Suess & Smith

Suess & Smith ARt Glass, Western Ave. Seattle
Quite by chance when doing some online research, I came across 2 photographs. One of a stained glass window, the other, an old photo of a shopfront, with workers standing outside (right). Above the shop was the business name Suess and Smith. Well, this more than piqued my curiosity and was very much worth pursuing further so I contacted the person who posted the photos, Theo Schaad. Theo's mother-in-law is the grand-daughter of Nicholas Smith whose name appears above the business in the photo.

The lion's share of information on the Suess & Smith business, family ancestry and lore were kindly provided by Theo.

The business was located at 2421 Western Avenue in Seattle and Theo remembers the buidling was covered in baking tins before it was torn down only a few years ago to make way for new apartments. Based on subsequent photos, stained glass windows were made on the premises, probably in large numbers given one particular photo of the mudding room where 4 people are seen mudding completed windows. While the main business appears to be in Stained Glass Windows, an additional photograph shows a lamp being constructed.

I had to believe there was some kind of connection with the well known Suess Ornamental Glass Company of Chicago, whether it be family or business connection or perhaps both. It wasn't until I discovered that one particular stained glass window hanging in the Seattle shop window was similar to one in the Suess window catalog of 1900 that both Theo Schaad and I became certain of some connection. Many questions came to mind, and over the course of our ongoing communications, many were answered, some still require answers.

The series of wonderful family photos were taken inside the Seattle business premises and I am able to post these here courtesy of Theo Schaad and Curtis Green.

The Workshops

Suess & Outside Suess & Smith Workshops 1905, Western Ave., Seattle

Cutting Glass, Suess & Smith, Western Ave., Seattle

Assembling Stained Glass Windows, C. 1907, Nicholas Smith, Suess & Smith, Seattle

Cutting Stained Glass & Assembly, Suess & Smith, Western Ave., Seattle c 1905

Mudding Stained Glass Windows, Suess & Smith, Seattle. C 1905

The Smiths

Nicholas Smith, 1892. Of Suess & Smith ARt Glass, Seattle
Towards the latter part of the 19th century and early into the 20th, demand was great for all manner of stained glass windows and lighting products, business was brisk. Immigrant families were central to the success of many of these small companies, acting in every capacity right from craft worker to business owner. It is likely that there was close communication between these entities, and if not, there must have at least been some awareness. From ancestry research done by Theo Schaad, it appears that Nicholas Smith was born in 1872. Both Nicholas and his father, Nicholaus Schmidt were born in Chicago.

Nicholas Smith married Maria Friedl in 1892 in Chicago and a year later produced a son, Nicholas (Nick) Ludwig Smith. In the 1900 Chicago census, he is listed as Nicklaus Smith, profession is shown as glazier. At that time he and Maria lived with his in-laws John and Francis Friedl and his brother-in-law Adolph who is also shown to be a glasier. It is thought that this Adolph worked at the Suess & Smith shop in Seattle, but only for a short time. From the 1910 census in Seattle, Nicholas was listed as a Broker in a Mining Company. At the age of 86, Nicholas died in Seattle.

The Seattle Suess Family

What we currently refer to as the 'Seattle Suess family', started out in Chicago, as did the Smiths and Max Suess's family.
Theo Schaad's research shows John Baptist Suess being born in Waldkirchen, Bavaria, Germany in 1852, arriving in Chicago in 1873 at the age of 21.

John Baptist Suess married Mary Anna Kestner two years later. In 1875, they had a son John (Jack) Bernard Suess, born back in Waldkirchen, Germany. In 1884, another son was born, John Walter Suess. The 1920 lists his occupation as a glass worker.

By 1900 Jack Suess is listed in the Chicago census as a glass cutter. By 1902 he and his wife Bertha had a son, Walter J. Suess, born in Seattle Washington.
Interesting to note that as late as 1940, Walter J. Suess was listed in the US Census as being the owner of a glass business, so the business spanned several decades.
Nicholas Smith's partner Jack Suess died in Seattle in 1930.

Gold Rush

The Suess and Smith families knew each other in Chicago as members of St. Michael Church attended by German immigrants and descendents. Although it is not yet confirmed that Jack and Nicholas already knew each other in Chicago, it would appear that the big event that brought Jack Suess and Nicholas Smith to the west was the lure of the Gold rush. The Foreign Language Press Survey translated the following article which was originally published in German during March of 1898.

"The Dusty Diamond Corporation, founded by A.H.C.Seeger, a former officer of the City fire dept. will start for the Klondike today, fully equipped with arms, and luggage. Fifty members comprise the organization and they intend to remain with the expedition for 18 months. As we reported previously, Captain Seeger and his associates have made extensive preparations for this venture. Besides provisions, tools, clothing and an ample supply of arms, the Company also has two small but strong steamboats which were built for the purpose in Chicago. The gold seekers will navigate the Yukon, starting from St.Michaels, and they intend to live in their ships as well as work there. One of their vessels is fitted out with excellent dredging machinery and with it, the members of the Dusty Diamond Company hope, to extract large quantities of gold from the tributeries of the Yukon river. The expedition is composed mostly of Germans or German descendants."

Steamship Dusty Diamond, James Andrew Pate, Captain, Fish River, Alaska 1903
Wikipedia entries for these 2 boats differs as to where they were made, showing the 2 steamboats owned by The Dusty Diamond Corporation were named The C.H. Bradley, built in Ballard Washington, and The Dusty Diamond, built in St. Michael Alaska.

Theo Schaad had interviewed Jimmie Jean Pate Bowman, the daughter of the captain of the Dusty Diamond ship and she furnished him with a picture (left). Apparently, the ship was made for the Yukon River.

While we do not yet have a passenger manifest for the expedition, family lore believes that at least Nicholas Smith and Jack Suess were part of it. It is also known that Jack Suess's father, John Baptist Suess eventually migrated west but whether he accompanied Nicholas Smith and Jack Suess at this time is not yet known. Apparently, the trip went badly. It is believed that the men tried to reach The Dusty Diamond from Valdez but never made it. Some died and the rest suffered from starvation. Apparently, Jack and Nicholas were survivors and subsequently started the glass shop afterwards.

The Etched Glass Mirror

Flanagan & Biedenweg Etched Glass Mirror Flanagan & Biedenweg of Chicago, Mirror dedication to The Dusty Diamond Another photo from this period includes an etched glass mirror. On the etched mirror is an inscription (below).

Nicholas Smith was known to be working at that company when he made the mirror. By oral history, it is thought that he exhibited the mirror at the Chicago World's Fair. According to a Google search, it was in 1893 and Nicholas would have been 21 years old. The Alaska Gold Rush was in 1898, so he would have promised the mirror to the Dusty Diamond several years later (could have been a payment?)


The Stained Glass Window

Suess & Smith Stained Glass Window at Frye Hotel Seattle.
In addition to the photos taken of the Suess & Smith business, Theo Schaad sent a photo of a stained glass window that belonged to a deceased owner of the Frye Hotel in Seattle, Abie Label. He was a close friend of the family and he always stated that it had come from the Suess & Smith shop. Theo spoke with a cousin in his family, Curtis Green, also a direct descendent of Nicholas Smith. Curtis Green had permission to photograph the window by Suess & Smith in about 1980. Theo heard indirectly that the window was sold to a person who shipped it to Alaska. It may still be in a shipping container. The family is anxious to know its wherabouts. Contact me if you know about this window.

More Research

So, there is a still some research to do to. We welcome further information that you may have to offer, simply email me to get in touch.

One of the photos shows a lamp being made. We are left wondering if the company additionally created lighting and if so is there a catalog somewhere showing the designs offered.

From the 1910 census in Seattle, Nicholas was listed as a Broker in a Mining Company. We are assuming the Company was Dusty Diamond, but not substantiated. If this was his main job, both he and his son Nick may have played a lesser role in the glass business. Nick was 16 then, and in the 1920 Census, his Census occupation is unreadable.


I would like to thank Theo Schaad for sharing the substantial details of his ancestral background, invaluable images and ongoing research to resolve some of the outstanding questions about Suess and Smith.