Monday, August 15, 2011

some children of 1905

At the turn of the 20th century the Detroit Photographic Company was known for its postcard views of majestic scenery, impressive buildings, and prosperous-looking citizens taking their leisure.[1] It did not do photojournalism, nor, though it made reproductions of famous paintings, did it aim to produce photographs that were themselves works of art. The company made photographs by commission or for retail sale. Except for the titles that appeared on its postcards, the business didn't require that descriptions accompany its photographs and for that reason there's often little more known about a subject than a copyright date, file number, and brief title.

Two classes of people rarely show up in its collections: children and members of the servant class, particularly African-Americans. Photographs of young African-American girls are especially hard to find and that makes this one particularly interesting. It, and the ones that follow, were taken in or about 1905. They come from collections of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.[2] As you can see, this one's title is Black Tee."

The title is a pun on "black tea." It's weak because, 'though the threesome is black and there is a "tee," there's no connection with the beverage. Black tee now means black t-shirt, but not in 1905. You can't tell where they're located. There's a companion photo, called Golferinos. The two are preceded by shots taken in Florida and followed by ones taken in Virginia and Michigan. The Florida group includes a golf shot taken in DeLand and it's accompanied by a DeLand street scene where the tree shapes are similar to the ones in Black Tee and Golferino, so DeLand's a possible location, but only just.

Here are two details. Photographers working for Detroit Photo used large view cameras on big tripods. I've shown one below. Like studio photographers, they often posed their subjects and it's clear that's what this one has done here. You might think the intention was picturesque, that the mind-set of photographer (and his intended audience) was condescending, and that's likely true, but there's more to this shot than that one fact. The subjects are a bit self-conscious but have not been asked to mug for the camera. I perceive a certain respect in the way they are rendered here.

The remaining photos from 1905 on this page were all taken at Florida locations and show people at leisure. They interest me because they all, somewhat incidentally, show children, and a couple show African-Americans serving the vacationers' needs.

Here's the one showing "Golf at De Land, Fla." Its neighbor, showing deciduous trees, is here.


This one is called "Clock golf at the Royal Palm [Hotel], Miami, Fla."

This detail shows three kids, two in sailor suits, and one even more formally dressed.

The title of this: "They were on their honeymoon."

[between 1900 and 1905]

This detail not only shows the photographer (somewhat ostentatiously) at work, but also a nicely poised young woman in a beach costume that's obviously not meant for the water.

This is called "The Beach, Palm Beach, Fla."

This guy seems to be taking a break from carrying his advertisement around. Notice the bicycles in this and the following details.

This detail shows a boy and girl in sailor outfits and another, younger, child somewhat better clothed for sand play.

Here, another version of the sailor outfit and an enigma: what do they see that we can't?

"In the court of the Ponce de Leon, St. Augustine, Fla."

More sailors ...

And white smocks on younger kids.

And finally, a girl in a dress with a pretty hat.


Some sources:

the Detroit Publishing Company Collection

Selected Bibliography on the Detroit Publishing Co.

Detroit Photographic Company

Postcard "The Post Office was the only establishment allowed to print postcards, and it held its monopoly until May 19, 1898, when Congress passed the Private Mailing Card Act which allowed private publishers and printers to produce postcards. Initially, the United States government prohibited private companies from calling their cards "postcards", so they were known as "souvenir cards". These cards had to be labeled "Private Mailing Cards". Although this prohibition was rescinded on December 24, 1901, when private companies could use the word "postcard". Postcards were not allowed to have a divided back and correspondents could only write on the front of the postcard. This was known as the "undivided back" era of postcards. On March 1, 1907 the Post Office allowed private citizens to write on the address side of a postcard. It was on this date that postcards were allowed to have a "divided back"."



[1] First known as Detroit Photographic then Detroit Publishing Company. LC's brief history of the company is worth reading: Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

[2] The home page of LC's Prints and Photos Div is here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eden Musee

Following my great-grandfather's landing as a penniless German immigrant, his upward trajectory was a steep one.[1] Within a dozen years of his arrival in New York in 1853 this man, Louis Windmuller, had established himself as merchant and money manager. In the next dozen had become prosperous and well-connected and by the end of the century he had become a prominent reformer, philanthropist, and public-spirited author. He served on corporate boards with the heads of the city's great financiers and businessmen: Vanderbilt, Astor, Sloane, Choate, and Whitney. He developed friendships with the city's reform mayor and other civic activists. Although he was grandson of a famous rabbi, he helped to found and served as vestryman for an Episcopal church.[2]

Windmuller might seem to have been self-made in the classic sense: one who creates a new identity for himself, ascends from poverty, and achieves social recognition. He might. Except that his education in Germany had been excellent (although a reversal in family fortunes did force him to leave school before graduating). Except that he was known for his big heart and open hand, not in the least uncomfortable to be sharing a humble meal with New York's unwashed poor in a soup kitchen.[3] And except that — having married into a family of Old New York patricians — he never gave himself nativist airs. He never stopped being a German-American and his closest friends and associates were other German-Americans, like Carl Schurz, William Steinway, Adolph Sutro, Jacob Schiff, Abraham Jacobi, Henry Villard, Ashbel Fitch, Gustav Schwab, Oswald Ottendorfer, John Roebling, and Charles Hauselt. That many of these men retained a commitment to Judaism while he did not was (so far as I can tell) of no concern to them or him.

He was also known for his devotion to high culture. A self-made man might purchase expensive works of art, but would probably not be accepted as a connoisseur. Windmuller bought art and literature, but not haphazardly. He carefully assembled what was thought to be an excellent collection and he was considered to be enough of an art expert to be named arbiter in a suit by a well-known artist for non-payment of a commission.[4]

There was nothing of the snob in him. His neighbors knew him as a benevolent and kindly man. With his German-born friends, he delighted in the festivities of the Liederkranz singing society (where his cousin Jacob Windmuller often presided) and of the city's German beer halls.[5]

Two views of German beer halls in New York.

{On left: The Atlantic Garden, 1872, from Lights and shadows of New York life, or, The sights and sensations of the great city, by James Dabney McCabe (Philadelphia, National Publishing Co., 1872); on right: A German beer garden in New York City on Sunday evening by Alfred Fredericks, 1859, written on border: Oct. 15, 1859, printed on image: 'The audience is requested not to stand on the chairs & tables', from Harper's weekly: a journal of civilization. (New York : Harper's Weekly Co., 1857-1916); source: NYPL Digital Gallery)}

His association with the Eden Musee shows both the exalted and chummy sides of his engagement with New York's cultural institutions. The Eden Musee was patterned after European wax-works, such as Madame Tussaud's, but it offered considerably more than views of life-like and often grisly wax tableaux. It boasted of a "winter garden" in which daytime patrons could eat and drink while being entertained by European orchestras and where, in the evening, they would see exotic dancers, lady fencers, conjurers, illusionists, and even some of the very first motion picture shows.

The Eden Musee in 1900.

{This photo appears on numerous web sites, including Facebook.}

Opening in 1884, the place quickly became a New York institution that visitors from within the US and abroad put on their "must see" lists, as they did the new Statue of Liberty and other famous sites.[6] From the first it carefully straddled the barriers separating rich from poor, educated from ignorant, and tenement dwellers from householders. Its name was usually given with plebeian lack of accent, Musee (pronounced musey or moosey) not Musée, but the institution had European roots and its stage held European acts. Local newspapers' society reporters frequently mentioned the presence of celebrated, well-connected, and aristocratic personages among the vast numbers who made there way there. It made itself attractive to the thousands of women who were brought to the neighborhood by the presence of large dry goods emporia and the new department stores that were beginning to crop up. Women, often with children in tow, would stop by to snack, listen to Prince Paul Esterhazy's Hungarian Orchestra, and look at the ever-changing wax installations.

It possessed the mysterious Ajeeb, supposedly a chess automaton, but in reality a dummy manipulated by a live chess master.[7] It was known for its floral displays and was the first place in New York where people could see orchids in bloom.[8] As wax-works it resembled predecessors such as the Friedle museum, mentioned in my last post, and Barnum's American Museum (which was successor to Gardiner Baker's American Museum, also mentioned in that post). The number of resources on the Eden Musee is quite large. I've put a few of them in my list of sources.

The Eden Musee was founded by a French syndicate headed by Adolf Wilhelm Kessler, a wealthy German who made his home in Paris.[9] Kessler had made himself useful during the Franco-Prussian war and been made a Count for his services. Most of the early investors and members of the board of directors were German-Americans and Windmuller was one of them. He was elected a director in 1888 and became corporate treasurer in 1890.

{At left: NY Daily Graphic, March 1, 1888; at right: entry in Trow's City Directory of 1890}

The location of the Eden Musee was ideal. At 55 W. 23rd Street, it was close to upper-crust Madison Park with its prestigious hotels, galleries, restaurants, and theaters. It was also close to the 23rd St. station of the 6th Avenue elevated train and other public transit.[10] As you can see from this detail of a 1897 atlas of Manhattan, Stern's very large dry goods store stood across the street, as did a department store which had been reconstructed from theater run by the famous actor, Edwin Booth (brother to the notorious John Wilkes). During the lifespan of the Eden Musee, the Flatiron Building would rise on the triangle of land half a block east at 5th and Broadway. In pictures of the Eden Musee you can sometimes also see the Castro Building, an architectural landmark built in 1893.

{Plate 17: Bounded by W. 36th Street, E. 36th Street, Lexington Avenue, E. 25th Street, Madison Avenue, E. 26th Street, Fifth Avenue, W. 25th Street and Eighth Avenue; source: NYPL Digital Gallery, Atlas of the city of New York, Manhattan Island. From actual surveys and official plans by George W. and Walter S. Bromley. 1897}

The Eden Musee was also near a music hall called Koster & Bial's. Located on the other side of 6th Avenue, at 115 W. 23rd, it had moved farther north by 1897 when the following map was made (and thus is labeled "Trocadero Music Hall" on the map. Koster & Bial's did not aim for family entertainment, but was rather a variety house where men went to smoke, drink, and relax.

In time the fancy hotels, restaurants, galleries, and stores moved north to Broadway and 34th and the theaters moved up to Broadway at 42nd. Places like Koster & Bial's moved with them, but the Musee did not and, having lost its customers, declared bankruptcy in 1915. Things might have turned out differently. Like Koster & Bial's, the Musee was one of the first places New Yorkers could see moving pictures. But it appears the management wasn't interested either in moving north or in becoming a movie palace.

The Eden Musee building was demolished in 1915 and the commercial building that replaced it still stands.[11] Some of the other buildings that were the museum's neighbors are still standing.

You can rotate this Google street view to see the Castro Building (now Huffman Koos Furniture) east of the museum's location at 43 w 23rd and R. J. Horner & Co. (also a furniture store) to the west at 61 w. 23rd. Across the street at 34w. 23rd, the large building that was Stern's is now a Home Depot.[12]

Windmuller was associated with places just off the map. He was a founding member of the Reform Club which was then located at 5th and 27th. He didn't belong to the Marble Church up the way a bit, but his wife was brought up in the Reformed Dutch faith of which it was a component and her siblings were educated at the Reformed Dutch Church Collegiate School. The church is at 29th and 5th, next to Holland House. He was an art collector and knew the owner of Goupil's Gallery, located at 5th and 21st.

This page from an advertising brochure shows the lobby of the musee. You can see that the featured moving picture in the "Passion Play."[13] Most of the figures are wax dummies, including the boy pickpocket and his mark, the erect policeman, and the officious looking gentleman by the poster.

{Lobby at the Eden Musée; source: NYPL Digital Gallery }

{Catalogue of the Eden Musée (Mayer, Merkel & Ottmann, 1884)}

{Pasteur Group, 1886 advertising card of the Eden Musée; source:}


Some sources:

A. About the Eden Musee

PASSING OF THE EDEN MUSEE; Picturesque Old Place of Entertainment by James Huneker, New York Times, June 20, 1915

EDEN MUSEE SITE SOLD.; The Museum Will Seek a New Home Near Times Square. New York Times, April 30, 1910. Extract: "The museum was erected about 1882 by a French syndicate, and a few years later it was taken over by the Eden Musée American Company."

NOTES OF THE STAGE., New York Times, July 1, 1894.

EDEN MUSEE FACES BANKRUPTCY COURT, Owners File a Petition for Purposes of Liquidation -- Doors Still Open. LANDMARK OF 23D STREET Northward Movement of Stores and Moving-Picture Craze Hurts Wax Works. New York Times, June 8, 1915

TO COVER SITE OF EDEN MUSEE, New York Times, July 11, 1915

Adolf Wilhelm Kessler

Obituary, Count Kessler, New York Times, May 23, 1895. "A cablegram was received yesterday from Paris, announcing the death in that city, yesterday morning, of Count Kessler, the head of one of the largest importing houses in the world, one of the founders of the Eden Musée in this city, and a large stockholder and Director. The flag was placed at half mast on the Musée, and a meeting of the Directors called for this afternoon, when appropriate action will be taken. Count Kessler's residence was in Paris, but nearly half his time was spent in this country, and he had a large circle of acquaintances in this city. It is supposed he was many times a millionaire. He left for Paris only a few weeks ago, and the particulars of his death have not been received."

The Eden Musee by Harry Buschman. Extract:
I worked at the Eden Musee. A house of waxwork figures frozen forever in moments of agony and ecstasy. The original Eden Musee in midtown Manhattan, (until it burned down) was a major attraction for nearly fifty years. ... Wax figures consist of little more than a head and hands. When you're dealing with an image of Lincoln, the head must look like Lincoln, but the hands can be anyone's; no one cares what Lincoln's hands looked like. The artist must search for someone who has a superficial resemblance to Lincoln, make a facial plaster cast of him and then pour in flesh colored molten wax. From then on it's glass eyes, a wig, stage make-up and costuming fitted on a show window dummy. Other than his hapless victims, no one ever saw Jack-the-Ripper and nobody could pick Lizzie Borden out of a police line-up either.
"The Eden Musee" in A history of the New York stage from the first performance in 1732 to 1901, Vol. 3, by Thomas Allston Brown (Dodd, Mead and company, 1903) "THE EDEN MUSEE -- THE Eden Musee is situated at 55 West Twenty-third Street, north side, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue. Not until the opening of The Eden Musee did New York have a house devoted exclusively to wax-work exhibitions. It was opened March 29, 1884. Caroline Otero, Spanish character dancer, made her American debut here Oct. 1, 1898. Mlle. Valti, an eccentric singer from Paris, made her debut Sept. 24, 1891; De Kolta, a magician, Dec. 22, 1891; M. Delprade, a French illusionist and bird imitator, made his American d^but April 18, 1893. 'A Dresden Shepherdess,' a pantomime, was produced here Dec 24, 1892, by Vance Thompson, music by Aime Lachaume: Pierrot, Mlle. Pilar-Morin."

Eden Musee Wax Museum 1906

The Eden Musée

The Lost Eden Musee -- "The Wonders of the World in Wax", The Mirror of the Stage; Old Eden Musee a Pioneer in Hungarian Bands, Russian Ballet, and Moving Pictures — First Photo-play Produced There. New York Evening Post, August 19, 1922

The Pride of the Eden Musée, The New Yorker, Nov. 30, 1943

Ajeeb (Automaton) at the Eden Musee

The mysterious Ajeeb. Extract: "The mysterious Ajeeb was the pride of the Eden Musée wax museum on West 23rd Street in NYC which opened to the public in 1884. It drew scores of thousands of spectators to its games, which President Grover Cleveland played in 1885, and other opponents for which included Harry Houdini, Theodore Roosevelt and O. Henry."

The Eden Musee by Harry Buschman, The Writers Voice

Silent Film: The Passion Play of Oberammergau, (1898) American, B&W, 2100 feet, directed by Henry C. Vincent, cast: Frank Russell, Frank Gaylor, Fred Strongl; Eden Musée production

Archive for Eden Musee

Richard G. Hollaman, President of the Eden Musée, an article on

Show Time at the Eden Musée by Joseph Atmore

A sampling of some news reports in the New York Times:

September 15, 1884: Sitting Bull and some of the braves of his tribe will be at the Eden Musee throughout the present week.

February 17, 1885: The performance at the Eden Musee, Saturday afternoon, closed with the third act of the "Mountain Queen," in which little Linda Da Costa appeared as the Queen and Julius Witmark as the King. Linda is 10 years old, and Julius not yet 16.

December 7, 1886: The reception given by the Eden Musee last night for the opening concert of Prince Paul Esterhazy's Hungarian Orchestra was attended by a large and fashionable gathering.

October 1, 1887: The New-York Society for the Promotion of Art has arranged a pretty little art gallery in a room admirably adapted to the purpose in the Eden Musee building, over the Musee proper.

October 28, 1887: Once again the Eden Musee blooms like a garden. Palms rear their graceful stems to the ceilings, and the walls are draped with beautiful vines. The central platform is covered with palms and a few choice plants, among them an orchid from the same stem as the famous flower of that variety in the Morgan collection.

October 21, 1888: The concerts at the Eden Musee on Sunday have become a feature of city life and are always largely attended. An excellent programme is provided to-day, in which Erdelyi Nacal and his gypsy orchestra will figure prominently. The Viennese lady fencers continue to astonish the patrons of the Musee with their skill, and the many lesser novelties on exhibition make the establishment a seeming fairyland.

October 13, 1889: A very large crowd went to the Eden Musee last night to see the first performance of some new female fencers and dancers whom the management has just received from Europe.

January 24, 1893: The Eden Musee seems to lose none of its hold on popular favor. On the contrary, the attractions of the pretty little Twenty-third Street resort make new friends for the house each week. Danko Gabor's royal gypsy band at the afternoon concerts, together with the waxworks, draw large crowds of ladies and children.

June 8, 1915: The Eden Musee, which has stood on Twenty-third Street near Sixth Avenue and shown "the wonders of the world in wax" for more than thirty years, has its days numbered, for yesterday the Eden Musee American Company, Which operates it, filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy.

January 24, 1929: Peter J. Hill, formerly well known as a chess player, who for nine years was the brain of Ajeeb, the automaton chess player in the old Eden Musee on Twenty-third Street, was buried here today, forgotten by his friends of other days, but carried to his grave by friend in St. Francis's Home for Aged Catholics, where he lived for the last year.

B. Other wax-works

Madame Tussaud: And the History of Waxworks by Pamela M. Pilbeam (Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006)

Rubens Peale (1784-1865) Extract: "In 1825, Rubens opened his own museum, the New York Museum of Natural History and Science. His museum housed collections of insects and butterflies, stuffed animals (Rubens was also interested in taxidermy), paintings, sculptures, and even a pair of Egyptian mummies. Rubens took his museum very seriously, viewing it as a place for scientific inquiry and examination, and frequently held lectures on various emerging scientific theories. Unfortunately, in the early 1840’s the museum fell into debt, and Rubens was forced to sell his entire collection to P. T. Barnum, circus entrepreneur and owner of the competing American Museum. It seemed that museum-goers wanted freaks of nature rather than just “ordinary” nature, and so, unwilling to condescend to the addition of freaks and curiosities to his displays, Rubens retired from the museum business."

The forgotten museum of Rubens Peale

Rubens Peale. Extract: "He opened his own museum in New York on October 26, 1825, (along with the opening of the Erie Canal). By 1840, Peale would change the name to the New York Museum of Natural History and Science. The Panic of 1837 sent his museum into debt. It competed with the American Museum, of P.T. Barnum. Rubens had to sell his entire collection to Barnum in 1843. He moved to Pottstown, Pennsylvania. In 1837, he retired to his father-in-law, George Patterson's estate near Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, and lived as a country gentleman, at Woodland Farm. He experimented with Mesmerism, and wrote to his brother Rembrandt about it."

Scudder's American Museum

"Scudder's Museum," in Travels through part of the United States and Canada in 1818 and 1819 by John Morison Duncan, Vol 2 (University Press, 1823)

Doesticks on visiting the American Museum


Barnum's American Museum

Barnum's Museum, New York Tribune, June 19, 1850

Barnum on the American Museum, from P.T. Barnum, Struggles and Triumphs, "The American Museum" 1869

P.T. Barnum and the Fire that Destroyed The American Museum

A history of the New York stage from the first performance in 1732 to 1901 by Thomas Allston Brown (Dodd, Mead and company, 1902)

A Word About Museums, The Nation, July 27, 1865.

C. Other sources:

"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).

"THE COLLECTION OF LOUIS WINDMULLER, ESQ., OF WOODSIDE, L. I.", in The Collector and Art Critic, Vol. 2, No. 11 (Apr. 1, 1900). Extract: "The collection of paintings resulting from discriminating acquisitions extending over a number of years is like an art history of that period. Mr. Louis Windmuller was collecting his art works during the period when the Dusseldorf and Munich schools were at their height, his own German extraction leaning him favorably to the work of his erstwhile countrymen. The result of his collecting shows some of the more enduring examples of this school, interspersed with a few canvases which bring the needed variety of landscape art among the anecdotal pictures. Thus combined the collection is an interesting one."

"Louis Windmuller" in History of German immigration in the United States and successful German-Americans and their descendants by George von Skal (New York, F.T. & J.C. Smiley, 1908). Extract: "Of his services in behalf of charity his efforts for the benefit of the German Hospital Fair in 1888 deserve especial mention. In connection with this affair Mr. Windmuller arranged a collection of paintings and a souvenir containing autobiographical contributions from the best American and German authors. He is known as an art connoisseur and collector of paintings and books. He was also treasurer of a fund for the erection of a monument to Goethe and vice-president of the Heine Monument Society."

"American Art Notes," by Arthur Barnett, The Scottish art review, Volume 2 (E. Stock, 1889). Extract: "Thomas Moran, better known to our English cousins as an etcher and prolific illustrator in the magazines than as a painter, has brought a suit against the estate of the late Joseph Drexel of a peculiar nature."

Waxworks, a film by Paul Leni, 1924

Weird and wonderful: the dime museum in America by Andrea Stulman Dennett (NYU Press, 1997)

"Louis Windmüller" in Geschichte des Deutschthums von New York von 1848 bis auf die Gegenwart, Theodor Lemke (T. Lemke, 1891) Extract: "Noch ein anderes Unternehmen, das eine der größten Schenswürdigkeiten für alle New York besuchenden Fremden ist, verdanken wir der Initiative des Herrn Windmüller: das Eden Musée in 23. Straße, nahe 5. Avenue, ans dessen gedeihliche Entmictelung er in seiner Stellung als Direktor und Schatzmeister unausgestzt den regsten und fruchtbarsten Antheil genommen hat." Rendered in English, roughly, as: "Yet another company, one of the most enchanting places for all New York visiting foreigners, we owe to the initiative of Mr. Windmüller: the Eden Musée on 23rd Street, near 5th Avenue, to the prosperous development of which he has constantly put in his position as director and treasurer of the liveliest and most fertile portion."

23rd Street in wikipedia

New York Songlines: 23rd Street on

Ladies' Mile



[1] A news article written after his death says "He came to this country at the age of 18 with less than $18 in his possession. He started life here as an errand boy in a grocery store at a salary of $4 a week. He rose rapidly in position and accumulated wealth until he became a director of many financial institutions." Brooklyn Daily Eagle, December 26, 1914. Late in life my great-grandfather wrote of 18-year old immigrants like himself, on their own in New York: "[starting out] as grocery clerks sleeping under the counter, they devoted themselves assiduously to the details of the business, so that many were soon able to establish themselves on their own account." -- "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).

[2] I've written frequently about my great-grandfather's experiences in New York during the second half of the 19th century. The tag "Louis Windmuller" at right takes you to 39 blog posts about him; for example: America's best citizens.

[3] This comes from an article by my great-grandfather called "Reminiscences Of Financial Problems" appearing in The Forum, Vol. 40, (Forum Pub. Co., 1908): "To relieve the poor, many of whom were out of employment during the winter of 1893 to 1894, the writer joined a citizens' committee, formed under auspices of the "Christian Alliance." Members were expected to purchase tickets at the rate of $5 a hundred and distribute them gratis to applicants for charity. Each ticket entitled the bearer to a square meal in the basement of No. 170 Bleecker Street, New York City. As member of this committee the writer frequently convinced himself of the quality and quantity of the food furnished by Mr. Milbury, the agent. After a visit to kitchen and cellar he sat down on stools in line with other hungry men and women, and he enjoyed with them a large bowl of fragrant steaming stew, a chunk of sweet bread and a cup of good coffee. Some of those supplies were furnished gratis, others at extremely low prices; everybody was glad to help, by timely charity, the starving poor to good food."

[4] One newsman said of him that "He is a distinguished art amateur, and possesses a fine collection of paintings and objects d'art" (NY Daily Graphic, March 1, 1888). For a description of his collection, see "THE COLLECTION OF LOUIS WINDMULLER, ESQ., OF WOODSIDE, L. I.", in The Collector and Art Critic, Vol. 2, No. 11 (Apr. 1, 1900). On his service as arbiter see the description of the suit by Thomas Moran in "American Art Notes," by Arthur Barnett, The Scottish art review, Volume 2 (E. Stock, 1889).

[5] Liederkranz, dancing, beer gardens: Educated Germans comprised the best element of our population. Conscientious in the performance of their duties during the day, they knew how to enjoy their nights. They sang in the 'Liederkranz,' danced in assembly rooms, and drank in 'gemuthliche Kneipen,' where good beer was available. Besides teaching us harmless pleasures, they spread their taste for art and literature. Amongst their foremost citizens were Carl Schurz, Oswald Ottendorfer, and Charles Hauselt." -- "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).

[6] Newspapers told of its attractions for domestic and foreign visitors in the appreciations they produced at the time it closed. See for example

{New York Times, June 8 1915}

Extract: "The Eden Musee presented "wonders of the world in wax" and was the latest idea in amusement from Paris. Up-country visitors and foreigners felt as much obligated to go there as they did to see the Statue of Liberty, which was not unveiled until two years later. It was a pioneer in moving pictures: "The Passion Play" opened in 1898 and ran for nine months. The film was more than 2,000 feet in length, and was considered amazing in the day when about 500 feet was the average. Flower shows were a great feature. The Eden Musee held the first orchid exhibition in 1887. It lost its business when the department stores moved uptown and people flocked to the moving-picture shows."

[7] The New Yorker magazine profiled Ajeeb during the war years: The Pride of the Eden Musée, The New Yorker, Nov. 30, 1943.

{source: Hakes and wikimedia commons}


{New York Times, November 11, 1884}

[9] Here's the obituary of Count Kessler in the New York Times.

{New York Sun, 23 May 1895. Extract: "Kessler born in Germany, acquired great wealth, put wounded French and German soldiers up in castle during Franco-Prussian War, lived in Paris, spent much time in NY member Lotos Club, lived at Hoffman House [located on 5th Avenue around the corner from the Eden Musee]."}

[10] I've done some blog posts on tony Madison Square, including: [11] The New York Times gave an artist's impression of the building that replaced the museum:

{TO COVER SITE OF EDEN MUSEE, New York Times, July 11, 1915}

[12] This ad from 1879 shows Stern's when it opened for business in its new 23rd Street store.

{From Harper's bazaar; source: NYPL Digital Gallery}

[13] From the New York World, February 1, 1898: "SACRED DRAMA SHOWN BY MEANS OF THE CINEMATOGRAPH — A series of Passion Play pictures is now being presented at the Eden Musee by the cinematograph. The scenes have been reproduced from sketches at the time of the last presentation of the biblical drama given at Oberammergau. The motion pictures were secured from a representation given in this country by actors garbed in the costume drawn from these designs and drilled in the various tableaux. Twenty-three scenes are shown, beginning with the shepherds watching their flocks and ending with the ascension. The best of them were the flight into Egypt, the raising of Lazarus, the crucifixion and the descent from the cross. The exhibition made a decidedly favorable impression and will doubtless be the means of attracting many visitors to this popular place of amusement."

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Friedle women

I've been writing about a place in Queens, NY, called the Kelly Farm or, more often, the Kelly Estate.[1] A dealer in dry goods, John A. Kelly came from a German family whose name had evolved from Köllen and Kölle to Khele and then Kelly.[2] He'd made money from a dry goods store in Charleston, SC, and on moving to New York spent some of it to purchase the farm and its large old mansion-house. He had partners both in running the shop and buying the property and in both cases the partner was a woman: in the first instance his mother and in the second his sister-in-law.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7] 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.[8]

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.[9] 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."[10]

This page from Longworth's city directory shows Maria Catherine Friedle to have been in the artificial flower business in 1825-26.

{Longworth's American almanack, New-York register, and city directory (New York, Printed and published by David Longworth, 1825-6)}

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.[11] 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."

{Museum & wax-work, at the Exchange, New York, the American Museum (New York, N.Y.: Established 1790). This 1793 broadside advertises the many attractions at Gardiner Baker's American Museum in New York City. Source: Mass. Hist. Soc.}

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.

{Advertisement in the Evening Post, July 1, 1817}

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.

{Entry in a Charleston City Directory for 1822 showing the wax museum}

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.[13]

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.[14]

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."[15] 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.[16]

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.

{Advertisement in the Morning Chronicle, September 12, 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.

{Newtown Register, December 7, 1882}


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.[17] 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.

{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}

{Obituary: John A.F. Kelly, Newtown Register, May 13, 1897}

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.

{Old print showing King St. from Prints and Impressions of Charleston}

This aerial view from many decades later gives a general feel for the place.

{Aerial view of Charleston, ca. 1900 from Charleston, the place and the people by Harriott Horry Ravenel (The Macmillan Company, 1906)}


Some sources:

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 (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, by Owen Clough

Caleb Tappan Howell, Jr on, by Steven Howell

Anna Maria Friedle Howell, on, created by: Owen Clough, Mar 23, 2008

John Andrew Friedle Kelly on, 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)

Madame Tussauds

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

Women's Rights

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.



[1] Earlier posts on this topic are here, here, and here.

[2] I give further details in a blog post from late June.

[3] 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.

[4] Unexceptional women: female proprietors in mid-nineteenth-century Albany, New York, 1830–1885 by Susan Ingalls Lewis (Ohio State University, 2009)

[5] 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)

[6] 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.

[7] 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

[8] "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

[9] City directories of the time list about as many women in the artificial flowers business as men.

[10] Pioneers of Woodside, New York Times, August 1, 1897

[11] Waxworks: a cultural obsession by Michelle E. Bloom (U of Minnesota Press, 2003)

[12] 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

[13] 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

[14] 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

[15] Same source.

[16] Catharina Barbara Kelly, born 27 January 1780, died 22 July 1781. -- John Kelly Family, Dutch Fork Chapter, South Carolina Genealogical Society, Inc.

[17] I've described the murder on another occasion.