Frederick “Fred” Landsberg

Birth: 1857 in Berdichev, Ukraine
At the time of his birth, Berdichev was a part of Poland.

Death: June 14, 1935 (age 77-78) in Victoria, B.C.

Frederick Landsberg was born in 1859 in Berdichev, Ukraine (or Berditchchef, Poland) to Orthodox parents. He was one of 17 children. As a youth he served in the Russo-Turkish war. He witnessed the massacre of several of his close relatives. To escape the riots/pogroms and with support from the Baron de Hirsch Program, Frederick Landsberg came to Canada. It is said that he came via a cattle boat from Hamburg to Quebec. While in a lumber camp in Quebec, he was viciously attacked by group of drunken men who threatened to crucify him.

After that incident, Frederick Landsberg became a laborer on the railroad. Saving his money he was then able to buy merchandise which he peddled en route. This enabled him to earn the money he needed to come to Victoria. He arrived in Victoria in 1884 with $500.00 (about $12,000 in 2017).

Teaming up with Samuel Kirschberg they opened a clothing store. As many of their customers were Indigenous People by 1887 their business became a combination loan office and curio boutique. Their clothing store was successful and they opened a branch store in Vancouver. Frederick Landsberg ran the Vancouver location. By 1891 they had expanded to 3 stores, two in Victoria and one in Vancouver.

In 1890 Fredrick Landsberg learned Chinook so that he could better communicate with his First Nations customers. He began selling their handicrafts and gained the reputation as being an honorable trader. Landsberg and Kirschberg shipped some valuable pieces of Northwest Coast Indian art to the 1892 World’s Columbian Expo in Chicago.

Frederick Landsberg was successful when he married Erna Esther Marymont in Seattle in 1895. They moved to Victoria and had 2 daughters. Not long after the birth of their second daughter, Fredrick Landsberg went bankrupt. However when curio dealer Jack Hart died in 1900 and Frederick Landsberg had the funds to acquire the shop. It was known as the Indian Bazaar. The building still stands at 565 Johnson.

Frederick Landsberg shipped 5 cases of very old and valuable artifacts from Hart’s collection to the museum at the University of Pennsylvania. He turned the ground floor of the Indian Bazaar into a curio shop and installed his own private collection on the second floor. Calling it the Landsberg’s Free Museum it attracted many visitors including the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V and Queen Mary). For the Duke and Duchess’ visit in 1901 Mayor Charles Hayward asked Frederick Landsberg to curate a special display of artifacts, arrange a meeting with a delegation of First Nation leaders and to present the Duke with a Medicine Man carved by First Nations carvers. In 1908, Frederick Landsberg closed the Indian Bazaar. Unable to interest the local museum in the pieces of art, he was forced to sell his remaining stock to curators for various out of province museums.

Known for charging fare prices and well respected for his knowledge and artistic judgment, Frederick Landsberg continued his curio business on the side. Thirty-five American museums and a number of collectors used him as their representative in the curio trade.

Around 1910 Landsberg went into the real estate business with William Davies establishing the Empire Realty Co. The business flourished until 1914.

Frederick Landsberg was a leading philanthropist. He was chosen Best Citizen of Victoria in May 1930; was given the Appreciation Medal, the Victoria Pose of Native Sons and Daughters of BC and also received the Jubilee Medal in 1935.

Frederick Landsberg died in 1935 and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery beside his wife Erna who died in 1915 at the age of 40. The gravestone is of a truncated tree which often symbolizes a life too short.

Gravesite Details: Row G – Plot 34

1857 – 1935

Hannah Landsberg
Abraham Landsberg

Erna Esther Marymont Landsberg (1876-1915)

Beatrice Hanna Regina Landsberg Whilans (1897–1967)

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