Shortly after immigrating to Pittsburgh from Hammelburg, Bavaria, in 1867, Phillip Hamburger (1849-1921) went into the whiskey business. By the turn of the century, he owned one of the largest wholesale distilleries in the country. He represented the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at three International Commercial Congresses, in Prague, Milan and Brussels. The business came to an end with the onset of Prohibition in 1920, a year before his death.
Phillip Hamburger married his first cousin, Fannie Hanauer (1855-1900), the daughter of Meyer Hanauer and Henrietta Lehrburger Hanauer of Pittsburgh. The couple raised five children, Alfred, Stella, Bessie, Alice and Harriet, in Allegheny City.
The Hamburgers were prominent members of Pittsburgh Jewish society. In 1906, he hosted 90 people at the Concordia Club for a dinner dance in honor of his daughters Bessie and Harriet. Each table included water-colored place cards, a centerpiece of pink roses, and mirrors, fans and silver matchboxes as party favors. His daughter Stella Hamburger married Marcus Aaron, son of the malt and grain dealer Louis I. Aaron.
Phillip Hamburger was a founding member of the Concordia Club, a trustee of Rodef Shalom Congregation and director of the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House. He funded an expansion of the nursing staff at the settlement house, which eventually became Pittsburgh Visiting Nurse Service. As president of the Columbian Council (now National Council of Jewish Women, Pittsburgh Section), Fannie Hamburger was among a group of six women who founded the Columbian Council School, an educational center for newly arrived immigrants, the predecessor to the Irene Kaufmann Settlement.
In 1911, Phillip Hamburger dedicated an annex at the Gusky Home and Orphanage in memory of his wife, who had died in 1900. The two-story Fannie H. Hamburger Dormitory increased the capacity of the facility by nearly 50 percent, adding 32 beds in two rooms.