MAHE, Gustave

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MAHE, Gustave (1831-1878), president of the French Mutual Benefit Society in San Francisco, as well as director general of the French Savings and Loan Society, La Societe Francaise d’Espargnes et de Prevoyance Mutuelle: Mahé, along with fourteen other primarily French and Italian shareholders, established the Buenaventura Mining Company in 1863, a venture with interests in gold and coal mines. Justinian Caire was its president, and Nicholas Larco its secretary. In 1869, Mahé, along with Caire, Larco, and seven others, became the founders of the Santa Cruz Island Company.

On September 17, 1878, Mahé committed suicide by pistol on September 11, 1878, almost a week after the September 11, 1878 run against the bank when many depositors withdrew their funds and the bank failed. Mahé’s widow, Elizabeth, was executrix of the estate. Mahé left a daughter and a namesake son, who, like his father, committed suicide. When the son died in Sioux City, Iowa in January 1900, two widows claimed his body.

In the News~

February 23, 1869 [SDU]: “Incorporations.— Articles of incorporation of the Santa Cruz Island Company were filed in the office of the Secretary of State yesterday. This corporation was formed for the purpose of engaging in and carrying on the business of raising cattle and selling and disposing of the same; of acquiring, holding, using and selling such real estate as may be requisite and necessary for the prosecution of ther business, etc. Capital stock, $300,000, in shares of $500 each, The principal place of business is in San Francisco. Trustees — Gustavo Mahe, Camile Martin, T. Lemmen Meyer, Thomas. J. Gallagher and Pablo Baca.”

January 22, 1873 [DAC]: “Santa Cruz Island Company. Annual Statement of the affairs of the Association for the term of 1872 as reported to the general meeting of the Stockholders held January 20, 1872: Receipts from January 1 to December 31, 1872… General total of receipts $82,074.67 Disbursements for the same period of time… Same total as above. Out of this amount of profits $48,806.08… Gustav Mahe, President. T. Lemmen Meyer, Vice President. Camilo Martin, Treasurer. M. DeKirwin, Secretary.”

February 17, 1873 [SFDEB]: “Office of the Santa Cruz Island Company, San Francisco, February 6, 1873. In accordance with a resolution adopted at a meeting of the Trustees of the Santa Cruz Island Company, duly held on February 5th, 1873, a special meeting of the stockholders of said company is hereby called to be held at the office of the company, room No. 10, Belden’s Block, No. 137 Montgomery St., San Francisco, California, on Monday, the tenth day of March, 1873, at the hour of one o’clock PM of said day, to take into consideration and decide upon a proposition to increase the capital stock of said company from $300,000, divided into 600 shares pf $500 each, the present capital stock, to $500,000, divided into 100 shares of $5,000 each. Justinian Caire, T. Lemmen Meyer, Gustave Mahe, trustees.”

September 18, 1878 [LAH]: “Suicide of Gustav Mahe. San Francsico, Sept. 17—Gustav Mahe, President of the French Savings Bank, committed suicide about 6 o'clock this evening, in his sleeping room, over the bank, by shooting himself in the mouth. He left the bank about a quarter to 6, at which time the Cashier, Mr. Jourdan, noticed nothing unusual in his manner, and went up to his room. A few minutes after a pistol shot was heard, and on entering his room Mr. Mahe was found lying on the bed, dead, with blood flowing from his mouth. He had removed his coat and boots and taken all the papers from his pockets and deposited them on a table. A double-barrelled pistol of French make lay beside him. The coroner was at once notified, and on the arrival of a deputy, the papers of deceased were examined. They were of a miscellaneous character, such as would ordinarily be found in the possession of a man of business, and there was nothing among them conveying the slightest hint as to the motive of the suicide, unless a notice from the London and San Francisco Bank that deceased's note for $30,000 would fall due tomorrow, might be so considered. It will be remembered that a few days ago the Bank Commissioners made an examination of the affairs of the bank. They found everything in a perfectly satisfactory condition, and so reported. The fact that an examination was going on, however, alarmed many small depositors, who started a run on the institution, lasting two or three days and resulting in the withdrawal of about a quarter of a million. Mr. Jourdan, Cashier, states that deceased apparently felt no uneasiness about the run, although it naturally annoyed him somewhat. He cannot think that that had anything to do with the suicide; neither does he believe the note coming due tomorrow is in any way responsible for deceased's action, as he considers Mr. Mahe a man of considerable wealth. He professes to be at an utter loss to account on any reasonable hypothesis for the suicide. Mr. Mahe's family is at present at San Marino, with the exception of one son, who is now in Europe at school. Deceased was about 56 years of age and an old and highly esteemed citizen.”

October 4, 1896 [LAT]: “San Francisco. Dr. Gustave Mahé of this city has fallen heir to a fortune by the death of his aunt at Limoges, France. He and his only sister, Mrs. MacMullin, and her husband Dr. MacMullin of Oakland, are at present in Limoges looking after the inheritance, which is valued at millions of francs. Dr. Mahé and Mrs. MacMullin are the only heirs to the estate of the late Veuve Paponeau, the wealthiest woman of Limoges, their only aunt. Their father was Gustave Mahé, the president of the French Savings Bank, who maintained a luxurious home in San Mateo. The old banker had unlimited faith in the future of California, and made liberal loans on outside lands and real estate in interior cities. He purchased tracts of land in South San Francisco, Los Angeles and other places. During the panic of 1878 he was unable to realize his holdings. Ruin seemed inevitable, and on September 18 of that year, the old banker committed suicide by shooting himself, after he sacrificed his private fortune to save the bank from disaster…”

  • Pablo Baca
  • Justinian Caire
  • Giovanni Battista Cerruti
  • Thomas J. Gallagher
  • Adrien Gensoul
  • Nicolas Larco
  • Gustave Mahé
  • Camilo Martin
  • T. Lemmen Meyer
  • Alexander Weill