Interview with Howard Bostwick part II PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, 22 July 2007 00:00
nterview with Howard Bostwick part II

Howard Bostwick (1915 – 2003)

Interview conducted on 23 March 2000
At 405 W. Michigan Avenue
Port Washington, Wisconsin

This interview is a follow-up of the interview I did with Howard on 20 March 2000 at the house of Dorothy Bostwick, John Bostwick Jr.’s widow. At that time I was a guest at Mrs. Bostwick’s house for a week. She invited several people over for diner that night, including Howard, whose father Douglas had been superintendent of the Wisconsin Chair Company from 1934 until the close of the factory in 1954. Besides Mrs. Dorothy Bostwick as a lovely host, Mrs. Isabel Flierl (1912- ) was also present. Mrs. Flierl worked for The Port Washington Herald where Paramount record labels were printed as well.

Some of the topics I wanted to discuss on 20 March could not be answered by Howard in presence of his aunt Dorothy. Some of the subjects still brought back bad memories, especially those concerning her husband, John Jr.
John Bostwick Jr. was brother to Douglas Bostwick, Howard’s father.

Note: John Martin Bostwick’s father ( Shadrach Bostwick) was a dealer in slaves. On one occasion he went down south to purchase more slaves and he never returned home.

Howard Bostwick interview – Part Two

There was some friction between family members?

That’s especially when Dorothy Bostwick’s husband started the lawsuit after the close [of the Wisconsin Chair Company]. He had a brother-in-law by the name of Charlie Larson, Dorothy’s brother. He was a lawyer. He went over and over, Dorothy’s husband hated to loose his job, he was a University graduate. He graduated form the University of Wisconsin at Madison, although he never actually graduated. He came back [ to Port Washington] and worked at the chair company. When the chair factory closed, he lost his job and naturally blamed it on somebody.

The lawsuit affected his uncle Allon Cady mostly [who was treasurer of the WCC], and O. E. Moeser. Allon Cady had an insurance business going on at the same time he was purchasing manager at the chair company. He used the same office.
The final settlement in the lawsuit was that he had to pay something to cover the years he was in that office running the insurance without paying rent.

Then O. E. Moeser had an agreement with Carter McCarthy. McCarthy came here as sales manager (in 1932); he brought that dinette line with him and there was an agreement on his commission, but I guess O. E. was president of the chair company and he never figured that the commission would get so high, far exceeded his salary. That was a sore spot. So when he arranged a deal with Carter McCarthy, part of that commission went to O. E. Moeser, more or less to balance his salary. That’s the part that was illegal. John Jr., together with Charlie Larson, took him to court with that and there was a stink for a while. For a while there was little contact between John and Douglas Bostwick, but in the end it didn’t effect family matter too much. O. E. Moeser did not put the part of his commission into the company, but pocketed the money.

Did the chair factory make radio cabinet?

Yes, we made Stromberg-Carlson and other branches. We only made the cabinets, the wood part of it. In fact they still made them when I started working there in 1934 during summers. They probably kept producing radio cabinets until the dinette sets started to take over and then they didn’t bid on those contracts for radio cabinets any more. That was all contract work. These radio companies would contract out the cabinets. You had to bid on a contract and the one with the lowest bid got the contract. You also had to have a good reputation to live up to the contract.

Marshall Moeser (1903-1982; Marshall was the oldest son of O. E. Moeser) probably worked a few years in Atlanta, Georgia (where he ran a branch office of the NYRL in the Bolling-Jones Building from 1927 until 1933), as by 1935 he was back here. Shortly afterwards he and his brother Edward started a WCC display room on Michigan Avenue in Milwaukee. It was kept up until the end of the WCC. He carried other lines besides WCC-produced lines in the showroom. Any line that was displayed could be ordered. Orders were sent to the WCC or other companies. Un until the end in 1954 they stayed working there. They’d operate that long. That was part of the closing of the chair factory.

The factory closed in September 1954 and it took a while for the court battle (1957) and as in every case, the lawyers ended up with too much. So the heirs got that much less. And I am quite sure that in the settlement the company paid for John too.

After the lawsuit John Martin Bostwick’s will could be excecuted. It was a mixed up affair. Edna Bostwick, my dad’s sister, they were only entitled to Edward B. Bostwick’s share, their dad ( who died in 1950). Afterwards, that had to be divided between the survivors. Then it went down one more level and there was five Reilly children there (Edna married to Thomas Reilly and they had five children). Ione was the only one who got a full share.

John M. Bostwick, Jr. was a jeweller, he had no children, but he had a wife Daisy. I don’t know if she got any. Mary Bostwick (daughter of J. M. Bostwick Sr) and uncle Allon Cady didn’t have any children but they lived long enough to get their share. It was quite a job to figure that out.

In 1927 J. M. Bostwick Sr. used his personal credit and put $100,000 into the company which was paid off by the company in bonds. It was advanced money to kept the chair company going. He was connected with them from 1983 onwards, and then the company burnt down in 1899. I don’t think it was ever rebuilt if he didn’t help finance it. Over the years he kept financing until he owned it all. It became his.

I remember the jewellery shop which was operated by his son John Jr. The other son, my dad’s dad, kept very irregular hours at work. These were the only two sons he had, besides Barnum who died at the age of two.

Neither one was reliable. I remember my grand-dad. He used to go to work at 11 a.m. or so and he’d be back at 12 noon or 12.30 p.m. for lunch and then by 2.30 p.m. he’d be back at the chair factory. And after two hours he was back for his diner. After diner he went to a local tavern to play cards until 2 a.m.

J. M. Bostwick Sr. could not walk any more at that time. His two sons took no interest in the chair company. That’s how he brought Otto Moeser in first. Moeser was a real man, he hired him to take care of the chair company. He brought my dad in, he was reliable, one in the family he could rely on. Because John Bostwick Jr. was away at school in Madison at that time. After John graduated he started working there too. J. M. Bostwick’s two sons were not too reliable to run the chair factory. He hired Moeser from the railroad (in 1904) to come for wages and some stock. He gave Moeser stock.

Alex van der Tuuk
Sunday, 22 July 2007
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