Saturday, August 31, 2013


Frau with a pearl earring: Sophie Bachem, 
diamond broker, circa 1890
Photo private collection

Gustav's mother-in-law and longtime business partner, Sophie Bachem (née Müller), emigrated from Germany in October 1892 with four of her five children (her eldest son arrived the following summer after completing his schooling). Sophie's husband, Carl, was variously a manufacturing jeweler, diamond broker and traveling merchant. Before emigrating he'd been associated with Lorenz Bissinger, a Pforzheim fabricator, and patented several designs for jewelry findings. He arrived ahead of his family by a few months and opened a diamond ring factory on Mulberry Street in Newark. 

Sophie's husband Carl (Chas.) Bachem 
with one of his jewelry patents,
Photo private collection

When Sophie arrived, the family moved into a block of row houses in Hamilton Heights, at the northern end of Manhattan. By the late 1890s, Carl, who'd anglicized his name to Charles, was beset with ill health and business difficulties. Sensing her spouse might not recover from his ailment (he ultimately sought treatment in Germany, and died there around 1904), Sophie arranged a hasty marriage between her middle daughter, Martha Magdalena and Gustav Manz, a designing jeweler and sculptor with a studio near Union Square. Shortly before their nuptials Manz was made junior partner at Chas. Bachem & Co at 41-43 Maiden Lane. In 1901, with Carl's retirement and Sophie's backing, the firm was renamed Manz & Co. 

             Gustav Manz and bride, Martha Bachem, circa 1899 
                               Photo private collection

The 34-year-old goldsmith and his 17-year-old bride were a mismatch from the get-go, though their union did produce two daughters (the younger entered the business as a gem-broker and traveling saleswoman). By 1903, they'd built a roomy house in Leonia, an old farming community on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River that had morphed into an artists' enclave. But after a few years—during which Gustav was admitted to the National Arts Club while Martha joined the circle of her socialist-leaning Hungarian violin teacher—the couple were estranged and eventually divorced. (Both would re-marry, more harmoniously.)

Sophie's son-in-law Gustav Manz purchased a house in Leonia, NJ the early 1900s. The shingle-style cottage was designed by local architect Fred West, who'd trained at McKim, Mead & White and was an early member of the Leonia artist colony
Photo private collection 

  Leonia train station, circa 1918 
Photo courtesy Leonia Historical Society

Gustav eventually moved back to Manhattan while Martha, whose formal schooling ended in tenth grade, kept the house on Christie Street. While newly separated she'd worked briefly as a department store clerk and sold encyclopedias door to door; as a young mother she earned money as a local correspondent for The Bergen Record. In 1922, buoyed by the Supreme Court upholding of the Nineteenth Amendment—and now married to her violin instructor, with whom she'd had two more children—Martha found investors to help launch Leonia Life, one of the first weekly newspapers in the country published and edited by a woman.

Through all this domestic upheaval, Sophie Bachem maintained her stake in Manz & Co., joining her son-in-law when he and Walter P. McTeigue, another manufacturing jeweler, formed McTeigue, Manz & Co., situating their business in the new Mercantile Building at 31-33 West 31st Street. Sophie's younger son, Hans, served as salesman. When the partners set up independent concerns (Manz's studio specialized in carved mountings for precious and semi-precious stones; McTeigue's factory produced primarily platinum jewelry), Sophie maintained an office in the heart of the Diamond District, buying and selling stones. She retired shortly after Hans' death in October 1912, having been active in the jewelry trade for nearly four decades, and remained the family matriarch for another three, until her death in December 1939.  

Letterhead for McTeigue, Manz & Co., 
Makers of Fine Diamond and Carved Jewelry, circa 1908
Letter, private collection 

In 1914, Sophie acquired property in the coastal Rhode Island town where daughter Martha and her husband, Arpad Rado, were members of a summer music colony. (Sophie also purchased lots in the new Sunny Heights development in Mill Valley, where her eldest son, Carl, had found work as a timber inspector for a lumber company and later for department of the interior and Stephen Mather, head of the fledgling National Park service). Martha's two sisters followed suit. Descendants still remember the large house Sophie built for herself, situated on higher ground than the rest and nicknamed "Up-Home"—evidently to remind young visitors who was The Boss. 

 Sophie's pearl earring has an eagle on it, as does
the matching brooch on her lace-lined collar
Photo private collection

"Copyright by G. Manz" 
Illustration from Manz sales brochure, circa 1910
Private Collection

"Copyright by G. Manz" 
Illustration from Manz sales brochure, circa 1910
Private Collection

Scrapbook images Gustav Manz LLC. All rights reserved. Thanks to the Boyd, Heyder, and Eastman families for sharing artifacts and family memories. And the architectural blog Daytonian in Manhattan which we often turn to for cool info about the business and manufacturing districts where Manz and other jewelers plied their trade in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Copyright (c) 2013

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