New Year’s Greetings from A.E. Burkhardt
Posted On: 01/02/2017 - 12:55pm, Posted By: Sarah Staples, Helen Steiner Rice Archivist
Despite the dirt and tears in this New Year’s card the original beauty still shows through: the intricate embossing of the paper and the simple, but poignant sentiment. May the next year be even happier than the past year is a wonderful notion, but it becomes more meaningful when you learn the story of A. Edward Burkhardt.
Adam Edward Burkhardt was best known as the owner/president of A.E. Burkhardt Co. His story began on April 26, 1845 when he was born in Zweibrucken, Bavaria, Germany to Susanna (Klingel) and Peter Burkhardt. Peter died in Germany before Susanna and her two children, Elizabeth and A.E., immigrated to Cincinnati in 1852. By the age of 12 A.E. was fully orphaned when his mother died. Forced to fend for himself he became an errand boy for furniture manufacturer Mitchell & Rammelsberg. After attending night school to learn book-keeping, A.E. left Mitchell & Rammelsberg for a job at Jacob Theis & Co., a wholesale and retail dealer in hats and furs. Years of hard work and dedication paid off as A.E. rose through the ranks at Theis & Co eventually becoming a manager. Astonishingly in 1866, at the age of 21, A.E. Burkhardt bought the store from Mr. Theis.
A short two years later, when A.E. sent the New Year’s card, the fur business was operating under his own name. By 1871 he had married Emma Erkenbrecher and added floor space to his business. It’s clear that A.E. was an ambitious man, because over the next 20 years he grew his business so much he had to move twice. The second move was to a building at 4th and Elm which A.E. had the option to buy. Tragedy struck once again in 1891 when a fire destroyed his business. The next few years dealt A.E. one tough blow after another. Unable to rebound from the fire, his business fell into the hands of creditors, he lost his house, his wife left him, and his wife and older sons went into business without him.
The full story of what happened with his family is unclear. A.E. and his wife probably didn’t officially divorce, but it is clear that after 1897 they did not live together. 1897 was also the year his wife and older sons, Andreas, Carl, and Cornelius, opened Burkhardt Bros Company. Again it is not clear whether the businesses had some shared connections, but they were definitely two separate businesses. A.E. held no position at Burkhardt Bros Co. and the older brothers didn’t seem to hold any position at A.E. Burkhardt & Co. Burkhardt Bros Co. seemed to be mostly retail, while A.E. seemed to retain only the wholesale and importing part of his business.
A.E. Burkhardt & Co eventually rebounded. He regained control of his company and in 1905 the business moved into its permanent location at 300 Main St (3rd and Main St.). In this space they bought, sold, repaired, remodeled, and stored furs. Just six months before A.E.’s death, the business was incorporated at a value of $150,000. His youngest son, Webster, ran A.E. Burkhardt & Co. after A.E.’s death on November 5, 1917. The business passed to Webster Jr., when Webster Sr. died in 1944. The company officially closed at the end of 1963 after 97 years in business.
The other business, Burkhardt Bros Co. was shortened to Burkhardt’s. It became a successful business with stores in Cherry Grove Plaza, Hyde Park Plaza, Kenwood Plaza, and Tri-County Centre in addition to their main downtown location on East 4th Street. The company was sold in 1981. The downtown store closed in 1993. The final location in Kenwood closed in 1995.