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    Thomas Edison

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Wangemann's family background and early life

"Theo Wangemann", a biography by Patrick Feaster (continued)


Family background and early life

Johannes Theodosius Wangemann-Theo's grandfather-came from a "once prosperous, then impoverished family of the Herrnhuter Brüdergemeinde [Unity of Brethren of Herrnhut]," a branch of the Moravian Church known for its missionary work. He was musically accomplished as a performer, director, and composer, and also had a penchant for mathematics and Classical languages. In the early 1820s, he relocated from Wilsnack in Brandenburg to Demmin in Pomerania, where he served as choirmaster and teacher and dabbled briefly in sheet-music publishing. Musical ability was said to run in the family.[1]

In contrast to Johannes Theodosius's humanistic pursuits, his eldest son, Adalbert Theodor Wangemann-ATEW's father-was an industrial merchant specializing in paper and paper goods. In 1850, he married Theodosia Sophie Ottilie Rhenius of Tiegenhof, the daughter of a government official.[2] Theo himself was born in Berlin on February 13, 1855, and was christened "Adelbert Theodor" two months later. His older brother had already been christened "Adalbert Theodor" in 1852,[3] so the spelling "Adelbert," as opposed to "Adalbert," was probably intentional, representing an effort to name both children after their father without giving them exactly the same name. To prevent confusion, Adalbert Theodor Junior generally went by "Adalbert," like his father, while our Adelbert Theodor went by "Theo" or "Theodor."[4] At some point, the two brothers also adopted extra middle names, so that Adalbert Theodor became "Adalbert Theodor Emil" and our Adelbert Theodor became "Adelbert Theodor Edward."[5] Confusingly enough, they still had the same initials: A. T. E. Wangemann.

During the 1860s, Theo's father worked as a Prokurist or authorized representative for the Gebrüder Hoesch, a paper and iron manufacturer.[6] In 1870, he formed a partnership with Max Krause, and after its dissolution the following year,[7] he continued to run the enterprise at Köpenickerstraße 98a in Berlin on his own: a "paper and envelope factory, factory and warehouse of writing paper, account books, and counter requisites, monogram factory and paper manufacturing."[8] By 1876, Adalbert Junior had taken over as proprietor from his father,[9] and Theo likely worked there as well. In 1878, both of Theo's parents died.[10] The following year, Adalbert Junior ("merchant") emigrated to the United States in February, and Theo ("worker") followed in August.[11] At the time of the 1880 census, Theo was lodging in Chelsea, Massachusetts, with a lumber dealer named Nathaniel Littlefield.[12] Also shown living in Chelsea at the time was George Boardman Blake, a "salesman" later identified as a paper merchant, and on 21 February 1884 Theo-likewise identified as a "salesman"-married his daughter Anna L. Blake in Boston, which was also listed as his place of residence.[13] On 11 October 1884, Theo became a naturalized citizen; at this point he was working in New York as a "clerk," and his witness was his brother-in-law, George Hollis Blake.[14] Given these connections, it seems probable that Theo spent his first few years in America pursuing the paper business in the Boston area, taking advantage of experience he had acquired working in his father's paper factory in Berlin. Meanwhile, Adalbert Junior sought work further west as a druggist, ultimately settling in Chicago and working in the field of chemistry.[15]


Endnotes:

[1] [Hans Wangemann], D. Dr. Wangemann, Missionsdirektor: Ein Lebensbild (Berlin: Wiegandt & Grieben, 1899), 2-6; see also an advertisement for J. T. Wangemann's Festkantaten für vier Singstimmen mit Begleitung der Orgel, in Intelligenz-Blatt zur allgemeinen musikalischen Zeitung 25 (1823): 28.

[2] http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Rhenius-278

[3] See birth records at http://www.familysearch.org.

[4] As heard on cylinder 93958: "Lieber Adalbert" and "Theo."

[5] See entry for "Adalbert Theodor Emil Wangemann" at http://www.familysearch.org and U. S. Patent 872,592.

[6] Handels-Register und Anzeige-Blatt 1 (1862): 111.

[7] Max Krause, 50 Jahre im Dienste der Papier-Industrie, 13. April 1852-13. April 1902 (Berlin: Max Krause, 1902), digital text at http://www.digitalis.uni-koeln.de/Krause/krause_index.html, 23-4.

[8] 1872 entry for "A. Wangemann" in Berliner Adressbücher, http://adressbuch.zlb.de/

[9] 1876 entry for "A. Wangemann jr.," Ibid.

[10] http://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Rhenius-278

[11] Hamburg Passenger Lists at AncestryLibrary.com.

[12] Record for "A. Theo. E. Wangeman [sic]," age 25, occupation given as "farmer," household of "Nath[anie]l Littlefield," 1880 census, Chelsea, Massachusetts.

[13] Record for "Geo. B. Blake," 1880 census, Chelsea, Massachusetts; "George Blake," 1900 census, Middlesex, Massachusetts; death record for "George Boardman Blake," Massachusetts, 13 November 1908, occupation: "paper"; marriage record for Adelbert T. E. Wangemann and Anna L. Blake [indexed as "Boeke"] at Familysearch.org.

[14] Naturalization record at Ancestry.com; George Hollis Blake, b. 1861, son of George Boardman and Ellen (Field) Blake, born in Chelsea, "Jim and Carol's Hall of Genealogy," cited as from John R. Totten, Thatcher Genealogy (New York: New York Genealogical and Biographical Society, 1910), 687, 808.

[15] Records for "Adelbert Wangemann," 1880 census, in Paddock precinct, Gage County, Nebraska (17 June) and St. Louis (11 November); "Albert Wangemann," 1900 census, Chicago, Illinois; A. Wangemann, "A Talk With Theo. B., My Kid, and Good Friend," Iron Molders' Journal 42 (1906): 657-659.

 

Did You Know?

A set of storage batteries used as display models for the Edison Company.

Did you know that Thomas Edison worked on electric car batteries in the early 1900s? He thought it would be the car of the future. His wife's favorite car to drive was a Detroit Electric. Today, Thomas Edison National Historical Park has three electric cars dating from 1908 to 1914.