Tag: Tarrytown

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. 


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.


Andre’s Tree – The Vanished Landmark

Henry John Steiner

Historian of Sleepy Hollow

I wrote the following piece many years ago, prodded by the knowledge that Andre’s Tree was a real, historic  – though now extinct – landmark.  My researches in local history taught me that many well-intentioned writers of the 19th and 20th centuries had, through ignorance and misinterpretation, consigned this important landmark to mythological status…

Major John Andre

Major John Andre

Sleepy Hollow and Tarrytown once had an impressive, living landmark which stood near what is today the border of the two villages.  André’s Tree was an ancient, enormous tulip or white-wood tree which towered over the Post Road until 1801.  According to Washington Irving’s friend, James K. Paulding, it stood “About half a quarter of a mile south of Clark’s Kill bridge, on the high-road….”  In other words, it stood roughly where Broadway passes Warner Library today.

Where Andre's Tree once stood—near the parking lot entry to Warner Library, Tarrytown

Where Andre’s Tree once stood—near the parking lot entry to Warner Library, Tarrytown

The American Citizen newspaper of August 25, 1801, reported that the tree was destroyed by lightning on Saturday, July 21, 1801.  It measured 29 feet around at the base, 111 feet in height, 106 feet in diameter at the crown.  Some local folk preserved pieces of the tree as keepsakes.  The newspaper also recorded that the lightening strike was said to have occurred on the day that news of Benedict Arnold’s death in England arrived at Tarrytown.

A cluster of tulip trees in the Sleepy Hollow section of Patriots' Park, about 300 yards from where Andre's Tree once stood

A cluster of tulip trees in the Sleepy Hollow section of Patriots’ Park, about 300 yards from where Andre’s Tree once stood

As the name suggests, the tree is associated with the momentous capture of the British spy, Major John André, and, indeed, there is a tradition that André was either stopped or searched directly under the tree.  However, the actual capture site lay at the intersection of André Brook and the Albany Post Road, approximately two hundred yards to the north. 


Patriots' Park tulip tree leaves

Patriots’ Park tulip tree leaves

On another score, General Jacob Odell recalled that the tree served as an enlistment station for patriots of the vicinity during the spring of 1776.  He and three cousins from the Irvington area, rode or walked up the Post Road to enlist with the local militia in the June of 1776.


The tree is associated with several spurious traditions too, among them:

  • That Major André was hanged at the tree
  • That the tree was destroyed upon receipt of the news of André’s death in Tappan
  • That the tree stood along André Brook.

The name, “Major André’s tree,” appears in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (1819).  Washington Irving described the tree from first-hand observations made roughly twenty years earlier.  It is not clear when the tree was first given the name, André’s Tree, but the name appears to have originated after the destruction of the tree itself.  A remarkable feature of the tree is that it stood, literally, in the middle of the road.  That is, the road split to either side of the tree, a unique circumstance even in that day.

A tulip tree in Patriots' Park, Sleepy Hollow

A tulip tree in Patriots’ Park, Sleepy Hollow

The extensive description of the tree in the “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” may be well worth revisiting.  “Many dismal tales were told about funeral trains, and mourning cries and wailings heard and seen about the great tree where the unfortunate André was taken.”  Irving goes on, “The common people regarded it with a mixture of respect and superstition, partly out of sympathy for the fate of its ill-starred namesake, and partly from the tales of strange sights and doleful lamentations told concerning it.”  The narrator of the story refers to it as a”fearful tree.”

Christopher Coles mislabeled Andre's Tree an oak in his 1789 survey.

Christopher Coles mislabeled Andre’s Tree an oak in his 1789 survey.

When he was writing the story in 1819, Irving may have been unaware that the tree had been destroyed by lightning nearly twenty years earlier.  If he was accurately describing the tree from his own youthful observations, André’s Tree had been the target of earlier lightning strikes:  “As he approached a little nearer, he thought he saw something white, hanging in the midst of the tree—he paused and ceased whistling, but on looking more narrowly, he perceived that it was a place where the tree had been scathed by lightning, and the white wood laid bare.”

It appears that the tree continued to serve as a convenient reference point even after it was gone.  In 1845 a local Revolutionary War veteran, Samuel Lyon, recalled that he was in a detachment chasing enemy loyalist troops on September 4, 1781, when he observed the enemy troopers, “near André’s great white wood tree.”  Lyon had seen them from the hill above the Old Dutch Church, but the enemy slipped away before he and his comrades could attack them.

The twentieth century nearly banished André’s Tree to the realm of myth.  It was, however, a real, living and unique landmark coloring the life and traditions of this community in its earliest days, and even a monument of purely Native American times.  A great part of what the tree really was, lives on.  It’s image is stamped in the pages of one of America’s great works of fiction.

Copyright  2012, 2019 Henry John Steiner

Andre Brook, Andre’s Tree, Benedict Arnold, HeadlessHorseman, James K. Paulding, John Paulding, legend of sleepy hollow, Major John Andre, sleepy hollow, Tarrytown, washington irving

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…

“I believe it was the very peculiarity of the name…”

The Mill Dam at Philipsburg, Sleepy Hollow

“I believe it was the very peculiarity of the name, and the idea of something mystic and dreamy connected with it, that first led me, in my boyish ramblings, into Sleepy Hollow.  The character of the valley seemed to answer to the name; the slumber of past ages apparently reigned over it; it had not awakened to the stir of improvement, which had put all the rest of the world in a bustle.  Here reigned good old long-forgotten fashions; the men were in homespun garbs, evidently the product of their own farms, and the manufacture of their own wives; the women were in primitive short gowns and petticoats, with the venerable sun-bonnets of Holland origin.  The lower part of the valley was cut up into small farms, each consisting of a little meadow and corn-field; an orchard of sprawling, gnarled apple trees, and a garden, where the rose, the marigold, and the hollyhock were permitted to skirt the domains of the capacious cabbage, the aspiring pea, and the portly pumpkin.  Each had its prolific little mansion, teeming with children; with an old hat nailed against the wall for the house-keeping wren; a motherly hen, under a coop on the grass-plot, clucking to keep around her a brood of vagrant chickens; a cool stone well, with the moss-covered bucket suspended to the long balancing pole, according to the antediluvian idea of hydraulics; and its spinning-wheel humming within doors, the patriarchal music of home manufacture….”

–Washington Irving


dutch, ghost, headless horseman, history, legend of sleepy hollow, philipsburg, sleepy hollow, Tarrytown, Washington Irving

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