Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz

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Jacobo Zobel y Zangroniz was born on October 12, 1842. He was a mayor (alcalde) of Manila, as well as a polyglot academician, world renowned numismatist, pharmaciest, construction magnate, scholar and businessman. He is considered the first Filipino Zobel. He was born in Manila to Jacobo Zobel y Hirsch (1815-1866), a German pharmacist, and Maria Ana Zangroniz y Arrieta (1818-1848), the daughter of a Real Audiencia judge. His father was one of a long line of German pharmacists who would make Manila their primary home. Jacobo Zobel y Hirsch opened the family pharmaceutical laboratories in 1843. It primary location was Calle Real, Intramuros.

Early Life

At the age of 6 he was sent to Hamburg, Germany, to study in Dr. Brandmann's private school from 1848 to 1852. He was then enrolled in the public "johanneum" also in Hamburg from 1852 to 1858, whereupon he continued his higher studies at the Universidad Central de Madrid, taking up natural sciences. It was there where he explored his lifelong fascination with medicine, chemistry and archeology. In doing so he mastered 11 languages. He befriended the young numismatist Don Antonio Delgado of Madrid, who inspired his scholarship on antiquarian coins. He traveled to several museums in Europe to research more about his collecting hobby and he published the classic monograph titled "Memoria sobre las monedas libiofenicias o teudetanas" which is still published and used in Spanish universities to this day. He graduated from the university in 1864.


He returned to Manila to assume management of the pharmacutical laboratories of the family. Brought up as a liberal he welcomed the appointment of Governor General Carlos de la Torre. He became a member of the Manila Municipal Board and the Socieded Economica de los Amigos del Pais.

He was appointed Regidor de Manila until December 31, 1870 by the liberal Governor-General Carlos de la Torre, who was very aware of the bright young man's ideas. During his term he introduced many liberal reforms: public schools, the first tree-planting activities, and agitated for representation in the Spanish Cortes. He also opened the first Public Reading Room and Library during his term.

Because of his many liberal ideas, he became suspect immediately after the Cavite Mutiny of 1872. On September 22, 1874 he was imprisoned in Fort Santiago for several months on a charge of sedition. He was cited also for possession of firearms and revolutionary pamphlets.

The German Prince Bismarck made representations to the Spanish government to have him released. He married Doña Trinidad Roxas de Ayala (1856-1918) on February 5, 1875. They took a whirlwind honeymoon trip to Japan, San Francisco, the Worlds Fair in 1876, and Europe, where their children were born. They decided to live for a while in Spain when Zobel decided to study transportation systems in Europe, and he renewed his numismatic research, publishing a major work entitled "Estudio histórico de la moneda antigua española desde su origen hasta el imperio romano" in 1878.

Sometime in 1880 the couple returned to Manila. He became a representative of Eiffel and Co. of Paris and built Ayala Bridge. He became a partner of Ayala y Cia (formerly Roxas y Cia) from 1876 to 1891. On December 1885 he established the first tramways in Manila, the Manila-Tondo line, which extended to Malabon powered by steam. His capitalist partner was the Spanish banker Don Adolfo Bayo and his local partner was one of the richest Filipinos of that time Don Gonzalo Tuason. Eventually he built 4 other major tram lines in Manila and vicinity drawn by horses (Malate, Sampaloc to Tondo). Don Jacobo and Doña Trinidad lived in a magnificent mansion on Calle General Solano, San Miguel, Manila. He was appointed member of the Consejo De Administration by the King of Spain on May 25, 1882. He was also member of the Sociedad Economica de Amigos del Pais, a conciliario of Banco Español Filipino and the secretary of the Camara de Comercio de Manila. He became a member of the prestigious Real Academia de la Historia from 1865 to 1896. He received numerous awards, including the Gran Cruz de la Real Orden Americana de Isabel la Catolica in 1880. Caballero de la Orden de Carlos III, and knight-commander of the Order of the Northern Star of Sweden and Norway.

He died on October 6, 1896, while under suspicion once again of supporting the Philippine revolution. Don Jacobo and Doña Trinidad had four children: Enrique (1877-1943) who would marry Consuelo Roxas and upon her premature death, Fermina Montojo; Alfonso (1877-1882); Fernando (1876-1949) who married Concepcion Tremoya; and Margarita Zobel de Ayala (1881-1963) who married Antonio Melián, Conde de Peracamps (1879-1956).


  • E. Arsenio Manuel, "Dictionary of Philippine Biography, Vol. 2", Quezon City: Filipiniana Publications, 1970.
  • Manuel Artigas, "Sr. Jacobo Zobel de Zangroniz" Día Filipino, December 1913.
  • Antonio Canovas del Castillo, "Biografia de D. Jacobo Zobel de Zangroniz", Boletin de la Real Academia de la Historia, v 30 no 2 (Feb 1897).
  • Lourdes Brillantes, "81 Years of Premio Zobel." Georgina Padilla y Zobel, 2006.

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