When we left off, in The Germans are Coming, Part 2, August Wolff had just sold his parcel along the Nisqually River—land that would eventually become part of the Braget farm—to his fellow countrymen, Friedrich Richter and Joseph Klee, in 1874. Wolff’s hopes of making a killing on the purchase of the property from the Gove family, three years before, had been dashed when Olympia was left off the route of the railroad with the awarding of the western terminus of the Northern Pacific line to Tacoma. Like Wolff, Richter and Klee were among the young Germans recruited by the new Washington Territorial governor, Edward Salomon, and his henchman, John Sternberg, to travel from Chicago and pursue livelihoods and, hopefully, wealth in the wilds of the young territory.
The following account of the life of Friedrich Richter is a wonderful example of a combination of serendipity and good, hard work that can lead to exciting discoveries in the field of historical research, one that required both the forethought of Daniel Mounts and his descendants, and my own inability to accept the obvious answer (“when all other possibilities are exhausted, the remaining option, no matter how unlikely…”)
In June, 2002, while interviewing Bud McBride (Daniel Mounts’ great-grandson) and his partner, Richard Schneider, friends and neighbors of Kenny Braget, I had occasion to ask what they knew about “the Grape House,” an old log building that had once stood on the Braget property, down on the flats near a small inlet. Somewhere in our many hours of conversation, Kenny had mentioned that he used to play in the old place, which had earned its name because of a covering of grape vines, and remembered the name “Richter,” and that his father, Walt, had unearthed some human bones when working on a farm road nearby.
True to their form, which was to be entirely and tirelessly accommodating and seeming founts of endless local knowledge, Bud and Richard immediately showed me some black and white pictures of the old cabin that they had taken many years before.
Then they took me to the site, now a grassy point of higher land sticking out into the tide flats and overlooking what had been the Tacoma Duck Club’s exclusive shooting territory. Accessed by the bridge that Kenny Braget’s ancestors had built, and dotted with old fruit trees, the land was now part of the farm’s pasturage; the spot where Kenny’s dad had found the bones was not far away.
Then to my great delight, Bud and Richard showed me an old, sepia-toned photograph, purportedly of Friedrich Richter himself.
The photo showed a short (5 feet 7 inches, I would eventually learn from his immigration papers), clean-shaven young man standing before a classic studio backdrop (draped cloth, an ornamental chair for somewhere to rest his hand, I expect), staring at the camera out of deep brown eyes. Most intriguingly, the young man was dressed in a military-style cap, a short, dark cape over what appeared to be a light-colored apron, dark pants with cuffs rolled half way up the shins, and dark boots. Hanging from a strap across his left shoulder and clasped in his right hand was what appeared to be a short bugle.
Holding the photograph carefully (but not carefully enough; as an archivist I knew I should have been wearing cotton gloves to protect the artifact, but at that point I was too excited to wait!), I turned it over. Written on the back, in pencil, were the words: Friedrich Richter photographed in Chicago – late 1860s. Left Chicago in 1870. And stamped below that was Tinsley Bros., Photographers, 121 South Clark.
Just a word about the image itself. As a photographer I was fascinated by it, but at the time woefully ignorant as to what I was holding. I would later learn that it was what had been called a cabinet card, a thin albumen print mounted on card stock, usually measuring 4.25 by 6.5 inches. About the time that this one was made, this style of portraiture was replacing the smaller carte de visite, which had been popular since the mid-1850s. The size of a business card, the cartes de visite were the “trading cards” of the 1860s, spawning the production of albums for personal collections and display, as well as for the collection of photographs of prominent people. Produced after the Civil War, the cabinet cards were a step more utilitarian. But both styles of cards provided the photographer with the opportunity to advertise his services, by inscriptions on the front or back, and thanks to the hard work of many hands, and Google, the information contained in those inscriptions often can reveal a good deal about the subject matter of the photograph. For example, the studio of the creators of the Richter cabinet card, J.W. and F.R. Tinsley, was only located at 121 Clark from 1868-1869, according to the Chicago City Directory, confirming the penciled date on the back of the card.
Turning the card back over, I puzzled over the attire of the young man in the photograph. What was with the military-style cap, the cape and the bugle? Had Friedrich Richter, if in fact it was he, served in the Civil War? (To confound things, I would later learn that two men by the name of Friederick [note the different spelling] Richter had in fact served in the Union army, in companies from New York.) Looking closely I realized that someone seemed to have attempted to color the sepia-toned print with a black substance, imparting a shininess to the cape and part of the boots. Why? And why the light-colored cloth under the cape, apparently an apron? As far as I could remember, nothing like that had been part of a Civil War uniform. Mystery upon mystery!
Finally I looked up from the photograph to find Bud McBride holding out a thick packet of papers to me. At this point I began to totally lose it, because Bud told me that I was now in possession of an archive of papers from Friedrich’s estate, all the documents that he had left behind when he had drowned in the Nisqually River over 120 years ago. In my hands were more photographs, letters, and other personal papers that had been in the Mounts family’s possession since Daniel Mounts, Bud’s grandfather, had served as the trustee of Richter’s estate, after his death. This cache had been handed down by the Mountses to Bud’s brother, Delbert, the family historian; the penciled notes on the back of the cabinet card were his.
I would soon discover that before his death, in 1998, Del had preceded me in a fascination with Mr. Richter and paved the way for my own investigations. Bud and Richard had taken over the Richter materials, after Del was gone, along with carton after carton of files. These were the result of years of study of the Nisqually Valley and his family’s lives there, especially those of the Native Americans that joined the Mounts clan with the marriage of Daniel and Catherine, half-Scots, half-Nisqually, in 1860. Eventually Bud and Richard would share all this material with me. But for the moment I was awash in things Richter and wallowing in them.
It would take me several years to put together the pieces of Richter’s life that those “things,” and others, offered me. It took the services of a friendly German-American that tried to help me translate the archaic, colloquial language in a spidery scrawl that the letters and other documents contained, a (still continuing) education in German and German-American institutions of 19th century Midwest America, and two worn out keyboards before I felt that I had an interesting story to tell. But then, a final search in my own backyard, so to speak (the Washington State Archives in Olympia), turned up a major piece to the puzzle that was Friedrich Richter: a 77-page account of the processing of Richter’s estate by his appointed executor, Daniel Mounts. But I’m getting ahead of myself now; we’ll come back to that incredible discovery in a later blog post.
Friedrich Theodor Richter was born about 1850 in Sachen, in the kingdom of Saxony. To judge from the few photographs he left behind and by his literacy, his upbringing was middle class, and rural; he may have apprenticed in a trade in his teenage years, for later German-language documents refer to him as a mechaniker, a mechanic or engineer. Friedrich had at least four siblings; two, Emil and Liddy, also immigrated to the United States, while Hermann and Anna apparently stayed behind.
According to his passport, seventeen year-old Richter left the port of Bremerhaven June 3, 1867. His correspondence has not yielded up the reasons for his leaving Germany. Surely for him and for the other Germans that came to the Nisqually, it was a combination of conditions at home, including the aftermath of the Industrial Revolution and, possibly, the laws which ensured an inheritance only for the first-born son, and the lure of opportunities offered by the wide-open spaces of America. Europe had been flooded with tales of the wealth to be found in letters from earlier immigrants and from promoters of the country’s development, like the Puget Sound Business Directory:
The resources of the country are yet undeveloped. Commerce, with the exception of the lumber and coal trade, is dormant, and manufactories are comparatively unknown, despite the magnificent power at command and the large market for the sale of manufactured goods. The Territory does the largest lumber trade in the world, and a fleet of white-winged ships, laden with spars, masts and lumber can be seen daily treading their way through the waters of the Sound. The minerals of the Territory, which are rich and varied, with the exception of coal, have not been developed at all, hence capitalists have now an opportunity of monopolizing the copper or iron mines so numerous throughout the country, and by working them furnish employment to many persons. The laboring man can earn a livelihood with more facility and live cheaper than in other portions of the country.Puget Sound Business Directory and Guide to Washington Territory, 1872, p. 18.
Thanks to the active encouragement of emigration by young transatlantic shipping companies like Norddeutscher Lloyd in Bremen, young Richter, a willing worker with a range of skills, may have read something like the following excerpt, again from the Puget Sound Business Directory:
Many persons, doubtless, would be pleased to learn what class of mechanics, laborers and domestic servants are needed in the country, and the wages paid. To the first query we would say that any person able and willing to work, unless he be a follower of the muses, can find employment. The persons most needed are farmers, who are willing to hew themselves a home with their brawny arms, or have the means of improving land. Manufacturers are wanted to utilize in the country the productions of the country, and thus enrich that which should be enriched, and not allow all the profits and control of the commerce to fall into the hands of those who have no interest in the advancement of the Territory. Mechanics are wanted; blacksmiths and carpenters can find plenty of labor to perform, and at salaries of from three to five dollars per day in gold… Day laborers receive from forty to sixty dollars per month, and are always active, as large numbers are required around the mills, logging camps, and to work on wagon roads and railroads.Puget Sound Business Directory, p, 59.
Friedrich likely emigrated with or soon after his brother Emil, his uncle, Clemens Schmidt, and three Schmidt cousins, Friedrich, Henry and Ernest. By early 1868, three years after the end of the Civil War, he was one of over 130,000 German immigrants in Chicago. Early on, Richter lived with fellow immigrants from Saxony at a succession of addresses on South Wells Street, including one above a meat market there. Nicknamed “The Cabbage Patch” after being populated by German farmers in the 1850s, the Wells Street area along the east bank of the Chicago River is the center of “Old Town” Chicago today.
In 1868, at its May convention in Chicago, the delegates of the Republican Party unanimously nominated Ulysses S. Grant to be their presidential candidate. You will remember, from The Germans are Coming, Part 2, that Chicago politician, Edward S. Salomon, who had already attracted Grant’s attention with his extraordinary military service in the Civil War, would earn the territorial governorship of Washington with his strong support of the Radical Republicans and Grant for the presidency. It was the form of that support that probably brought Salomon to Friedrich Richter’s attention and most certainly explained the costume that Richter was wearing in the photograph supplied to me by Bud McBride. But to tell the story well, we should back up a bit, and take it up at the end of the Civil War with the creation of the G.A.R., the Grand Army of the Republic.
Founded in Decatur, Illinois, in 1866, the G.A.R. became one of the most influential of the many groups created by and for Union veterans, first for camaraderie and social connections, later for political purposes. According to a Wikipedia entry, “The GAR initially grew and prospered as a de facto political arm of the Republican Party during the heated political contests of the Reconstruction Era. The commemoration of Union Army and Navy veterans, black and white, immediately became entwined with partisan politics. The GAR promoted voting rights for Negro veterans, as many white veterans recognized their demonstrated patriotism and sacrifices, providing one of the first racially integrated social/fraternal organizations in America.” Reflecting its membership and the times, the G.A.R. was organized along military lines, and its members wore military-style uniforms. In its day, the G.A.R. wielded incredible power. The endorsement of the G.A.R. veterans’ voting bloc was essential to the election of presidents Grant, McKinley, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Harrison, all of whom, except for Chester A. Arthur, were members of the organization.
It was in the bosom of the G.A.R. that the “Tanners” were born, in 1868, only a few months after Richter’s arrival in Chicago and as a precursor to the presidential election pitting Ulysses S. Grant and Schuyler Colfax, for the Radical Republicans, against Horatio Seymour of New York and Francis P. Blair, for the Democrats. On July 24th of that year, a critical meeting took place in the 10th Ward of Chicago involving three supporters of the Republican persuasion, members of the G.A.R. all: General R.W. Smith, Major J.R. Hayden, and General Edward S. Salomon (then Cook County Clerk). Feeling that a recent ward meeting “had been indifferently attended,” Major Hayden suggested they start something like the “old Wide-Awake organization” to liven things up. To quote the response of an unnamed writer for the Chicago Tribune, possibly the editor-in-chief, Horace White, to whom I am much indebted for this story, “That is just what is needed to interest the young men [all recently returned from war, remember] and give them a chance to work where they will feel they are helping the Grant and Colfax cause. Men get tired of formal club meetings and speeches of local orators. They all read the papers, and are pretty well posted on the political issues of the day; but give the ‘boys’ something to do requiring physical as well as mental effort—something where they can exhibit and demonstrate their feelings and sentiments on the issues, and you will have plenty of volunteers to make it a grand success, just as the Wide-Awakes proved to be.”
Now while the use of torchlight parades in political campaigns had begun in the 1830s, the Republican-organized Wide Awakes, a youth group that wore distinctive oilcloth capes and caps (sound familiar?) and carried torches and banners in support of Lincoln’s campaign in 1860, were the first to use torchlight parades systematically as a political technique. Major Hayden had been a member of the organization, and remembered “the enthusiastic arder [sic] for Republican principles which that organization diffused among our young men.” He asked, “What shall we call our new organization?” Noting that “Wide Awakes” was past its prime, and that Republicans in South Bend, Indiana, were forming a club called “Fighting Boys in Blue” to counter the Democrats’ new organizations called “White Boys in Blue” (yes, a decidedly racist name), the editor suggested that the name be short, pithy, and apropos. Major Hayden then offered one suggested by General Smith (and approved of by Gen. Salomon and others): “Tanners.”
The conversation in print continued: “Editor: Capital idea; Just the name to take with the people; perfectly descriptive of the situation. Grant was raised a tanner, and the Democrats are sneering at the thought of a tanner being President, just as they did at “Old Abe” for having been a rail-splitter; but the stigma did not lose him many votes that I know of. [In contrast, Horatio Seymour was the white-collar son of a successful businessman and politician, and already had served as governor of New York twice.] Major Hayden: That’s it. ‘Democrats bring your hides and Grant will tan ‘em.’’’ At this point the discussion turned to the appropriate uniform for “the boys.” The editor suggested a tanner’s apron, and for the rest, “something handsome, but not too expensive or easily soiled or torn.” Hayden remembered the Wide Awakes’ durable and water-proof oil-cloth cape and cap, and a torch. After getting the editor to swear his undying fealty to the cause and to sign up as a member of the Tanner Club (“And if I don’t attend its meeting fine me, and I’ll pay the fines; ‘pay or play,’ you know.”), Hayden took the idea to a meeting in the 10th Ward that evening, where the name “Grant Tanners” and the suggested uniform were adopted by those gathered, including Generals Smith and Salomon. The editor wrote up the results of the meeting for The Tribune, and reported that the name “took like wildfire.” Within a fortnight a thousand Tanner Clubs had sprung up; by the end of September of that year (1868), there were at least ten thousand “Tanner companies” in the country, most of them in the larger cities like Chicago.
By August 29, 1868, Friedrich Richter had received an invitation to attend a drill event of Company B of the Tanners that evening at the county courthouse from one Captain J.S. Sweet. The short notice given may have had something to do with the fact that, the evening before, a group of White Boys in Blue, young toughs in connivance with a couple of aldermen, had broken up an assembly of Irish Tanners. A reporter for The Evening Post, another of Chicago’s newspapers heavily favoring the Republican cause, wrote:
Last night, at about ten o’clock, the announcement of a political riot in the Eighth Ward caused a great excitement in the city. Republicans who were acquainted with the virulent type of Copperheadism pervading the district in question, and the desperate extremities to which [candidate for President] Seymour’s “friends” can proceed in the practical demonstration of their friendliness, were unprepared for such a murderous outrage as was perpetrated last night with the tacit connivance of two Democratic Aldermen. The affair in toto reflects in the most disgraceful and humiliating manner on the instigators of the riot, who in their demeanor and language proved sufficiently the insincerity of their howlings for universal freedom of speech. It has resulted in the murder of an innocent young man, and in severe injuries to several others, and in showing more clearly than ever the demoniac spirit of the bogus Democracy.
Birthed by the Democratic Party at state conventions in April of the year, the White Boys in Blue were largely made up of Union soldiers, like the Tanners, but shared the strong and often bitter opposition of their party to voting by African Americans, to the Freedmen’s Bureau, which had been organizing black schools in the South, and to Republican reconstruction policies in general. Organized militarily, and with veteran officers at the heads of their companies, both the Tanners and the White Boys in Blue sought to increase voter turnout in national elections by throwing wildly enthusiastic and fantastic torchlight parades while dressed in uniforms reminiscent of the Union Army. In every city, torch-bearing soldiers marched to the local railroad station as an escort to a group of the most prestigious local dignitaries, intent upon meeting arriving political celebrities and accompanying them to their hotel or the site of a well-advertised event. According to Charles Goff, “Military bands, fireworks, bonfires, and booming cannon added heightened excitement to the occasion. Once arrived at the county courthouse or meeting hall where the speakers were to give their orations, the appearance of the torchlight soldiers in their colorful uniforms, their cheering, their singing and their patriotically impressive presence added to the political excitement of the evening.”
The uniforms of the torchlight soldiers of both stripes were highly colorful, both for visibility and political emphasis. Goff described Tanner uniforms of blue oilcloth caps, with a white top and a red, white, and blue band, along with white or red oilcloth capes (protecting the wearer’s clothing from rain and/or kerosene drippings from their torches), and, of course, the leather aprons that indicated their Tanner affiliation. Officers wore U.S. Army insignia, NCOs wore stripes. The choice of colors, though, was a local decision, and groups that had been organized along particular lines, such as ethnic origin or type of employment, embellished their uniforms in distinctive fashion.
Organized as both military units and social clubs, the Tanner groups had military and civil departments to deal with the preparation and organization of the parades, and the tasks of administration and fundraising for the rallies and speakers, respectively.
Club names reflected both military jargon and, in small towns, the name of the municipality. In the bigger cities, other self-selecting groups emerged, reflecting country of origin, job titles, and interests. “Colored” Tanner companies sprang up in towns large and small, and held special events with particular relevance to their apparent change in status due to the outcome of the war. In a special dispatch to The Chicago Tribune on September 21, 1868, it was announced that “The colored people of Springfield will celebrate the anniversary of the issuance of the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation to-morrow. A company of colored Tanners will be in attendance from Jacksonville. Hon. S.M. Cullom, General John M. Palmer, Fred. Douglass, General McClernand, and Hon. B.T. Edwards and others have received invitations to be present and address them. Fred. Douglass has already arrived and will positively deliver an address upon this occasion.” What an interesting event that must have been, with Frederick Douglass, the national leader of the abolitionist movement, mixing it up with prominent war heroes, politicians and elected officials (Cullom and Palmer both would go on to become governors of Illinois).
I suspect it is safe to say that the torchlight parades of the era were the most exciting and colorful events of city life. Years before the invention of the incandescent bulb by Edison, thousands of torches lit up the night sky, and the smell of kerosene came to permeate everyone’s hair and clothing. [Maybe that’s why we don’t have nighttime parades anymore.]
Even small communities had city brass bands, cornet bands, military bands, and fife and drum corps to play patriotic music, as thousands of marchers sang along; “Tramp, Tramp, Tramp the Boys are Marching” and “Rally Round the Flag” filled the air. Battalion and regiment-sized groups had their own glee clubs that took special positions in the parades.
Major parades included many wagons, decked out like today’s “floats,” cavalcades of horsemen (including “lady equestriennes”), and long lines of private carriages and farm wagons carrying partisan supporters and festooned with flags and mottos. Goff reports that “Calvary troops were used as honor guard escorts for visiting celebrities. Cavalrymen tended to be an elite Tanner unit, since they almost invariably were mounted on fine horses and showed a drill proficiency which clearly marked them as veteran Union Army cavalrymen.” Men and wagons carried three or more-sided wooden boxes covered with cheesecloth or paper, called transparencies, containing torches and painted with political slogans or pictures of the candidates, some by nationally famous caricaturists, like Thomas Nast.
Residents and supporters thronged the parade routes, singing along, cheering, and setting off often thousands of fireworks, including sky rockets, Roman candles, and Bengal lights—a kind of firework giving off an intense blue flame and used for lighting or signaling—and lighting up “illuminations”—headlights borrowed from locomotives—Chinese lanterns, and candles and torches in the windows and on the street fronts of buildings. Bonfires, built on the unpaved streets, were used to mark parade routes and intersections. And at the end, after the invited politicians and orators had been heard, often for several hours at a time, all retired to “a fine supper” provided by the local ladies auxiliary of the correct political persuasion.
All this came to a head on Thursday evening, November 5, 1868, when the Chicago Tanners held a final parade to celebrate a Republican victory and the election of Grant and Colfax. Fred Richter was there.
THE FINALE. How the Great Victory was Celebrated Last Evening. The Garden City in a Blaze of Glory. Loyal Men and Women Wild with Excitement. The Greatest Demonstration Ever Witnessed in the West. The Tanners in Procession 20,000 Strong. Thus proclaimed the front page of the Chicago Tribune on November 6th, the day after Grant and Colfax won. Originally scheduled for October 31st, but postponed due to inclement weather, this “last Grand Parade” was witnessed by over 200,00 people. The Tribune provided multi-page coverage to the spectacle and seemed fully and ecstatically vindicated for backing the right horse.
After the heat and toil of a bitterly contested and fairly won election; after the enemy has been utterly routed, and there are no more battles left to be fought, no more triumphs to be won in the present, the members of the Grand Republican Army, to whom the county owes so much, avail themselves of their undoubted right and celebrate in every way, with music and torches, their brilliant successes of Thursday last, when all their labors were crowned with success and everywhere constant fortune smiled upon them.
After a victory, too, is the proper time, and certainly the safe time, for exultation and rejoicing….
While most of the Tribune’s article was devoted to a detailed description of the parade and its participants, it’s author took a few good shots at the political opposition, as well.
These Tanners who marched in procession last night, acting in concert with the civilian members of the Republican party, accomplished all that they desired, and a little more. So it is only natural that they should crow a little over the Democrats, even though they lay themselves open to the charge of treating poor dumb brutes in an unfeeling manner. But yet, the Democracy have bragged so much and done so little, have wasted so many words and so much money, and polled so few votes that we cannot help laughing at them, even at the very moment that one pities most their forlorn condition.
Surely Richter, if he was there, looked back on this time as one of the most exciting of his life.
Preview: The Germans are Coming Part 4.
Fred Richter abandons Chicago to speculate unsuccessfully on real estate in Blair City, Iowa. Richter responds to Governor Salomon’s call and, joined by Joseph Klee, travels to the PNW in search of fame and fortune. Richter and Klee relieve August Wolff of his disappointing investment, become land owners and farmers in the Nisqually Valley.
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 Chicago Photographers 1847 through 1900, as listed in Chicago City Directories. Chicago Historical Society, North Avenue at Clark Street, Print Department, 1958.
 However, the oldest meaning of this word was simply “laborer,” or “person who works with his hands,” from the Greek root, mekhanikos. Yet another usage defines “mechanic” as an artisan, skilled tradesperson, or technician who uses tools to build, maintain, or repair machinery.
 No relation to Lloyds of London, the insurance and reinsurance market. “Lloyd” was used as a term for a shipping company in the mid-19th century. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norddeutscher_Lloyd (accessed 6/4/2021).
 Grand Army of the Republic, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Army_of_the_Republic, accessed 6/26/2021.
 The Chicago Tribune, September 29, 1868, p.1.
 Thanks for much of what follows to Charles D. Goff and his paper, “Torchlight Soldiers: A Wisconsin View of the Torchlight Parades of the Republican Party ‘Tanners’ and the Democratic Party ‘White Boys in Blue.’” In Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, 1978, Vol 66, pp. 206-234.
 Copperheadism refers to a faction of the Union Democrats that opposed the Civil War and favored peaceful settlement with the South, during the war, and a return to pre-war conditions, including slavery, afterwards.
 The Evening Post, Chicago, August 28, 1868. “A Rebel Outrage: Murderous Attack on a Republican Meeting—’White Boys in Blue’ Break Up an Assembly of Tanners.”
 The Freedmen’s Bureau, formally known as the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands, was established in 1865 by Congress to help millions of former black slaves and poor whites in the South in the aftermath of the Civil War. The Freedmen’s Bureau provided food, housing and medical aid, established schools and offered legal assistance. It also attempted to settle former slaves on land confiscated or abandoned during the war. However, the bureau was prevented from fully carrying out its programs due to a shortage of funds and personnel, along with the politics of race and Reconstruction. https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/freedmens-bureau Accessed 6/30/2021.
 Goff, Charles D., 1978, p. 208.
 Caricaturist and editorial cartoonist for Harper’s Weekly at the time, Thomas Nast is credited with the creation of the modern version of Santa Claus and the political symbol of the elephant for the Republican Party (GOP).
 The Chicago Tribune, November 6, 1868, p.1.