Marshfield, November 1940: The Laemle family business
By Kris Leonhardt
In the year 1890, Louis Laemle entered the city of Marshfield. Born in Germany in 1862, Laemle came to the United States at the age of 17 eager to lead a prosperous life. Working for a short time in Pittsburgh, Pa., and later New Mexico, a move to Auburn, Ind., would give him his first taste in business.
When Laemle brought his clothing business to Marshfield, he would join two other merchants in offering ready-made clothing to the area. Laemle entered the ranks of the Levin Brothers and Smukler & Sharpire in offering a selection of mass-made items.
The late 1800s clothier offered coats, vests, straw hats, shoes, aprons, underwear, overshirts, and a vast array of items needed by area pioneers. Laemle actively promoted his business through sales and events, while branding his business as “the only one price clothier and merchant tailor” in the area.
Laemle was active in the community, also serving as president with the Marshfield Chamber of Commerce, during his tenure as a Marshfield business owner. In addition, he would raise two daughters and four sons. One son became a doctor, another a lawyer, and two sons, Bert and Arthur, joined him in the clothing business.
In November of 1930, the Laemle family celebrated 40 years in business, promoting the event as “the biggest thing that has ever happened in Marshfield,” with all of the fanfare and sales that one had come to expect from the longtime Marshfield business.
As the calendars turned to 1940, the family prepared to celebrate its 50th anniversary in a big way. With Bert and Arthur now a crucial part of the clothing business, the trio was preparing for an even more extravagant affair when tragedy struck. Louis, at the age of 78, passed away on August 5.
Grief-stricken and suddenly left without a major player in the business, the brothers postponed the 50-year celebration.
A more somber event would finally take place early in November of the year that marked a half century for the family business. Though a big part of the business was missing, there was still much cause for celebration due to the ingenuity and commitment that made them a lasting presence in the city.
In the weeks that followed the event, the business would begin making preparations for the upcoming holiday season. The approaching Thanksgiving and Christmas would certainly be more obscure without their father’s ever presence in business and family life. The family could not have known what more the year held in store for them.
On November 24, 1940, Bert was struck down by a fatal heart attack at the age of 42. The co-owner and heir to the Laemle Clothing business passed away on a cold Sunday evening in his home on Cherry Street.
Taken so shortly after his father, the death dealt an excruciating blow to the family and business, leaving Arthur solely at the helm.
In addition to the Marshfield business, Bert and Louis left behind a successful chain of clothing businesses in various other cities.
Today, the Laemle name has been forever immortalized among the city streets of Marshfield.