Christopher Ludwick [or Ludwig, Ludowick, Ludwigg] (October 17, 1720 Germany– June 17, 1801 U. S. A.) was a German immigrant to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania who served as baker general for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.
Life in Europe and Philadelphia
Early in life, Christopher Ludwick enlisted in the Austrian army and served in the Austro-Russian-Turkish War. He endured the hardships of a grueling seventeen weeks-long battle known as the Siege of Prague. When the French and Bavarians captured Prague in 1741, Ludwick was conscripted into the Prussian army. When peace was finally declared, Ludwick decided to leave continental Europe. Ludwick arrived in England in 1742 and joined the British Royal Navy. He seems to have served as a baker aboard the H.M.S. Duke of Cumberland until 1745, and then served as a seaman in the merchant marine.
In 1753, he sailed for Philadelphia taking only £25 and some clothing. His time in Philadelphia was spent as a baker which proved to be very lucrative for him. With the £60 he had earned by this venture, Ludwick returned to London where he continued his work as a baker. Additionally, he learned a new trade of making very specialized cakes and confections for the wealthy people of London. Equipped with this new knowledge, he returned to Philadelphia the following year and expanded his business as a gingerbread baker and confectioner located in Laetitia Court where he amassed a fortune! So much so, that Ludwick married Catherine England in 1755. He owned 4 or 5 homes in the Philadelphia area plus a farm in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Ludwick used his baking skill to feed some of the Hessian soldiers because since they were camping at the base, they didn't have good food. Ludwick and his wife had one child who died in infancy.
Ludwick was a staunch advocate of the American Revolution. From the very beginning, the American Patriots maintained their stance that no measures of compromise would be effective with the English and therefore spoke for war with England; no matter its duration. On one occasion, when it had been proposed by Major General Thomas Mifflin to purchase firearms by private subscription or require the individual to buy his own guns, this caused some dissent among the Patriots especially those who were unable to pay. Ludwick was able to silence their opposition by saying, “Let the poor, gingerbread baker be put down for £200!” The proposition was then adopted unanimously. In the summer of 1776, Ludwick enlisted as a volunteer. He was 55 years old.
Ludwick was of immeasurable service to the cause of the American Revolution by persuading his fellow German (Hessian countrymen) who were fighting on the side of England to desert those British ranks and become residents of Philadelphia instead. Upon learning of the capture of eight Hessian soldiers who were taken as prisoners during the Battle of Germantown, Ludwick immediately went to the military headquarters for the American Patriots and convinced the commander-in-chief to place those eight men in his hands. Then, Ludwick took it upon himself to serve as their host and guide. He showed them all about Philadelphia and the surrounding vicinity. Ludwick was able to show these eight men how well the citizens of German heritage were prospering there. He pointed out how comfortably the German families of the area were housed and what fine churches they had! He spoke of the freedom and independence that they had to pursue their own avocations in Philadelphia without intrusion. Even those who were in humbler pursuits of life were living happily in America. When Ludwick dismissed those eight men, he charged them with the sole purpose of returning to their regiments to inform their fellow soldiers of all that they had seen. Ludwick encouraged them to describe the happiness awaiting those who would desert their service to fight for England and settle in Pennsylvania. The seed thus planted bore rich fruit. It is said that Ludwick's influence on those few eight men resulted in many, many Germans who decided to become citizens of Philadelphia. Many of whom afterward became prosperous citizens of the time.
Ludwick's success in this enterprise encouraged him to similar endeavors in that same vein. For example, he visited a Hessian camp on Staten Island, New York without detection and was able to cause some of the German soldiers there to join him in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The fact remains that Ludwick's influence on the success of the American Revolution cannot be overstated. He was very instrumental in advancing the cause without a lot of bloodshed. Without question, Christopher Ludwick was a true hero of the American Revolution!
Ludwick had originally learned the baking trade in his native city of Giessen. In 1777, he was appointed by the Continental Congress to the position of baker general to the American Army. It was stipulated that he should return one pound of bread for every pound of flour delivered to him. But, he immediately replied, “Not so! I must not be enriched by the war. I shall return 135 pounds of bread for every 100 pounds of flour.”
Christopher Ludwick was often invited to dine at George Washington's large dinner parties and frequently their conversations were in relation to the bread supplies for the Army. One of Ludwick's notable achievements was his prompt execution of General George Washington's orders. Washington had defeated British Army Officer Charles Cornwallis at the Siege of Yorktown which ended on October 19, 1781. After the surrender of Cornwallis, General George Washington ordered that Ludwick be responsible for feeding his hungry men. Ludwick baked 6,000 pounds of bread in one day with the help of his loving and supportive wife, Catherine England Ludwick. They were able to provide the much-needed nourishment to the soldiers of Washington after that particularly long battle. That is just one instance, but Ludwick was able to keep the war machine of General Washington running because of that very simple, but appreciated staple - Bread! Washington usually addressed Ludwick in company as “My honest friend.” In 1785, Ludwick was given a certificate of good conduct by General Washington which was written in his own handwriting. Washington realized the importance of Ludwick's invaluable service to the Army.
Ludwick spent a good deal of his later life in service to others. If he discovered that there were those in need or a worthwhile charity to which he could lend his assistance, he did as much as he possibly could to contribute either with his time or money in aiding their circumstance. In 1793, the city of Philadelphia was hit hard by the yellow fever epidemic. Ludwick worked tirelessly at baking bread, gratuitously, to feed those who were sick or destitute. Ludwick was determined to help relieve the suffering of others.
Upon his death in 1801 at the age of 81, Ludwick bequeathed $13,000 ($500,000 today) to fund a charitable trust “for the schooling and education gratis, of poor children of all denominations, in the city and liberties of Philadelphia, without exception to the country, extraction, or religious principles of their parents or friends.” Based in Bryn Mawr, the Christopher Ludwick Foundation remains active in its mission to the present day. He is buried in the cemetery of St. Michael's Lutheran Church.
His charitable donations were primarily awarded to several different organizations in the city of Philadelphia which had become for Ludwick his beloved, adopted home. Organizations such as the immigrant aid society Deutsche Gesellschaft von Pennsylvanien, the University of Pennsylvania and two church charities for poor children received money from the Christopher Ludwick estate. The remainder of the estate in the amount of £3,000 was given to create a free school. In 1872, that school was named in his honor as the Ludwick Institute.
- Rush, Benjamin. An Account of the Life and Character of Christopher Ludwick. Philadelphia, PA: The Philadelphia Society, 1801.
- Creason, Carl. "Christopher Ludwig." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 1, edited by Marianne S. Wokeck. German Historical Institute. Last modified March 4, 2021.
- The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 16, No. 3 (Oct. 1892), pp. 343-348 https://www.jstor.org/stable/20083492
- "About the Foundation". Ludwickfoundation.org. Christopher Ludwick Foundation. 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
- Jacobs, David G. (2003). Guide to U.S. Foundations, Their Trustees, Officers, and Donors, Vol. III. New York: Foundation Center. p. 1018. ISBN 9781931923408.
- Faust, Albert B. (1909). The German Element in the United States. I. Boston: Houghton & Mifflin. pp. 71, 302–304.
- Mellick, Andrew D.; Jr. (1889). The Story of an Old Farm. Somerville, New Jersey: The Unionist-Gazette. p. 369.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.