Tag: Henry John Steiner

A Gift in Germany

By Henry John Steiner, Sleepy Hollow Historian

My Parents in Stuttgart, Germany

My parents, Leopold and Lucie Steiner bought a house in Tarrytown, New York about 1951.  They joined Transfiguration Church and remained in the community for roughly thirty-five years.  Sometime in the 1980s they moved to Woodstock, Vermont and remained there for most of their retirement years.  They have both departed from this realm, but are dearly remembered by their family and friends.

Leo and Lucie wedding, in France, October 1945

Leo and Lucie’s wedding, in France, October 1945

My mother and father first met in Lorraine, France in the autumn of 1944, during World War II.  Dad was in the United States Third Army and Mom was a French school teacher.  At the time, the Third Army was engaged in fighting the Battle of Metz in the Lorraine.  The City of Metz was not far from Mom’s hometown, in fact, her town was within the radius of the battle.  They met and, ironically, the only language my parents had in common was German.  Mom was raised speaking German as a second language and could speak it fluently.  Dad, who grew up in Austria, had started out speaking German as his first language.  By 1945, about a year after Mom and Dad met, Dad’s counter-intelligence unit had established its headquarters in Nuremberg, Germany.  My parents were married in October 1945, at Mom’s hometown in Lorraine (see wedding photo).  Mom later joined Dad at Nuremberg and actually worked for his counter-intelligence unit as a translator and secretary.

Lucie at a destroyed train station at Stuttgart, Germany after WWII, 1945

Lucie at a destroyed train station at Stuttgart, Germany after WWII, 1945

About two months after the wedding, they traveled to Stuttgart, Germany.  For what reason, I do not know.  Were they there on leave? or on some assignment connected with army counter-intelligence?  In 1945, Stuttgart was certainly not a “vacation spot.”   Destruction had been rained down on the city during the year 1944 by American and British air attacks.  On September 12, 1944 alone, the British military dropped over 184,000 bombs on Stuttgart.  A year and three months after that very destructive day, my parents were in Stuttgart observing Christmas 1945—their first Christmas as a married couple.   One of my favorite photos of Mom was taken at that time.  It shows Lucie walking down a street—behind her a bombed out train station.  The destruction of war was nothing new to her.

Portrait of Lucie, post-war

I have no details on where in Stuttgart they stayed, but I still possess a gift that Lucie gave to Leo that Christmas.  It is a book (see photo) about photography.  She inscribed it:

“To my dear Leo,

for our first Christmas together. 

Lucie    

Stuttgart 1945” 

(See photo of inscription)

Lucie's inscription

Lucie’s inscription

The Leica Book in Color

The Leica Book in Color

The original edition of the book, in German, had been published in 1937.  So it is likely that most of the photographs were shot in 1936 or 1937.  This English edition of the book was produced in Germany in 1938, as the world approached the brink of world war.  That was the year my father escaped from Austria at the age of eighteen, fleeing to the United States.  I do not think that is why Mom gave him the book though. It was probably because she knew he was interested in still photography.  Leo had worked as a cameraman and editor in film production at New York for two or three years prior to the United States entering the war.

The  Leica Book in Color and “Tony” Baumann

Arizona cowboy

Arizona cowboy

The book itself has nothing to do with the war.  It is a striking document of peacetime, with images of a world that has no idea of the terrible pain that is about to be visited on it—World War II.  It does not contain even a whisper of Naziism in either its text or its images.  Not even a faint suggestion of Hitler and his meteoric rise—although Naziism and Hitler were very much phenomenons of that time.  It is a book created to celebrate beauty, optimism, and excitement.  It heralds a “brave new world” where amateur and professional photographers will take their Leica 35mm cameras and Kodachrome film (just then being manufactured by the Eastman Kodak Company in America) and document a beautiful world!  In color!

A Seminole chief, Florida

A Seminole chief, Florida

The photographs are illustrative of such a hope.  And the “priest” of this vision was a life-long employee of the German company E. Leitz, Inc., manufacturer of the Leica Camera.  His name was Anton F. Baumann.  But first a word about the Leica Camera itself.  Ernst Leitz II began production on the Leica Camera in the city of Wetzlar, Germany, in 1924.  It became an immediate success. The camera was extremely lightweight and portable, and it lent itself especially to travel photography.  Initially, all the 35mm films for the camera were black and white films.  The camera was to become especially popular with

Hoover Dam power plant

Hoover Dam power plant

professional photo-journalists in the mid to late twentieth century.  In contrast to the more modern 35mm single-lens-reflex cameras that came later, the Leica was a “view-finder” type camera.  It was much lighter and compact.  Even today, nearly a century later, there are diehard international photo-journalists who will not give up their old Leicas.  In fact, my cousin, Austrian-born Lisl Steiner, a photo-journalistic icon, still has a collection of her own old Leicas.  Her collection once included the Leica of famous photographer, Robert Capa.  The camera was given to Lisl by Capa’s mother after Capa’s death.  Robert Capa lost his life in 1954, while covering the war in Southeast Asia.

Southern woman, a picker of cotton

Southern woman, a picker of cotton

The Leitz company was doing well in the mid-1920s.  Business was good and the company employed a large number of workers.  In the company workforce there was a significant percentage of Jewish workers.  As the mid 20s became the mid 30s, Jews throughout Germany began to feel the pain and danger of antagonistic government measures posed against them.  These were official and unofficial measures that amounted to persecution against the Jewish population of Germany.  This

A Southern "belle" in costume

A Southern “belle” in costume

oppression crescendoed in the Kristallnacht attacks of November 1938.  In response, Ernst Leitz II quietly initiated a progressive policy within the company.  He managed to keep Jewish workers on the payroll at E. Leitz by assigning them to company positions abroad—countries such as the United States.  Leitz had its American headquarters at 730 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan at the time.

But, long before this unfolded, the company hired a young boy in Germany, Anton F. Baumann, or “Tony,” who was mentioned above.  The boy was placed in the research department of the company, probably as early as 1914, ten years before the

1924 production roll-out of the Leica Camera.  With the development of the Leica, the company found it had an excellent photographer in Tony.  He also had boundless energy and enthusiasm for the promotion of the company’s increasingly most exciting product, the Leica 35mm Camera.  I have found no information about his home life.

Hopi medicine man

Hopi medicine man

Tony traveled on assignment to the United States in 1936.  At that time he made contact with Eastman Kodak and established that the film company was just beginning to produce its marvelous Kodachrome film for 35mm still cameras.  Tony bought twenty-five rolls of the film and took a whirlwind tour through the United States, shooting color photos all the way.  He began in the North, and then  swung through the American West, the South, and the East.  Among the subjects he photographed were New York skyscrapers, Rockefeller Center, Niagra Falls, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, an American cowboy, a Hopi medicine man, a woman of the South who picks cotton, an Arizona mission, the Hoover Dam, Seminole people in Florida, and a costumed southern belle in Natchez.  And all these subjects were photographed for the first time with 35mm color film and a 35mm still camera—all captured by Anton F. Baumann—Tony.

Czech Moravian girls

Czech Moravian girls

A Czech Moravian girl

A Czech Moravian girl

But he was not done.  He used the same type of film in Europe—Scandinavia, Germany, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.  Then, returning to Leitz headquarters in Germany, he went to work on “the first photographic picture book in the world devoted entirely to color photography.”  The editor of the book went on to write, “…my sincere thanks to Tony Baumann […] through whose courage, energy and faith this first volume about color photography became possible.”     

Hungarian cattle rangler

Hungarian cattle rangler

The book was a milestone for the E. Leitz company, the Leica, and for Baumann.  But it was 1938 and the

A girl of the Black Forest

A girl of the Black Forest

social-political climate in Germany was changing quickly.  Tony Baumann left Germany at the end of the year.  This time he would not merely be visiting the United States, he would be immigrating there.  Was he Jewish?  Was that the reason he was relocating to the U. S?  I think he may have been Jewish, but it is not spelled out in the sketchy information I have managed to find.  If his German birth certificate still exists in some official archive, it might answer the question.  When Baumann arrived in New York, his work was to more or less mirror the company activities that he had been doing in Germany.  Tony was spreading the “gospel” of the Leica and the ease, versatility, and precision that it

Cologne, Germany—a Ford auto worker

Cologne, Germany—a Ford auto worker

offered photographers.

The year 1939 found Baumann in the Northeast of America, hosting photography lectures, demonstrations, and work shops.  Passionate and dedicated to his craft, he continued to avidly shoot his own photos of America.  The Leitz headquarters in New York was his home base.   He hosted the Leica Universal Camera Exhibit in New York and took it on the road through the American South.  Photographers visiting the exhibit were also instructed on Leica accessories and their use, by “Anton F. Baumann, Leica expert, lecturer, and photographer.”  Then, something happened…

It was the summer of 1939. There are no details on the what, the where, or precisely when, but Baumann was apparently attempting to line up a scenic shot from a great height, and, tragically, he fell to his death.  The event was noted in perhaps two publications with few details offered.   The Scientific American quipped, “Widely known and admired both as a photographer and a personality, Anton F. Baumann has shot his last picture.”  The announcement added that, “Baumann [was] a master of 35mm technique…”

Hungarian folks in traditional attire

Hungarian folks in traditional attire

A death announcement, possibly from his employer, stated, “He had just completed a lecture and demonstration tour of a number of southern cities and was making pictures when he met with an accident attempting to obtain a ‘different’ angle from a high position.”  Baumann was 38 years old.

Further information about the accident is hard to find.  On September 1st, 1939 Germany invaded Poland.  Soon the world would be embroiled in a vast war, and few would have the inclination or the leisure to remember or contemplate Tony Baumann’s achievement and fate.  His 1937-1938 book, The Leica Book in Color, may be his only legacy, and that, a rather obscure one.   A search of the Web does not readily produce any information on Baumann’s final resting place, or even a photo of the photographer.

Mom and Dad would eventually leave Germany and make their home in the United States.  In Forest Hills, Queens actually, where they lived for a few years before moving to Tarrytown.

  

Please follow and like us:

A Local Native American Creation Story

Commentary by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

“…God was with the woman who dwells with him, and no one knows when that was, or where they had come from. Water was all there was, or at any rate water covered and overran everything… What then took place, they say, was that the

Creation Spirit Woman

Creation “Beautiful Spirit Woman”

aforementioned beautiful woman or idol descended from heaven into the water. She was gross and big like a woman who is pregnant with more than one child. Touching down gently, she did not sink deep, for at once a patch of land began to emerge under her at the spot where she had come down, and there she came to rest and remained. The land waxed greater so that dry patches became visible around the place where she sat, as happens to someone standing on a sandbar in three or

Creation waves

Creation waves

four feet of water while it ebbs away and eventually recedes so far that it leaves him entirely on dry land. That is how it was with the descended goddess, they say and believe, the land ever widening around her until its edge disappeared from view. Gradually grass and other vegetation sprang up and in time, also fruit-bearing and other trees, and from this, in brief, the whole globe came into being much as it appears to this day. Now, whether the world you speak of and originally came from was then created as well, we are unable to say.

Please follow and like us:

Remembering Monsignor Louis Mazza

by Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

Monsignor Louis Mazza

Monsignor Louis Mazza, photo Henry John Steiner

I was downtown today, June 9, 2017, and I struck up a conversation with Father Dany Abi-Akar of Saint John Paul II Parish at the Immaculate Conception Church in Sleepy Hollow, New York. Father Dany has been a much appreciated addition to our community here in Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown. He and I were speaking together about his church building’s local history, when Father Dany informed me of the sad passing of the church’s former pastor, Monsignor Louis Mazza. My understanding is that Monsignor Mazza passed away in Yonkers (where he had been living in retirement) last Wednesday, June 7, 2017.  [Please note: there has been some conflicting information about the exact location of Monsignor Mazza’s passing.  The Riverdale on Hudson Funeral Home noted : “at the Edward Cardinal Egan Pavilion, St. John Vianney Clergy Residence in the Bronx, New York.”  Another source suggested that he died at the Cardinal OʻConnor Clergy Residence in Riverdale, the Bronx.  According to the funeral home, the monsignor’s remains were to be interred at St. Raymond’s Cemetery in Bronx, New York.]

In observance of Monsignor’s life and service to our community, I thought I would share a glimpse of the man who has left us. I interviewed Monsignor Mazza fifteen years ago, in early 2003, and what follows is a brief look at the man who many of us knew personally by sight and by name…

Please follow and like us:

Open Houses at the Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse

Open Houses at the Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse in 2019

Bring your questions to discuss with Sleepy Hollow Village Historian, Henry John Steiner. He will be glad to discuss the lighthouse, or any other aspect of Sleepy Hollow history.

Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse

Sleepy Hollow Lighthouse

Sundays,

April – August 2019

April 7 & 28, 1-3PM

May 5 & 19 1-3PM

June 2 & 16 1-3PM

July  7 & 21  1-3PM

August 4 & 18 1-3PM

 

Please follow and like us:

“Seven Dollars in My Pocket”

JameskPaulding

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

Some time between 1796 and 1797, eighteen-year-old James Kirke Paulding boarded a market sloop at Tarrytown with seven dollars in his pocket. He was headed for Manhattan to seek his fortune. Paulding was a homegrown Tarrytowner, and he knew the people and the landscape by heart. His family lived by Tarrytown Bay. The Pauldings were forced to flee from Tarrytown during the Revolutionary War years and settle into self-imposed exile in northern Westchester. James K. Paulding was born at Great Nine Partners near Peekskill, in 1778.

Please follow and like us:

Just In… A Note from the Past… Rockwood Hall

Rockwood Hall about 1911

Rockwood Hall about 1911

By Henry John Steiner

 Historian of Sleepy Hollow, New York

My friend Ed Murphy just sent me a message from Las Vegas.  It’s always great to hear from him, because, whenever Ed gets contemplative about his hometown, he generally fills in another piece of the Sleepy Hollow picture.

Rockwood Hall is one of Sleepy Hollow’s wonderful scenic assets, and a favorite with many of us:

Please follow and like us:

A Book About the Real Sleepy Hollow

coverIn the years following the reclaiming of the name of Sleepy Hollow in 1996, I received many inquiries for information about the real, historic village of Sleepy Hollow.  As the village historian, I found it difficult to reply to them all.  Many of the questions I received had to do with how the historic village relates to the famous story.  It was then that I began to write the material included in The Historically Annotated Legend of Sleepy Hollow, though it was actually many years before the book was published.  It is now available…

Please follow and like us:

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)