The Beautiful Bags Lady
124 W Elder St.
Early Years at 60 ElderIn 1861, William Schrendenbach was the first commercial occupant of 124 W. Elder, then numbered 60 Elder. His coffee shop lasted for only a year though. Then, from 1862 to 1865, Christian Weber (1831-1877) operated a boots and shoes store from the space. In 1866, he relocated his business to 58 Elder (now 122 W. Elder, or Churchill’s) where he remained until 1870. Born in 1831 in Koenigsbach, Bavaria, to Georgii (1797-unknown) and Barbarae (Herfel) (1804-1835), Christian—or Christianus—came to the U.S. in 1853 as a young, single man and became a prominent Over-the-Rhine resident, accumulating close to a million dollars in today’s money by 1870.
The family legend is that his money was used to build St. John’s Church at Green and Republic (that is now demolished). Christian’s wife was Rosina “Rosa” (Beiswanger) (1831-1902). She was born in Stuttgart in 1831 to Jakob (1793-1847) and Caroline (Bath) (1796-unknown) and, since her parents died when she was young, her uncle and godfather Johannes Rath (her mother’s brother) brought her to the U.S. in 1848-1849 through London, along with his seven children.
Here in Cincinnati, a few years later, she wed Christian on November 24, 1853 and subsequently raised a large family with him. Their children included Adam (1854-1890), John (1855-1938), George (1858-1930), Louise (Brumleve) (1861-1933), Rosa (Rummel) (1864-1919), Charles (1866-1910), twins Frank and Joseph (1869-1880) and Caroline (Schorr) (1874-1953). Christian was raised Catholic and, upon their marriage, Rosa converted to that faith after being raised Lutheran.
In the midst of their child-raising years and during his tenure at 60 Elder, Christian served in the Civil War from September to October 1862 as a Private in the Union Army. In 1871, Christian moved his business to the northwest corner of Freeman and 8th Street in the West End. But soon, he relocated the business back to Findlay Market, to 64 Elder (now 128 W. Elder).
Through these years, Christian maintained a family farm in Westwood and in 1877, during a visit there, he was thrown from his buggy and suffered a fractured skull. He died soon after. His body was interred at St. John’s and later moved to Spring Grove Cemetery (once his wife died and wished to be buried at Spring Grove, his children moved his body there).
After his death, his widow Rosa continued to run the family store at 64 Elder through the 1880s before retiring and living in Clifton with her daughter Caroline, her granddaughter Rosa and her sons John and George—both of whom became famous musicians. John led the famous Prize Band America, a military band that won national competitions.
In 1902, Rosa passed away due to heart failure. From 1866 to 1868, Louis Meyer sold wallpaper from 60 Elder and then, from 1869 through the 1870s, the Schwartz family—led by Severin Schwartz (1838-1926)—ran a dry goods grocery and then a tailor shop from 60 Elder.
Born in Germany in 1838, Severin immigrated when he was fourteen years old. He met his wife, Barbara (Vitt) (1847-1919), here and married her in 1868 at St. John the Baptist Church. They had seven children in total—including George Felix, Isidore, Rose, Cecelia—but by 1900, only four remained alive. The Schwartz family lived at 60 Elder until, in the early 1880s, they moved to 46 Elder (now 110 W. Elder). The family-owned that building until the 1920s.
Barbara passed away in 1919 and Severin in 1926—at home at 110 W. Elder as an eighty-seven-year-old who had been in the tailoring business for sixty years at that point. His daughters Cecelia and Rose then owned 110 W. Elder until 1962. In 1879 and 1880, William Sick ran a house furnishings and chinaware business from 60 Elder’s storefront.
Born in 1842 in Prussia, he was married to a German woman named Margaret, born in 1845. They had several children, including William, Augustus, Eliza and Paul. During William’s tenure as a Findlay Market proprietor, the family lived at the northwest corner of Race and Elder (now Noli). At 60 Elder, William specialized in selling queensware, a particular kind of cream-colored chinaware developed by Josiah Wedgewood (1730-1795). It was called queensware after the British queen, Queen Charlotte (1744-1818), commissioned a collection for her family.
From 1881 to 1887, huckster John Fuchs sold eggs and butter from the storefront. From 1888 to 1890, it was a grocery under George Burger, although he soon moved to the northeast corner of Elm and Elder (now the Leader Furniture building).
Born in 1854 in Hesse, George was a German immigrant who came to the U.S. in 1867. He married a French-Austrian woman named Josephine (Dettwiller) in 1877 and had seven children with her. Of these, six—Laura, George, Emma, Willie, Lillie and Josephine—survived infancy.
From 1890 to 1896, Louise Hoefle (1838-1921) sold millinery from the building. She had previously worked from 617 Elm (what is now Crown OTR) at the corner of Elm and Elder Streets. Louise was a German immigrant, born in Baden in 1838. She wed Jakob Hoefle (1840-1886), a saloon keeper, in 1864 and the following year the couple immigrated to the U.S. In Cincinnati, Louisa had several children, including Charles (1865-1903), Mina (1866-1868), Louisa (1867-1868), Emil (1874-1878), Emil (1879-1880) and Frieda (1884-1884) (she had another four children as well, unlisted here).
As the life spans of these children show, many did not live very long. In fact, by 1900, she had given birth to ten children, five of whom had already died. This kind of infant and child mortality was common for her time: it is estimated that around one-fourth of American infants born in the second half of the 1800s died before they could celebrate their first birthday. Louisa was already a widow when she ran her millinery business at 617 Elm; her husband Jakob had died in 1886.
Her work in the garment industry was representative of how huge numbers of immigrants, especially immigrant women, worked as seamstresses, dressmakers, milliners, shirt and collar makers and embroiderers in the 1800s and early 1900s. Labor in this time was sex-segregated, so women could find jobs only in domestic service, laundry and light industrial labor like garment work and cigar-making.
Beginning in the early 1800s, textile mills offered women some of the first paid industrialized labor in the U.S., and throughout the century, more and more women worked in all the various stages of mechanized clothing production. Even with the rise of factories, manufacturers also sent work out to be done by contractors and subcontractors. This sewing, hemming, stitching and finishing cuts of clothes and hats was often performed in small shops—or at home in private tenement apartments which allowed women to perform domestic duties while still earning wages.
Louise’s hat-making shop was on the first floor of 60 Elder since city directories listed her private residence in Clifton, not at 60 Elder.
The 20th Century at 124 W. Elder
After Louise’s shop, a coffee shop—Boston Coffee—had a location at 124 W. Elder in the last years of the 19th century in addition to another location on Vine Street and one on Central Avenue.
Then, from 1900 to 1907, Rose Dierkes (1876-1956), initially with the help of her older sister Theresa (1871-1930), ran a millinery shop at 124 W. Elder. Rose and Theresa were born in Ohio to immigrant parents, John Herman and Mary Elisa (Lasance). John immigrated in 1853 from Hanover and worked here in Cincinnati as a tailor. His wife Mary was from Holland, born in 1843. They wed in Cincinnati at St. Augustine Catholic Church in 1865 and had, in addition to Theresa and Rose, John (1871-1923), Louis (1873-1959), Herman (1877-unknown), William (1877-1918), Joseph (1879-1883), Adelaide (1883-1960), Mary (1884-unknown), John (1885-unknown) and Joseph (1886-1934).
The family lived in the West End, then East Price Hill and later on Dayton Street in the West End. Rose never married and lived with her younger sister Adelaide for much of her life (she also often lived with Theresa—none of the sisters married). Rose did well for herself, earning enough to own her own home in Hyde Park by her forties.
After her tenure at 124 W. Elder, she worked as a saleslady in various dress and hat shops. In 1908-1909, Isaac Epstein (1865-1921) sold men’s furnishing goods from the storefront. Born in 1865 in what is now Slovenia, he came to the U.S. in 1894 with his wife Annie. A tailor by profession, he started in Cincinnati by working as a peddler and eventually owning his own men’s clothing shop. He was like other Jewish immigrants in Cincinnati who started off as peddlers, small shopkeepers and tailors.
In 1850, one in four Jews in Cincinnati was employed as a peddler, selling jewelry, notions, cigars or stationary. They relied on Jewish merchants for merchandise to purchase and then hawk. Often when Jewish immigrants arrived in the U.S., they had limited economic options because of their treatment in Europe—they were only allowed to work in certain industries and trades—so they had more limited skill sets.
Peddlers like Isaac started out as “basket peddlers” (with very little command of the English language) and then grew their business to have a heavy pack of stuff to sell. Then they got a horse and wagon—and eventually a dry goods or clothing store.
From 1912 to 1919, William Krueger (1880-1920) operated a candy shop at 124 W. Elder. Born in Germany in 1880, he was married to Louise Krueger (Liesner) (1870-1933) who, upon his death in 1920, continued the confectionary at 124 W. Elder. Born in 1870 in Germany, Louise immigrated either in 1872 as a small child or in 1881 as a young woman (immigration records list both dates). Here in Cincinnati, she and William wed on August 5, 1889.
Living on Central Avenue in the West End and then Elm Street near Findlay Market, they had two sons together, Charles (1894-1947) and Wilbur (1902-1945). Before turning to candy production, William first earned a living as a woodworker while Louise worked a dressmaker.
In 1920, upon his death, Louise ran the confectionary at 124 W. Elder to earn an income. In 1922, Louise moved her business to 108 W. Elder in addition to a spot at 3648 Warsaw in Price Hill. She remained at these locations until 1931 and passed away two years after that. Henry Posner (1889-1977)—who sold men’s, ladies’ and children’s clothing, toys, dolls and Teddy bears, among other furnishings and household goods—then opened a store at 124 W. Elder and became the owner of the building until 1938.
He and his younger brother Boris (1897-1971) also had a dry goods shop at 106 Elder from 1921 to the early 1930s (they owned that building as well); Henry also worked out of 103 W. Elder with Adolph Saphir (1890-1979) in the 1920s to run a dry goods shop there. Henry and his brother were Jewish immigrants. Henry was born in 1889 and Boris in 1897; records indicate that they lived in Odessa (in what is now the Ukraine).
They immigrated in 1905 (records also list 1906) like many other Eastern European Jews fleeing worsening conditions in the Russian Empire at the turn of the 20th century. When they first arrived in Cincinnati, the extended Posner family, including Henry and Boris’ father Simon, their mother Meriam and their five siblings, lived on W. Court Street.
After their father, also a dry goods merchant, died in 1916, Henry and several of his siblings continued to live with widowed Meriam. They then moved to Burdette Avenue in East Walnut Hills which was where Henry and Boris resided when they started their shops at 106 and 124 W. Elder.
Not long after his arrival to the U.S., Boris joined the U.S. Army and fought in World War I. He was honorably discharged in July 1919. In 1925, Sidney Dine (1888-1968) rented the storefront from Henry Posner, selling furniture from the spot. Partnering up with Myron Koplin, Sidney also used 104 W. Elder’s storefront. One of three children, Sidney Philip Dine was born in 1888 in Newport, Kentucky, to a Russian Jewish father, Philip, and his German wife Rebecca (Polasky).
He and his siblings Hannah and Jessie grew up in the West End. Sidney—described as a medium-sized man with brown hair and grey eyes on his World War I draft registration—attended Yale University—class of 1910—and met his wife Minnie (Basker) (1889-1985) during his time there.
Minnie was from the northeast, born in Lynn, Massachusetts, to Reuben and Ceilie Basker. She and Sidney wed in Boston on June 28, 1910 and had two children, Robert and Claire, together.
Back in Cincinnati, Sidney settled in Walnut Hills and then Avondale while he maintained his furniture business first in Covington with his father.
His tenure at Findlay Market lasted for only one year. Thereafter, in 1926-1928, Economy Poultry, run by Elmer Heist (1887-1964), used the space. Elmer Heist was born in 1887 in Kentucky to Adam (1858-1917) and Margaret (Helm) Heist (1862-1937). He learned his trade from his father who sold poultry from a horse-drawn wagon in Covington beginning in 1880. Elmer and his wife Hanora (1887-1946) raised their children, Joseph (1910-1975), Dorothy (1912-1979), Warren (1914-1925), George Raymond (1916-2002) and Carl Adam (1918-1987), in northern Kentucky. While Elmer used 124 W. Elder, the primary building that housed his family’s poultry business (that remains under the Heist name today) was 106 W. Elder.
In 1929, Henry Posner took out ads in the local papers to rent the storefront. His solicitation was answered by Mary Conn who ran a restaurant at 124 W. Elder in the early 1930s. Then, from 1933 to 1935, Nelly Merrett (1881-1955) had a poultry shop there.
Born in 1881 in Bracken County, Kentucky, to Nicholas Thornton Wiley (1847-1910) and Elizabeth Best (1861-1931), Nelly had three marriages in her life: first, in 1902, to Ralph J. Sparks; then again in 1918 to Henry Willett Boyd, and finally in 1925 to Holice Merrett (1891-1955) from Alabama.
From her first and second marriages, she had three children: Mildred (Sparks Hepp) (1904-1994), Viola (Sparks Betz) (1906-1974) and William Boyd (1918-2000).
Her last marriage was quite tumultuous (in fact, outright dangerous). In the summer of 1934, on August 20, Nelly and her son William went to the movies and returned to grab a watermelon from her store. There, her husband Holice—intoxicated—entered and grabbed a meat cleaver. They persuaded him to leave and leave them alone. Later, he found them at home and shot his wife. William disarmed his stepfather, injuring him in the process. Nelly, thankfully, did not die from her gunshot wound. She vacated her storefront at 124 W. Elder and turned to selling furniture. She did not leave Holice, though; the 1940 Federal Census showed them as still married and living together in the West End.
They both passed away in 1955. After Nelly’s store, from the rest of 1935 to 1938, Elmer Heist once again used the building as a part of his poultry business.
In 1938, Henry Posner sold 124 W. Elder to Jerome Schmidt (1871-1957) who, from 1939 to 1954, sold poultry from it. Born in 1871 in Germany—the year that Germany became a nation—Jerome immigrated in 1886, leaving Europe from Hamburg. While a lifelong salesman, his earlier work entailed selling barber supplies, not chicken. He was the president of the National Union Barbers Supply Inc. located downtown on Broadway Street.
In the late 1930s, though, he switched to the poultry business, first working out of 133 W. Elder before moving to 124 W. Elder in 1939, as World War II broke out. He was married a Kentucky-born woman named Anna who was also born in 1871. In 1954, Jerome sold the building to Alex (1913-1965) and Eunice Davis (Cohen) (1914-2001). Jerome passed away three years later.
Alex and his wife Eunice also purchased 1800 Race Street as another investment property. He and his wife were from Jewish immigrant families; the couple later divorced in 1968. They held onto 124 W. Elder until 1957 when Erwin Meyer purchased it. In 1973, Mary Ann “Mamie” Catanzaro (1919-2017) became the next owner. The Catanzaro family owned the building until the early 2000s.
Mary Ann was born in Ohio in 1919 to Sam and Lena Catanzaro, both Italian immigrants who came to the U.S. in 1885. She grew up in the West End and after her father died, she and her brothers Frank and Anthony lived with their widowed mother. Never married, she supported herself as a seamstress and later as a receptionist for a doctor’s office. In addition to 124 W. Elder, she also owned 126 W. Elder. The Catanzaros were a large Italian (records suggest Sicilian) family in Cincinnati who, across several marriages and multiple generations, were involved with Findlay Market and in selling fruit produce in downtown Cincinnati.
Joseph and Josephine Catanzaro were Italian immigrants who ran a fruit stand and whose daughter Anna (Re) (1894-1963) wed Ignazio “Frank” Re (1890-1954) and owned property with him at Findlay Market. There was also Olivia Catanzaro (1911-1993) who was the second wife of Francesco Joseph “Frank” Catanzaro (1899-1968); Frank’s father Pedro was another fruit dealer. Olivia and Frank had three children, Rosemary (Retzler) (1925-1973), Frank (1933-2004) and Peter (1940-2008), who helped her run a Catanzaro fruit stand at Findlay Market. After Jerome Schmidt’s poultry business, 124 W. Elder was home to United Family Stores Inc., a dry goods shop, in the rest of the 1950s. In 1960-1961, it was a sandwich shop called Super No. 5.
Then, in 1963 and 1964, Joseph Rosenberger Inc. maintained a shop there that sold wallpaper and paint. Joseph was born in 1870 in rural Butler County, Ohio, to Bavarian parents; his father was a carpet weaver. Joseph and his wife Maria (Meder), whom he wed in 1907, raised a family out in Miami Township in Clermont County before they moved to Over-the-Rhine by the 1920s (in a migration counter to what most people were doing at the time—which was leaving cities).
By the mid-1960s, the storefront sat vacant. People continued to live upstairs until early 1968 at which point a fire “swept through a three-room apartment at 124 W. Elder St. Thursday morning,” the Enquirer reported. It claimed the lives of two children, Wilma Jean Barnett, aged two, and her brother, James Edward Barnett, aged four. The fire was detected just after 8am. The children’s mother, Delia Barnett, leapt from a second-floor window to escape the fire and suffered fractures of her left wrist and ankle. Her husband, Willis, hung from a second-floor window ledge by his fingers and then climbed down a drain pipe to safety.
George Haynes, a third-floor tenant, was treated and released at General Hospital for minor burns that he got while leading his wife, six children and a grandchild to safety down a fire escape. The blaze was apparently caused by four-year-old James playing with paper near a space heater in his living room.
Thereafter, the commercial and residential space inside 124 W. Elder remained almost totally vacant (one person was listed as living there in 1975 and another in 1985).
In August 2017, the Beautiful Bags Lady, run by Carolyn Mason, moved from a Findlay Market stall into the building.