This little German-American man is Henry Carl Meinzen, my great-grandfather. He came to the United States in 1866 when he was 28 years old. It seems that he spent the rest of his life in and around Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio. He married Elizabeth Armitage in 1870, and they had 15 children.
Though a carpenter and wagon-maker by trade, Henry didn't allow that to limit his employment. Census records and city directories list him not only as carpenter but also as railroad worker, laborer, gardener, and grocer.
In August 1902 Henry bought a building at 306 & 308 S. Third Street (previously S. High Street) and opened a store. My mother called it a tobacco shop, but the city directories of the time list it as a confectionery and/or a grocery. For the next 16 years, Henry was a shopkeeper. In 1917, Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer of the face, and in 1918 Henry sold the property. In the place where the building stood during Henry's time now stands a gas station.
To the right is a copy of a poor photograph - the only one available - of the inside of the store. However poor it is, I'm grateful to have it because it tells me something about my grandparents. For a time Henry's family lived in both sides of the building - Henry and Elizabeth on the store side and several of their young adult children on the other side. It seems that later, when their children were gone, they used one side for their home and the other side for the store.
I assume, possibly wrongly, that the top photo, above, is of the outside of the shop. If that's so, then the building probably had two storefronts and one became an "apartment."
In looking at this photo, I notice
- the length and narrowness of the shop. Henry was not taller than 5' 5" and probably shorter. That would make this room about 10 to 12 feet wide, and much longer.
- the wallpaper with its large print. It seems like the shelves on the right are open at the back because the wallpaper shows through.
- the matching wallpaper border along the tops of the two walls.
- the tidiness of the room, especially behind the curtain. Look at that shiny linoleum in the living area.
- the curtain with its tassels dividing the shop from the living area.
- the rocker facing the front of the building. Did Henry take his ease there when no customers were in the store?
- the cold air grate on the left side of the floor. Was the building's heat from a coal furnace?
- what appears to be a calendar on the front left side of the photo. It looks like the kind with a large number for each day. I can see a "4" but not month or year.
If I could do that, what would I find and learn? Would the store smell of fresh pipe tobacco? Was there penny candy for sale, since it was a confectionery? What other items did he sell? What hours was the shop open? Who were his customers? Did he greet his customers with a smile? Did he give credit? I have a lot of questions for my g-grandfather when I finally meet him!
Do you have an ancestor who was a shopkeeper or store owner? If so, what do you know about the shop or store?
I invite you to view others' Sepia Saturday posts.