure in 19th century United States, was a talented piano maker, millionaire, and patron of science. By the end of his life, Lick had become the wealthiest man in California and a benefactor who wished to leave a significant portion of his wealth to society.

Early Life and Career

James Lick was born on August 25, 1796, in Pennsylvania, into a family of carpenters. At a young age, James started learning the trade and quickly excelled in it. However, when he turned twenty-one, he experienced a personal tragedy – a breakup with his beloved girlfriend. Following this, he decided to start afresh and embarked on a journey to Baltimore, Maryland, to study the art of piano making. He rapidly mastered the craft and soon relocated to New York, where he opened his own shop. In 1821, upon learning about the successful export of his pianos to South America, James Lick moved to Argentina.

Challenges and Successes in South America

Initially, James faced difficulties in Buenos Aires as he did not speak Spanish and struggled to comprehend the political situation in the country during that period. However, his business thrived, and his wealth increased. In 1825, Lick embarked on a year-long tour of Europe, but unfortunately, just before his return, his ship was captured by the Portuguese. While most of the people aboard were taken as prisoners, Lick managed to evade capture. He eventually made his way back to Buenos Aires and started anew.

In 1832, James Lick returned to Stumptown, where he endeavored to reconnect with his former love interest. However, he faced disappointment and decided to venture abroad once again. This time, he chose not to go to Buenos Aires due to the volatile political situation. Instead, he traveled to Chile, where he stayed for four years before relocating to Peru.

Settling in California and Entrepreneurial Success

In 1846, James Lick returned to North America and settled in California. In January 1848, he arrived in San Francisco and soon established the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Subsequently, he began acquiring real estate in a small settlement near San Francisco, which experienced a housing boom due to the onset of the Gold Rush. Lick actively profited from this development.

In 1861, he built the Lick House, a hotel that was recognized as the finest west of the Mississippi River. Unfortunately, in 1906, the hotel was completely destroyed during the San Francisco earthquake. Nevertheless, the hotel marked the beginning of Lick's prosperous business ventures, making him the wealthiest man in California. James Lick passed away on October 1, 1876, in his own home in San Francisco. His fortune was dedicated to the betterment of society and the advancement of science.