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Peter C Meyer


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             I recently dug in the history of my family and found two anecdotes of interest.

  1)          My great-grandmother on my father’s side Auguste Baumann (1832 – 1926), grew up in the gardens of Sans Souci the pleasure seat of King Frederick William IV of Prussia (1795-1861).  The gardens were fashioned after those of Versailles near Paris.                     

Sans Souci named by Frederick the Great 1712 -1786. The royal summer palace near Potsdam Germany

 Auguste’s father was castellan and gardener to the king and occupied a cottage near the entrance to Sans Souci gardens. As castellan he was charged with the affairs of the castle in the king’s absence but soon resigned to remain but gardener which in itself was a formidable task in these most beautiful gardens in the land that grew exotic fruit in many green houses. What prompted his decision was his inability to make the estates fountains work properly. He had built a water reservoir on a nearby hill to feed all 24 fountains but had not solved the problem of getting water from the river into his fifty meter higher storage basin. Without modern day pumps he had to rely on wind and the earliest steam engines. He invited experts from Holland and England who after years of struggle managed to fill the reservoir. It took several months of primitive pumping.  Then the fountains were turned on and ran in their entire splendor for some fifty minutes and the reservoir was empty once more. Bauman quit. Auguste his daughter and my great-grandmother was still alive in my parents’ youth and related the story. The story of Baumann’s frustrations was also published as part of a book entitled Borsig, August, Lokomotive King, founder of a new Industry in Germany.”Goldmann – Verlag, Muenchen 8, 1953. Borsig was another who had been asked by the king to make the fountains work.    


   2)         As a young girl Auguste Baumann rubbed elbows with the gentlemen at the king’s court. She married a man called August Herrmann who lived around 1830-1878. He would become secretary to General-Feldmarschall Graf Helmuth von Moltke (1800 -1891), the king’s chief of staff of the army.  Moltke had fought three successful wars and gave his hard working secretary Herrmann much of the credit for these victories. Herrmann and his wife had a single child, a daughter named Clara who became my grandmother. According to Clara, her father was a workaholic which contributed to his early demise. As a consequence of her father's shortened employment, the family received a limited pension and though quite respectable, needed help. To make ends meet Clara's mother accepted financial assistance from her departed husband’s brother who was known as Improvisator Professor Wilhelm Herrmann, (a magician with words).  There is a reference to the famous Professor in a book entitled Pictorial History of American Presidents. On page 196 Herrmann is pictured in the company of President Grover Cleveland and Chauncey M. Depew, President of the New York Central railroad.  

Fr. left, President G. Cleveland, Chauncey M. Depew and my great-grandfather's brother Prof. W. Herrmann far right. Of Prof. Herrmann's situation-type comedy: "Form gestaltung, blitzhaft Wort, wie durch Zauber ein Accord"