“If ere this book should chance to roam…”
Posted On: 09/01/2017 - 12:41pm, Posted By: Christine Engels, Archives Manager, Manuscripts Department
The Theodore Marchmann collection (Mss 726) contains the records of a blacksmith in Madisonville during the latter half of the nineteenth century. This collection initially caught my attention not only because it was about a type of business that we have little documentation on, but also because of an inscription he wrote at the beginning of the earliest ledger. It reads, “If ere this book should at a chance to roam treat it well and send it home.” Marchmann chose a charming turn of phrase for a common practice, to record ownership of a volume, and with this gives a small peak into the man behind the ledgers.
Theodore Marchmann was born in either 1834 or 1835 in Mecklenburg, Germany. In 1854 he immigrated to the US and eventually made his way from New York City to the village of Madisonville where he worked as a blacksmith. Three of his ledgers detailing his clients’ orders and accounts as well as receipts for rent and insurance were donated to the Cincinnati History Library and Archives in 1984. Covering 1865-1902, the ledgers clearly show the importance of blacksmiths to nearly everyone in society during this time. Marchmann had a wide variety of clients requesting his services, with shoeing horses and repairing springs in wagons being highest in demand.
Finding verifiable information on Marchmann and his family proved to be a bit difficult but with the help of census records, city directories, and marriage and death records I was able to extract a bit of his life story. Marchmann died on April 2, 1902 and is buried along with his wife, Louisa Kolthoff (1843-1905) at the Vine Street Cemetery in Cincinnati. They had three children, Alvina Anna Nolte (1873-1960), Mamie/Mayme (1876-1956), and Charles W. (1883-1913).