Name: George Joseph (Sr.) Zeller
Given Name: George Joseph (Sr.)
Birth: 28 Jul 1869 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Christening: 29 Aug 1869 St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, Chicago
Death: 13 Jan 1932 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois
Burial: 16 Jan 1932 Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Worth, Illinois. East of the northwest corner of Section 28. 20 feet southeast of his son George's marker.
Change Date: 3 Dec 2017 at 09:30:20
Notes for George Joseph Zeller, Sr.:
It may have taken some time after the birth of Ignatius and Josephine Zeller's first child born in the new world, before they decided on a name, since the name line is blank on the newborn boy's birth certificate:
At some point they decided to name the baby George Joseph.
George was baptized on August 29, 1869, at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, which is still at 813 W. Roosevelt Rd., in Chicago. At the time, the street's name was 12th Street.
A photo of George's entry in the church's baptismal registry book. The names were written using Latin spellings because that was the language of the Catholic Church.
At some point in the 1880s as a teenager, George met his future wife Mary Duesmann. George lived with his parents at 9943 S. Prairie Avenue (later renamed Throop St.) in the town of Calumet. Mary lived a few blocks away at 10048 S. Maple Street (later renamed Malta St.) with her widowed mother, Elisabeth. Although at that time, those houses had not yet been designated 9943 and 10048.
The 1890 U.S. census records were accidentally or deliberately burned, or damaged by water in the attempt to put out the fire in 1921. But George was almost certainly still living with his parents, since he was in 1891.
An 1891 Chicago directory listed:
Zeller George, tinsmith, h. es. Prairie s. 99th
That meant that he lived in a house on the east side of Prairie Avenue south of 99th Street. House numbers had not yet been assigned. That house, the home of his parents, later would be assigned the address 9943. That area, the former town of Calumet, had just been annexed into Chicago in 1890.
In 1892 George became a co-owner of a hardware store with a man named Nicholas Mainz, who had been the sole owner of Mainz Hardware. The store was renamed Mainz & Zeller. It was located at 10210 S. Vincennes Rd., Chicago. (About 1904, the property's address was changed from 10210 to 10212. Vincennes was variously referred to as Vincennes Road and Vincennes Avenue.) The store sold general hardware items, paints, glass and furnaces. They also did sheet metal work, apparently heating ductwork and rain gutters for buildings. It isn't known how George, only 22 or 23 years of age in 1892, had the financial ability to become a co-owner of the store. From his parents' home, George only had to walk a third of a mile south to the store.
George and Nicholas owned the business, but not the building, which they rented. A photo shows George (left) and Nicholas, standing in front of the wooden Mainz & Zeller building during some unknown year between 1892 and 1910. But judging by the age that George looks, the year the photo was taken was probably close to 1910. George and Nicholas had a personal relationship as well as a professional relationship. Nicholas was the godfather of George's daughter Clare.
Nicholas Mainz was 10 years older than George Zeller. Nicholas lived above the store with his sister and his elderly parents. Mainz & Zeller continued in operation until 1910, old Chicago directories prove. In 1910 George opened his own hardware store on 99th St., and Nicholas again became the sole owner of Nicholas Mainz Hardware.
Nicholas continued to live and work in that same building until at least 1920, city directories and the 1920 census show. He died in 1940. Nicholas had sold the building in 1921 to Peter A. Franzen, who ran P. A. Franzen Hardware at that same location at 10212 S. Vincennes Avenue until he died in 1961. But maybe the original old wooden building was torn down and replaced on the same lot at some point between about 1905 and 1961.
An 1893 Chicago directory listed:
Zeller George (Mainz & Zeller) Vincennes av. nr. Winston av. h. Prairie av. nr. 99th (Cal.)
(Cal.) meant that that address used to be in the town of Calumet before Calumet was annexed into Chicago in 1890. That home address on Prairie meant George was still living in the home of his parents when information for that directory was collected. Prairie Avenue would be renamed Throop Street by 1895.
An 1894 Chicago directory listed:
Zeller George J. (Mainz & Zeller) 10210 Vincennes av. (Cal.) h. 10048 Maple (Cal.)
10048 S. Maple was the home of George's widowed mother-in-law, Elisabeth "Lisetta" Duesmann. Maple Street would soon be renamed Malta Street. George moved in when he married Elisabeth's daughter Mary Duesmann on January 16, 1894 at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church, at 99th St. and Throop St.
A photo of the couple's marriage record in the church's marriage registry book:
A photo of the marriage license for George Zeller and Mary Duesmann:
A photo of a listing of the previous day's marriage licenses as printed in the January 7, 1894, Chicago Tribune, showing Zeller - Duesmann:
A photo of George and Mary on their wedding day:
George and Mary's children were all born in the Beverly Hills area in southwestern Chicago:
1) George Joseph Zeller, Jr., born November 30, 1894. More about him is in this chart.
2) Mary Sophia Louise Zeller, born April 17, 1898. She was baptized May 8th at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church. Mary married Thomas Patrick McTigue on April 23 or 25, 1928 at St. Barnabas Catholic Church in Chicago. They had children Thomas James McTigue and Mary Catherine McTigue. Mary L. McTigue died January 9, 1969, in Hanford, Kings, California, but she was buried at St. Mary Cemetery in Evergreen Park, Illinois. She had a death notice in the January 12th Chicago Tribune:
Mary's FindAGrave memorial includes a small photo of her:
3) Viola Julia Zeller, sometimes known as Vi, born March 14, 1900. She was baptized April 8th at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church. Viola married Clifford George Teipe on June 6, 1923, in Chicago. They had seven children, but the first six died as newborns. Their surviving child was Constance Teipe, known as Connie.
Cliff and Vi ran two businesses out of one storefront, at 1739 W. 99th Street, Chicago. That location was directly across the street from Vi's childhood home and the family business; Zeller Hardware. The names of Cliff and Vi's businesses were Teipe & Teipe Printers, and Beverly Art Shoppe.
Clifford Teipe died July 6, 1982. Viola Teipe died April 28, 1981, in Hazel Crest, Illinois. She had a death notice in the April 30th Chicago Tribune:
Viola's death certificate:
Viola's FindAGrave memorial:
4) Clare Rose Louise Zeller, born December 9, 1902. She was baptized December 21st at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church. Clare married John Francis O'Connell on June 29, 1926, in Chicago. They had children John O'Connell (known as Jack) Mary O'Connell (known as Joan) and Judy O'Connell. Clare O'Connell died March 17, 1986, in Evergreen Park, Illinois. She had a death notice in the March 18th Chicago Tribune:
Clare's death certificate, for some unknown reason, shows her middle name as Dorothy:
Clare's FindAGrave memorial:
After Clare was born, almost nine years passed before the fifth child was born to George and Mary. I have no idea why there was such a huge gap between the births of Clare and Genevieve.
5) Genevieve Katherine Zeller, born October 3, 1911. She was baptized October 15th at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church. No birth certificate was created for Genevieve's birth until December 30, 1947. Genevieve married Arthur Patrick Bulfin on May 31, 1937, in Chicago. They had children Mary Bulfin, Genevieve Bulfin (known as Jean) and Patrick Bulfin. Arthur Bulfin died November 23, 1985. Genevieve K. Bulfin died July 16, 1990, in Chicago. She had a death notice in the July 17th Chicago Tribune:
Genevieve's Find A Grave memorial:
The gravesite of Genevieve and Arthur is very close to the gravesite of Genevieve's parents.
6) Lillian Elizabeth Zeller, known as Lill, born October 19, 1913. She was baptized October 26th at St. Margaret of Scotland Catholic Church. No birth certificate was created for Lillian's birth until September 5, 1969. Lillian married Howard James Curtin on August 21, 1933, in Chicago. They had children Howard James Curtin, Jr. (known as Howie) David Curtin (who died the day he was born) James Richard Curtin (known as Jim and as Father Jim) George Joseph Curtin (named after his mother's father) Mary Patricia Curtin (known as Mary Pat) and Mary Joan Curtin (known as Joan and as Joanie).
Lill, Howard, and two of their children moved to Tucson, Arizona in 1967. Lill was an avid family historian who typed out family history information, and collected old family photos. Some of that information is incorporated into these notes. Lillian did all of her work well before the advent of "relatively" (get it?) easy internet genealogy. Here's a 46 page pdf of family information that she compiled, although some information was not accurate: Lillian Zeller Curtin's family history information
Lillian Curtin died September 11, 1992, in Tucson, but was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Worth, Illinois, next to her husband. The location is very close to the gravesite of Lillian's parents.
Lillian's Find A Grave memorial:
On April 8, 1898, George J. Zeller and his partner Nicholas Mainz submitted two patent applications. The inventions were a radiator, and a heating drum. Patent numbers 621,114 and 621,115 were granted on March 14, 1899.
The 1900 U.S. census had an effective date of June first. The Zeller household was enumerated June eighth. The census page shows that George, 30; his wife Mary, 26; and children George, 5; Mary, 2; and Viola, three months of age, were still living in Mary's childhood home at 10048 S. Malta St. with Mary's 62-year-old widowed mother, Elisabeth "Dusmann" (actually Duesmann). George's occupation was listed as "hardware store". Elisabeth Duesmann died less than 15 months after the 1900 census was taken.
A photo of that 1900 census page:
After George's mother-in-law Elisabeth Duesmann died in 1901, George, Mary, and their children continued to live in Elisabeth's old house at 10048 S. Malta until early or mid 1905. Then George actually had that entire house picked up and moved a few blocks to 10201 S. Charles St., because sewer systems were installed on Charles St.
A 1903 Chicago directory listed:
Zeller George J (Mainz & Zeller) 10210 Vincennes rd h 10048 Malta
A January 19, 1904 Chicago Tribune story included "George J. Zeller, 10048 Malta street." as one of 23 members of a grand jury that was sworn in January 18th, to debate charges regarding the infamous Iroquios Theater fire in downtown Chicago that killed 602 people on December 30, 1903.
A 1905 Chicago directory listed:
Zeller George J (Mainz & Zeller) 10212 Vincennes rd h 10201 Charles
A photo of the four Zeller children, apparently taken in 1905 or 1906:
The 1910 U.S. census had an effective date of April fifteenth. The Zeller household was enumerated April twenty first. The census page shows George, 40; Mary, 36; and children George, 15; Mary, 12; Viola, 10; and Clare, 7, still living at 10201 S. Charles St. George's occupation was listed as a tinner at a tin shop.
A photo of that 1910 census page:
In early 1910 George parted ways with Nicholas Mainz. George decided to go one mile to the northwest of their store and build a building, and therein operate his own sheet metal business (known as a "tin shop") which included making and installing furnaces and rain gutters in and on buildings. Some people said the location - near the northeast corner of 99th Street and Wood Street - was too far out into a sparsely developed area for George's business to succeed. But George thought otherwise. In early May of 1910, George was issued a building permit for a property at 1738 W. 99th St., Chicago. Information on the permit stated that the cost of the building was estimated to be $4,500. The Holmquist Printing Company was on the next lot to the west at 1740 W. 99th St., and the Beverly Pharmacy occupied the corner lot further west at 1742 W. 99th.
From the May 12, 1910 Chicago Tribune, a public notice of the issuance of the building permit:
George had a 25' by 55' two story brick building with a basement built on that property. His sheet metal and furnace business occupied the ground floor, while he and his family lived in an apartment on the second floor, after leaving their former residence at 10201 S. Charles St.
Within months, George's business was doing so well that he bought the building next door at 1740 W. 99th Street, moved some or all of the sheet metal machinery and workspace there, and rented out some or all of the ground floor of 1738. From 1911 through some point in 1913 or 1914, the ground floor of the 1738 building was a barber shop.
A 1911 book entitled Metal Worker Plumber & Steam Fitter included a drawing of the floor plan of the second floor residence of the Zeller building, as part of a story about the installation of the heating system in the 1738 building:
Zeller apartment floor plan
George taught the sheet metal trade to his son and two employees, George Witt and his brother Harry Witt.
There was, and as of 2016 still is, a garage sized brick building behind the Zeller Hardware store building. That garage housed horses for a short time, but noises from the nearby trains scared the horses too much. That building became a tin shop when George sold the tinsmithing business to the Witt brothers in the early 1920s.
After 1910, George and Mary's daughters Genevieve and Lillian were born.
A 1912 Chicago directory listed:
Zeller Geo J tinsmith 1740 W 99th h 1738 W 99th
In the business section of that directory, under the heading of Tin, Copper, and Sheet Iron Workers, was the listing:
Zeller Geo J 1740 W 99th
About late 1913 or in 1914, George's tenant Barney Guerre, who was operating a barber shop in the ground floor of the 1738 building, moved out. George converted that space to his own George J. Zeller Hardware store. George moved his sheet metal machinery out of the 1740 building, and moved the machinery either to the back of the hardware store, the basement, or the garage-sized building behind the 1738 building. George also added an addition to the back of his 1738 building at some point.
Then George tore down the old 1740 building, and built a new building there. The front face matched the brickwork and stonework of the 1738 building, and still does, as of 2016. George rented out that 1740 building.
A 1915 Chicago directory listed, in the business section under Hardware and Cutlery, Retail:
Zeller Geo G 1738 W 99th.
The directory printed an incorrect middle initial.
A photo taken in front of George J. Zeller's hardware store, about 1915:
That's George, Sr. standing in front of the truck, George, Jr. sitting in the truck, two store employees, George and Harry Witt, and George, Jr.'s oldest sister Mary standing in the doorway of the store. Notice the phone number on the side of the truck: BEVerly 1940. The windows above the store were the family home's living room, on the left, and the master bedroom.
A photo taken from the same point in the street as the above photo shows what the old Zeller Hardware store building looked like about 89 years later, in 2004:
A comparison of how the front of the building looked about 1915 and in 2004, using two black and white photos:
An "artists conception" showing the Zeller's as they were in 1915, standing in front of their building as it looked in 2004:
Surprisingly, more than 60 years after the Zeller Hardware building and business was sold, as of 2004 the painted "Zeller HARDWARE PAINTS & GLASS" sign on the top of the east facing brick wall was still there and readable, although barely. The one story building to the left of Zeller store, at 1740 W. 99th., which, in the photo has an orange awning, used to be Loving Brothers grocery store in the late 1920s and in the 1930s.
A larger, close-up photo of the east side of the building, taken in 2009, in black and white:
Black and white photo
In 2013, the east facing wall of the Zeller building had a few pieces of lumber removed. The wall was sand blasted and tuckpointed. After that, the top two signs were even much less visible. The "HARDWARE GRADOLF & SON" painted sign, which was at eye level, and easier to thoroughly sand blast, was completely eliminated.
Photos of the side of the building in 2004, top; and 2015, bottom:
But even after the 2013 sandblasting and tuckpointing, part of the then about 65-year-old painted sign, the "ller HARDWA" can still be read! That was some tough paint!
That 2013 work was done in preparation for putting the buildings and property up for sale. The asking price for everything was $275,000. The ground floor commercial space had most recently been a doctor's office. Before that, it was a video rental store. That space was described in real estate listings as 2,000 square feet of commercial space. The second floor was described as a three bedroom, one bath apartment, which was renting for $1,050 per month. The ground floor space seems to have been vacant for all of 2014 and 2015.
The realtor photographed parts of the interior and exterior of the buildings, for the purpose of creating a sales listing. Here are some of those photos of the outside of the main building, the interior of the vacant ground floor commercial space and the interior of the second floor three bedroom apartment. That residence used to be the George J. Zeller, Sr. family home, then, beginning about 1923, his son George, Jr's family home:
The 1920 U.S. census had an effective date of January first. The George Zeller, Sr. household was enumerated January fifteenth. The census page shows George, 50 (listed with the incorrect middle initial of G); Mary, 46; and children George, 25; Mary, 21; Viola, 19; "Clara", 17; Genevieve, 8; and Lillian, age six. They still lived above the Zeller Hardware store that George Sr. owned. George, Sr's occupation was listed as a store keeper in the hardware business. It was written that his parents were born in the (former) country of Baden, which was correct.
A photo of that 1920 census page:
A poor quality photo of George standing behind the counter of the Zeller Hardware store, with one of his daughters standing further back:
That photo was printed in an unknown edition of the "Weekly Review", a local newspaper, which became "The Beverly Review" in 1935. If anybody has a sharper version of that photograph, please email it to me so I can replace that bad version.
In addition to traditional hardware store items, George's store also carried items such as stoves, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, and even some of the first electric dishwashers ever sold.
From the May 25, 1923 Sullivan's Englewood Times, a story mentioned the upcoming double wedding of two of George and Mary's children, Viola and George, Jr., although the story misspelled Teresa Shanahan's name:
Some evidence shows that George, Sr. retired in 1924 or 1925. Although it was written on his 1932 death certificate that he retired in January of 1927. Whatever the actual date, he sold the store/residence building and the business and inventory to his only son, George, Jr.
A photo of an advertisement containing information from a lawn mower manufacturer, with Zeller Hardware information on it. This was printed in a 1925 issue of the Weekly Review newspaper, which later became the Beverly Review:
In the summer and fall of 1929, construction workers built a beautiful new brick house for George and Mary, at 1943 W. 101st Pl., Chicago, about three blocks from the Zeller Hardware store. The permit stated that the estimated cost was $10,000.
A photo of George and Mary Zeller in 1929, with a caption:
George is holding his granddaughter Georganne Zeller. Teresa is holding her grandson Thomas McTigue.
At the time of the 1930 U.S. census (which had an effective date of April first) George, Mary, and their two youngest daughters lived at their new house on 101st Pl. The value of the home was listed on the census page as $30,000.
A photo of that former home of George and Mary Zeller:
George only lived in that home at 1943 W. 101st Pl. for a little more than two years, until his death on January 13, 1932. His cause of death was a ruptured blood vessel.
A photo of the January 15, 1932 Chicago Tribune death notice for George:
George's death certificate:
On that death certificate, George's mother's maiden name wasn't correctly written. "Stevens" was written, but Stephan was her actual last name.
George's FindAGrave memorial includes photos of him, and a photo of the grave marker of he and Mary:
Father: Ignaz "Ignatius" Zeller b: 4 Sep 1827 in Untergrombach, Baden c: 5 Sep 1827 in Untergrombach, Baden
Mother: Josepha "Josephine" Stephan b: 27 Sep 1833 in Untergrombach, Baden
Mary Nettie Duesmann b: 11 Dec 1873 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois
16 Jan 1894
in Chicago, Cook, Illinois
- George Joseph (Jr.) Zeller b: 30 Nov 1894 in Chicago, Cook, Illinois