St. Louis Makers of Surveying Instruments
A. Parsons, PS -- Richard L. Elgin, PhD,
Surveying & Engineer
310 East 6th Street
Rolla, Missouri 65401
Since it was
published in 1962, the best catalog and most comprehensive source of
information about American surveying instruments has been “The Makers
of Surveying Instruments in America Since 1700” by the late Charles E.
Smart. In this well known, valuable and long out-of-print book, Mr.
Smart cataloged what he knew about the American makers of surveying
instruments. We now know there were many more makers than he cataloged
and we also are aware of errors in his book.
This paper is
“Smart” for St. Louis. It lists all the authors know about each
maker of surveying instruments who lived and worked in St. Louis. The
paper is based on a detailed examination of the St. Louis City
Directories from 1838 to 1933, as well as the other reference material,
letters, interviews, papers, etc. cited. Another source is the
instruments themselves by various St. Louis makers in the extensive
collection of Dr. Richard and Robert Elgin of Rolla, Missouri.
As is evident
in the rather brief paragraphs about some of the makers, there is very
little record of some of these gentlemen’s lives. All that could
reasonably be discovered is included. The authors believe this paper is
a good initial study. As with “Smart,” other St. Louis makers will
probably be discovered, and additional research is needed into the
makers included in this paper.
The makers are
arranged alphabetically. At the paper’s end is a chart showing each
maker’s name and the dates of their entries in the St. Louis City
St. Louis was
one of the great boomtowns of American History. In the early years it
was connected with the settlement of the frontier. In the more immediate
past and present St. Louis’ development has demonstrated the problems
of modern urban society. The federal census of 1840 recorded 16,469
persons in the city. This represented a growth rate of 181% for the
decade 1830-1840, with 77% of the increase coming after 1835. St. Louis
was fifth in size among the western cities. Most of this population
growth came through immigration. From 1830 until the Civil War, St.
Louis was one of the central points that drew immigrants, some of whom
settled in the city, but the majority fitted out to claim western lands.
By the mid-1830’s
the immigrant tide, both American and foreign-born, was so great it
seemed to nearly engulf St. Louis. In the fall of 1834, the Republican
reported, “For several days our streets have been crowded with wagons
and carriages, filled with apparently substantial and worthy people,
bending their course to the Far West.” In the Spring of 1835 the same
newspaper observed: “Every steamboat that arrives at our wharves is
crowed with passengers - some of the Louisville boats bringing us as
many as three hundred at a time. It is a fair computation to say that,
within the week past fifteen hundred persons have landed on our shores.
Many of these remain.” In the Fall of 1836, the arrival rate was even
greater. In a 30-hour period, 600 people landed at the St. Louis
wharves. The most significant source of this flow was from the South,
particularly from Kentucky and Tennessee. However, as Illinois, Indiana,
and Ohio filled up, immigration from New England and the Central
Atlantic States increased perceptibly. All immigrants to 19th century
St. Louis came for the same reasons: opportunities for work and wealth.
decade of the 1830’s a new source of population opened up to St.
Louis, which was to have a tremendous impact on the ethnic makeup and
also helped shape the course that the city was to follow both prior to
and during the Civil War. Economic change and dislocation in the
post-Napoleonic era had led to the creation of an entire class of
impoverished and/or dissatisfied people in the German States. Emigrants
began leaving the German States by the thousands. By the end of 1840,
152,454 had come to the United States. In the years 1835-1837, 30,000
German immigrants entered Missouri, of these, 7000 located in St. Louis.
In 1837 a German-English school opened on South Second Street, and in
1838 the first German-Language book was published.
Along with the
tremendous influx of German immigrants also came a small cadre of master
craftsmen. Names like Ryhiner, Blattner, Winzer,
Wuger, Holske and Werne
were to become the early instrument makers in St. Louis. The principal
mainstay of the instrument makers’ trade in the first half of the 19th
century was the surveyor’s compass.
The tools for
the manufacture of the surveyor’s compass were simple and not too
expensive. A typical shop might include one or more turning lathes, a
few vices and an assortment of miscellaneous hand tools. The artisan may
have worked alone or may have employed journeymen and an apprentice or
two. A skilled European craftsman did not need a large outlay of capital
to start a business in the New World.
In the two
decades before the Civil War, America was in the throws of a
technological revolution. The rapid spread of canals, highways and
railroads, and the widening use of steam power in industry and
perfection of manufacturing on the principle of interchangeable parts
was soon to have its effects on what the instrument makers of St. Louis
made and how they conducted their businesses. In the 1830-40’s an
increased demand for accuracy in railroad construction, civil
engineering projects and city surveys led to a rapid acceptance of the
surveyor’s transit. This instrument required its horizontal circle be
precisely scribed. Unlike the surveyor’s compass, which was graduated
to one degree, the transit was graduated to 30 minutes of arc. Where the
compass could be scribed with the only the aid of a template, the
transit required a dividing engine for the necessary precision.
This change in
technology marked the beginning of the end of the small instrument shops
run by a single artisan with the help of a few men. The capital and the
work force necessary to successfully operate a modern instrument
manufacturing facility were beyond the scope of the traditional single
craftsman shop. Those who wished to remain in the business were faced
with the choices of expanding their operation or going to work for some
manufacturing methods, along with the necessity of economic viability,
had ended the heyday of the Old World artisan-craftsman. But, even
though they are no longer a part of the American scene, these artisans
left a tangible record of their enterprise: wonderful handmade
A.S. Aloe &
Company (1860-1959, companies)
A.S. Aloe &
Company began very modestly as a one-man operation on the corner of
Third and Olive in 1860. The company prospered and in 1882 published the
following ad: "Largest House in the States....Always on hand a
large supply of Engineer and Surveyor’s Transits, Levels, Compasses,
Mining Transits and Compasses, Drawing and Profile Paper, etc." The
growth did not stop there. A 1905 ad simply stated "...the largest
house in the world." Disregarding the advertising exaggeration
typical of the period, in the early 1900’s, A.S. Aloe & Company
was the largest supplier of surveying, mathematical instruments and
allied goods in St. Louis and was probably the largest west of the
founder, Albert Sidney Aloe was born in 1841 in Edinburgh, Scotland, son
of Sadoc and Nancy Aloe. Albert immigrated as a child, probably with his
parents, to New York City. His father, Sadoc, was in business there
beginning in 1854 as an optician. The term optician at that time applied
not only to those who sold optical goods, but also to those who made
them. The elder Aloe probably did both.
In 1856 the
young Albert left New York. He sailed around Cape Horn working as a deck
hand. Albert quit the ship at San Francisco where he remained for a
year, probably working in the optical trade as a lens grinder. In search
of adventure and fortune, Albert made his way to South America. There he
was employed as a mechanical engineer in charge of the construction of a
sugar mill. By 1860 Albert had amassed, or so it seemed to him, a young
fortune. With this as his backing, he returned to the United States
settling in St. Louis, Missouri. Across from the Post Office he
established a small business dealing in optical goods.
time Albert did not neglect his personal life. In 1863 he married Miss
Isabella Prince. She came from a notable Belfast family, her grandfather
having been a West Indian governor. This union produced four sons:
Sidney, Louis, David and Alfred. The oldest three became prominent in
St. Louis business circles, and the youngest was a career officer in the
By 1865 Albert
and his father, Sadoc, were in business together as opticians in St.
Louis under the name S. Aloe & Son. In addition to selling
eyeglasses, they also sold opera and field glasses, telescopes,
microscopes and magnifiers.
arrangement lasted only a couple of years and in 1867 Albert was in
business for himself as A.S. Aloe. In 1876 he went into a partnership
with William H. Hernstein. From 1876 until 1880 the company was doing
business as Aloe & Hernstein. In 1880 it was changed to Aloe,
Hernstein & Company. In 1885 Albert again decided to go his own way
and established A.S. Aloe & Company. This was the final form of the
company name which was to last 76 years and through two following
generations of Aloes.
company had grown to such an extent it was necessary to divide into
departments. The surgical department manufactured and sold all the
instruments used in surgery. The photo branch manufactured
photographers' equipment. The optical department manufactured and sold,
at retail only, optical equipment. The exception to this practice would
appear to be surveying instruments. It is not known with certainty if
A.S. Aloe & Company made any surveying instruments; however, there
is ample evidence the company resold the instruments of other makers (a
common practice of the period). These instruments were prominently
engraved “A.S. Aloe & Company” with the true maker’s name (A.
Wissler, for example) hidden on the instrument. The records of the
Gurley Company of New York show that on August 20, 1880, Mr. Aloe of
Aloe, Hernstein & Company ordered (in person), two 18" or
20" wye levels. Possibly early in the company’s history there was
not a St. Louis supplier of quality instruments. Aloe purchased
instruments from Gurley for many years. Later on most of the Aloe
instruments were made by Adolph Wissler of St. Louis.
Albert S. Aloe
personifies the American success story, landing on these shores as an
immigrant child and ending his career as a prominent citizen. His fellow
St. Louisans said of him that he started in a small way and grew with
the city, becoming an affluent and public-spirited citizen, readily
contributing his full share toward the advancement of St. Louis. Albert
was involved in many clubs, holding offices at various times in the
Masonic Order, Order of Odd Fellows, Benevolent and Protective Order of
Elks, and Legion of Honor.
Aloe passed away on Monday, January 30, 1893, at the age of 51 years.
His funeral was held the following Wednesday with friends invited to
attend. The obituary carried the notice, “New York papers please copy.”
death the control of A.S. Aloe & Company was given to his second
son, Louis P. Aloe. Louis was born July 20, 1867 in St. Louis. He was
groomed from the very beginning for his leadership role. His education
began with the Stoddard School, was continued at the Wyman Institute of
Alton and he attended Washington University in St. Louis. Louis
interrupted his education to work in the family business and was listed
on the company masthead as secretary/treasurer at the time of his father’s
The company was
incorporated in 1893, the same year as Albert’s death. With
incorporation came a new modern letterhead for each department. These
letterheads carried a list of major items sold by that department and an
appropriate engraved logo, i.e. a wye level for the mathematical
instrument department, a camera on the photographic department
stationary and the ubiquitous spectacles for the optical department. A.S.
Aloe continued to be carried as president on the letterhead through the
year 1895, possibly to reflect a period of mourning. Later the masthead
was changed to read, "L.P. Aloe, Prest. & Treas.; D.B. Aloe,
Vice-prest.; T.D. Benjamin, Secretary."
leadership the company continued to prosper and grow. It became
necessary to separate the optical and surgical departments. The optical
department remained at 5th and Olive and the surgical department moved
to 1921 Olive. The company suffered a disastrous fire in 1912; however,
they soon rebuilt and were doing business as usual.
Louis Aloe not
only ran A.S. Aloe & Company with a steady hand, but was active in
the business community as well. He was president of the National
Association of Surgical Dealers of U.S. and Canada, a member of the
executive board of the Business Men's League of the City of St. Louis
and president of the Columbian Club,"...one of the largest and most
representative social clubs of the city." He was a member of Temple
Shaare Emeth and was noted for his untiring work for Jewish
an astute business leader, Louis was from an early age involved in
politics. He was secretary of the Young Republicans of Missouri, a
member at large of the Republican State Committee and for four years he
was a Republican member on the Board of Election Commissioners. He also
was given the honor of serving as delegate to the National Republican
Convention, at which he participated in the naming of both McKinley and
Roosevelt as the Republican candidates for president.
in local politics, he was instrumental in writing the city charter, and
in 1915 was elected president of the St. Louis Board of Aldermen. In
this capacity he proposed many sweeping changes. He backed a
comprehensive city plan to control development and to protect
residential areas from the encroachment of industry. To assist the
working people he proposed an all night "lawyerless" court. He
also advocated strict enforcement of the eight hour work day and payment
of union scale wages in all city departments.
St. Louis Mayor
Henry Kiel became suddenly ill and Louis assumed the post of Acting
Mayor. In this position, Louis focused St. Louis on helping the country
win the war. Louis was reelected President of the Board of Aldermen in
1919. In this position, Louis helped muster support for 87 million
dollars in bond issues for civic improvement projects. In 1921, the
issue was passed, at that time it was the largest bond measure of any
American city. In 1925, Louis ran for Mayor of St. Louis. He stood on
his record as a member of the Board of Aldermen and as an ordinary
businessman, stressing common sense. In heavily Republican 1920’s St.
Louis, the only thing between Aloe and the Mayor’s office was the
primary election. With the support of several local newspapers and in
expectation of support from his alderman work and the Jewish vote, Louis
was confident of a win. He was deeply disappointed when he finished
second in a three-man race, laying anti-Semitism as a contributing
factor to his loss.
Louis and his
wife had four children, all girls: Clarable, Viola, Isabel, and Louise.
The fate of the company was to revolve around Isabel, who, while
attending Smith College, met (on a blind date) Howard F. Baer. Howard
was the son of David Baer, a German-Jewish immigrant who had made his
money as a whisky wholesaler before prohibition. Howard and Isabel were
married in 1926. Howard graduated from Princeton and worked for his
uncle in Charleston, West Virginia until Louis' failing health brought
Howard and Isabel to St. Louis in 1927.
After only 24
months on the job, Howard found himself as head of A.S. Aloe &
Company, with the death of his father-in-law, Louis Aloe. Faced with the
responsibility of a large successful company at the onset of the Great
Depression, Howard said, "I was scared to death...I worked like
hell and cut the budget." And cut the budget he did. By 1930 he had
sold all departments except the surgical supply. The medical supply unit
went on to become national in scope and eventually merged with the
Brunswick Corporation in 1959.
Thus ended the
largest and most notable supplier of surveying equipment in St. Louis.
A.S. Aloe & Company fell victim of the Great Depression, along with
many other corporations large and small.
was born in Berne, Switzerland on May 21, 1812. He was thoroughly
trained in his homeland in the art of manufacturing precision
instruments. He immigrated to New York City sometime in the 1830’s and
married Maria Kleiber in the German Reformed Church of New York City on
December 19, 1836. The couple returned to Switzerland where Jacob
probably pursued his craft. In 1839, Jacob and his wife, along with his
foreman and his foreman’s family immigrated to the United States. The
group traveled by ship to New Orleans and presumably by riverboat to St.
Louis. The voyage from Europe was not uneventful. The Blattner’s
daughter, Louisa M., was born September 29, 1839 on the high seas en
route to the United States.
a shop at 24 Chestnut and was first listed in the St. Louis City
Directory in 1840 as a mathematical instrument maker. This address was
next door to where Charles Ryhiner was doing business in the same trade
in 1839. It is unknown whether the two men knew each other previously.
One may speculate that Blattner may have bought out Ryhiner, for after
1839, Ryhiner is not listed in the city directories.
business grew, prospered and expanded in scope during the following
years. Only two years after opening his shop he won a silver cup at the
St. Louis Mechanics Fair. An 1850 full-page ad listed Blattner as a
maker of mathematical and surgical instruments, a dealer in guns,
pistols and sporting materials and offered a repair service “...at
short notice in the best manner.” Some of the items listed in the ad
included surveyor’s compasses, chains, leveling instruments, pocket
compasses, spy-glasses, barometers, thermometers, hydrometers, drawing
instruments, spectacles, scales, protractors, hour glasses, microscopes,
magnifying glasses, and magic lanterns. He also carried a line of
non-mathematical and non-optical goods such as dental instruments,
dissecting cups, syringes, lancets, forceps, tailor’s shears, druggist
scales, powder flasks and game bags.
illustrated catalog published after 1867, Blattner offered a large range
of surveyor’s compasses. They included a plain compass with a 4”
needle and 12-1/2” plate selling for $30.00 ($365 in 2000 dollars) and
a top-of-the-line vernier compass with a 6” needle and 15-1/2” plate
for $50.00 ($610 in 2000 dollars). Also offered was a railroad compass
with a fully divided circle outside the compass-box with two one-minute
verniers for $80.00 ($975 in 2000 dollars). According to the catalog,
this configuration “...gives the surveyor the power of laying off the
variation of the needle, while the graduated circle enables him to take
horizontal angle with great accuracy and minuteness, entirely
independent of the needle.”
was an important part of Jacob Blattner’s business. His catalog
stressed “particular attention paid to repairing and adjusting
instruments.” We know the Surveyor General for Missouri and Illinois,
Meriwether Lewis Clark (son of William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame),
was a Blattner customer. Mr. Lewis mentions in a letter to his son “Lewdy”
that he was “...having some alterations made to my instrument at Mr.
offered by Mr. Blattner was special ordering. His catalog stated that he
was willing "...to furnish on short notice any piece of apparatus,
illustrated or described in the catalogues of other maker or dealer,
though it may not be specified in this catalogue."
was in business in St. Louis for 33 years. During this period his
business was located at least in eight different locations. Four of
these changes of location took place in the time span between 1840 and
1854, a period of economic growth and expansion in the United States.
One may assume these relocations were the result of needing bigger and
better quarters as the business became established and grew. In 1857 the
Blattner shop moved to 43 North 2nd Street, a location previously
occupied by Mr. Blattner in 1853. This may have been in response to the
sharp economic downturn brought about in the Panic of 1857. During the
Civil War the shop was on Market Street and in 1868 it was relocated to
220 North 2nd Street where it was to remain through the rest of Jacob
Blattner's tenure and also through out the existence of the successor
company, Blattner & Adam.
as were most members of the German-American community in St. Louis, was
a staunch Unionist. He was probably a member of Blake’s militia, for
he enlisted as a private in Company C, 3rd Regiment, U.S. Reserve Corps,
Missouri Volunteers on May 8, 1861. Two days later the Missouri
Volunteers surrounded and captured the encampment of southern
sympathizers at Camp Jackson outside of St. Louis, which was
instrumental in keeping Missouri from seceding from the Union.
Jacob and Maria
had at least two other children besides Louisa. Daughter Mary Margaret
was born August 19, 1843. She married during the Civil War, was widowed,
and later married Theodore Henry Kleinschmit, who became prominent in
Montana history. Jacob and Maria also had a son, Henry, who was to
continue the business with Louisa’s husband, Frank Adam after Jacob’s
retirement was forced upon him in 1872 by failing eyesight. The business
was turned over to his son Henry and his son-in-law Frank Adam. They
continued at the same address on North 2nd Street doing business under
the name of Blattner & Adam. Jacob’s early retirement went well.
He had been successful in business and had accumulated enough money to
live comfortably. He had a two story brick home at the southwest corner
of Mississippi Avenue and Rutger Street. But apparently by 1877 he must
have become restless in retirement and took a job as a machinist for G.B.
Allen & Company.
This return to
work was short lived however as his health continued to fail. He went to
see Doctor Louis Hauck and was treated for “anaemia of the brain,”
which would probably be considered depression today. His eyesight
worsened, which he corrected with powerful glasses, but he now had
problems with black spots. A partial recovery was affected; however, he
continued to show signs of eccentricity for the remainder of his life.
health stabilized for a period of time but by the mid-1880’s began to
deteriorate again. His eyesight was becoming worse and blindness was
inevitable. His doctor stated in a newspaper interview, “Frequently,
while walking along the street, he would have to grasp at some object
for support.” He was troubled with insomnia and increasing depression.
Jacob told his doctor on Monday, November 12, 1888 that “he was an old
man, and had lived his time, and if there was no hope that his
conditions would become better he wished that death would relieve him of
On the morning
of November 15, 1888 at 7:00 am, Mr. Blattner’s housekeeper went to
wake him. She found him lying on the floor with a revolver by his side.
She immediately sent for his son Henry, son-in-law Frank and Doctor
Louis Hauck. The Doctor later told the papers, “When I arrived his
body was still warm and he could have not been dead more than three
quarters of an hour. The bullet had pierced the heart and he had
suffered no pain, death being instantaneous.” The Post-Dispatch stated
“The theory of his relatives is that he was unable to sleep last night
and restlessness and worry put him in such a condition in a moment of
despair he resolve to end his life.”
Thus ended the
career of one of St. Louis’s earliest, most prolific and very talented
instrument makers. The Globe-Democrat said of him “Mr. Blattner was
one of the early merchants of St. Louis and quite widely known and
respected generally.” A modern scientific instrument restorer has said
of Jacob Blattner’s work “the hand engraving on compass face, circle
and vernier was the work of a master.”
Adam (1872-1891, company)
to Jacob Blattner’s operation of 30 years was the company, Blattner
& Adam. It was formed around 1871, upon Jacob Blattner’s forced
retirement due to failing eyesight. The principals were Henry Blattner,
Jacob's son, and Frank Adam, Jacob's son-in-law. The business remained
in the same location as before, at 220 North 4th Street.
The firm sold
optical goods and manufactured and sold mathematical instruments,
surveyor's chains, plumb bobs, compasses, levels and transits. Blattner
& Adam also specialized in repair. Their 1882 catalog stated:
"Our facilities for the manufacture and repair of engineering and
surveying instruments are unexcelled." They probably took
trade-ins, for in the same catalog the customer was advised to send for
their monthly bargain list of second-hand transits, levels, compasses
and other engineering instruments.
in their catalog an "Engineers Y level of most approved form and
construction...has an 18" telescope with large, strong Y's made of
the best bell metal. The level bar is made...of well hammered brass as
to possess the greatest strength...." This level was priced at $135
($2477 in 2000 dollars). Also in the catalog was an engineer's transit
which "...has a telescope of 10" or 12" constructed with
the finest lenses, has two verniers at right angles to the telescope
reading to single or 1/2 minute." They also offered a surveyor's
transit for the same price, $180 ($3302 in 2000 dollars). This transit
featured a vernier on the compass plate for setting off magnetic
soon came to Blattner & Adam. Because of their technical experience
and skill, they installed and serviced some of the first electrical
equipment in St. Louis. Frank Adam was very interested in electricity
and was one of the first men in St. Louis to be properly called an
electrical engineer. He undertook to install signal fire alarms for the
city and after 1876 performed this work exclusively. Electrification was
also applied to Blattner & Adam's own operation. In 1888 a
two-horsepower electric motor was installed to drive the machinery for
the manufacturing end of the business.
Frank Adam was
born February 2, 1838 in Freiburg, Baden, Germany, one of the twelve
boys and one girl born to Frederick and Maria E. Adam. He was educated
in Germany but immigrated to the United States at the age of 15 in 1853.
He first worked as a watchmaker’s apprentice in Newark, New Jersey and
then as a journeyman watchmaker in Richmond, Virginia. He proved to be
so skillful that his employers, Mitchell and Tyler, paid a substitute to
take his place in the Confederate Army. He then relocated in Montreal,
Canada, where he worked with Learmont. He came to St. Louis in 1865 and
was employed by Jehu Sylvester. 1869 listed him in the St. Louis City
Directory as having a position with Jacob Blattner.
On January 7,
1869 Frank Adam married Jacob Blattner's daughter, Louisa. The union
produced four children: Frederick B., William, Anna M., Harry C. and
Edwin C. The eldest child, Frederick Blattner Adam, was raised in the
business, starting work at the age of 16, making links for surveyor's
chains. Young Frederick later was promoted to making plumb bobs and
compasses using a foot powered lathe.
learned his trade under the tutelage of his father, Jacob Blattner.
Henry had an inventive turn of mind. In 1882 he was granted patent
number 264,061 for a surveyor’s transit with folding standards for
easier transport and storage. Henry was also one of the early developers
of dry plate photography.
In 1891 the
Blattner & Adam store was obtained by a real estate developer for
the site of the Rialto Building. The firm was dissolved and split into
three parts. Henry Blattner took the optical business and moved to 706
Olive. Frank Adam took the electrical department and established Frank
Adam Electric, doing business at 807 Market. Adolph Wissler, who set up
shop at 202 North 6th Street, acquired the instrument-manufacturing
eventually sold the optical business and concentrated exclusively on
special photography. Frank Adam died September 12, 1922. He was survived
by his four children and was interred at Bellefontaine Cemetery.
Instrument Company (1905-1929, company)
Fink was the manager of Keuffel & Esser’s St. Louis sales office
in the years 1904 and 1905. In 1905 he incorporated the Fink Instrument
Company with capital assets of $12,500 and began doing business at 105
North Eighth Street. Fink was the president of the Fink Instrument
Company from 1905 until 1914. Sometime between 1911 and 1914 the company
moved their operation to 804 Pine Street. After 1915 Frederick Fink no
longer appears in the St. Louis City Directory. Frederick J. Feineman is
listed as president in the years 1916 through 1918. The company was
listed as a manufacturer of surveying and mathematical instruments in
both Gould’s Red Book for 1912-1913 and Gould’s Red-Blue Book for
Prince (1885-1887, company)
Prince appear to be a partnership of two ex-Aloe employees. William H.
Hernstein was in business with A.S. Aloe from 1876 to 1885. In 1885 the
Aloe and Hernstein partnership was dissolved and Aloe established A.S.
Aloe & Company. William Hernstein first appears in the St. Louis
City Directory in 1874, with his occupation listed as a druggist.
Beginning in 1876 he is listed as a principal of Aloe & Hernstein.
David Prince first appears in the city directory in 1869 and his
occupation is listed as a stencil cutter. Prince next appears in 1878 as
a salesman for A.S. Aloe and as a clerk in 1879-80. In 1881 Aloe,
Hernstein & Company is organized and Prince is listed as principal
of that firm even though he is not included in the firm name.
was probably a nephew of A.S. Aloe and most likely a son-in-law to
Hernstein. Prince lived with Hernstein in 1882. In 1884, when Hernstein
moved from Pine Street to Laclede Avenue, Prince moved with him.
Prince is listed in the 1885 directory as doing business at 317 North
4th Street, in the same block, but across the street from the former
Aloe, Hernstein & Company. The business was apparently short lived.
Neither of the men, nor the business is listed in the 1889 directory.
David Prince is not listed in the St. Louis directories after this time.
By 1891 William Hernstein had returned to A.S. Aloe & Company where
he was employed as a clerk and manager until 1898.
Company (1891-1906, company)
operated Mahn & Company between 1891 and 1906 located at 212 Locust
Street in St. Louis. The company was listed in 1891 as dealing in
surgical instruments. By 1893 Mahn & Company's catalog listed a line
of transit-theodolites, transits, levels and custom made scientific and
geodetic instruments. The company also made astronomical instruments but
only to order "...each customer having ideas of his, to which the
constructor must adhere...." They boasted of a complete and modern
manufacturing facility, "...consisting of the latest and most
improved machinery and tools, with the advantages of steam power...we
are enabled to compete with the best makers in quality of work as well
as in prices."
repaired instruments of other makers as well as their own. A notice in
the shop carried the warning that with the exception of Mahn &
Company and other first rate makers, they were only responsible for
their own work. The reason given was that many instruments of lesser
quality simply could not be made perfect.
It appears Mahn
targeted the western market. The introduction of the company’s 1893
catalog states, "We are very confident that hereafter Western
Engineers, Colleges, and other Education Institutions need not go
further for their instruments; for in prices, as well as in quality, we
are enabled to compete with the oldest and best known factories in the
Leonard N. Nutz
first appeared in the St. Louis City Directory in 1848. He is listed as
a machinist, residing at 158 Olive Street. He is next listed in 1851,
giving machinist as his trade. In his 1852 listing Nutz is again listed
as a machinist, located at 10 Second Street, between Market and
Chestnut. This address is only one block from Jacob Blattner’s
establishment at 43 Second Street, between Chestnut and Pine. After this
there is a five-year hiatus in the listings for Nutz. In 1857 Leonard
Nutz is listed as a mathematical and philosophical instrument maker,
doing business at 21 North Washington and residing at 109 St. Charles.
Also residing at 109 St. Charles is William R. Nutz, whose occupation is
given as machinist. The relationship between them is unknown. After 1857
Nutz is no longer found in the St. Louis city directories.
was born in Germany on March 29, 1852, the son of Herman and Ungar
Ruckert. He married Philippine Witter and was the father of Edward
Gisler Ruckert. Ruckert died November 1, 1910 in St. Louis.
drafting supplies and surveying instruments in St. Louis from 1900 until
his death in 1910. He was first listed in the St. Louis directory in
1890 as a clerk and was listed in 1897 as being in the employment of
Keuffel & Esser. He was listed as President of the L. Ruckert
Company beginning in 1901.
It would appear
Ruckert never manufactured the instruments which bore his name. Joseph
E. Dietzgen, president of the Eugene Dietzgen Company of Chicago,
believed Peter Heer of Chicago manufactured the transits sold by Ruckert.
Howard Bay of Howard Bay Instruments, St. Louis has stated that Adolph
Wissler of St. Louis also made instruments for Ruckert.
was born on May 1, 1808 in Basel, Switzerland. He immigrated with his
older brother Frederick to the United States in 1835, landing in New
York on May 27, 1835. He subsequently settled in St. Louis and was
listed as a mathematical instrument maker in the 1838-39 directory doing
business at 26 Chestnut. This area may have been attractive to
craftsmen, for Jacob Blattner had his shop next door at 24 Chestnut in
1840. Charles (along with his brother, Frederick) became a naturalized
citizen of the United States on August 14, 1838.
Instrument Company (1945-Today, company)
Eric H. Seiler
was born in Jena, Germany on April 30, 1899. In 1918 he graduated from
the Carl Zeiss School of Fine Optics as a “Fine Mechanic.” After
service in the Navy in World War I, he returned to Jena to further his
education, earning the degree Master of Fine Optics. In 1924 Eric H.
Seiler immigrated to the United States, settling in St. Louis, Missouri
where he was employed by Wissler Instrument Company. In 1926 he was
promoted to Manager of the Company.
In the late
1930’s the Wissler Instrument Company was bought by the David White
Company, but it continued to operate under the name of Wissler
Instrument Company. In 1944 the David White Company closed Wissler
Instrument Company and moved only Eric H. Seiler and Ervin Schmidt to
their home office in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. At the time of the closing
Wissler employed about 100 employees in St. Louis, mostly due to World
War II military contracts.
David White in 1945, Eric H. Seiler founded Seiler Instrument Company in
a small facility at 922 Pine Street, St. Louis, Missouri. Its primary
service was the repair and overhaul of surveying instruments and
microscopes. The company continued to grow and was soon manufacturing
instruments designed by Eric H. Seiler. Most were levels for the
construction industry, but later included Dumpy levels and transits. In
1956 the company outgrew its facility and moved to 1629 Washington
Avenue. At this larger facility more room was available for
manufacturing. Due to competitive pressures from overseas manufacturers,
the company concentrated more on military optics.
In 1968 the
company moved to a new facility designed to accommodate a complete
optical manufacturing environment on one floor. At 170 East Kirkham,
Webster Groves, Missouri, Seiler has since purchased two adjoining
buildings to accommodate expansion. Today the company occupies 50,000
square feet, employs about 100 people, and has five other offices,
selling surveying instrumentation in seven midwestern states.
Eric H. Seiler
died in 1981. His son, Eric P. Seiler now directs the business. His
sons, Eric P. Seiler, Jr. and Tom Seiler also are active in the
was born in Germany April 1, 1837. William J. Young of Philadelphia
employed him prior to moving to St. Louis.
established his business of scientific optician and manufacturer of
surveying instruments in St. Louis in 1860. He manufactured all types of
optical goods and scientific instruments. His stock included surveying
instruments, opera glasses, eyeglasses, magnifying glasses, microscopes
and thermometers. His son, George Jr., joined him in the family business
in 1882 as clerk, and 1884 listed George Jr. as an optician. The senior
Winzer’s business location at 22 South Fourth Street was well known in
the St. Louis community. His clientele included the Union Pacific of
Pacific, Missouri and many other railroads. Surveyors and opticians in
St. Louis held him in high regard
his wife Mary, numerous children and grandchildren on July 12, 1905. A
private interment was held.
was born in St. Louis on August 10, 1866, the son of Ludwig Louis
Wissler and Johanna Wissler both formerly of Baden, Germany. Beginning
in 1881 he worked as a machinist before going into business for himself.
dissolution of the firm of Blattner & Adam in 1891, Adolph Wissler
bought their mathematical instrument division. He conducted business
under several names through the years. In the 1900 city directory he was
listed as "Wissler, Adolph, Surveying Instruments", by 1905 he
was doing business as the Wissler Instrument Works. That company was
sold to David White of Milwaukee in 1929 but continued in St. Louis as
the Wissler Instrument Company until 1944 when it was moved to Milwaukee
and absorbed into the David White Company.
Instrument Works was dedicated exclusively to the manufacture and repair
of engineering, surveying and scientific instruments. He stressed they
combined in their instruments the accuracy and finish of European
craftsmanship with the lightness and durability desired by American
engineers. They stood firmly behind and believed in their products. In
their catalog was the statement, “We positively guarantee the accuracy
and workmanship of all instrument of our make.”
although trained in the Old World tradition, was progressive, open to
suggestions for improvement and innovation. His literature stated he was
willing to incorporate suggestions regarding details of construction
that his clients found desirable. On July 24, 1917 he was granted patent
number 1,234,520 for a combination level and transit. The principal
feature of this instrument was fixed trunnions (unlike earlier
combination instruments) on the telescope, which allowed the rapid
conversion from level to transit without the necessity of carrying extra
parts to perform the conversion. Many examples of this instrument are
only manufactured instruments under his own name but also provided
instruments for other dealers including A.S. Aloe & Company and
Louis Ruckert. He put the Aloe name on the eyepiece assemblies of at
least some of the instruments sold to them. There are A.S. Aloe
convertible levels with “Made by A. Wissler” stamped on the back of
the tab that contains the horizontal circle vernier.
married. When he died in St. Louis on January 9, 1926, he was survived
by his brothers Jacob and Louis and at least two nephews and four
nieces. He was interred at the Bethania Cemetery.
operated as a mathematical instrument maker in St. Louis before the
Civil War. In the 1854-55 city directory his business address is listed
as 112 South 2nd Street. In the 1857-60 directories both the business
and residence address is 63 North 2nd Street. There were no directories
published during 1861-1863. Wuger does not appear in the 1864-65
In a special
class of makers, the following is a tabulation of individuals or
companies that were listed in the St. Louis City Directories as either a
“surveying instrument maker” or as a “mathematical instrument
maker.” No biographical or company information could be found
concerning these makers. There are no instruments known to the authors
that were made by these makers, with one exception: There are known
instruments marked “Kuhlo & Mahn.”
Blattner & Gury
Erker Brothers Optical
|Kilo & Mahn
now have pictures representative of William
with special interests in the St. Louis makers, the authors would
appreciate receiving information about the lives or instruments of the
makers listed in this paper.
is Chief of the Office for Elgin Surveying &
Engineering, Inc. He holds
a BA in History from the University of
Elgin, PhD, PS, PE
is President of Elgin Surveying & Engineering,
Inc. He has BS and MS degrees in Civil Engineering from the University
of Missouri-Rolla (UMR) and PhD from the University of Arkansas. Dr.
Elgin owns one of the largest collections of early American surveying
instruments in the United States.
2000, Elgin Surveying & Engineering, Inc.