Kelly's contemporaries — that is Americans living in the first half of the nineteenth century — would not have been too very surprised. Although cultural bias and legal practice gave men enormous power in both business and finance, it was not all that uncommon in that time for widows to be business proprietors and to control bank accounts and investments as legatees of their husbands.
These contemporaries were well accustomed to see women working to support themselves and their families. Probably most women in early nineteenth-century New York had an occupation of some sort — something other than, or more likely in addition to, the role of housewife and mother. Farm wives had always worked along side their menfolk and in the towns and cities, many wives worked with husbands in their trades. Before marriage or instead of it, many women took service in middle class households as housekeepers, maids, cooks, and drudges. Whether married, single, or widowed, huge numbers of them took in lodgers and ran boarding houses, did piece-work sewing and spent drudge hours in sweat-shop tenement rooms. They were entertainers, they were whores, and, at the bottom of the economic pyramid, they were hawkers, rag pickers, thieves, and beggars. Most of these busy women were immigrants or first-generation Americans and for them the ideal American household with a wife and mother who spent but did not have to make money was an impossible dream.
John A. Kelly's mother and business partner was Anna Maria Werner, known as Mary. The women of her family seem to have been accustomed to ownership of property. She had been born in 1754 on a farm near Charleston, SC, and, after a long life, died in New York in 1840. The farm was a land grant obtained in 1753 by her grandmother. When her father, John Jacob Werner, died in 1783, he left one third of his farm to his wife and two thirds to Mary. Although she had married Kelly's father, John Jacob Kölle, some nine years earlier, it is her name that appears on the will, not his.
John A. Kelly married a woman named Anna Maria Friedle. Like Kelly, she came from a family in which women owned property and engaged in trade.
Early in the nineteenth century, her parents migrated from Germany to the British island of Helgoland. In 1810 or 1811 her father died and her mother brought her two sons and three daughters to New York. A news piece in the New York Times reports that Anna Maria's mother, Maria Catherine, — "having abundant means and an eye to business" — then bought a house in downtown Manhattan and hired young women to make artificial flowers. This business was not an unusual one for a woman to engage in. The Times reporter says "The business grew, until more than 100 girls were employed in the factory, which was afterward built back of the house at 117 William Street."
This page from Longworth's city directory shows Maria Catherine Friedle to have been in the artificial flower business in 1825-26.
Maria Catherine probably chose the artificial flowers business not just because it was a culturally acceptable one for women entrepreneurs but also because there was a ready market. Before the disruption of trade caused by the Revolution and Napoleonic wars, Paris had been the main source of artificial flowers in America. When the turmoil of that period came to an end and exports of artificial flowers resumed the French struggled to regain a market share. It took them more than a decade to do this and during that period the Friedle family began to diversify its business both by spreading south (to Charleston) and by starting new enterprises.
One of the new enterprises was a wax-work, or as we would say now, a wax museum. This was another area where women, or at least one famous one, had staked out a claim in business ownership; I'm referring to the still-famous Madame Tussaud whose museum had traveled through Europe early in the nineteenth century and taken root in London in the early 1830s. Maria Catherine would have been attracted to the wax-work business for some of the same reasons she went into artificial flowers. The sculpting of wax figures was akin to manufacture of artificial flowers. Both were French specialties and the flowers that accompanied wax sculptures might be made from fabric as often as from wax. The business would also have seemed attractive since the exhibitions of wax figures in Europe (not just Madame Tussaud's) were known to be extremely popular. Yet another factor in the family's decision would very likely have been the success of Gardiner Baker's American Museum and Wax-Work just a few blocks from their home. Baker's large and heterogeneous collection included such wax figures as "The American Devine, the Philosopher, the Statesman, the Hero, the Venerable, the Artist, the Beautiful, and the Ugly."
In about 1816 the Friedle family hired Italian artisans who made for them a set of tableaux that were quite similar to Baker's and — as you can see from this ad which they placed in the Evening Post of July 1, 1817 — they invited New Yorkers to come see their new wax-work.
Soon afterwards the proprietor named in this ad — Maria Catherine's younger son, John A. Friedle — took a collection of wax figures to Charleston. One account says the pieces he took were all religious subjects. This directory listing shows him to have been there in 1822.
A small static collection of wax figures could not count on sustained patronage in a relatively small city like Charleston. Depictions of Jael, wife of Heber and slayer of Sisera; Hagar and Ishmael; Herod slaying the Children; and John the Baptist Beheaded might fascinate those who beheld them, but the number of those willing to put out cash in order to see them would quickly dwindle. Thus it's not surprising that John A. soon moved his collection to another locale, although it does surprise that he chose Cuba for his destination. This proved to be a mistake as he came down with yellow fever, had to sell the collection, and died during the voyage home to New York.
Anna Maria had been active in management of the wax museum and had accompanied her brother in the move to Charleston. When he moved the collection to Cuba she set up a millinery shop on King Street. There, she met and married Kelly whose dry goods business was close by.
The dry goods store was at 129 King Street. I don't have an address for the dress shop, but it may have been near the wax-work which was a few blocks south at the intersection of King and Market. This street-view image shows 129 King Street as it is today. Since Charleston has carefully preserved some of its oldest buildings, this could be the same structure in which John A. Kelly and his mother ran their dry goods store.
There was good money to be made in Charleston in the years from 1820 to the commencement of the Civil War. Cotton sales boomed and cotton sellers swarmed around the city's wharves. There's no reason to believe that Anna Maria and John A. did not prosper. Nonetheless, within a few years of their wedding they moved to New York with their two very young children, John Andrew Friedle Kelly (born 1822) and Maria Henrica Kelly (born 1824).
This brings us back to the land transaction I spoke of at the beginning of this post. There's not much to tell. This is how Owen Clough relates the story: "Sometime between 1825 and 1826 John A. Kelly moved to New York City with his wife and 2 children and resided with the Friedle family at 117 William St, Manhattan. In 1826, he purchased 115 acres of land with his sister in law, Catherine B. Buddy, in Newton, Queens from the heirs of the Sackett family. This acquisition was later to become the community of Woodside, Queens." I've looked in vain for information about Anna Maria's sister Catherine. There's almost nothing about her and nothing at all about a marriage with a man named Buddy. Her middle name is given as Barbara and it's a strange coincidence that John A. Kelly had a sister named Catharina Barbara Kelly; but the dates given by a reliable source show her to have died in infancy.
In the years following the move to New York of Anna Maria and her family, her mother, Maria Catherine, continued to run the wax museum. Note that she's listed as proprietor in this advertisement of August 1, 1830.
Maria Catherine died in 1833 the same year as her son-in-law John A. Kelly. Her daughter and his wife, Anna Maria, lived until 1882. On her death, this tribute appeared in the local newspaper, written by "a near neighbor." It's tempting to think that my great-grandfather was the author. He was a frequent contributor to the press and he would have known her well. She and he were not just neighbors, but also founding members of the first church built in the village of Woodside, St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal. Along with Maria Catherine's son, John A.F. Kelly, and another neighbor, William Sussdorf, he had put up money for its construction and all three served as vestrymen. The mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the three men were at least as deeply involved as they in the establishment and running of this church, and Anna Maria was prominent among them.
The Times' story of the Friedles of Woodside is useful though it contains some errors. The reporter probably put it together following a single interview with one or more surviving members of the Friedle and Kelly clans. The reference to the sensational Guldensuppe murder might serve as a warning that the piece is intended to amuse as much as to enlighten. One of the strangest errors is the reference to the Friedle family as "Freedles." Others include strange chronology (For example, Rubens Peale opened his museum in October 1825 and couldn't thus have provided a model for the Friedle museum which was in operation in 1817, and the Friedle collection wasn't moved to Cuba by "Mariah Freedle's" brother but by her son and not when the New York museum faltered but long before). Still, it's a useful account, so long as it's not taken for gospel.
This print shows, generally, what Charleston's King Street looked like when the Kelly dry goods store, and the Friedle millinery and wax-work, were present.
This aerial view from many decades later gives a general feel for the place.
The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York by Owen Clough
The History of the Sackett/Kelly/Howell Estate by Owen Clough
John A. Kelly on familysearch.org (by Owen Clough)
John A. Kelly on rootsweb (by Ann Corum)
John Kelly Family by members of the Dutch Fork Chapter, South Carolina Genealogical Society
John Werner Family by members of the Dutch Fork Chapter, South Carolina Genealogical Society
Kelly/Werner/Keckeley/Wharton/Martin families of Charleston, SC on rootsweb
Death of Caleb Tappen Howell, New York Times, December 10, 1911. Services at St. Paul's.
Caleb Tappan Howell, Sr on findagrave.com, by Owen Clough
Caleb Tappan Howell, Jr on findagrave.com, by Steven Howell
Anna Maria Friedle Howell, on findagrave.com, created by: Owen Clough, Mar 23, 2008
John Andrew Friedle Kelly on findagrave.com, by Owen Clough
Anna Maria Kelly Crandall by Owen Clough
Pioneers of Woodside, Story of the Early Residents of the Lately Famous Long Island Village. MARKS OF GERMAN INFLUENCE; Story of the Freedle Family from the Time of the Napoleonic Wars -- The Rikers, Kellys, and Howells on the Old Farm. New York Times, August 1, 1897
freedlefarm a family blog
Waxworks: a cultural obsession by Michelle E. Bloom (U of Minnesota Press, 2003)
The New York City directory (John Doggett, 1842) Lists as many women as men in the artificial flower trade: Mary Brehaut, Hannah Fowler, Mary D. Hammond, Mary Hawk, Ann E. Stuart, and, interestingly, Mary Ann Kelly at 173 William St.
St. Paul Episcopal Church. Extract: "St. Paul Protestant Episcopal Church was founded in 1874, and was the first church in the village of Woodside. That same year, a Carpenter Gothic building was erected with Gothic stained glass windows, overhanging eaves, vertical siding, and multicolored roof tiles. On December 26, 2007, the church was destroyed by fire."
"Peale's Museum" in The traveller's guide through the middle and northern states and the provinces of Canada by Gideon Miner Davison (G.M. Davison, 1837)
Reminiscences of Charleston, lately published in the Charleston Courier by Charles Fraser (J. Russell, 1854)
Charleston, South Carolina city directories: for the years 1816, 1819, 1822, 1825, and 1829 by James William Hagy (Genealogical Publishing Com, 1996)
Charleston, the place and the people by Harriott Horry Ravenel (The Macmillan Company, 1906)
Longworth's American almanack, New-York register, and city directory (New York, Printed and published by David Longworth, 1825-6)
"The Commercial Progress of Gotham" by Louis Windmuller in The Progress of the Empire State: New York State and City by Charles Arthur Conant (The Progress of the Empire State Company, 1913)
Women at Work
Unexceptional women: female proprietors in mid-nineteenth-century Albany, New York, 1830–1885 by Susan Ingalls Lewis (Ohio State University, 2009) (pdf) Extract: "Significant evidence that nineteenth-century women entered business, ranging from broad economic analyses to research on Irish immigrants to local histories, appeared to have little impact on nineteenth-century women’s, labor, or business history. Even those few studies that acknowledged the presence of female proprietors in this period argued that women entered business rarely, went in-and-out quickly, very seldom met with success according to standard masculine notions of success, and were limited to a few uniquely 'feminine' enterprises. ... We most often imagine and study nineteenth-century women in the United States in domestic roles within the middle class, as struggling working-class women, or as feminists in their quest for citizens’ rights. Yet tens of thousands of women (or perhaps hundreds of thousands) across the country engaged in endeavors that fit into none of these categories;.. they ran their own businesses and supported themselves (and often their families) from the profits. In fact, businesswomen abounded in the nineteenth-century United States." ... "These dry goods, notions, and variety dealers, these makers of hair jewelry, lace, fringes and tassels were rarely risk-taking capitalists but were far more often “self-employed” artisans, shopkeepers, and petty manufacturers. Most labored as well as supervised, and minded the store as well as ordered the goods... women used business as a method of self-employment and survival, as a means of family support and mobility, and as a strategy for immigrant assimilation into an urban economy and middle-class lifestyle."
Gendered Concerns: Thoughts on the History of Business and the History of Women by Wendy Gamber Indiana University (pdf)
Selected Bibliography: Women in Business
Women in Business in the Encyclopedia of Business
Making a Di erence: Women and Business History (pdf) Angel Kwolek-Folland. Incorporating Women: A History of Women and Business in the United States (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998) reviewed by Mary A. Yeager (Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles), published on H-Business (April, 1999)
The Cult of Domesticity and True Womanhood a component of professor Catherine Lavender's course, History and Women's Studies 386--Women in New York City, City University of New York.
 Earlier posts on this topic are here, here, and here.
 I give further details in a blog post from late June.
 The authors of the Dutch Fork Chapter, South Carolina Genealogical Society, say that "John A. Kelly ran a dry goods store with his mother at 129 King St. before moving to New York." This information is also given by a Kelly descendant, Owen Clough. In general, the work of Owen Clough has been the most helpful source of information about the people named in this blog post. You'll see his name frequently in the little bibliography that precedes these notes.
 Unexceptional women: female proprietors in mid-nineteenth-century Albany, New York, 1830–1885 by Susan Ingalls Lewis (Ohio State University, 2009)
 I've written about the bottom of the economic pyramid a couple of times. See for example: some residents of Five Points. Regarding the hawkers, for example, my great-grandfather said this in an article reminiscing about city commerce in the latter part of the 19th century: "We went through Barclay Street formerly over the Hoboken ferry, to the Elysian Fields and encountered squaws who came to sell moccasins they embroidered in their camp on Union Hill." -- "The Commercial Progress of Gotham" by Louis Windmuller in The Progress of the Empire State: New York State and City by Charles Arthur Conant (The Progress of the Empire State Company, 1913)
 domesticity: The Cult of Domesticity and True Womanhood a component of professor Catherine Lavender's course, History and Women's Studies 386--Women in New York City, City University of New York.
 The grandmother Margaretha Riesch Werner was then a widow her grandfather having died soon after the family's emigration from Germany. -- John Werner Family by members of the Dutch Fork Chapter, South Carolina Genealogical Society
 "Johannes Werner (Weaver) of Erpfingen, Germany, married October 1717, Margaretha Riesch, daughter of Andreas Riesch and Anna Maria Letsche. The family came to SC in 1752 on the Elizabeth. Johannes Werner did not survive to petition for bounty in SC. Margarita Werner petitioned 9 March 1753 for 100 acre bounty for herself and daughter, Barbara, age 22... [Their grand-daughter,] A. Maria Werner, died about 1840, married 23 January 1774, Johannes Kölle, born 8 October 1746, died 1791 (baker) son of John Jacob Kölle. They lived on King St. in Charleston, SC." -- Kelly/Werner/Keckeley/Martin/Wharton SC families on rootsweb
 City directories of the time list about as many women in the artificial flowers business as men.
 Pioneers of Woodside, New York Times, August 1, 1897
 Waxworks: a cultural obsession by Michelle E. Bloom (U of Minnesota Press, 2003)
 The brother and sister moved to Charleston before 1821, but I don't know the exact year. Nor do I know when it was that she set up the millinery shop. Owen Clough says: "Anna Maria set up a millinery shop on King St. where she presumably met her future husband, John A. Kelly... Anna Maria Friedle married John A. Kelly on March 8, 1821." -- The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York
 Friedle "took the collection to Havana and established it for the moral entertainment of the Cubans. Within a year after his arrival in Havana Freedle [sic.] was obliged to sell the museum on account of the unhealthy climate of his new home. He died at sea of yellow fever on the return voyage to New York. When his boxes arrived they had been rifled of everything of value, including the proceeds of the sale of the wax figures." -- Pioneers of Woodside, New York Times, August 1, 1897
 Some of this is conjectural. Owen Clough says "At some point, probably due to the sale of the artificial flowers to the southern market, Anna Maria Friedle and her brother, John Andreas Friedle moved to Charleston, S.C. Anna Maria set up a millinery shop on King St. where she presumably met her future husband, John A. Kelly. John Andreas Friedle established a wax museum, similar to the one that he had started in New York City. The museum was well received according to reviews of the day. He ultimately closed the museum and took the show to Cuba. The venture proved unsuccessful and he died on the trip home. Anna Maria Friedle married John A. Kelly on March 8, 1821." -- The Founding Families of Woodside, Queens, New York by Owen Clough
 Same source.
 Catharina Barbara Kelly, born 27 January 1780, died 22 July 1781. -- John Kelly Family, Dutch Fork Chapter, South Carolina Genealogical Society, Inc.
 I've described the murder on another occasion.