A HISTORY OF THE JACOBY STUDIES, ST. LOUIS
At this point, the beginnings of the Jacoby Art Glass Company, as it was known for fifty years, are obscure, as most of the records have been lost or destroyed.
It seems, however, that a G.A. Spies had started a small art glass shop in 1896, and being in need of more capital, he and H. H. Jacoby became partners. The firm was then called the Jacoby-Spies Mfg. Company and was located at 204-06 N. 2nd Street, St. Louis, Missouri. G. A. Spies was described as "Artist-Manager' .
H. H. (Herman) Jacoby was the son of Ludwig S. Jacoby, who founded the first German Methodist Church west of the Mississippi River in 1841, and who died in 1874. His tome in Valhalla Cemetery, St. Louis is a national Methodist shrine. Perhaps that influenced H.H. to enter the church window business at that time. It's not known whether he had any artistic talent, but he was involved in the selling and business matters.
By the turn of the century Spies' name no longer appears in the records which do exist, and the firm was relocated to 1107 Pine Street where it was known as the Jacoby Art Glass Company. It was incorporated in 1907, with H. H. as President and C. C. (Charles), his son, as treasurer. Alfred (Frank) Oppliger was a minor shareholder and shop superintendent.
A March, 1901 list of employees indicates H. G. Gilmore as designer and Ben Finkelstein as painter and maker of detail drawings. Mills T. Oliver is listed as glazier, and the other seven without job descriptions mentioned were: Alex Treszczynski, Thos. Van Kamp, Herman Tancke, Stephen Ennis, Hugo Maurer, D. Naegli and Geo. Wallace.
We do know that H. H. was active in trade association affairs and was among the founders of the National Ornamental Glass Manufacturers Association in 1903 at Columbus, Ohio. In 1911/12 he served as President, and Charles served as Treasurer in 1908/10, and as Secretary from 1917 to 1921.
The business outgrew the facilities on Pine Street and moved to a new location on the near Southside in a building which resembled the Texas Alamo at 2700 St. Vincent Avenue, at Ohio St. where it remained until 1945.
A 1909 payroll record indicates that 20 men were employed in the shop, with a R. Worceski and Edw. Lopatka earning $20 and $30 respectively for 54 hours. Presumably they were the artists, as Alfred (Frank) Oppliger, the foreman, was earning $25. A.Oppliger (Fred) earned $6 for 54 hours.
By 1914, Fred was a draftsman and glass painter, but being newly married with a family on the way, he switched positions with one of the salesmen, who was "tired of being on the road", as Fred later put it, and he started travelling. Rather than work for $25 a week, however, he persuaded the Jacoby's to pay him a straight commission, as he wanted to find out quickly whether he could make it, or else he was going to quit and enter another field. Obviously, he made it.
Jacoby had several salesmen in that period, including: John L. Andrews, N. A. Bartholomew, B. F. Wallace and E. A. Johnson. Sales in 1917 totaled $64,922 of which $14,883 were by F. P. (Fred) Oppliger.
In 1919 H. H. died, and his son, Charles, who was in his 30's, succeeded him as president of the firm. However, in 1922 he died unexpectedly after a supposedly routine operation. Frank Oppliger also died that year from a sudden heart attack while riding the street car' on the way home from the studio.
The two Jacoby widows and the bank executor then turned to the 31 year old Fred, who arranged to buy the majority interest.
Fortunately, as Fred described it, a year or so earlier when Charles was Secretary of the Association,
C. J. (Charles) Andrew, who had retired for health reasons from the Kansas City Art Glass Works for a time and moved to the state of Washington, wrote to inquire about re-entering the craft. Charles hired him as an artist/representative and directed him to stop by in Great Falls, Montana on his way to St. Louis. He did so, and brought in the order for the First Presbyterian Church there as his debut with Jacoby. .
Rather than live in St. Louis, however, Mr. Andrew returned to Kansas City, but became a valued friend and confidante to Fred. He designed and sole many windows, and frequently traveled to St. Louis for consultation, etc. Usually, Lee Cook would cartoon his work and paint it together with Douglas MacKay. Mr. Andrew died Feb. 3, 1954 after 35 years with the firm. His last design was the circular chancel window for the Old Mission Methodist Church, Prairie Mission, Kansas, of which he was a charter member, and is a living memorial to him.
Mr. Cook, who studied at the Chicago Art Institute, joined the Studio around the time of WWS and designed, cartooned and painted hundreds of windows until the Studio closed in December 1970.
Douglas MacKay (Mac), an' Englishman, was the principal glass painter and long time employee from the 1920's until he died in the early 50's.
Some of the more notable installations which Mr. Andrew designed and sold included:
First Methodist, Longview, Texas
First Methodist, Hays,Kansas
First Baptist, Wichita, Kansas
University Baptist, Fort Worth, Texas
University Christian, Fort Worth, Texas
Broadway Baptist, Fort Worth, Texas
Chapel, First Presbyterian, Topeka,Kansas
St. Paul's Episcopal, Kansas City, Missouri
St. Andrew's Episcopal, Kansas City, Missouri
Baylor University, Waco, Texas
St. James Episcopal, Alexandria, Louisiana
St. James Episcopal, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Mr. Cook designed innumerable individual windows, but several more noteworthy major installations which he designed include:
Missouri Methodist, Columbia, Missouri
Samuel E & R, Clayton, Missouri
St. Mary's on the Highlands Episcopal, Birmingham, Alabama
St. Luke's Episcopal, Hot Springs, Arkansas
Broadway Presbyterian, Rock Island, Illinois
St. Mark's Pro-Cathedral, Hastings, Nebraska
The Hofbrau, Mayfair Hotel, St. Louis, Missouri
St. Luke's Episcopal, Tulsa, Oklahoma
Grace Episcopal, Monroe, Louisiana
As Fred Oppliger became active in the Stained Glass Association, he never missed a meeting from 1922 to 1959, and he served as President 1927-28, and then was General Secretary from 1930-59, We guided the Studio away from the opalescent into the painted, European style work. Mr. Cook excelled in the "Munich" style, while other, later artists worked more decoratively. One outstanding installation, executed by the Studio but not designed by the staff, in the late 1920's was the Boston Avenue Methodist Church, Tulsa, Oklahoma_ perhaps the finest art deco church in the Midwest, if not the country. (See 'Stained Glass' Vol. 74-3, Fall '79)
The depression years were tough, to say the least, and Fred struggled to keep afloat. The total billings in 1933 amounted to the grand sum of $10,000. The WII years weren't much better, but Fred was an optimist and foresaw a backlog of memorial windows and new buildings ahead.
In anticipation, and because of a fire at 2700 St. Vincent, after many political meetings, he succeeded in purchasing a former telephone building in a residential area near his home, at 822 Wilmington Avenue under a special use permit. Accordingly, the firm moved there in 1945, and in 1946 things began to "boom," and the studio couldn't keep up with the demand.
Fred's long time foreman, Joseph Mees, returned from war work, as did several other craftsmen, and apprentices and others were hired.
Harold Rams, also of Kansas City like Mr. Andrew, had joined the firm as a representative, and moved to St. Louis. However, he was mainly "on the road," literally, as he drove thousands of miles through the southwest, mainly in Texas.
It was in 1946, through Fred's good friend and antique glass importer, S. A. Bendheim that Mr. Josef Mayer, moved to S1. Louis from New York to become the principal designer. He had begun his career with the F. Mayer of Munich Studio (no relation) and had come to the U.S. in 1928 for that firm. He produced a prodigious amount of work, which he cartooned and also painted, until he retired in early 1957 after completing the cartoons for the thirteen windows, 4' x 28', for the semi-circular apse in the First Presbyterian Church, Kirkwood, Missouri. He had developed cataracts and returned to Germany to live with relatives in Munich where he died May 19, 1965.
Mr. Mayer's first project for Jacoby was all the windows for the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Alexandria, Louisiana. He also designed, cartooned and painted the windows for Mt. Alvemo Chapel, Maryville, Missouri; and those for St. Francis Assisi, Oklahoma City; and St. Francis Xavier, Tulsa, Oklahoma. The windows for the Chapel, Southwestern University, Georgetown, Texas featuring 8 ft. figures of Reformation characters were also his creation. Mr. Mayer also designed the windows for St. Joan of Arc Church, Kokomo, Indiana and those for Blessed Sacrament Church, Wichita, Kansas. He considered his most outstanding window, however, to be that in the chancel for St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Kansas City, Kansas.
In the early 1950's James Blackford and Tom Dixon came to the studio from England. Blackford designed and cartooned his own work, as well as Mr. Andrew's, while Dixon painted Blackford's and others' work. Including Charles Plessard's, a Frenchman, who sent his cartoons from Paris. The latter's work consists mainly of the windows in All Saints Episcopal Cathedral, Ft. Worth, Texas.
Notable Blackford windows are those for St. John's Episcopal, Ft. Worth, Texas; Emmanuel Baptist, Alexandria, Louisiana; and St. James Episcopal, Wichita, Kansas.
About that time Fred and Harold Rams formed another studio in San Antonio and called it ORCO (Oppliger-Rams). It was intended to handle the increasingly popular unpainted work and that which St. Louis couldn't produce in a timely fashion. After a while, however, Rams devoted all of his time to ORCO and became associated with Cecil Casebier and other local artists. Fred was a silent and inactive partner, and later sold his interest to RAMS after his son, Bill, joined the firm in 1957.
Fortunately, about that time Tom McMahon of Detroit began to represent the firm in that area. He was an old friend of Fred's, formerly with the Detroit Art Glass Works. Mayer and Cook designed several nice projects for him including: - .
Sacred Heart, Bad Axe, MI
Holy Name of Jesus, Detroit
Pilgrim Ev. Luth., Detroit
Bethany Presby, Detroit
Holy Cross Luth., Detroit
Holy Communion Luth., Detroit
St. Joseph Catholic, East Texas
St. Peter's Ev. Luth, Plymouth
St. Paul Lutheran, Pontiac
St. Florian's, Standish
At this point mention should be made of some of the craftsmen whose skills contributed to the success of the studio. Unfortunately, the names of the early ones are lost, but those from WWII on include: Joseph Mees, the foreman and draftsman/pattern maker who kept things moving; Art Strub, the master cutter, Jim Forthaus, cutter; Emil Hovorka, glazier; Hugo Dieckmann, glazier; Nick Schmidt, glazier; Paul Schrieber, Lou Ladd, Dale Horton, Dave Sitzes, and John Reiter, glaziers; Paul Seele, installer; Dick Selby, installer; Frank Fleischma_ David Oppliger, Donald Dornhof, Charles Mager, Leo Woerner, John Kohlmann, Felix Martinezr,Art Himmelsbach. C. Floyd Mack, and James Patterson.
John Huls and Norman Puff were glass painters. Fred Oppliger, Jr. was a cutter and later, shop superintendent, upon Joseph Mees retirement in 1959. He was also Secretary-Treasurer of the firm. Oliver (Odge) Oppliger was a glazier/installer, and later a sales representative.In October, 1956 Fred Oppliger suffered his first heart attack, and in February, 1957 William H. (Bill) joined the firm. Shortly thereafter he became President and the last of the Jacobys' interest was purchased. Miss Elsie Keller, who had been secretary and office manager, serving nearly 40 years, retired. Gen Seele, widow of Lou Seele, a friend and local glassman who did installation work for several studios, became secretary. After a few years, Gen remarried, and Naomi Mundy became the secretary/bookkeeper until the firm closed.
The gothic area was "out," and churches and windows were now "contemporary." Mayer had retired and gone to Germany, Cook was old and committed to "Munich" style work. It was a difficult time of transition, but Emoe Koch, who had seen an article about the Kirkwood Presbyterian installation, came unsolicited from Chicago where he had worked for Karl Hackert, and joined the studio as the principal designer.
He had been an Hungarian refugee and had a flair for the contemporary. Among his projects were: Trinity Lutheran, Affton, Missouri; First Community, Joplin, Missouri; Chapel, Mount Providence School for Boys, Normandy, Missouri; Chapel, Alexian Brothers Hospital, St. Louis, Missourp Chape_' Caroline Mission, S1. Louis; Chancery Office, S1. Louis and Stephen Protomartyr, S1. Louis. He also designed the large facade window in the First Baptist Church, Roswell, NM, and the colonial type windows in the First Presbyterian Church, Florence, SC, and those for the Zion E&R Church, Hubbard, Iowa. Koch also suffered a heart attack and left the studio in 1962 to pursue other art interests. He died April 3, . 1970 in S1. Louis.
Faceted glass was coming in, and after first rejecting it as too cumbersome (requiring steel reinforcing for the concrete). We were introduced to epoxy compounds by Bob Benes, who was a chemist with our cement (waterproofing) and putty supplier. He Was starting his Benesco Company, and we made a number of samples to learn the technique. Now all we had to do was convince a client to utilize this new material, and more importantly, with us. Our first such installation was in a small Methodist Church in Chillicothe, Missouri. Not long thereafter, in 1961, we furnished and installed the 23 ft. diameter faceted glass skylight in the S1. Louis Chancery Office, designed by Ernoe Koch.
Dolores Veth, who had a feeling for faceted glass, joined us about then, and a short while later R. Moreland (Russ) Kraus, Saunders Schultz and Frank Stanton did so as free lance designers. Odell Prather of Philadelphia also did some designing for the studio at that time.
The 1960's were turbulent times in the country, with assassinations and riots. However, business was generally good, and the studio furnished some major installations in that period.
Trinity United Methodist churches in Beaumont, TX and Kansas City, KS, each about 2000 sq. ft. in faceted glass designed by Odell Prather, Christ United Methodist and Vestavia Hills United Methodist churches, designed by Kraus, and each with about 2000 sq. ft. of leaded glass; and Trinity Lutheran Church, Mount Clemens, MI with three windows each 23 x 46 ft. in faceted glass, designed by Dolores Veth were produced then.
Other major projects designed by Dolores Veth during the 60's were:
Westminster United Presbyterian Chapel, Emporia, KS (F)
Ottawa University Bonhomme, (F) Ottawa, KS
Bonhomme Presbyterian, Chesterfield, MO (F)
Marianist Center Chapel, Glencoe, MO (L)
St. Vincent's Church, Perryville, MO (L)
First Presbyterian Chapel, Ponca City, OK (F)
Catholic Ctr. OSU, Stillwater, OK (L)
St. Paul's Lutheran, Cullman, AL (F)
St. Mark's Lutheran, Hollywood, FL (F)
First Baptist Church, Peoria, IL (F)
St. Paul's Methodist, Monroe, LA (F)
Guardian Lutheran, Dearborn, MI (F)
Saunders Schultz designed an interesting abstract faceted glass window for the Children's Chapel, St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Amarillo, TX and the Chapel in DeMattias Hall, St. Louis University, St. Louis, MO, as well as a few other projects.
Frank Stanton designed the leaded glass windows for the Carmelite Monastery Chapel, Springfield, MO as well as the faceted glass window in the First Presbyterian Church, Tucumcari, NM.
Some of the other windows designed by R. Moreland (Russ) Kraus were:
St. Francis Xavier Church, Birmingham, AL (L)
Chapel, Pallotine Novitiate , Florissant, MO (L)
First United Methodist, Sikeston, MO (L)
Woodland Presbyterian, Memphis, TN (L)
Lindenwood Christian, Memphis, TN (L)
Franciscan Novitiate Chapel, Baton Rouge, LA (L)
St. John's United Methodist, Greenwood, MS (L)
St. Justin Martyr, Sappington, MO (L)
First Christian, Mt. Vernon, MO (L)
St. Peter's U.C.C., Florissant, MO (L)
Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Springfield, MO (F)
Fred's wife, Irene, died in October, 1961 and he had several additional heart attacks. He was the "glue" which held everyone "in check", and after he died in November, 1968 it was only two years before the three brothers split and went their own ways. By the end of 1970 the honorable name, inventory and existing contracts were sold to the T. C. Esser Company of Milwaukee, WI, where Bill moved to manage the "Jacoby Division." After one year and the completion of the Jacoby projects he left to join the Conrad Schmitt Studios as a sales rep and project manager. The Jacoby building was first rented and later sold to a silk screen printing firm.
Oliver (Odge) Oppliger later moved to Austin, TX where he died in the early 1990's. Fred, Jr: Still lives in St. Louis, and Bill moved to Palm Springs, CA after 18 years with the Conrad Schmitt Studios, in 1990. He still does occasional consulting for windows and church renovations and now resided in Surprise, AZ.
During its 75 years' existence there were several other artists and craftsmen employed by the Jacoby firm, but unfortunately, their names have been lost and they are unknown at this time.
A 90% complete list of Jacoby installations is in the archives of the Stained Glass Assn. of America. (The missing jobs were lost in the fire mentioned above.) A transcription of an illegible time sheet, Time sheet 2/27/1909 Note: My copy is almost illegible