Tuesday, December 19, 2017
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.
The world’s fair is certainly grand. 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.
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. 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. 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.
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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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.
 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 http://www.wienmuseum.at/en/exhibitions/detail/the-metropolis-experimentvienna-and-the-1873-world-exhibition.html and http://jdpecon.com/expo/wfvienna1873.html
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 For more information on Kramer, see this entry in the Arkansas Encyclopedia of History and Culture: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?search=1&entryID=12300
Friday, October 20, 2017
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.
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.
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.”
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: http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?search=1&entryID=12300
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.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
I know what I was doing fifty years ago today, and I cannot think of anything else I would rather have been doing. Thanks to my good fortune, I was getting on a flight to London to embark on a two-week study tour of Western Europe with about 200 other college students from throughout the United States.
I say it was my good fortune for several reasons. First, I was fortunate that the faculty and staff of the Vienna campus of the Institute of European Studies (IES) were brave enough to load a large group of college students on five buses to show them (I should say, "educate them about") Western Europe. This study tour kicked off IES's year-long "study abroad" program in Vienna, and it was a great start to the school year. Also, it was my good fortune that at the time such a trip was financially feasible. The dollar was strong and the costs of gasoline, hotel rooms, and meals were a fraction of the cost today, even considering the impacts of inflation. Finally, I was most fortunate to be on one of the buses, thanks to an IES scholarship honoring Sen. J. W. Fulbright. Without that, I would have been back on the University of Arkansas campus.
|The IES Tour Bus at the White Cliffs of Dover Waiting for a Ferry|
September 14, 1967
Below is the agenda for the "Western European Field Study Trip." It took the group in my bus to London, Oxford, Stratford-on-Avon (where I saw McBeth at the Globe Theater), Bruges, Paris, Trier, Munich, Salzburg, and Vienna. At different locations, we had lectures from IES faculty members (Porhansl, Benesch, Mowatt, Balekjian, Arndorfer, Fellner), plus local specialists. Of the group, I especially liked Dr. Benesch, who had a relaxed manner, a notable sense of humor, and did not take himself too seriously, as was common among Austrian faculty members.
|IES Students in Paris, September 17, 1967|
The trip was made more enjoyable by the group of students traveling together in our assigned bus. The long trips provided an opportunity to get to know a bunch of students from campuses scattered throughout the United States. I had a chance finally to meet some Yankees and Californians, about whom I had heard rumors but rarely talked to.
|IES Students at the Salzburg Castle, Sept. 24, 1967|
Yep, fifty years ago I was getting on an airplane to start one of the best years of my life. Probably before I departed someone should have told my parents, "Don't send your kid to Study Abroad unless you are prepared to welcome home someone you don't recognize."
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
In November 1870, aldermen Frederick Kramer of the first ward and Asa Richmond of the third ward ran for re-election to the Little Rock city council. Both were supported by the regular republicans (the “minstrels”), a faction headed by Gov. Powell Clayton, but were opposed by the anti-Clayton reform republicans (the “brindle-tails”) who viewed them as barriers to controlling the council. One brindle-tail leader, Little Rock Mayor A. K. Hartman, especially wanted Kramer, a fellow Prussian and an implacable foe, off the council. To that end, Hartman helped carry out a brindle-tail plot to usurp the ward 1 polling place, replacing the regular election judges and ballot box with their own. The plot’s results were not what Hartman or the other brindle-tails expected.
The story of the usurpation attempt and its aftermath is told in my paper, "Mayor A.K. Hartman and the Brindle-tails Usurp Little Rock's 1870 Election, To No Avail."
To read or download the paper, go to one of these links:
Sunday, February 19, 2017
Twelve clangs from the clock on the east wall of Little Rock’s city council chamber interrupted the aldermen as they were about to cast another vote to elect the council’s new president. It was midnight and most of them could not recall how many previous ballots had been taken on this question. Was it 670, or maybe 680? No matter how many, they were sure how the next ballot would tally: four votes for Alderman Frederick Kramer and four votes for someone else.
When the clock quieted, the man at the head of the oblong table in the middle of the council chamber called on the aldermen to resume voting. As usual, he, Frederick Kramer, the temporary chairman of this first meeting of the 1871-72 city council, received his own vote and those of Aldermen Daniel Parham Upham, Daniel Ottenheimer, and Asa L. Richmond. Also, unsurprisingly, his main rival, Alderman Dudley Emerson Jones, voted for himself and got the votes of Aldermen George Wilson Denison, Jerome Lewis, and Henry Thomas Gibb. Another 4-4 tie.
After announcing the results, Kramer quickly called for another vote on the issue. As the familiar process restarted, the few remaining spectators stirred. White men, leaning uncomfortably on the wall by the clock, shifted positions. Next to them, the city clerk dipped his pen into an inkwell. On the other side of the room, across the tobacco-stained carpet, a small audience of black men clustered around a drum stove as they watched Alderman Lewis, the blackest and oldest man seated at the oval table, doodle images of a fish.  Next to him, Denison, the whitest and youngest alderman, sat quietly.
For the whole story of the 701 votes for the president of the Little Rock city council in 1871, go to the paper available at the following link:
For the whole story of the 701 votes for the president of the Little Rock city council in 1871, go to the paper available at the following link: