That portion of the United States known as the Southwest, and which may be roughly described as being west of the Mississippi and south of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, passed through a period of ignorance of its wealth and possibilities, and apparent indifference to its relationship to the rest of the country. Among the most potent factors in awakening it from its lethargy were hundreds of German immigrants, many of them of the highest moral character and of mental and physical force, who have left the imprint of their characteristics on the industrial and social fabric of that now advanced community. One of these sons of Germany, to whom generous reward came in return for intelligence, public spirit and honest effort, is Charles Frederick Huttig, of Muscatine, Iowa.
In the middle half of the last century there migrated to the Southwest, at different times, from the fatherland four brothers of the Huttig family. The father of these boys was Frederick Huttig, born in 1790 and a youthful soldier in the war of 1806, prior to the campaign of Napoleon in Russia and to the burning of Moscow. The paternal abode was in Jena, Saxe-Weimar, Germany. It was there that Charles Frederick Huttig was born, June 10, 1832. He was the third son of his parents, the older brothers being Karl and Christ, and the younger brother, William. Jena, the birthplace of the Huttigs, was at the time of Charles Frederick Huttig's youth a town of about 15,000 inhabitants, of some importance as a manufacturing point and the seat of one of the world's most famous universities. The subject of this sketch was educated in one of the institutions of his native town, where he was given, besides the rudiments, a mechanical and industrial training. The youth chose architecture as his field of study, though he did not follow this line after he left school.
Perhaps it was dissatisfaction at the prospect of ever becoming more than a mechanic in his native land, or maybe it was the glowing prospects for success in the United States which reached him from friends who had gone to the newer country, that determined the young man to emigrate there.
He took passage on the Anadalia, a sailing ship, in March, 1853, for New Orleans, Louisiana, his final destination being Muscatine, Iowa, where he had friends. He celebrated the twenty-first anniversary of his birth on board the ship. The voyage was an uneventful one, though exceedingly long, occupying ninety days, and in sharp contrast to a trip he was destined to make in later years when he crossed the ocean in six days to revisit the scenes of his childhood. Young Huttig landed in New Orleans from the ship on June 24, with but little capital other than his ambition and determination. He did not linger in New Orleans, because of an epidemic of fever which prevailed there, but took passage on one of the big, palatial steamboats of the early days for St. Louis. The trip up the river from New Orleans took nine days. He spent two weeks in St. Louis, hearing on every side a strange tongue and witnessing unfamiliar sights. He left St. Louis and journeyed on to Muscatine.
In the Iowa city he found friends ready to greet him, and he secured employment at his old trade as a mason. He followed this trade for a year and was joined in the interval by his brothers, Christ and William Huttig. With the latter he became a partner in the firm of Huttig Bros., who carried on a retail grocery business. The brothers evidenced the thrift, resourcefulness and industry of their natures in carrying on this initial enterprise which, although started on a very limited scale, was quickly extended as the trade of the community was developed.
The first venture in the lumber business made by Charles Frederick Huttig was in Muscatine, in 1856, when the grocery business was disposed of advantageously. The two brothers continued as partners, retaining the firm name of Huttig Bros. The younger of the two remained in Muscatine and bought lumber out of the river and sold it in the city, while Frederick Huttig he having chosen to drop the name of Charles conducted the operations outside, making his home and headquarters at Kellogg, Iowa, between Des Moines and Muscatine, about forty miles east of Des Moines. The business was not of wide enough scope to permit the brothers to reap the reward of the combined energy with which they were eager to carry on the undertaking, and at the end of two years the business was discontinued. Then Mr. Huttig returned to Muscatine and the firm started in the sash, door and blind business, which marked the beginning of the extensive business of today. The first sash were bought in the knock-down and put up at Muscatine. In those days Huttig Bros, employed about fifty men and rented a storeroom on Second Street, near Chestnut Street. They continued in the knockdown business until about 1866. They were satisfied to confine their operations to trade for several years, when it was decided to expand the operations and the Huttig Bros. Manufacturing Company was incorporated. Frederick Huttig became president of the company; William Huttig, manager and treasurer; E. Lumpe, vice president, and Richard Cadle, secretary. A large plant was built for the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds and gradually the amount of stock bought outside was lessened.
All this time the Southwest was growing in importance as a manufacturing and industrial section, so that ever widening channels of trade were opened up for the product of the Huttig Bros. Manufacturing Company. To care for this growing trade and facilitate its movement, the Western Sash & Door Company, of Kansas City, was incorporated in 1883. Frederick Huttig became its president and removed to Kansas City. Three years later the Huttigs organized the Huttig Sash & Door Company, of St. Louis, of which William Huttig became president and Frederick Huttig vice president.
The extensive interests of Mr. Huttig in and about Muscatine soon brought him into prominence in the affairs of the city and State. He was recognized in financial matters as a shrewd, careful, conservative manager and in public affairs his counsel was sought by others. In 1887, in connection with his brother William and other liberal Republicans and Democrats of Muscatine, he organized a stock company to publish a daily and weekly paper known as the Muscatine News-Tribune. He also became financially interested in other enterprises that added to the standing of the city as a manufacturing center.
Mr. Huttig married Miss Sophia Snell, at Muscatine, in 1856. Mrs. Huttig died in 1885, and in 1894 Mr. Huttig married again, the bride being Miss Hannah Tappe. Mr. Huttig had four children by his first wife, all of whom are living. William Huttig is president of the Western Sash & Door Company, of Kansas City; Charles H. Huttig is president of the Third National Bank, of St. Louis; Katherine Huttig is the wife of Robert Bryers, of the Huttig Sash & Door Company, of St. Louis, and Frederick Huttig is vice president of the Western Sash & Door Company, of Kansas City.
Mr. Huttig is a loyal and well read member of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. He was made an Entered Apprentice Mason January 26, 1874; a Fellow Craft Mason March 23, 1874, and a Master Mason April 26, 1879, at Iowa City.
He always has been noted among his friends and acquaintances in this country and in Germany as bearing a great resemblance in many ways, physical and otherwise, to the late Prince Bismarck.