Christopher Werner

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Christopher Werner
Christopher Werner, ca 1850.jpg
ca 1850
Born April 13, 1805
Münster, Westphalia, Prussia
Died June 10, 1875
Resting place
St. Laurence cemetery (Roman Catholic)
Charleston, South Carolina
Residence Charleston, South Carolina
Nationality Prussian, American
Occupation wrought iron worker
Known for wrought iron designs
Religion He had been raised as Roman Catholic[1] later his family grew up in the Lutheran faith.[A][1][2]
Spouse(s) Isabella Hanna
Children Robert Henry
Mary Jane
John Hanna
Isabella Grace
Parents Bernard Werner – father

Christopher W. Werner (1805–1875) was a well known nineteenth-century wrought iron manufacturer, artisan and entrepreneur from the state of South Carolina, USA.[1]


Werner was born at Münster, in Prussian Westphalia (now the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany) in 1805. His father, Burnhard, was a wealthy carriage builder. The young Werner learned his initial blacksmithing skills of iron working in his father's blacksmith shop. Werner was known as a carriage maker, blacksmith, wrought iron worker, and a businessman.[2]

Knowing that he would have to enter the authoritarian Prussian army,[3] Werner instead emigrated to the United States at an unknown date in the 1830s. He took up residence in Charleston, South Carolina, and obtained American citizenship in 1839. He almost certainly arrived in America more than five years before that, as the naturalization process at that time took at least five years to complete. Werner married Isabella Hanna, from Liverpool, England, in 1841. They had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood, with a son named Bernard dying at the age of six. Their children were literate and some received formal schooling. John Hanna was sent to Germany for part of his schooling.[2]

According to the 1850 U.S. Census, in 1850 Werner was 45 years old and his wife about 13 years his junior, with an age of 32. The other family members were Robert H. Werner (9), Mary Werner (8), Bernard Werner (1), and Hannah Werner (65).[4] According to the next census, in 1860 Werner was 55 years old and his wife 14 years his junior, 41 years old, the other family members being Robert Werner (18), Mary Werner (15), Jno. H Werner (4), Grace Werner (1), and Ann Lee (70).[5] They lived in Charleston Ward 4,[6] Charleston, South Carolina.[5] Werner's family grew up as Lutherans.[1]


He followed in his father's footsteps and first became a maker of carriages. He later added a blacksmith shop, a wheelwright shop and a moulding shop to his business as a carriage maker. His foundry was located in Charleston on the street corner of Cumberland and State. His business soon expanded into a large enterprise throughout the state of South Carolina. Werner had an excellent reputation for quality work.[1] It has been said that his work did not need the modest stamp "Werner, fecit" (Werner made it) as the grace and beauty of his work spoke for itself.[B]

During the nineteenth-century there was a type of guild of the "mechanic class" in Charleston which was a group of men with special skills related to the mechanics of blacksmithing. It was more or less a secret society and this "mechanic class" technology information was kept to themselves and not given out to the public for future generations.[2]

Werner liked to construct new buildings and remodel older existing buildings. Because of this he was temporarily located at his project while working on the "old house" and the "new house" and had his address there. He moved within different Charleston addresses, but always kept his foundry business address near State Street and Cunberland Street as a permanent one. In 1859 he advertised in one of the Charleston directories, "C. Werner manufacturer of Railings, Verandahs, and Fancy Iron Works generally, together with repairing & smithery in all branches...No.17 State, near corner of Cumberland St." Most of his temporary addresses were in the vicinity of his foundry business and located generally on State Street, Cumberland Street, and Meeting Street.[2]

Werner strove “to show what could be accomplished in Charleston in the adornment of edifices, to make it worthy of the name of ‘Queen City of the South.’”[7] He was one of three Charleston German immigrants who "created an abundance of the mid-nineteenth century ironwork." The other two were J. A. W. Iusti and Frederick Julius Ortmann.[8]


Palmetto Regiment Monument
typical Werner gates
Christopher Werner cross that he made located at his burial site.

He constructed iron fences and other wrought iron projects all over South Carolina. He was known for making a business design of a sign with a snake. The snake extended in circles from the wall where it hung by its tail. In the snake's mouth was a sign of the merchant's business clutched by its jaws. A well known work Warner did was the spiral and finial of St. Matthew's Lutheran church on King Street.[9] He also did all the wrought ironwork for the Abbeville, South Carolina, courthouse.[1]

A memorial sculpture he did was the wrought ironwork of the Palmetto Monument on the Capitol grounds in Columbia, South Carolina central figured by the Palmetto tree.[C][D][1][10][11] The lifelike tricolored metal sculpture — scarcely distinguishable from a real tree[12] — stood on the capitol grounds until it was toppled and shattered by a "freak" February 3, 1939 tornado. It was designed by Henry Steenken, who worked in Werner’s shop.[1] The Monument was restored and the plates that contained the names of South Carolina's lost, that were destroyed by Sherman’s Army, had also been restored.[12] See Carolinas Campaign and Army of Georgia.

Werner made the monument without a commission, and as "a speculation." He was relying upon his execution, the tree's importance as a secular and cultural icon and knew the horrific extent of the loss the state had suffered. Like “a fisherman, casting and letting the bait settle” he put the monument in front of the old State House.[13] He had done it is an homage, embodying the State Seal's Palmetto Tree, and recognizing the terrible price the state and its citizens paid in the Mexican War (1846–1848).[E] The question of payment for the monument and associated plaques became embroiled in politics, and left Werner unhappy and dissatisfied.[13]

Called by some the “Iron Palmetto,” it is the oldest monument at the State House. Werner was initially paid $5,000.00 for the sculpture; he said he had more than $11,000.00 into the project.[14]

His creation of the "Sword Gate", most probably designed by well regarded Charleston architect Charles F. Reichert,[15] is one of the two most notable iron gates in Charleston, the other being the St. Michael's Cemetery Gate by Iusti.[16][17] Like many of his other works, it was probably ordered by one patron and installed for another, because the work exceeded the contractual cost.[11]

He created the iron gate located at 34 Broad St., Charleston, South Carolina.[18]

According to a 1907 newspaper report Werner's wrought ironwork could then be seen at Mayor Rhett's "handsome old house" on Broad Street in Charleston, previously the John Rutledge House, when Werner did the wrought iron work for the original owner, Thomas N. Gadsden. The entrance gate to Judge Simonton's house at Tradd and Legare Streets was done by Werner.[1] The Rutledge house incorporates two of Werner's favored design elements: palmettos and eagles.[19]

He crafted the iron gates for the Hibernian Hall, a National Historic Landmark built in 1840 to provide a meeting place for the Hibernian Society, an Irish benevolent organization founded in 1801. The Hall was associated with the National Democratic Convention of 1860, a critical political assembly lies United States history.[20] The design includes Irish harps.[11]

Werner continued to work until 1870,[16] having labored for over 30 years.[21] He had been a successor to other master craftsmen who worked in Charleston, and he was one of a triumvirate of German masters of fashioning iron into artful gates. Unfortunately, the product of the craft has always been under siege. According to traditional folklore, sadly, some of Charleston’s "finest" cast iron gates found their way into horseshoes, and even the sides of the CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimack.[21]

The United States Patent Office shows he has patent No.109,694 issued November 29, 1870 for an improvement in awning-frames.[22] Another patent was filed posthumously in 1877 by his wife as No.194,278 on improvements of Werner's previous patent.[23]

Death and burial[edit]

Werner died on June 11, 1875, and is buried under a large wrought-iron cross at the entrance to the St. Laurence Roman Catholic cemetery, Charleston.[1] Werner remembering that he grew up in the Roman Catholic faith wished to be buried in the new cemetery south of Magnolia.[F] His family was surprised by this request because they grew up Lutheran, but his wishes were still honored.[1] Father Daniel J. Quigley, a priest from Charleston's Roman Catholic Cathedral, officiated at the funeral.[24]

Werner's grave is numbered Range Center Plat 1, Lot 1, Grave 1. His age at death was given as seventy years and four months, and the cause of death as chronic hepatitis.[25] After his widow died on June 29, 1894, she was buried alongside him in Plat 1, Lot 1, Grave 2. When the monumental cross was dismantled to be restored, the remains of both were found.[26]




  1. ^ The little referenced evidence on his religious beliefs is somewhat ambiguous. While clearly Christian, the exact denomination is at odds. The reference says: A book was found with Werner’s possessions, which is inscribed to his youngest daughter, Isabel Werner, for her “punctual attendance” at the Wentworth St. Lutheran Sunday School. Of course, he was buried in a Roman Catholic Cemetery, and is underneath one of his final master works, a Cross.
  2. ^ Werner's obituary exclaimed, "Immediately the effect of his genius was felt, and ever since then it has not needed the modest stamp "Werner, fecit" to tell by whose masterly direction beauty and grace of proportion and very life took possession of the dead metal." "Christopher Werner Obituary". News & Courier. June 14, 1875. p. 6. 
  3. ^ "The State"; December 22, 1907; Issue: 6134; Page: 17 (column 3) But the crowning achievement of Werner's artistic life was the making of what is at the same time his loveliest and most famous piece of work – namely, his wonderfully beautiful palmetto tree, which was bought by the State of South Carolina to serve as a noble monument to the memory of the splendid Palmetto regiment, whose achievements are among the finest in the whole long list of gallant feats in the history of American arms. This tree is made of iron, copper and brass and was built in 1853...
  4. ^ Werner's obituary described it as, "Inimitable in execution and almost excelling nature. . ." "Christopher Werner Obituary". News & Courier. June 14, 1875. p. 6. 
  5. ^ The South had sent 43,232 troops, compared to 22,136 from the more populated North. The "Palmetto Regiment suffered greater losses than any other American unit." Of 974 volunteers, 501 succumbed to wounds and disease. Among them was former governor Pierce M. Butler, who died in the fight. Bryan, John Morrill (1999). Creating the South Carolina State House. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. pp. 39–42. ISBN 1-57003-291-2. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  6. ^ "The State" newspaper article written by D. Huger Bacot, Jr.; Christopher Werner:Great Iron-Worker, Creator of Famous Palmetto on State-House Grounds and of the Beautiful Designs Here and in Charleston, December 22, 1907; Issue: 6134; Page: 17; Location: Columbia, South Carolina. The last paragraph of this source says: At his death Werner remembered the religion that he had been brought up in and expressed a wish that he should be buried in the Roman Catholic cemetery at Magnolia. As has already been said, he willed the splendid iron cross spoken of should be placed over his grave. This all came as a surprise to his family, which had grown up Lutheran. But his wish was respected, and he was buried in St. Laurence cemetery, with his handsome iron cross above him just as he desired. And thus passed away the profound master of wrought iron work, whose life and splendid accomplishments are striking illustrations of that noble lien - "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "The State" newspaper article written by D. Huger Bacot, Jr.; Christopher Werner:Great Iron-Worker, Creator of Famous Palmetto on State-House Grounds and of the Beautiful Designs Here and in Charleston, December 22, 1907; Issue: 6134; Page: 17; Location: Columbia, South Carolina
  2. ^ a b c d e Ciociola, Kelly Ann (May 2010). "Three – Biographical information of Christopher Werner" (pdf). 'Werner Fecit', Christopher Werner and nineteenth-century Charleston ironwork: A Thesis. Graduate Schools of Clemson University and College of Charleston. pp. 36–47. Retrieved January 11, 2011. , p. 32: "It appears as though his family was Lutheran."
  3. ^ Anja Johansen, Soldiers as Police: the French and Prussian armies and the policing of popular protest, 1889-1914 (2005), p. 37: "The Prussian army had been based on universal conscription since its reorganisation in 1807-1815 after the old Prussian army's collapse before Napoleon's mass-army."
  4. ^ 1850 U.S. Census, Home in 1850: St Michael and St Phillip, Charleston, South Carolina; Roll: M432_850; Page: 167A; Image: 174
  5. ^ a b 1860 U.S. Census, Charleston Ward 4, Charleston, South Carolina; Roll: M653_1216; Page: 337; Image: 308; Family History Library Film: 805216
  6. ^ Charleston Ward 4
  7. ^ Ciociola, Kelly Ann (May 2010). 'Werner Fecit', Christopher Werner and nineteenth-century Charleston ironwork: A Thesis (pdf). Graduate Schools of Clemson University and College of Charleston. p. 2. Retrieved January 11, 2011. 
  8. ^ Ciociola, Kelly Ann (May 2010). 'Werner Fecit', Christopher Werner and nineteenth-century Charleston ironwork: A Thesis (pdf). Graduate Schools of Clemson University and College of Charleston. p. 4. Retrieved January 11, 2011. 
  9. ^ Ravenel, Beatrice St. Julien (1904–1990); Julien, Carl (photographs); Carolina Art Association (1992). Architects of Charleston. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press. p. 255. ISBN 0-87249-828-X. LCCN 91034126. 
  10. ^ "Designed by Steenken Metal Palmetto Tree Made in Werner’s Shop". News And Courier. February 14, 1939. p. 4. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Deas, Alston (1941). The Early Ironwork of Charleston. Columbia, South Carolina: Bostick & Thornley, Publishers. pp. 31–32. 
  12. ^ a b Maybank, Burnet R.; Writers' Program of the Work Projects Administration in the State of South Carolina (1941). South Carolina: a guide to the Palmetto state. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 222–223. 
  13. ^ a b Bryan, John Morrill (1999). Creating the South Carolina State House. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina. pp. 39–42. ISBN 1-57003-291-2. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  14. ^ Receipt, 3 March 1857 to Christopher Werner for Palmetto Regiment Monument. University of South Carolina Librarys. March 3, 1857 (2004). Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Roper House". Classic American Homes Trust. Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  16. ^ a b Vlaich, Joseph Michael (1992). Charleston Blacksmith: The Work of Phillip Simmon. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press. pp. 82–84. ISBN 0-87249-835-2. 
  17. ^ Ravenel, Beatrice St. Julien (1904–1990); Julien, Carl (photographs); Carolina Art Association (1992). Architects of Charleston. Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Press. p. 176 (plate), 180. ISBN 0-87249-828-X. LCCN 91034126. 
  18. ^ "Do You Know Your Charleston?" Charleston (S.C.) News & Courier, Nov. 7, 1932 at 10.
  19. ^ "History of the John Rutledge House". John Rutledge House Inn. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  20. ^ "Hibernian Hall". Charleston Historic Religious & Community Buildings. National Park Service. Retrieved January 11, 2012. 
  21. ^ a b Cohen, Hennig (July 1947). "The Wrought Iron Gates of Charleston" (pdf). American Antique Journal. Retrieved January 11, 2011. 
  22. ^ Patent No.109,694
  23. ^ Patent No.194,278
  24. ^ Ciociola, p. 32
  25. ^ Christopher Werner at, accessed 24 February 2012
  26. ^ Isabella "Fannie" Werner at, accessed 24 February 2012


Further reading[edit]

  • Wagener, John A.; Werner, Carl (1872/1873). der deutsche Tubal-Kain in Der deutsche Pionier 4. pp. 291–293. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]