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George Brumder (May 24, 1839 – May 9, 1910) was a German-American newspaper publisher and businessman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Born in Breuschwickersheim, Bas-Rhin, France., Brumder emigrated to the United States, settling in Milwaukee, where he produced several publications that served the city's (and the state's) German-American community.
Background and marriage
He was the fifteenth of sixteen children born to Georg and Christina Brumder. In 1857, at the age of 18, Brumder emigrated to Wisconsin with his older sister, Anna Maria, to attend her wedding to a Lutheran minister, Gottlieb Reim. George's first employment was clearing land near Helenville, Wisconsin, though shortly after arriving in the United States, he bade his sister and new brother-in-law farewell and set off on foot on a 45 mile journey to Milwaukee. He became a member of a crew that laid Milwaukee's first street car tracks and later became the foreman of the crew—a fact he remained proud of throughout his life. Brumder soon joined Grace Lutheran Church in Milwaukee where he met his future wife, Henriette Brandhorst, a Prussian immigrant who was born in 1841 and arrived in America in 1853.
The two were married on July 16, 1864 and they invested what little money they had in a small bookstore George had opened a few months earlier at 306 W. Water Street.
Branching into publishing
The bookstore flourished and the Brumders added a small printing department and book bindery and began publishing books for the Lutheran Church, especially the Wisconsin Synod. Around the same time, a group of prominent German immigrants formed the German Protestant Publishing Company and selected the name Germania for their name of their first publication, a weekly and daily newspaper. That venture ran into financial difficulty due to cost overruns and limited circulation and the group sought Brumder's assistance. Under his stewardship, the publication eventually thrived. Brumder bought out controlling interest in the company in 1874. In 1897, Brumder bought the Milwaukee daily Abend-Post and Sontags Journal and changed the name of Germania to Germania Abend-Post. Brumder acquired several other papers over the years including the Lincoln Freie Presse (1904) and the daily Milwaukee Herold (1906). Brumder eventually controlled most of Milwaukee's German language newspapers and also owned German papers in Chicago and Lincoln, Nebraska, as well as in several other Wisconsin towns. He was also president of the Germania National Bank (1903–1910) and of the Concordia Fire Insurance Company (1897–1909). Among other business ventures, Brumder briefly owned the American League Boston Red Sox from 1903 to 1904, during their first pennant win.
In 1896, Brumder built a new headquarters for his growing publishing empire at 135 W. Wells St. The 8-story Germania Building, as it was called, was designed by German-trained architects Schnetzky & Liebert and was, at the time of its construction, the largest office building in the city of Milwaukee. In 1918, the building's name was changed to the Brumder Building in response to anti-German sentiment during World War I but was changed back to the Germania Building after a significant renovation in 1981. 17 years after Brumder's 1910 death, the printing presses were removed from the basement levels of the building, giving the city its first underground parking garage. The Beaux-Arts/Classical Revival building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983.
Personal life; death and tributes
George and Henriette had eleven children, seven of whom survived them. Amalie Christine was born April 29, 1865, Ida Johanna was born April 27, 1867, William Charles was born October 8, 1868, Emma Dorothea was born July 12, 1870, Alfred William was born April 16, 1871 (died at four and a half months), Alfred Julius was born April 9, 1874, Henriette Mathilda was born May 28, 1875 (died two and a half months), Ella was born in March 1876 (died at one month), George Fredrick was born May 27, 1878, Herman Otto was born May 21, 1880, and Herbert Paul was born July 21, 1885.
Brumder's business and social contributions to Milwaukee, to Wisconsin, and to the United States were signified in part by several conferences with President William McKinley when he was in Milwaukee, a meeting with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House, and dinner with President William Howard Taft at the White House. Upon his death, his wife received letters of condolence from President Taft as well as many leading officials and citizens of this nation, and the flag at Milwaukee City Hall was flown at half mast.
- "Brumder, George 1839 - 1910". Wisconsin Historical Society. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- Bruce, William George. History of Milwaukee, city and county, Volume 2. Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1922.
- Joslyn, Jay (April 16, 1981)."Where is the bronze giantess, Germania?" The Milwaukee Sentinel". Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- "Golden Age". Dr. Steven Reyer. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- Brumder, Herbert P. The Life Story of George and Henriette Brumder. Milwaukee: The North American Press, 1960.
- "New York Times Obituaries, May 10, 1910" (PDF). The New York Times. May 10, 1910. Retrieved 2009-11-10.
- "Forest Home Cemetery: Self-Guided Historical Tour". Forest Home Cemetery. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
- Becker, Gerhardt. A Bibliography and List of Library Holdings of Milwaukee Publisher George Brumder (1839-1910). Milwaukee, Wis.: Golda Meir Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2000.
- "Brumder, George" in Andrew J. Aikens and Lewis A. Proctor (Eds.) Men of Progress. Wisconsin. Milwaukee, Wis.: Evening Wisconsin Co., 1897, pp. 629–630.
- Marzen, Heidi. "The George Brumder Publishing Company: A German-American Legacy." Max Kade Institute Friends Newsletter, vol. 10, no. 1 (Spring 2001).
- Widen, Larry. "Founding Families". M Magazine, February 2006.
- George Brumder at Find a Grave
- German Milwaukee: The World of the Brumders - audio presentation by John Gurda