The entrepreneur….businessman….risk-taker….or just following a whim? Who knows how this great grandfather of mine came to be in the dry goods business. But it's fun trying to answer that question.
Harry Adam Weber, the eldest of five children of Adam and Amelia (Micol) Weber, was born in Indianapolis on September 12, 1859. He was baptized six days later in St. Mary's Catholic Church in Indianapolis. On October 21, 1886, he married Mary Anna Keen in St. Mary's. They had twelve children between 1887 and 1908, the eldest being Harry Lawrence Weber, my grandfather. There are some interesting details to Harry Adam Weber's childhood and young adulthood in Indianapolis. But today the story's all about his livelihood….what he chose as his occupation as an adult.
His given name was Henry and it's unclear exactly when he began using Harry. Listings in the Indianapolis City Directories through 1887 indicate his name as Henry. His marriage record to Mary Anna Keen in 1886 also lists him as Henry. Somewhere in the late 1880s he became Harry.
To begin filling in the picture of his chosen field in life, city directories provide information on him working as a clerk in the Leon Kahn Dry Goods Store and The New York Store from 1875 to 1885, 15 to 26 years of age. In those last few years another person of note that also worked at The New York Store was Louis A. Zimmer, as a cashier. These young men were gaining experience in the retail business.
By looking at Henry's marriage license application in 1886 I learned that he had become a "merchant." It appears that he started his dry goods business close to the time of that he married Mary. The listing in the business section of the city directories from 1886 to 1912 read similar to this: Dry Goods: Weber & Zimmer, Henry A. Weber, Louis A. Zimmer, Dry goods, notions, ladies and gent's furnishing goods. (See the 1887 directory on the right.)
The Weber and Zimmer Dry Goods store at 178 Virginia Avenue was well situated for the commerce and local business of that time, close to the Indianapolis Wholesale District and Union Station, within a popular German district. City directories and Harry's obituary indicate the store operated from 1887 through 1913, having moved from Virginia Avenue to Shelby Street (two or three blocks) in the last couple of years.
I have often dreamed of finding an historical record that would give us an idea of what the Weber & Zimmer dry goods business looked like or how it operated. Well, it pays to keep Googling. The other day I made another stab at it. And this time something popped up! This discovery was inside the State of Indiana Department of Inspection report for 1906 that has been archived by Google. Weber & Zimmer is listed in the Marion County, Indianapolis list of businesses inspected. In the excerpt that I've posted, the company is number 2431. The heading for the second larger column is "business engaged in" and you can see that Weber & Zimmer is described as: dry goods and millinery. Reading across to the right, the columns are "Number of Employees" - 4 males and 5 females. The two blank columns mean they had no employees, male or female, between the ages of 14 and 16. Hours per week are listed as 59. Days worked in 1905 was 307. Sanitary conditions were "good." Workmen organized: No. Firm member of combination: No (what does that mean?) Kind of power: (blank) H.P. of Engine: (blank). Order issued and complied with: (blank). This last column had to do with any deficiency that was found and dealt with by the business owner. I believe "workmen organized - no" refers to non-union workers. There will be more analysis of this information in the future. But my first thought is that I need to examine the other businesses and evaluate how this business compared to others in the report. Did the blank in the column for power mean they had none? That could have been the case. Not all those listed had gas, steam, electric or supplied. I'll have to dig into the history of this Virginia Avenue section of the city to see what might be lurking out there to add to Harry's dry goods business story.
Weber & Zimmer operated through 1912. When Harry retired from the dry goods business after 26 years, he moved into other types of occupations. He worked in the Indianapolis city engineer's office in the administrations of Joseph E. Bell and Lew Shank. And later was employed at the George L. Paetz Company as a clerk. It appears that he retired around the age of 71. Harry A. Weber seems to have been an industrious person, setting out with his partner, Louis A. Zimmer, in his new business at the age of 27. He and Mary raised 12 children and provided a home for Harry's mother as well for about 12 years. During his years of building his business there may have been community involvement that brought him into political circles to some degree. Maybe that entry gave him an opportunity for the position he acquired at the time he closed his business. There's more sleuthing to be done to see if there could be any more hints about his life in newspapers, or wherever.
Thank you for visiting Indiana Ties. Let me know if you relate to this ancestor in the dry goods business.
Further family information: I've written before about Harry's mother, Amelia Micol, about his father, Adam Weber, and about his wife, Mary Anna Keen.
Copyright 2014 © Nancy Niehaus Hurley