Andrew Kaiser, tinner and tinker

East Lincoln Highway (1912)
This photo shows East Lincoln Hwy, DeKalb, IL in 1912 from Seventh Street looking West. Andrew Kaiser operated his tinning shop at 622 E. Lincoln Hwy at this time. In this photo, his shop was located in the building near the car parked on the left side of the road, in the two-story building with the large sign that says “Drugs.” (Image source: NIU Digital Archives, Ritzman photo collection.)

For over 30 years, the Kaiser family ran a successful sheet metal shop in DeKalb, IL. (I wrote about the later years of this shop in this earlier post!) Andrew Kaiser and his two youngest sons operated the shop, but the family’s history in tinsmithing didn’t start in DeKalb. The patriarch of the family, Andrew Kaiser, had been a tinner and metal worker for nearly his whole life, and his career lasted for over 50 years. His long career even includes some exciting surprises! Continue reading “Andrew Kaiser, tinner and tinker”

Christmas on the German Front — 100 years ago

One hundred years ago, my great-grandfather Glenn Kaiser wrote a Christmas letter home to his mother. He had just received his Christmas box that his mother sent. Below is a transcription of that Christmas letter.

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(Click on the image above or this link to read the full letter.)

Continue reading “Christmas on the German Front — 100 years ago”

Two Brothers Operate Tinning Shop

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In the Kaiser family tree, the most common occupation is a tinsmith. At least three generations worked in the trade! Tinsmiths, later called sheet metal workers, worked with any kind of light metals, and typically repaired things like stoves, furnaces, roofing, gutters, and more. This post focuses on the Kaiser Brothers Sheet Metal business in DeKalb, Illinois. Kaiser Brothers was owned by my great-grandfather Glenn Kaiser and his brother Floyd. They operated a successful tinning and sheet metal business from about 1923-1935. This is a story of that local business!

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Floyd, the youngest Kaiser brother

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Floyd Kaiser, about 1917. This may be his high school photo. (Image Source: Kaiser Family Photos)

My great-great-grandparents, Andrew Kaiser and Jennie Holbrook, had a large, blended family. Between the two of them, they had 18 children. This is the story of my great-great uncle Floyd, who was their youngest child, who also died when he was very young.

Andrew Kaiser and Jennie Holbrook were married on 22 July 1885. Both of them had been married previously, and had had children with their previous spouses. Andrew had eleven children with his previous wife, Elizabeth Wentsel. Four of these children died young, before Elizabeth’s death in 1884. Jennie had previously married Thomas Burke, and they had three children. She was granted a divorce from him in June of 1885. Although it’s not clear how Jennie and Andrew met, they lived in the same small town of Prophetstown in Whiteside County, Illinois. Thomas Burke was a druggist in town, and Andrew Kaiser was a tinner. Both businessmen may have known each other, and may have been in the same social circles. After losing their first spouses, both Andrew and Jennie found themselves as single parents, with at least several small children at home. Joining their households was likely a beneficial situation for them both. Continue reading “Floyd, the youngest Kaiser brother”

Favorite photo: Nana and Papa at the fair

One of my favorite photos from my family history is actually a set of photos. My grandparents, Ed Drake and Millie Kaiser, were out on the town and visited a photo booth. This set of tiny photos are the photos that were taken there! When I asked my grandmother about them, she said they must have been taken when a fair came to town. They both look so happy, and you can see some of the mischief in my grandfather’s face. He could always make us laugh. I remember both of them that way. I love these photos because although I knew them later in life, I can see that they had the same spirit when they were younger, too.

Continue reading “Favorite photo: Nana and Papa at the fair”