Labor Day, Factory Workers in the Family

While most of the early ancestors on Dad’s side of the family were primarily hard-working farmers, those on Mom’s side of the family were factory workers.

They immigrated from Germany and Croatia and settled in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Sheboygan was a factory town on the shore of Lake Michigan.

So for Labor Day, I figured I would recognize these workers in the family.

First, going back in time: Mom’s parents were Lucille Beiersdorf (1920-2011) & John Chvarack (1916-1967 ). Lucille’s parents were Amanda Steinhaus (1894-1973) & Herman Beiersdorf (1895-1983). John’s parents were Mary Siprak (1876-1960) & Steve Chvarack (1872-1938).

US Census records from 1900 have my great-great grandfather, August Beiersdorf, working as a Coal Handler; his 18 year old son, Fred, was a Band Sawyer; and his 15 year old son, August, was a Factory Hand.

By 1910, August, Sr. had died. His son, Fred still worked as a Sawyer in a Chair Factory, August worked as a Cabinet Maker in a Furniture Factory, son William, 23, was a House Painter, son Albert, 17, worked in a Chair Factory, son Herman (my G-grandfather) at 16 years old was working as a Wood Turner in a Chair Factory.

Based on US Census Records in 1900 &1910, Otto Steinhaus, my great-great grandfather, worked in a chair factory. In 1910, his sons, Walter, 19 & Willie, 14, also worked in a chair factory. His daughters, Martha, 16 & Amanda, 14, (my G-grandmother) worked at sewing in a glove shop.

1n 1910, 1920 and 1930, Steve Chvarack shows up working in a chair factory. He died in 1938. In 1920, his son, Joseph, age 22, was working in a chair factory, & son, George, 20, worked as a shoemaker in a shoe factory.

Seems like it wasn’t until my Grandparent’s generation, the “Greatest Generation”, that children stayed in school at least through High School.

Great Grandpa Herman Beiersdorf retired from Armour Leather Company after 25 years in 1958, but as mentioned earlier, he started working at age 16.

Grandpa John Chvarack worked at a Tannery in 1940. Later, he made a career in the Army

I asked Grandma, Lucille, why she chose to go to Sheboygan Business College. She said she didn’t want to go to college and got a job at a factory where they knit stockings. Said she learned how to “hold your stocking here and go this way and that way and make perfect stitches.” She said she lasted 10 days & then enrolled in the business college. The business education came in handy later when she had to support herself after John’s death.

So there we have a few of the early jobs my maternal ancestors had. Many of them stayed with those factory jobs through their entire lives. Hard to imagine the working conditions in the early 1900’s.

©MJM 2016

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