EARLY 20TH CENTURY – PART 4 – FROM OX CART TO CADILLAC – FOUR WISCONSIN GERMANS TOUR CALIFORNIA

Contents © 2016 Harold Pfohl

EARLY 20TH CENTURY – PART 4 – FROM OX CART TO CADILLAC.  DIRT ROADS, GOLDEN GATE, OIL WELLS, AND A PHONE CALL IN THE DESERT – FOUR WISCONSIN GERMANS TOUR CALIFORNIA

Fig 069 MM 04 hp fam negs 02282013 10 copy

A BRIEF DIGRESSION FROM THE LUEDER FAMILY ABOVE TO THEIR TOURING RELATIVES

Although the primary focus for the story of rural German-American life in the early part of 20th century is the William and Augusta Lueder family, this post will digress for purposes of illustrating the incredible pace and degree of change under way by the relating the travels of Augusta’s Nieman relatives.

The speed of change in all aspects of life was phenomenal. Many different technological developments were essential for this.  The most visible impact was seen in the very rapid evolution of the automobile with the many advances in engineering and all of the associated infrastructure.  Roads, bridges, gas stations, oil wells, refineries, traffic control, etc., all of this existed but in the most primitive way, suitable for horse drawn conveyances, prior to the mass ownership and usage of cars.

The Niemans seem to have had strong family bonds but were widely scattered.  This resulted in occasional visits over great distances.  We will look at an auto trip to California in 1921 taken by Augusta’s brothers, John and Charlie Nieman, and their cousin, Ed Fromm with his wife, Alice.  They visited their Uncle Carl, Aunt Emelia, and their Cousin Augusta Ebert, her husband Theodore Ebert and their family.

SCATTERED CHILDREN OF THE IMMIGRANTS

Children of the immigrants and parents of our travelers:

       Johann Nieman & Sophie Fromm         Fred Fromm & Alvina Nieman…

Sophie and Fred were siblings as were Johann and Alvina.

THE TOURING FOURSOME

Grandchildren of the immigrants who were children of the above two couples:

John & Charles Nieman and their cousin & business partner, Ed Fromm & his wife, Alice, nee Krause.  At the time of the auto tour John and Charlie were 53 and 52 respectively.  Ed and Alice were ten to 15 years younger.

WHERE THEY LIVED IN 1921

auto map 1918 RR NIEMAN TOUR.jpg

Source-David Rumsey Map Collection

  1. Johann & Sophia Nieman were in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.
  2. Fred Fromm & Alvina Nieman Fromm were in Hamburg, Wisconsin. Alvina’s brother Carl, his wife, Emelia, and their children and grandchildren lived there.
  3. In 1916, Carl and Emelia moved from Hamburg to Santa Cruz, California where their daughter, Augusta Nieman Ebert and her husband Theodore lived.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Family members travelled when they could to spend time with siblings and close relatives.

wis-slide-nieman-old-img3068

Photo from about 1905 – 1910 – Left: Johann, Sophie, and Carl Niemann. The two ladies are unknown. Sitting on the porch railing – Charlie Nieman. On the right, leaning on the porch railing, Andrew Fromm, Sophie’s younger brother.

Carl Niemann returned from Hamburg, Wisconsin 200 miles to the home place where he was a boy and where eldest brother, Johann lived.  The location is the Pioneer Farm on Pioneer Road west of Cedarburg.

Charlie is Johann and Sophie’s second son, and nephew of Carl Niemann and of Andrew Fromm. Andrew farmed virtually next door to his much loved sister Sophie.

wi-hermansv-travel-img3932

Johann and Sophie traveled 200 miles to Hermansville Michigan in 1911 to visit their daughter Alvina (niece to Alvina Fromm) and her husband, Albert Pipkorn and the grandchildren.

JOHN NIEMAN TRAVELLING IN 1909

As John Nieman prospered and gain the means to do so, he enjoyed traveling for its own sake.

USA J NIEMAN TRAVEL IMG3953.jpg

Mammoth Cave KY, Feb 5, 1909 – John Nieman with mustache at top center in light coat. Presumably, the odd outer wear and lanterns were provided by the Cave tour operators to protect clothing against moisture and dirt in the cave.  John’s wife, Martha, seldom traveled with him.

1916 – UNCLE CARL AND AUNT EMELIA NIEMAN ABANDON NORTHERN WISCONSIN WINTER FOR BALMY SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA

wis-slide-nieman-old-img3017

Carl and Emelia Nieman farmed in Hamburg, Northern Wisconsin.  By January of 1916, Carl was 63 years old about to turn 64, and Emelia was 59, about to turn 60, and they were considering retiring.

Their daughter, Augusta, had married a man named Theodore Ebert.  Theodore and Augusta Ebert and their family had moved from Hamburg, Wisconsin to Santa Cruz, California, in 1914.

Winter in Wisconsin could be brutal – see the photos below.

cedarburg-ollie-feb-7-1965-copyjpg

Bridge Rd., Three miles west of Cedarburg, February 7, 1965

Winter farther north was even worse.

northern-wisconsin-winter

Northern Wisconsin

Santa Cruz was more attractive.

santa cruz 1920s.jpg

Source – etsy.com

Theo and Augusta persuaded Carl and Emelia that the congenial Santa Cruz climate was far preferable to that of Wisconsin for their old age.

In January of 1916, they left behind their farm, children, grandchildren, sisters, nephews, nieces and friends, church, and home of a lifetime.  It could not have been easy.

California was lightly populated at that time and land was cheap, so Carl and Emelia, newly retired but still quite vigorous and anything but idle, bought the equivalent of a city block in Santa Cruz and continued to enjoy farming on a very small scale in town with fruit trees, goats, and pigs. Carl lived until 1939, and Emelia until 1947.

This provided an excellent excuse for their nephews, John and Charlie Nieman, and Ed Fromm along with Ed’s wife, Alice, to make a grand auto tour to California. The vehicle was John’s 1920 Cadillac.  Ed had grown up very near his Uncle Carl and Aunt Emelia and no doubt was especially eager to see them.

WHAT WERE THE ROADS LIKE?  THE BEST ROADMAP IN 1918 WAS A RAND MCNALLY HIGHWAY OVERLAY ON A RAILROAD MAP

auto map 1918.JPG

Source-David Rumsey Map Collection

auto map 1918 RR.JPG

Source-David Rumsey Map Collection

The red thick lines are major highways/trails, with each one having a name, e.g., Lincoln Highway.

auto map 1918 RR Nebr.JPG

Source-David Rumsey Map Collection

Enlarged example – Nebraska.  The black lines are all railroad lines.  Red = highways and it is fair to assume that most of those were dirt roads

US ARMY CONVOY – COAST TO COAST EXPEDITION OF 80 TRUCKS IN 1919

We have an excellent idea of the traveling conditions confronting the Nieman – Fromm adventure. In 1919 the US Army sent an 80 truck convoy on a transcontinental trip from Washington DC to San Francisco.  Very likely the army used the above map.  Dwight Eisenhower, a Lt. Colonel at the time, joined the expedition. The link below accesses a most interesting article summarizing the military convoy’s experiences. In brief, traveling through the Western states was an awful experience: horrible roads, with poor and often distant services.

1919 US Army Transcontinental Truck Convoy – Eisenhower

Excerpts from the linked article by Sarah Laskow in the above link:

1919 US Army convoy.jpg

Downing Collection, Eisenhower Archives

Average speed – six miles/hour.  Some days, much less.

“In 1919, he traveled with the military in a motor convoy across the country, from D.C. to San Francisco, in “the largest aggregation of motor vehicles ever started on a trip of such length,” the New York Times reported.”

“Soon, driving from coast to coast would become mythologized as one of the key American experiences. But in 1919, it was a terrible, torturous endeavor.”

“In 62 days, more than 80 trucks, cars and motorcycles made their way along the planned route of the Lincoln Highway, one of the first cross-country highways ever built. They crossed plains, mountains and deserts on roads that, up until Nebraska, were surprisingly well made. But once the convoy hit the West, the trucks started getting stuck in ditches, sand and mud, for hours at a time. By Utah, the conditions of the roads were so bad, it almost stopped the convoy altogether.”

“…before the convoy reached California, its personnel would be forced to camp on twisty mountain roads, ration water and spend hours pushing their vehicles along otherwise impassable stretches. Like the oxen of western pioneers, the cars and trucks often died.” 

“…about 6 miles an hour—is what the convoy would average in its crawl across the country.”

“The convoy made it to San Francisco six days behind schedule. The trip, overall, was a triumph, and the governor of California threw a celebratory dinner featuring clam chowder, salmon, fried chicken, sweet potatoes, Turkish melon, and cigars.” 

“But by the end of the trip, the official observer reported later, “the officers of the Convoy were thoroughly convinced that all transcontinental highways should be construed and maintained by the Federal Government.” As Eisenhower put it, “there was a great deal of sentiment for the improving of highways,” and on that point, “the trip was an undoubted success.”

…transcontinental railways had reached the Pacific in the mid-1800s, and in 1876, an express made it from New York to San Francisco in just 83 hours.”

And, from Wikipedia  (emphsis added):  US Army Transcontinental Motor Convoy

“…230 road incidents (stops for adjustments, extrications, breakdowns, & accidents) resulting in 9 vehicles retiring, the convoy of ‘24 expeditionary officers, 15 War Department staff observation officers, and 258 enlisted men’ had 21 injured en route who did not complete the trip. …

 

Photograph_of_the_1919_Transcontinental_Motor_Convoy.jpg

1919 Motor Transport Corps convoy car at a service station in a western desert town.

Lincoln_highway_nebraska.jpg

The convoy broke and repaired 88 wooden bridges (14 in Wyoming), and ‘practically’ all roadways were unpaved from Illinois through Nevada. The convoy logged 3,250 mi (5,230 km) miles in 573.5 hours (5.67mph avg) and 6 rest days without convoy travel were used. Convoy delays required extra encampments and, at Oakland, California, the convoy was 7 days behind schedule (ferrying the next morning on the last travel day).”

HOW DID OUR ADVENTURERS TRAVEL?

By 1921 John and Charlie were 53 and 52 years old respectively. Ed and Alice were perhaps 10 to 15 years younger. Ed and John had become the largest fur farmers in the world for the most luxurious and popular fur – silver fox. They were dominant businessmen in their industry. Charlie, who farmed for a living, had invested with brother John and while not in their league financially Charlie was very well off as a result.

The US Army trip was widely publicized and our adventurers were surely familiar with the conditions experienced by the convoy.

With that in mind, it seems unlikely that at their age and with the considerable means at their disposal that they would have undertaken a trip through the West that had all of the associated miseries reported by the army’s convoy. It is difficult to imagine this affluent foursome struggling with a stuck vehicle, incessant dust and dirt, poor accommodations, mechanical breakdowns, etc. for 1000 miles over the Great Plains and the Great Basin region.

Examining their trip photos, it is noteworthy that no images of the Rockies, plains, mountain passes, etc. are shown. It may be fair to assume that they shipped their Cadillac to San Francisco from Cedarburg or Milwaukee and crossed the country in style and comfort in a first-class Pullman sleeper. A rail trip likely took three days and enabled them to experience the grand scenery of the Rockies of the far West in comfort with good food, little stress and sound sleep in the Pullman.

calif-highway-overlay-1918-stitch

Source-David Rumsey Map Collection

calif-highway-overlay-sf-b-1918

Source-David Rumsey Map Collection

West Coast Highways in 1919 – all lines other than red are RR.

IN 69 YEARS – FROM OX CART TO CADILLAC

The men knew their immigrant Fromm and Niemann grandparents well.  In 1852 their Niemann grandparents made their way North of Milwaukee to Germantown and then to Cedarburg via oxcart.

wiki commonsrural-ox-cart-2.jpg

Source – wikicommons

69 years later, in 1921, the grandchildren toured in a 1920 Cadillac – rather different from the oxcart.

The only evidence that we have of the trip is a handful of photos.  However, upon examination they tell a lot.

us-j-nieman-travel-img3937b

Nieman photo

1920 Cadillac Type 59 Four-Passenger Phaeton.  The C on the grill suggested the possibility of a Cadillac.  Search on the internet turned up the exact model of car.  Modern photos of a restored antique are provided in the footnotes.

No windshield wipers are visible

us-j-nieman-travel-licns-plt-img3937b

The license plate was Wisconsin, 1921.

us-j-nieman-travel-img3943

Nieman photo

Note the side curtains.  The only glass window was in the front.  The spokes on the wheels were wooden.

us-j-nieman-travel-img3936-b

Nieman photo – Alice Fromm by the car.

The car had no trunk for luggage.  Their luggage was fastened to the “running board” on the driver’s side of the car – visible in the image above.

The 1920 Cadillac was a very expensive and powerful (60 hp) car for its day and presumably reliable.  It was perfect for touring California scenery with the top down.

SAN FRANCISCO

us-j-nieman-travel-img3946

Nieman photo

The Golden Gate from the Pacific side long before the bridge.  The view is taken looking north from the Presidio military reservation at the Golden Gate.

us-j-nieman-travel-cannon-img3946

Nieman photo

The gun emplacements facing west to the ocean still held cannon (enlargement from the previous photo)

us-j-nieman-travel-img3940

Nieman photo

John, Alice, and Charlie in the midst of eucalyptus trees.  Golden Gate Park in San Francisco has an abundance of these trees.  This image may have been taken there.

Their heavy clothing suggests that the trip was made during the winter.

From the internet – photos of San Francisco in the 1920s.  Our travelers would have seen similar sights.

sf 1920s pinteferest 3.jpg

Source – sanfranciscodays.com

 

San Francisco was rebuilt in a hurry after the great 1906 earthquake and fire.  The above image is a mere 15 years later.

sf-skyline-1920s-pinterest

Source – pinterest

Financial district

sf-1920s-pinterest

Source – pinterest

Chinatown

sf-1920s-pinterest-2

Source – william edward dassonville

pinterest.jpg

Source – pinterest.com

A 1920s stoplight in San Francisco

alcatraz.jpg

source: delcampe.net

Alcatraz was a famed prison and a prominent scene in the San Francisco Bay.

US J NIEMAN TRAVEL IMG3947.jpg

Nieman photo

Very likely Muir Woods National Monument, created January 9, 1908 by President Roosevelt.  The monument was readily accessible from San Francisco via ferry to the North Bay and then the Pacific Coast Hwy.  There are no redwoods in Southern California.

Muir Woods.jpg

Source – Pinterest.com

VISITING UNCLE CARL & TANTE EMELIA NIEMAN AND COUSIN ‘GUSTA EBERT IN SANTA CRUZ, CALIFORNIA 

us-j-nieman-travel-img3944

Nieman photo – note the dirt road in town.

US J NIEMAN TRAVEL IMG3944 crp1.jpg

L-R: Ed Fromm, his wife Alice, Theodore Ebert (seated), his wife, Augusta Nieman Ebert, John (seated), Uncle Carl Nieman (Augusta’s father), and Charlie.

Best guess – this was the home of Theodore and Augusta.

John loved to travel but his wife, Martha, did not.  He would often invite Brother Charlie to join him. John and Charlie twice made trips to California, touring and visiting their Uncle Carl and Cousin Augusta.

US J NIEMAN TRAVEL IMG3945 copy copy.jpg

Nieman photo – again note the dirt road and ruts in 1921 Santa Cruz in town.  Amazing.

L-R Ed Fromm, Emelia Nieman, Carl Nieman, Theodore Ebert, John Nieman, Charlie Nieman

This was the home of Carl and Emelia.  The fence and plantings are consistent with a mini-farm having animals and produce.  Below – a photo from 1933:

CA SANTA CRUZ CARL NIEMAN HM IMG4124 copy.jpg

Source – Gilbert Nieman

LOS ANGELES

The coastal road, Hwy 1, was not completed during the 1920s.  The route through the Big Sur where mountains plunge down to the sea was costly and difficult to build.  The travelers may have taken the Pacific Coastal Hwy, although portions of that were likely rather rough as well.

pacifi hwy under construction.jpg

Source –  sfsdhistory.com

Pacific Hwy under construction in the 1920s – source – sfsdhistory.com

grapevine 3 .jpg

Source – museumsanfernandovalley.blogspot.com

The roads in the Central Valley were good.  They may have taken the “Midland Trail.”  But, perhaps for time, comfort and convenience, they may have shipped the car via rail to LA, and then continued touring.

If they took the Midland Trail, the quality was quite good for much of the road.

Sky_Line_of_Los_Angeles,_California_1921.jpg

Los Angeles skyline in the 1920s, source – Wikipedia

The oil industry in LA was booming.

US J NIEMAN TRAVEL IMG3948.jpg

Nieman photo

The oil wells (probably at Signal Hill) in the Los Angeles Basin were extraordinarily productive and quite a sight to see – derricks pumping oil into the far distance.  The Cadillac is parked at the lower left in the photo.

Oil_Well_Gas_Station.jpg

A Los Angeles Gas Station -Source – waterandpower.org

There were many oil companies, many refineries and the quality of gasoline was inconsistent – sometimes just plain poor.

US J NIEMAN TRAVEL IMG3949.jpg

Nieman photo

This image was part of the collection that was reviewed and copied.  It is not certain that this was part of the trip – but it may have been taken in the Los Angeles harbor.

US J NIEMAN TRAVEL IMG3936.jpg

Nieman photo

The terrain resembles the Mojave Desert.  The foursome headed eastward through the southern desert.

Fig 081b MM 03 hp 4 2 13.jpg

Note the locomotive and cars in the left background.

Fig 082 MM BK 043 0079+09 0075 Tending to Business Early 1920s.jpg

Nieman photo

How extraordinary – a phone in the desert!  This may have been in New Mexico or Arizona.  The mountains in the background do not resemble those seen in Southern California.

The caller is likely either John or Ed, both of whose business interests would have required attention.  Given the extent of those interests, the demands on their time, and the very primitive condition of roads and services, perhaps after seeing a bit of the Southwest, e.g., Grand Canyon? (but no photos in the collection!), they shipped the Cadillac home by rail and speedily returned in comfort and their daily life.

* * * * * * 

Today we take the infrastructure surrounding the automobile for granted – fine highways, service stations, lodging, traffic controls, etc.  As is obvious from the above, matters were quite different in 1921.  

Oakland_Chevrolet_factory_c.1917.jpg

 

One day’s output (!!!) at the Chevrolet factory in Southern California – Source – Wikipedia

The mind-boggling growth of auto ownership and the cultural and economic impact of the auto created great pressure on the various levels of government to rapidly improve the automotive infrastructure.  The comparable modern event that comes to mind with astonishingly rapid technological evolution and adoption by the masses is the internet and personal computing.  However, that event of today is not as visible as the automobile and all of its associated infrastructure.  The change in culture caused by the auto was much more profound.  The auto provided a degree of personal freedom without historical precedence.

We will revisit travel in a later post and the progress in a few years is remarkable.

NEXT – MAKING A LIVING ON LUEDER’S FARM

FOOTNOTES

Modern photos – 1920 Cadillac Model 59 Phaeton. Click on images to enlarge them.

Source – mecum.com

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s