David Oppenheimer was an entrepreneur who served as the second mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia from 1888 to 1891.
Born in 1834, David came from a family of ten children. His mother died when he was only four years old, so he was raised by his vintner father, Salomon. Like many visionaries, David traveled across the Atlantic Ocean to build a better life in Canada after he fled his native Bavaria in 1848. After a brief stint in the California Gold Rush, the Oppenheimers migrated to British Columbia in 1858, where they founded the Charles Oppenheimer and Company supply business. Keeping their history close, the Oppenheimers maintained a business that catered to the needs of explorers and settlers of newfound Canadian territories. David would provide settlers with the support they needed, raising money for the construction of key parts of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He urged the federal government not to abandon railway funds from the lower stretches of British Columbia to the Vancouver Islands.
David would never lose his ties to the Vancouver area, engaging himself wholeheartedly in the city’s politics. In fact, much of the city owes its very existence to him. Leading up to 1886, David petitioned British Columbia’s provincial government to incorporate Granville into the broader Vancouver area. The citizens of Vancouver were deeply grateful to David for his efforts on their behalf, and elected him mayor in 1887. As mayor, he promoted Vancouver industries in natural resources, working to build ties between Western and Eastern Canada, Canada and the United States, and Canada and Europe. David also invested in maintaining resources by and for the residents of Vancouver, establishing the Vancouver Water Works Company and the Vancouver Electric Railway and Light Company.
David Oppenheimer’s legacy is one of success and perseverance, inside and outside of his political career. Like the many dreamers who first built Canada, David came to our country in search of a better life, and he built one with his own efforts and wits. David overcame adversity in his native country and found a home in Canada, thriving on the land’s unique opportunities and always looking to give back to his fellow Canadians regardless of where they were from or their religion. Oppenheimer was a lifelong supporter of charity, donating generously to such organizations as the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), the Alexandra Orphanage, and various Jewish groups. If any person ever represented the promise of Canada, it was David Oppenheimer, whose commitment to bettering his community and building ties between the different components of our country stands as a shining example to us all.