Thursday, October 30, 2014

Dietrich and Fred Gruen

One final update regarding the estate sale: everything that was left over has been consigned to auction with Cabin Fever in Pennsylvania. It will be sold a little at a time at their monthly auctions.

My life is slowly beginning to return to "normal."

Two years ago, after completing a biography of Boston silversmith George Christian Gebelein for the German Historical Institute's online encyclopedia of German-American Immigrant Entrepreneurs, I agreed to write a similar biography of Dietrich and Frederick Gruen, founders of the Gruen Watch Company.

Being the daughter of a horologist, I felt that I was well suited to the task. I started my research with a visit to my dad's shop, where he pulled out all of his Gruen books, parts, and one lovely pentagon pocket watch that had been hidden away in a parts drawer for decades.

Gruen Pentagon Verithin pocket watch.

My research took me next to, which in turn led me to the Delaware County Genealogical Society. In the course of my research, I discovered that the Library of the National Watch & Clock Museum does long distance loans. Simply look up a book or VHS or pamphlet using their online catalogue, then fill out a request, and they will mail it to you. You pay a few dollars for the shipping, and you have one month to borrow the item before mailing it back. It's a fantastic benefit of being a member of the NAWCC.

One of the interesting things about writing for the Immigrant Entrepreneurship project is the German immigrant experience angle. Instead of researching just the standard company history, I was required to consider the Gruens as German immigrants, as members of an immigrant community. It was very revealing.

By looking at the Gruens as immigrants, and by understanding the networking system of family and friends that immigrants always rely upon, I uncovered hidden aspects of their history.

My research was just about finished when my father suffered a stroke and subsequently passed away. The Gruen project was set aside for over a year while I took care of my father and then his estate. The German Historical Institute very patiently allowed me an extension of time to complete the Gruen biography, which was finally done this summer.

Earlier this week, the biography was published online. You can read it by visiting the Immigrant Entrepreneurship website.

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