Monday, June 25, 2018

The Little League Star Who Left Fayetteville

Every so often the topic of playing Little League baseball during the good old days (the last half of the ‘50’s) pops up on Facebook, stimulated by the post of a team picture or the mention of a name. It is of interest, of course, only to folks who were on one of the Fayetteville teams in those years or who know someone who was.

In talking about the good old Little League days, the conversation usually turns to recollections of some of the memorable boys we played against. There was Justin Daniel, the man among children, who hit home runs not only over the fence, but also over the road behind the fence, endangering the windows of a distance apartment building. His fastball, thrown from a mound only 46 feet from the plate, lived in the nightmares of more than a few of us who had to bat against him and feared for our lives. Then there was Lloyd Wolf, a short, freckled, thick left-hand hitter famous for regularly hitting balls into the City Park swimming pool behind the right-field fence. Like him, Charlie Jordan, a raw country southpaw with a mighty swing, also deposited quite a few balls into the water. (These boys must have made the adults who ran the league cringe; two new baseballs were allotted to each game, and they were no good when soaked.)

Among the pantheon of remarkable players from 1956 to 1959 was a boy named Richard Quackenbush, who impressed with both his strong arm and his hitting power. When his name arises and his athletic ability is discussed, there inevitably follows a statement like, “I wondered what happened with him.” We don’t know because he moved away from Fayetteville with him family before the 1959 season, when he would have been twelve years old (at the time, Little League players were between the ages or 8 and 12.) When he left, most of us lost touch with him, given our youth and the comparatively primitive avenues of communications at the time. 

Picture in the 1967 Oregon State University Yearbook
Curious about where Richard and his family moved and what he did after he got there, I decided to try to see what information I could track down about him. The two pieces of information that I had were his age (born, likely, in 1947) and the someone’s memory that the Quackenbushes had moved to the Pacific Northwest. 

With a little research on and, I located Richard (born August 12, 1947) in Salem, Oregon. Fortunately, the Salem newspaper, the Capital Journal, is available on; most of the information about him comes from that newspaper.

Richard and his family moved from Fayetteville to Salem because his father, a career army officer, was from there and wanted to live there after his retirement. Lt. Col. Roger W. Quackenbush served in the army for 27 years, beginning during World War II, and earned two silver stars and two bronze stars for valor.

Richard played for the North Salem High School Vikings basketball, football, and baseball teams. His name was regularly in the paper for exploits in those sports, especially baseball. For the football team, he played end, and in a 1964 action shot published in the local paper, he shows up as number 80. In another newspaper picture published in 1984, he is playing on the Viking’s basketball team.

Picture caption: North Salem's senior fullback Dave Young (30) crashes over from the one yard line for the final Viking touchdown in the closing minutes of Friday night's North Salem - Grants Pass game at Bennett Field. North's Rich Quackenbush (80) is in the background 

Picture caption: Study in finger exercises is executed by Dave Olson (46) of the South Salem Saxons and Bud Allen (33) of North Salem during last night;s District 8 A-1 finale at South Saxon. North's Rich Quackenbush pokes a paw over Olsen's ? as the combatants battle for a rebound. (I think Quackenbush is the middle person in the picture)

He, of course, excelled in high school baseball and in the summer baseball leagues. He played third base and occasionally pitched. His heroics over the years are described in many different newspaper articles. For example, one article describes a grand slam home run he hit to win a high school game. Another tells of a no hitter he pitched, his team winning 20 – 0. 

After graduating from high school in 1965, Richard attended Oregon State University and played baseball on its team as a third basemen The newspaper article in the Corvallis Gazette, dated August 2, 1965, that announced he would play OSU baseball noted, “Quackenbush has a cannon for an arm drawing ohs from the crowd every time he cuts loose” (it is not stated if he received a baseball scholarship).

At OSU, Richard majored in business and technology. Having taken ROTC, he was commissioned as a armory officer in December, 1969 after his graduation, then returned to OSU in 1973 to study for an advanced degree in criminology. In 1975, he was married at a wedding in Briarcliff Manor, New York. An article describing the wedding said the couple was settling in Ossining, N.Y. 

At some point after that, he returned to Salem and, it seems, taught special education there for many years. A 1996 picture shows him as a special education teacher in the Development Learning Center of Whiteacre Middle School in Keizer, Oregon, a small town just north of Salem.

In 2003, the local newspaper reported he had made a hole in one at a nearby golf course.

This glimpse into the life of the former Fayetteville Little Leaguer, though incomplete, is enough to make us regret that he and his family did not stay around so that we could have played with him on different junior high and high school teams. Also the information reassures us that Richard has had a good life after leaving the city, full of accomplishments and successes. Of course to most of us in Fayetteville who knew him -- or knew of him -- Richard Quackenbush will always in our memories be a young boy in a Goff-McNair uniform throwing hard strikes and hitting long homers.  

For more on the Fayetteville Little League in the late 1950s, go to this link: 

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Viva Vigo's Public Art!

Public art is often like Muzak: it exists but you hardly notice. It’s bland, easy to ignore, and forgettable. Personally, I prefer public art that demands attention because it is startling, provocative, or even shocking. It also helps if such art exhibits some beauty even if it is an enigmatic sort.

Gobsmacking public art in the United States is found mostly in larger coastal and university cities where a good portion on the citizenry is open minded and not offended by things that are “different.”  Medium and smaller cities are less likely to spend money on, or give their imprimatur to, unusual art that would challenge, maybe even offend, local citizens who would decry spending THEIR TAX DOLLARS! on any art that did not include a cross; depict Jesus, a saint, or a hero; or contain an accurate representation of a pleasant aspect of reality. While, most public art is bought with private funds, its location in public areas nonetheless gives each citizen the right to complain.  
Henry Moore's statute in downtown Little Rock, 1978
When I was living in Little Rock in the 1970s, a controversy arose over a sculpture bought by a quasi-public organization and placed in a very public location. It was 1978, and the Metrocenter Development District was trying to revitalize the downtown. It got authorization to create a pedestrian zone and to place an important piece of art at its center, Main and Capitol Streets. Following the advice of advising experts, it bought (with funds coming from a property tax on businesses in the district) a large abstract sculpture by the renown Henry Moore. It was titled, “Large Standing Figure: Knife Edge.” The cost was $185,000. For more on the installation of the Henry Moore sculpture in Little Rock see these links: and

hullabaloo followed, with a flow of complaints about the sculpture; some people complained that it did not look like anything. “What is it?” they would ask. Also some folks complained about its cost, ridiculing the idiots who made the decision to spend a vast amount of money on such trash, even though general taxpayers did not pitch in a penny. Others suggested the art was, at best, a symbol of the folly of over-educated liberals and, and worst, of the decline and fall of civilization. 

When the pedestrian zone was abolished in 1999, the sculpture was moved a couple of blocks to an empty patch in front of a bank. In April of this year, the city of Little Rock acquired it in return for a piece of downtown land. The city will move it to the renovated Arkansas Art Center. The assessed value of the sculpture is about $5 million.   

"Iron Horse," in exile on a farm near Watkinsville, GA
I encountered another example of scorned public art when I was living in Athens, Georgia. One day I was driving on a rural road south of Watkinsville, which is a short drive from Athens, when a colleague in the car yelled at me to look to the left. There in a corn field, about 150 yards from the road, was a large stylized statue of a horse (named Iron Horse, or Pegasus without Wings). My colleague then told me the story of how in 1954 the sculpture had been installed on the University of Georgia campus, but many students hated it. After it had been vandalized a few times, the head of the art school had it secretly loaded on a truck one night and taken it to the farm of a man who was happy to host it on his land. The statue, owned by UGA, is still there, but now the university also owns the land that it uses as an experimental farm.  
A view of Vigo from the waterfront
Fortunately, despite resistance to it, Gobsmacking public art can be found diverse places throughout the world, including some medium and smaller cities scattered throughout Europe. I was reminded of that when I traveled to Vigo, a city of about 300,000 people located on the Atlantic coast of Spain. I knew also nothing about the city before I arrived there in May, and chose it mainly because it was a convenient stop after a long train trip through the mountains from Burgos.

I quickly started enjoying my visit to the city, in large part due to views of its mountainous residential areas sliding down to the beautiful waterfront, but also because of its public art. Much of the waterfront is a working port with cranes and warehouses, but after walking down the hill from my hotel, I saw the beginning of a long park and walked toward it. As I got closer, I spotted something that caused me to blurt, “What the ….” It was a sculpture of a swimmer taking laps in the concrete. It definitely came from the School of Gobsmacking Art.  
First glimpse of "The Swimmer'"

"The Swimmer" by Franciso Leiro

Walking down further the promenade along the waterfront, it did not take me long to get to another strange site. It was a statue of a man, Jules Verne, that seemed quite conventional until you noticed that he was sitting on a huge squid. Unconventional and surprising, I was delighted to see it. The statue subject is Jules Verne, whose book Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, was set in Vigo Bay. If you want to know about the squid, view this link
Statue of Jules Verne stilling on a squid by Vigo Bay
Walking a few more minutes on the promenade, I came to a plaza in front of a waterfront shopping center that is adjacent to the city’s port, where a gigantic cruise ship was moored. As passengers departed from the ship and walked onto the plaza, they had a surprise in front of them: a large sculpture of the head of a woman (or maybe its a man) whose face has smacked the ground. I thought its name should be “faceplant,” but it turns out to be “Leap.” It was created by Francisco Leiro, a Galician born in 1945. He is the artist who sculpted the Swimmer that I saw earlier. The faceplant piece certainly attracted the attention of the disembarking passengers. After first examining the sculpture myself, I found a nearby place to sit to watch the reactions of people when they first walked by it.
"The Leap" by Francisco Leiro

View of "The Leap" from the back

Going up the hill from the port area, through a nicely maintained Old City that gives a taste of Vigo as it looked a century ago, I came to the most bizarre of the city’s public art. It located in a small square next to one of the city’s busiest streets. It is also the creation of Leiro, his most audacious. This sculpture is mounted on high double columns. Its name is “Merman.” The name explains the scales on the man’s chest, the conventional face, and the strange body. For an interesting discussion of the statute, go to this link: The "merman" sculpture is another piece of Vigo’s art that will be hard to forget. It definitely would not be a hit in Little Rock or Athens, Ga.

"Merman" by Francisco Leiro

I have to say that Vigo’s public art certainly enlivened my strolls around the city. While I was most attracted to the Gobsmacking public art, I also enjoyed some of the more conventional art, such as a pair of statues near the shoreline facing each other. One depicted a fisherman returning from the sea carrying some fish, the other his family awaiting his return. These sculptures are touching in a familiar way.

Fisherman's family looks for him
With its numerous and diverse pieces of art scattered throughout the city, thanks is owed to Vigo for creating a stimulating experience for strollers. Viva Vigo and its taste in public art!

Monday, May 21, 2018

On May 28th, the City of Hof will hold its 586th Schlappentag

The most distinctive feature of Hof, Germany, located at the top of East Bavaria, is its annual Hofer Schlappentag. This year on May 28, it will hold its 586th celebration to mark that day.
Sign advertising Schlappentag, showing the wooden
shoes (Schlappen) and the special Schlappenbier
Before explaining what the Hofer Schlappentag is and why it has been around for more than half a millennium, I want to mention some other notable features of this hilly city of 48,000 people that sits on the banks of the Saale River. An important one is its location. Following World War II, after Germany was divided into sectors, Hof was a border town in the American Zone. Across the border was the Russian Zone, which in 1949 became the German Democratic Republic. 

From that time until 1990, Hof was on the front lines of the Cold War, facing a heavily fortified border. Its train station was full of relieved travelers who had successfully weathered the ordeal of passing from East to West Germany, and stressed passengers who were about to undergo the indignities attended upon travelers who wished to enter the DDR. 

Another important aspect of Hof’s location is that it lies a few miles distant from the western finger of Bohemia that probes into Germany big southeastern belly. This part of Bohemia, now in the Czech Republic, is a narrow peninsula surrounded on three sides by the ocean of Germany. For decades, until 1917, it was part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, and a large percentage of its residents had a Germanic heritage and spoke German. After WWI, it became part of Czechoslovakia. (On the map above, the peninsula is located in the western part of the Cheb region, which is in the far west of the Czech Republic. Hof is a few miles north of the top of the peninsula.) 
Hof Center Center, with St. Mary's Church
The boundaries and ethnic makeup of the Bohemians in this isolated peninsula caused few problems until the early 1930s. Then, some Germans – adherents of the Nazi Party -- living there and in neighboring parts of Bohemia started complaining of mistreatment by Czechoslovakians, demanding to be brought into the German Reich.  Their rabble rousing provided one of the flimsy excuses Hitler used to justify sending the German army into Czechoslovakia in 1939. When the 1000-year Reich was disassembled in 1945, Czechoslovakia – under the guidance of the Soviet Union – expelled all ethnic Germans from the Sudetenland (including the peninsula), even those whose families that had lived there for centuries and who had not supported the Nazis.  Many of those expelled settled nearby in cities such as Hof and Marktredwitz and in the land surrounding them.
Hof City Center
(One city in the Czech peninsula is named Aš  [in German, Asch], and it is a thirty-minute ride from Hof on a slow train. From Asch and surrounding area, about 27 persons from the Reichardt, Geyer, Penzel, and Wunderlich families emigrated to Little Rock from 1848 to 1856, where many became prominent citizens. But that is another story.)

Detail for Hof's Turnhalle 
Present-day Hof is a pleasant city with the distinctive architecture of Eastern Bavaria that features multi-story buildings of different colors standing next to each other. Also it has a welcoming city center, anchored, as expected, by the largest and oldest church in town. The city center offers, among its mixture of businesses, two large book store. It is a pedestrian zone, so many restaurants offer outdoor seats from which to watch the parade of Hofers. Scattered about the center city are men and women (known locally as Wärschtlamo) with brass cauldrons filled with hot coals to boil wursts for hungry patrons.  

It is in the city center that much of the Schlappentag celebration takes place. The story of Schalppentag begins in January 25, 1430. On that sad day, Hof was attacked by Hussites, who easily routed the Hofers, who apparently did not put up much a fight. After the Hussites ransacked the town and moved on, the pitiable Hofers came to beg the Prince of Brandenburg for relief from taxes they owed him. They had nothing they could pay. The Prince was a bit irked, but granted ten years of relief from taxes with the condition that the Hofers would arm themselves and prepare to defend the city in the future.

Wurst seller with his brass Cauldron 

They agreed to the condition, and in 1432, the city government required its healthy male residents, most of whom were tradesmen, to join the protection guard and attend at least one instructional session on musket shooting a year.  As time passed, the protection guard members grew less enthusiastic about their annual training requirement, but continued to show up to avoid paying a fine. Many men put off the training until the last day possible, the first Monday after Trinity Sunday (which falls in late May or the first part of June). In 2018, Trinity Sunday is May 27th.

At first, only a dozen or so men, wearing their work clothes and wooden work shoes (clogs), known as Schlappen, walked down the street as the work day began to the indoor shooting range for their instruction. They would wait their turn for their musket-shooting lesson.

Over time, more of the men waited until the Monday deadline for completing training, and they would meet up to walk together to the shooting range, clopping down the street in their wood shoes. Finally it became a tradition for most of the protection guard to march together early on Trinity Monday to receive their training.

So on May 28, 2018, Hofers, joined by other volunteers in wooden shoes, will form for the 586th time a marching line and proceed through the city to the training site. That re-creation of the long tradition is followed, I understand, by many opportunities for merriment, especially if you enjoy beer, because that day – and only on that day -- an especially strong locally brewed beer – Schlappenbier – can be sold in the city. By tradition, however, the beer cannot be sold to visiting Hussites,. 

For pictures and videos from previous Schlappentag celebrations (in German), see:

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Little Rock's Last Reconstruction Mayor

I have attached a link to the recently completed draft of the third paper in a trilogy related to the early political and governance career of Frederick Kramer, a German immigrant who settled in Little Rock in 1857, had success as a businessman, and was a republican-backed candidate for the Little Rock school board, city council, and mayor.  In running for, and winning, these positions, he was forced to to swim in the bubbling cauldron of local reconstruction politics. 

Frederick Kramer, Picture published in the
Arkansas Echo
The first paper examined the 1870 Little Rock election and the attempt of Republican brindle-tails (a pro-civil rights faction of the party) to steal it. Specifically, it is the story of the attempted "usurpation" of the vote in the city election, followed by a scheme to 'usurp" the city council to install the faction's preferred candidates for ward 1 and ward 3 aldermen. The usurpation attempts were led by Little Rock''s mayor at the time, A.K. Hartman, a brindle-tail, who wanted  to insure the defeat of Kramer, a fellow Saxon, who was running for ward 1 alderman. Kramer was supported by the Republican Party's minstrel faction and was viewed by Hartman as a political enemy. The attempts to "usurp" the election led to some interesting drama as the two factions plotted against each other.

The title of the paper is:
Mayor A.K. Hartman and the Brindle-tails Usurp Little Rock’s 1870 Election, To No Avail
The draft paper can be viewed and downloaded using this link:

The second paper tells the story of the selection of the Little Rock city council president following the 1871 election. The election had been a successful one for the brindle-tails, and they held four of the eight council seats. These four brindle-tail aldermen put forward their candidate for the position. The other four members of the council were minstrels, and they wanted Kramer to be council president. The position was considered important because a year earlier many of the mayor's powers had been stripped from him and given to the city council president (mainly to punish Mayor Hartman for his actions against the minstrels). In the course of trying to elect the new city council president, the city council voted 701 times in one day on who should hold the job. The result led to some hard feelings and Kramer's decision to abandon politics for a year.

The title of the paper is: 
The Crazy Day in 1871 When Little Rock’s City Council Voted 701 Times to Elect Its President
The draft paper can be viewed and downloaded from Dropbox using this link:

H. H. Rottaken & Co.'s First
Advertisement, Oct. 7, 1868,
In the Gazette
The third, and recently drafted, paper covers the period from the November 1873 election in Little Rock until the election in April 1875, this one under a new state constitution that had been written and adopted after the Brooks-Baxter War (April 15 - May 15, 1874). The first part of the paper is about the 1873 election in which Kramer beat H. H. Rottaken, the candidate of the Citizens' Party, a surrogate for the Democratic-Conservative Party. The second part examines the administration of Mayor Kramer whose term was a challenging one because of the War, but also because the city had been slammed by the front edge of the 1873 depression a few weeks before the election. During his term, Kramer was chief executive of a city that could not pay its employees for months at a time. As the city battled its desperate financial situation, Mayor Kramer -- who was the city's chief law enforcement officer -- battled fakirs -- con men -- who had infested the city, and he led an experiment with a voluntary police force. The paper ends with the April 1875 election. With the Democratic-Conservative Party ascendant, Kramer sought the mayoral nomination of that party, but lost. Then he refused the Republican Party nomination, which nevertheless put him on the party's ticket. Kramer announced that he was going to vote for the nominee of the Democratic-Conservative Party, and the republicans suffered a complete humiliation at the polls. With that election, the democratic-conservatives had "redeemed" the city of Little Rock, making Kramer the last reconstruction mayor. 

The title of the paper is:
Frederick Kramer Beats Herbert H. Rottaken in the 1873 Election
To Become Mayor During a Time of Financial Distress, Fakirs, and Political Strife,
Then to Abandon the Republican Party

A draft of the paper can be viewed and downloaded from Dropbox using this link:


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Vienna in 1873 as Seen by a Visitor from Little Rock, Arkansas

The November 2, 1873 edition of the Daily Arkansas Gazette contained the following letter describing what a visitor from Little Rock saw while visiting Vienna a few weeks earlier:

Vienna: The German Capital as Seen by a Citizen of Little Rock

We are permitted to make public the following extracts from a private letter to Capt. H. H. Rottaken from his half-brother Mr. E Thuemmler, who left a few weeks since for a European tour:

Vienna October 8, 1873

For some days past I have been doing this peculiarly “mixed” city. I say “mixed” because you have here a little from all parts of the world, human and brute –animate and inanimate. I imagine Babel could not have been a much more confounding place than Vienna is to an American. This is supposed to be a German city, but enter a given crowd of people on any of the main streets and ask a question in German, it as likely to be answered in Portuguese, Spanish, or English as is German. It is utterly impossible by appearance to judge with the least certainty a man’s nationality – faces, dress and manners are as varied as languages, and I very much doubt that the real Viennese is at all times quite certain he is in his own “Kaiserstadt.”

It is impossible to impart, in any degree, an idea of the universal splendor found in the richer parts of Vienna. It is true [that] magnificence is cheap where labor costs next to nothing, and where the commonest laborer who is at all permitted to engage in the production of articles of elegance, must be himself a “master” in his art – but the true secret of the wonderful impression that both the exterior and interior beauties of Vienna produce, is to be found in the correct taste and the constant longing for the beautiful, characteristic, in an eminent degree, of the inhabitants of this place.

The prevalent building is a four-story, broad, white house, in a style of architecture curiously compounded of the modern and antique. Every building, of any consequence, has it porticos (also supported by splendid caryatides) and elaborate ornamentation at every available point – the whole white as snow. The interior of the better houses is all gilt and glitter, and even the lower middle classes are seldom content without a few real oil paintings, and an attempt at sculptural display in the “best room.”

There are more soldiers in the street every day than in St. Louis during the liveliest times of the war. Music, street cars, policemen, fruit and flower-vendors and brilliant cafes are “thick.” At night the brilliancy of the streets is marvelous. Everything possible is done for the comfort of the population. Parks, shaded walks with frequent benches, are found in all parts of Vienna, and really, from the number of people constantly in the streets, one would suppose that the outdoor beauties were adequately appreciated.
Buildings of the 1873 World's Fair are in the foreground;
St. Stephens Church and the walled city are in the middle;
the Vienna woods are in the distance
Picture from Wikicommons
The world’s fair is certainly grand.[1]  I have been there five times, and am only beginning to obtain a clear impression of its extent, its wonders, and its excellencies. I have, of course, a great many notes, and will, in time, make use of them.
This was the entrance to the 1873 World's Fiar
From Wikicommons
Leaving New York on the 6th of September, I arrived at Bremen on the 20th – then on to Leipzig and after two days there, to Selka.[2]  Remaining but a few days, I proceeded to “Miesitz.” I then came to Vienna.


Background of the Letter’s Author and Recipient

The young man who wrote this letter, Eugene Thuemmler (1848 – 1891), had moved from St. Louis to Little Rock in about 1869. Thuemmler was not a German immigrant, but both of his parents were. His father Traugott Edward Thuemmler  (1815 – 1867) was born in Saxony, and his mother Sophia (1812 – 1890) was from Prussia. Edward was born in St. Louis on March 13, 1848 and grew up there.

An 1863 graduate of St. Louis High School, Thuemmler – according to his passport application – was 5’ 10” tall,  with gray eyes, brown hair, oval face, and a “Teutonic” nose.  

The letter was written to Thuemmler’s half-brother, Herbert Herman Rottaken, who had been born in either Elderfeld (a city now part of Wuppertal) or Aachen, Germany, on July 25, 1839.[3]  In about 1844, while he was still a young child, he had been brought to the United States by his parents. His mother was Sophia Rottaken, later Thuemmler. The first name of his father is lost to history. According to family lore, the Rottaken family, which included father, mother, Herbert, and his younger sister Augusta (born in 1843), lived briefly in Little Rock in 1846.[4]

If they were in Little Rock in 1846, it was a brief stay. Sophia and the two children were in St. Louis in 1847 when she re-married on March 27th. (It is not known if her first husband died or if the couple had divorced.) A year later, she and Traugott, her new husband, were the parents of Edward, their first child together. The 1850 census showed Traugott and Sophia living in St. Louis with Herbert, Augusta, Edward, and a newly born daughter named Emily. Traugott managed the boarding house in which they were living. Later he got a job as the executive secretary of an insurance company

H. H. Rottaken (who opted to keep his father’s last name) moved to St. Charles, Missouri, late in the 1850s, and soon after the Civil War started, he joined the Seventh Regiment of the Missouri Cavalry Volunteers.  He initially held the rank of Sergeant, but in 1862 was commissioned as an officer, rising to the rank of Captain. He had a distinguished war service record.[5]

After the war, Rottaken returned to St. Louis, but in 1868 he and Susan, his wife, moved to Little Rock to open a wholesale liquor store. He quickly established a reputation as a sportsman and hunter, but his business struggled in a highly competitive market filled with well-established merchants.[6]  He was joined in his retail store in 1870 by his step-brother Edward Thuemller, who became a partner. However, the step-brothers ended their partnership in early 1871.

After the split, Thuemller ran the business with a partner (“Thuemmler & Eliot”) for about nine months, then on his own (“Thuemmler & Co,”). He closed the store in December 1872.

After leaving the retail liquor business, Rottaken took a job as a deputy sheriff, appointed by W. S. Oliver, the elected Sheriff, a Republican. In August 1872, he received a political appointment from the Republican governor: he was named head the Pulaski County board of registrars. However, after he figured out that the job entailed registering voters likely to vote for the Republican Party and finding ways to refuse to register other voters, he resigned this post.[7]  Soon after that, he affiliated himself with the Democratic-Conservative Party.

In October 1873, the Citizen’s Party – a stand-in for the Democratic-Conservative Party – nominated him as its candidate for mayor. His Republican-nominated opponent was Frederick Kramer, a German immigrant, prosperous merchant, and well-known citizen of the city.[8]  The election was scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 5, just four days after the publication of the letter.

The letter was, of course, not political, but its publication so near the election might have been. The newspaper that published it, the Daily Arkansas Gazette, was the Democratic-Conservative Party organ and it strongly supported and promoted Rottaken’s candidacy for mayor. Perhaps the letter was intended, at least in part, to give a boost to this reputation.

Whether the letter’s publication had anything to do with politics, it was likely read with pleasure by immigrants from Europe who knew Vienna as one of the great capitals of the world and by others with an interest in foreign cities they knew they would never visit.

And after the letter was published

After this European trip, Thuemller returned to Little Rock and resumed his life in the city. Like his step-brother Rottaken, Thuemuller was a sportsman and he was president of the local sharp shooter’s club. He also had a strong cultural bent and was a fine singer with the Little Rock Maennerchor. Periodically he wrote a column for the Arkansas Gazette on the Little Rock economy. In 1880, he received patent 226,570 for a thermo-dynamic engine he had designed.

In 1881 Thuemmler, with his wife Harriet (he married her in Washington D.C. on June 21, 1874) and two small daughters, moved back to St Louis and he worked there as a grocer. In about 1886, he and his family moved to Chicago, and he operated a wholesale “notions” business until his death on March 11, 1891.

Rottaken decisively lost the 1873 elected. However, his fortunes changed a few months later when in April, 1884, he joined the Baxter forces in the Brooks-Baxter War. Rottaken was made a captain in the Baxter forces and was first appointed the chief ordinance officer and later the inspector general. 

When the war ended with Baxter’s victory, Rottaken was rewarded for his service with an appointment as the Pulaski County Sheriff.  After the appointive term ended, he was elected for a two-year term in 1876. During his terms in office, he hired his step-brother Thuemmler as a deputy sheriff.

Rottaken’s wife died in 1876. Two years later, in 1878, he married Fredericka Reichardt Miller, the widow of Charles Miller who had been the business partner of Frederick Kramer when in 1863 the two had started a grocery store that grew into one of the most successful in the city. His new wife was the sister of Adelina, Kramer’s wife.
Fredericka Miller Rottaken on the day of
her wedding to H. H. Rottaken, 1878
(Arkansas Gazette, Dec. 10, 1938, p. 63)
Rottaken continued to be active in local public service. In 1881, he was the chief of Little Rock’s volunteer fire department and nearly lost his life in an accident that knocked him off the top of a tall ladder while fighting a fire. From 1892 to 1894, he held the office of Pulaski County Assessor, enraging the city’s largest businesses with a dramatic upward reassessment of their property values. He was elected city alderman in 1901 and served two two-year terms. 

Aside from his public sector work, Herbert and Fredericka were active investors in real estate and various mining ventures.  Over time, their investments made them quite wealthy. Rottaken died on September 17, 1908 following a hunting accident in which he accidently shot himself, nearly severing his left arm.[9]

[1] The 1873 World’s Fair was held in Vienna. In preparation, the city’s infrastructure was improved through extensive public investments. The fair opened on May 1st and closed on October 31th. It featured impressive pavilions constructed in the city’s Prater area. In all, it offered 26,000 exhibitions that were visited by over 7 million visitors. Unfortunately for Austria, this number was far less than expected. The attendance was held down by news of a cholera outbreak in the city and a stock market panic that marked the beginning of a world-wide recession. Because of the relatively small attendance, the fair’s revenues paid only about a third of the cost of staging the event. See  and

[2] Selka is a village about 50 miles due South of Leipzig. It is now part of the Thuringia Province. At the time, it was in the Saxony-Altenberg Province of the newly unified German state. Miesitz in a small town about 40 miles southeast of Selka, also now in the Thuringia Province. (Both Selka and Miesitz were in East Germany after the end of World War II.)  It is likely Thuemller’s father lived in Selka before he emigrated and that Thuemller had relatives in Miesitz. Neither were or are tourist destinations.

[3] The Elderfeld birthplace was mentioned in an undated and unattributed obituary published in a German language newspaper, likely the Arkansas Staatszeitung. This clipping of the obituary is in a scrapbook that is part of the Miller-Rottaken Family Papers in the archives of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies. The Aachen birthplace is stated in a short biography written in the 1970s by a granddaughter of Rottaken. This typewritten biography is also in the Miller-Rottaken Family Papers. In the 1870 census, Rottaken told the census takers that he was from Prussia. See the Miller-Rottaken Family Collection, BC.MSS.10.28, Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute.

[4] The German-language obituary mentioned in footnote 3 says he and his family were in LR in 1848. The typewritten bio says he and family were in LR in the 1850s. See the Miller-Rottaken Family Collection, BC.MSS.10.28 Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute.

[5] His army service is documented in the biographical sketch mentioned above. See the Miller-Rottaken Family Collection, BC.MSS.10.28 Butler Center for Arkansas Studies, Arkansas Studies Institute.

[6] The October 7, 1868 issue of the Daily Arkansas Gazette (p. 3} noted “H. H. Rottaken & Co. have opened a wholesale wine, liquor, and cigar store one door from the Gazette office.”  Soon after he arrived, Rottaken convinced the managers of the State Fair to hold a pigeon shooting contest as part of the fair activities. He won the competitions in 1868, 1869, and 1870, and ran a small business supplying pigeons for such competitions. The publisher of the Gazette was impressed by Rottaken and wrote two stories about him, touting his sportsman skills and his pack of dogs. See Our Neighbor Rottaken. Daily Arkansas Gazette, August 11, 1869, p. 4. And Rottaken, Daily Arkansas Gazette, July 8, 1870, p. 4.

[7] Rottaken testified on his experiences as a registrar at a one of the hearings that followed the Brooks-Baxter War. The Investigation Committee, Daily Arkansas Gazette, July 29, 1874, p. 4.

[8]  For more information on Kramer, see this entry in the Arkansas Encyclopedia of History and Culture:

[9] Herbert Rottaken Dies from Shot. Daily Arkansas Gazette, September 18, 1908, p. 1.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Little Rock's Two Kramer Schools

One of the better known public buildings in Little Rock during the first seven decades of the 20th Century was the school house on Sherman Street between 7th and 8th streets. The building, completed in 1895, was named the Kramer School in honor of Frederick Kramer, a civic-minded German immigrant who served on the Little Rock school board from February 1869, when the school board was first created, until he retired in 1894. During almost all of those twenty-six years, he was elected by fellow board members to chair the board.
Kramer School on Sherman Street; the
large tower shown in the picture was torn
down in the 1950s

The handsome Kramer School building on Sherman street was not the first school in the city named in honor of Frederick Kramer. Another school built in late 1869 and early 1870 was also called the Kramer School (sometimes it was referred to as the Ward 1 school).  The first Kramer school was located near the eastern end of Second Street between the mansion built by Alexander George in the 1840s and the high banks of the Arkansas River.     
This picture shows part of the 1870 Bird's Eye View Map of Little Rock. The first Kramer School
was located by the Arkansas River on the left side of the map (above the blue mark).
The spot where the second Kramer School was built is marked by a blue tick at the top of the map.
The Kramer School on Second Street was the first one authorized by the Little Rock School District after city voters approved its creation and elected its board members. Near the end of 1869, the board hired A. J. Millard to construct the school, paying him $18,000 to erect a two-story brick building with an entryway, four classrooms, a basement with a modern Ruttan heating system, a painted tin roof, and stone steps. When completed, the school building was described by the Daily Arkansas Gazette as “a beautiful edifice.” It was, the Gazette noted, the “finest and best school house in the city.” The Arkansas Democrat later wrote that it was “the finest in the state.”

This drawing of the first Kramer School was included on the
1870 Bird's Eye View Map of Little Rock
The school opened in 1870, attended by African-American students living on the east side of the city.  In November 1870, a Gazette reporter visited the Kramer School and wrote the following description of what he found there:  

[The school] presents more of neatness and comfort than any similar building in the city. There are but three occupied rooms at present.

The first we entered is in charge of Miss Foster, who is now in her second year as a teacher in our schools. As we entered, Miss Adella Thomas was giving a less in music. The pupils were very apt, and displayed considerable skill. Miss Thomas is the teacher of music for all the schools.

Leaving this room, the next we entered was in charge of Miss Fishburn. The recitations we heard were very fair.

In the next room, Mr. Mason is the teacher. He is also the principal of the school, a finely educated gentleman, and said to be a very fine teacher.

Sadly, just three years later, on October 30, 1873, the school building burned to the ground. The fire started at about noon in the basement, where two furnaces were located. The Gazette attributed the fire to the “inattentiveness of the firemen [who tended the furnaces].” The city’s volunteer fire departments responded quickly to the fire, but were unable to get water from the Arkansas River because of the high banks or from the nearest public cistern, located several blocks away at the corner of Markham and Commerce streets. One department did extract some water from the cistern in the school yard, but the amount was too little to stop the fire.  

The loss of the city’s finest school was a blow to the city school system, and its impact was made worse by the failure of the board to purchase adequate insurance for the building and the recent bankruptcy of the local company from which it had purchased the insurance policy. The school board had insured the building for only $5,000, and it could not collect even that much because of the demise of the company that sold it the insurance coverage. (At the next meeting, the board voted to obtain insurance for other schools equal to their full value.)

The destruction of school came at a particularly bad time. Little Rock, like the rest of the nation, had been hit by a major recession and tax collections had plummeted. During that 1873-74 school year, the board struggled to obtain funds to pay teacher salaries, and it considered closing city schools three months early. However, even though local lenders refused to buy the school district’s notes or bonds, Kramer found investors in Cincinnati who would, and the schools borrowed enough to remain open for the full school year.

The recession continued in the following years, and the district had little money to rent classroom space much less build a new school. It had to sell much of its real estate, including the land on which the Kramer School had sat, to help pay for teacher’s salaries and cover its debt.

The loss of the school house and the lack of funds to build or rent another one had dire consequences for the African-American children living on the east side of Little Rock. It appears that the school board provided no classrooms for these displaced children during the 1874-1875 and 1875-1876 school years. Certainly in 1876-77, the board did not. This deplorable situation was brought up at a January 1877 school board meeting by A. G. Cunningham, a board member, who complained that the board continued to refuse to build a school house to “educate 250 colored students” who were “now living in ignorance.”

It took almost three more years, and heated controversy, before the school district finally built a new school on the east side, and despite the original plans for it to be used to educate African-American students, the board decided to make it a white school and let the African-American students use the space that was left vacant by the white students going to the new building.

Unlike the short-lived first Kramer School building, the second has had a long and fruitful existence. It served as a regular school building until 1969. Then, from 1969 to 1978, it hosted an experimental school operated by Bettye Caldwell of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s Center for Early Development and Education. After that program moved to a new school building in 1978, the Kramer School building sat vacant for a couple of decades, then was sold to investors who, through renovation, carved it into loft apartments. The building still stands (without the original tower in front) as the Kramer School Artist Co-op Apartments. 

A few blocks to the northeast of these apartments, the land on which the first Kramer School was located now is part of the grounds for the Clinton Presidential Library and Museum.


For more on Frederick Kramer, see this entry in the Arkansas Encyclopedia of History and Culture:

School Board. Daily Arkansas Gazette, January 11, 1870, p. 4.
Around the City. Daily Arkansas Gazette, February 15, 1870, p. 4
Our Public Schools, Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 26, 1870, p. 4.
Destructive Fire. Daily Arkansas Gazette, November 1, 1873, p. 4.
School Board. Daily Arkansas Gazette, January 28, 1877, p. 4.
Kramer School. Portrait of the Late Honorable Kramer Presented to the School. Arkansas Gazette, December 23, 1894, p. 3
Free Schools. There were none in Arkansas Prior to 1868 [Reminiscences of Judge Henry Coldwell], Arkansas Democrat, January 20, 1902, p. 3
Public School Reminiscences [Letter from A. J. Millard]. Arkansas Gazette,               June 17, 1914, p. 8
Francis Jones. Local System of Schools is the First Formed in State. Arkansas Democrat. May 20, 1916, p. 3.