LIMA — Charles F. Stolzenbach was serious about baking bread. Really serious.
“The rising of bread is life exemplified,” Stolzenbach told the Lima Sunday News May 16, 1915. “It must be fostered by the right mixtures, temperature and treatment or death to the units of life will result and the object fail. At the crucial moment, when life has reached its highest attainment, it must be thrust into the preserving ovens and the full bloom of live preserved for the utility and sustenance of man.”
By 1915, Stolzenbach had been baking bread for more than four decades. Born in Muskingum County in 1859 to German immigrant John Henry Stolzenbach and Louise Jockers Stolzenbach, he graduated from school into the bakery of his uncle, Conrad Stolzenbach, in Zanesville and remained there for six years.
In the years that followed he worked in bakeries in Pittsburgh, Detroit and Columbus “learning every chemical secret of the trade as well as perfecting himself in the manufacture of every kind of bakery product,” according to a 1906 Allen County history. In the 1880s he opened his own “first-class” bakery in Newcomerstown in Tuscarawas County.
Newcomerstown, however, soon “proved too small for the goods he was able to put upon the market” and Stolzenbach packed up again and headed west to the growing town of Lima where, along with his parents and siblings, he put down roots.
The Stolzenbach family would become deeply involved in the business and civic life of Lima. Charles Stolzenbach’s brother, Jacob Nicholas, was partner in a livery while his sister, Mary, was active in social circles. A grandson, Christian P. Morris, was mayor of Lima from 1965 to 1973.
In September 1888, Charles Stolzenbach and G.W. Benton bought the Diamond Bakery, “a little one-oven bakery and restaurant” at 220 N. Main St. “It was indeed a burdensome task for this little bakery to get out 300 to 400 loaves of bread daily and a much more strenuous task to sell them after they had been gotten out,” the News wrote in 1915.
After less than a year, Stolzenbach’s father, John H. Stolzenbach, bought out the other partner and the firm became known as Stolzenbach and Co.’s Diamond Bakery. Another Stolzenbach brother, Martin, joined Charles Stolzenbach in running the business, which produced ice cream as well as baked goods.
An early history of the bakery noted the business “rapidly increased” and that the Stolzenbachs “give close personal supervision to the details of the business.” The Lima Daily Times reported June 5, 1890, that Charles Stolzenbach, while “working about an ice cream freezer” caught a finger in the machine. “With rare pluck he pulled the finger off, and thereby saved his hand.”
“Employment is given from 15 to 20 competent assistants,” according to the company history, “and use is made of four delivery wagons; the business by no means being confined to the city proper, but extending throughout the section.”
Although down a digit, Stolzenbach’s business was looking up. On March 31, 1892, the Daily Times noted that “Stolzenbach & Co. on Saturday shipped to outside points between 1,600 and 1,700 loaves of bread and over 1,800 cakes.” One of those cakes likely was on the table that year when Stolzenbach married Magdalen Hickey, of Putnam County.
On Sept. 29, 1892, the Lima Republican Gazette noted that work had started on a new Stolzenbach bakery building. “It is located in the southeast corner of the alleys which intersect in the rear of their store and when completed will be one of the finest bake shops in the country. … The basement will be devoted to the manufacture of ice cream, the first floor to bread and the upper floor to small goods.” The bakery’s original building at 220 N. Main St. would continue as a retail store for Stolzenbach until 1917.
Newspaper ads of the time show the range of Stolzenbach’s products. An ad in the Lima Times-Democrat claimed that “for anything on Earth good to eat, go to Stolzenbach,” while an October 1902 ad in the same paper announced that “crowned heads never ate better fruit cake than Stolzenbach now has.”
In 1904, the bakery was incorporated as Stolzenbach Baking Co. Two years later John H. Stolzenbach died. “He engaged in the baking and confectionary business as a partner with his sons, and has continued as a stockholder in the Stolzenbach Baking Co., which has grown to be a large and well-known institution in this city,” the Lima Daily News wrote in March 1906.
With the bakery on firm footing, Charles Stolzenbach began directing his energy in different directions “For a number of years under both Republican and Democratic administrations, he has been a member of the city board of health,” the 1906 history noted. “He is always prominent in any public-spirited movements, gives largely to charity, and fulfills every duty incumbent on a conscientious, broad-minded man and citizen.”
Stolzenbach’s tenure on the board of health continued under both Republicans and Democrats before almost coming to an end in 1913 under Lima’s only Socialist mayor. Corbin Shook, who rode a wave of Socialist popularity into office in 1911, sought to replace Stolzenbach during a spat with the chief city health officer, with whom Stolzenbach was allied. However, a compromise was forged in June 1913 and Stolzenbach served on the health board until his death nearly two decades later.
Stolzenbach also was a member of the city school board and one of the founders of Allen County Savings and Loan, which, in 1913, erected “Lima’s latest skyscraper” on the northwest corner of Market and Elizabeth streets. He was a director of the Lima Telephone and Telegraph Co. and, for several years, treasurer of the National Roofing Tile Co.
In 1914, when Stolzenbach was mentioned as one of the promoters of a new baseball park and team, he found himself denying rumors he would run the club. “I’m running a bakery — a big bakery — not a ball team,” he told the Daily News. “All I’ve done is agreed to take 20 feet of fence, but I’m going to continue to be a baker, not a baseball manager.”
Next week: Fluffy Raffles
Reach Greg Hoersten at TLNinfo@civitasmedia.com.