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Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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Jacob J. Vollrath

Source: "Portrait and Biographical Record - Published 1894 by Excelsior Publishing Co., Chicago" Pages 612 - 613

Jacob J. Vollrath, President of the Jacob J. Vollrath Manufacturing Company, has built up one of the most important industries of Sheboygan. A sketch of his life is of especial interest, as it shows how a young man possessed of industry and grit, though destitute of capital, may rise from penury to affluence.

Mr. Vollrath was born in Doerrebath, Kreuznach, Rhenish Prussia, Germany, September 19, 1824. There his father, Jacob Vollrath, was born. He was a manufacturer of fine cloths and linens, employing some fifteen men. He died when the son was about a year and a-half old. The mother of the subject of this sketch was born in the same place. Her maiden name was Christina Weimer. After the death of her first husband, she wedded John Meyer, the father of Philip Meyer, deceased, a well-known manufacturer of Sheboygan. In 1845, with her husband, she came to the United States, spending her last days in Washington County, Wis. She reached the advanced age of eighty-eight years, four months and twenty days. Of the family of Jacob Vollrath, Sr., only two grew to mature years, Jacob J., and Mrs. Anna R. Schlicht, of Sheboygan. By the second union the mother had two children that grew to manhood: Philip P. Meyer, whose sketch is given elsewhere in this work, and Peter William Meyer, a farmer of Washington County, Wis.

Jacob J. Vollrath is the youngest of his father's family. Until fifteen years of age he attended the schools of his native village; then, in accordance with the custom of his country, he began to learn the moulder's trade. Having completed his apprenticeship, he traveled and worked at his trade until his emigration to America. He was called as a recruit to the German army, but through the influence of his stepfather, his enlistment was put off a year. In the mean time he decided to come to the United States. Not able to get a Government pass, as it might reasonably be supposed that he would not return to render the required military service, he had to resort to other means. In this emergency his workman's pass served him a good turn. By means of that he got past the Government officers, and took passage aboard a sailing-vessel at Antwerp. After fifty-six days spent on the billowy ocean, anchor was dropped in New York Harbor. Having worked a short time in that city, he proceeded to Albany, where he was joined by his mother and step-father. Coming to Washington County, Wis., they located on a farm. After working some five years in Milwaukee, Mr. Vollrath spent some four years in Chicago, becoming foreman of, and later partner in, a business. Before leaving Milwaukee he was married, May 2, 1847, to Miss Elizabeth Margaret Fuchs. Mrs. Vollrath was born in Pferdsfeld, within ten miles of the birthplace of her husband, March 24, 1821, and with her father, John Fuchs, came to the United States in 1843, her mother having died in Germany. She is the only member of her father's family living.

In 1853, Mr. Vollrath came to Sheboygan, and in partnership with Boehmer & Marling engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements for about two years. For the three succeeding years he was engaged in building steam engines in company with others. Through the dishonesty of a partner he lost the fruits of former years of toil and saving. Devoid of capital, but still possessed of energy and determination, he began with hammer and bellows to establish himself in business. Soon after he became a member of the firm of Vollrath, Blocki & Co., manufacturers of farm implements. Selling out this business, he started steel works in partnership with an expert from Krupp's, the noted manufacturer of Germany. In 1874, Mr. Vollrath began the manufacture of enameled ware. He has the distinction of being the first to invent the gray enameling. Through his invention and his manufactured products, he has gained a world-wide reputation. The business has grown rapidly from the start, and in 1884 a stock company was formed, known as the Jacob J. Vollrath Manufacturing Company. The present officers are: Jacob J. Vollrath, President; A. J. Vollrath, Vice-President; J. R. Riess, Secretary and Treasurer; and Carl August Vollrath, Superintendent. They have an extensive plant and employ a large force of men. The display of their wares at the World's Fair was both novel and attractive.

Unto Mr. and Mrs. Vollrath has been born a family of six children: Lillie.who married John M. Kohler, and died March 2, 1883; Andrew J., who is the second in order of birth; Minnie, who is the present wife of John M. Kohler; Mary, who is the wife of John R. Riess, mentioned above; Carl A., who is Superintendent for the company; Nahyda Deborah, who is the youngest of the family, and is at home.

Politically, Mr. Vollrath is a stanch Republican, though he has never aspired to places of public trust or emolument. Socially, he is a Royal Arch Mason. He has four times visited his native land, in 1871, 1880, 1889 and 1891. Asa business man, Mr. Vollrath has been a marked success. Beginning here working by the day, he has, by close attention to business and the exercise of superior judgment, become one the wealthy men of Sheboygan County. His life has been worthily spent, and he need have no regret that he has become a citizen of the United States and of Sheboygan.

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