Dockweiler, Isidore B. (Isidore Bernard), 1867-1947

Alternative names
Birth 1867-12-28
Death 1947-02-06

Biographical notes:

Biography / Administrative History

The Dockweiler family story has been closely intertwined with the course of Los Angeles and consequently California history. The great Gold Rush was instrumental in bringing the first Dockweiler to Los Angeles, Henry Dockweiler (1824-1887), who settled here by 1852 after trying, apparently without success, his hand in the gold fields of northern California. Part of the American story of immigration, Henry and his wife Margaretha (1827-1924) were both immigrants, he from Bavaria, she from Alsace. They married in Los Angeles in 1861, after meeting in the Buffalo, New York area, their chief residence in the United States before making Los Angeles their home

Henry established the Dockweiler reputation in Los Angeles religious, political, and civic life, areas in which his offspring would also distinguish themselves and perpetuate the family name. Henry was one of the owners of the La Fayette (sic) Hotel, a major social center in Los Angeles, and he also ran other businesses, such as a saloon. More importantly for Dockweiler family history, Henry took up politics, which his youngest son Isidore would also successfully pursue. An active Republican because of his opposition to the secession of the South, Henry held public office, serving the Third Ward as its representative on the Los Angeles City (or Common) Council from 1870 to 1874. Henry also became involved in such reform groups as the People's Independent Party, holding council office for the Third Ward in 1873 as a member of this party.

Henry was noteworthy not only for his secular pursuits in Los Angeles. Characteristic of the Dockweiler family, Margaretha and Henry were devoutly Roman Catholic: Margaretha's obituary in the Roman Catholic newspaper The Tidings praised both her and her husband's piety and especially singled out her relationship with the Sisters of Charity.

Margaretha and Henry had four sons, one of whom, John Joseph, died in infancy. The three surviving brothers were John Henry (1864-1941), Joseph Aloysius (d. 1918), and Isidore Bernard (1867-1947). The middle son would not distinguish himself, at least not in the way that his brothers John Henry and Isidore did: the two would achieve prominence in Los Angeles and California, and in Isidore's case, the nation.

John Henry Dockweiler 's professional expertise lay in engineering, and noteworthy is his major role in the erection of the infrastructure of modern Los Angeles. Henry, as he was called, served as the City Engineer of Los Angeles for two terms: 1890-1894, and 1896-1898. Both stints were eventful. In the first Henry built the city's first outfall sewer, bringing the project in under cost. In the second, Henry was a key player in the transfer of the city water system from private to municipal ownership: he appraised, at the order of the Los Angeles City Council, the property of the Los Angeles City Water Co., the private company that owned the city water system. His appraisal would play a role in a board of arbitration's decision on the price of the transfer of the water system from the private company to the City.

Henry was also important in the development of other parts of water systems in California. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, Henry would live in the Bay Area, where he ran an engineering firm that consulted on water works and irrigation systems for, among other local governments, the Cities of San Francisco and Oakland. Henry also had a military career, serving as a major and engineer officer in the California National Guard. Married to the widow Margaret ("Mattie") Ameila Dockweiler, the couple had no children; Margaret followed Henry in death in 1952.

Isidore B. Dockweiler would gain even greater stature than that won by John Henry Dockweiler. The younger brother's life mirrored that of his father and older brother. This meant an active faith, and political interests, and like his older brother, a Roman Catholic education at old St. Vincent's, from which he received the first A.B. Law was Isidore's professional calling, studying the subject with the Los Angeles law firm of Anderson, Fitzgerald, and Anderson, and passing his bar examination before the California State Court in 1889. How his legal practice grew after this point is uncertain. Isidore partnered with various lawyers, eg, John Mott in the 1920s, and his sons would join him in these partnerships. No doubt, though, by the decade of the 1910s, the Dockweiler law firm was powerful in Los Angeles, eventually counting among its many clients John Paul Getty, Hollywood celebrities, the government of the Mexican state of Baja California, and such business corporations as Security-First National Bank.

Intertwined with the growth of Isidore B. Dockweiler's legal practice was participation in Democratic Party politics. As a teenager, Isidore had rallied to the candidacy of Grover Cleveland, leading to further involvement in local Democratic politics. By 1896 he was prominent enough in the Democratic Party that he oversaw William Jennings Bryan's presidential campaign swing through southern California. Isidore's status as a delegate to the county and state Democratic conventions had probably paved the way for this leadership. In 1902, his stature in the party meant his placement as lieutenant-governor on the gubernatorial ticket of Franklin Lane . The Lane-Dockweiler candidacy lost, but barely, to the Republican George C. Pardee. In 1926, reacting to the power of William McAdoo in the California Democratic Party and his pro-Volstead Act sentiments, anti-McAdoo Democrats, such as James Phelan, would draft Isidore Dockweiler to run for senator in the Democratic primary against John B. Elliott, whom McAdoo supported. Isidore would lose, but Elliott lost the general election to the Republican Samuel M. Shortridge.

Isidore B. Dockweiler would also participate in national Democratic Party activities, serving on the Democratic National Committee from 1916 to 1932. He was a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions in 1908, 1936, and 1940, and in 1932 read Jefferson's Inaugural Address to the Democratic National Convention. Isidore's influence proved critical in the Democratic Party's decision to hold its national convention in 1920 in San Francisco.

Both as a lawyer and as a Democrat Isidore B. Dockweiler was influential, resulting in his membership on numerous corporate boards, such as the Lincoln Building and Loan Association, the Security-First National Bank, and the Los Angeles Union Terminal Company. In education, he served as trustee of the State Normal School in San Diego and of St. Vincent's College. Isidore Dockweiler was instrumental in the growth of the Los Angeles Public Library, holding office as its president (1901-1911). He served on the state board of parks and beaches; after his death Venice-Hyperion Beach was renamed Dockweiler State Beach in his honor. To stimulate Roman Catholic culture in Los Angeles, he helped found the Newman Club; his overall devotio fidelis to Roman Catholicism made him a Knight of St. Gregory, at the command of Pope Pius XI in 1924. In national politics, his relationship with President Woodrow Wilson led to his appointment to the Board of Indian Commissioners.

Isidore B. Dockweiler married Gertrude Reeve Dockweiler (1871-1937) in 1891. Gertrude was English by birth, her father the well-known architect Burgess Reeve (d. 1936), designer of the old Episcopal Pro-cathedral and old St. Vincent's Church in Los Angeles. Thirteen children were born to this marriage, eleven of whom survived infancy. Of these, John Francis Dockweiler (1895-1943) followed in his father's political, Democratic footsteps. He was a Democratic U.S. Congressman, District Attorney of Los Angeles County (1940-1943), and ran unsuccessfully for governor of California in the 1938 Democratic primary. Henry Isidore Dockweiler (1893-1970) served in the U.S. diplomatic corps in Japan, Spain, and China. Daughter Mary Dockweiler (1894-1988) was a prominent Los Angeles socialite, also very active in such charitable causes as the Los Angeles Orphanage Guild. She married twice, first to lawyer Willam Kenyon Young, son of the prominent California Democrat Milton K. Young, and after the former's death, she married Dr. Daniel Sooy . Edward Vincent Dockweiler (1901-1961) retired from the U.S. Navy as a rear admiral and earned the Bronze Star for his heroism in Japanese POW camps during World War II. George Augustine Dockweiler (1898-1983) was a well-known Los Angeles judge, and Frederick Charles Dockweiler (1909-2000) was a lawyer active in Los Angeles and California political issues. The other Dockweiler children were Louis Bernard Dockweiler (1911- 1944); Ruth Dockweiler (1903-1992), who married Quinn Brady; Rosario Dockweiler (1896-1972), who married Marcus Crahan; Thomas Aloysius Joseph Dockweiler (1892-1959), prominent Los Angeles lawyer and member of the City Social Service Commission; and Robert Dockweiler (1906-1941).


  • 1824: Bavaria Bavaria San José de Bavaria Avaria Oaks Elementary School Bavarihe Cavaria con Premezzo New Bavaria Post Office Arena Savaria Plaine de Tavaria Bavarian Forest Ski Trail Ruisseau Riendeau-Savaria Village of New Bavaria Soavarina Avaria Hotel Residenz Bavaria Bavarian Lodge Ski and Tennis Resort Bavarian Ritz Hotel Bavarian Alps Lavariano Bavarí Monte Bavarione Parc Savaria Bavaria Bavari Germany Federal Republic of Germany Henry Dockweiler born inBavaria,Germany.
  • 1852: Los Angeles Los Angeles Los Angeles Branch Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco Hawaiian Gardens Branch County of Los Angeles Public Library Quality Inn Los Angeles Los Angeles Pacific College (historical) KMPC-AM (Los Angeles) Los Ángeles Ángeles Los Ángeles Iglesia Bautista Los Angeles Heights Los Angeles East Los Angeles Administration Center Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 184 Los Ángeles Los Ángeles Santa Maria De Los Angeles Eglesia East Los Angeles Health Center Los Ángeles Los Ángeles Tetela Los Angeles Windmill Montaña Los Ángeles City of Los Angeles Fire Department Station 36 Los Angeles County Fire Department Station 24 California California New York New York Henry Dockweilerarrives inLos Angeles,Californiavia the Panama Canal fromNew Yorkstate.
  • 1861: Henry DockweilermarriesMargaretha Sugg.
  • 1867: Isidore Bernard Dockweiler, son of Margaretha and Henry,born.
  • 1870 - 1874 : Henry Dockweiler member of Los Angeles Common Council.
  • 1887: Henry Dockweiler dies.
  • 1889: Isidore B. Dockweilerpasses California State Bar Examination. He will eventually establish a leading legal practice in Los Angeles, along with sonsHenry I. DockweilerandThomas Dockweiler.
  • 1891: Isidore B. DockweilermarriesGertrude Reeve.
  • 1902: Isidore B. Dockweiler runs for lieutenant-governor onFranklin Lane's Democratic gubernatorial ticket.
  • 1924: Isidore B. Dockweiler made Knight of St. Gregory, at the command ofPope Pius XIin 1924.
  • 1916 - 1932 : Isidore B. Dockweilerserves on Democratic National Committee.
  • 1908: 1936: 1940: Isidore B. Dockweilerserves as delegate from California to Democratic National Convention.
  • 1933 - 1938 : John F. Dockweiler, son of Isidore B. Dockweiler, serves as Democratic congressman from California.
  • 1940 - 1943 : John F. Dockweilerserves as Los Angeles District Attorney.
  • 1942 - 1945 : Edward Vincent Dockweiler, son of Isidore B. Dockweiler, is prisoner of war in Japanese POW camps. Wins Bronze Star for heroism in captivity.
  • 1947: Isidore B. Dockweiler dies.

From the guide to the Dockweiler family papers, 1827-1996, 1890-1950, (Loyola Marymount University. William H. Hannon Library. Department of Archives and Special Collections)


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  • Civic leaders--California--Los Angeles--Biography--Sources
  • California--Politics and government--1850-1950--Sources
  • Los Angeles (Calif.)--Politics and government--Sources


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