It’s been a year since I last posted – I’m a slacker! I have set aside time now to provide new posts on the family. Today I am writing about my great-great grandfather, Oskar Max Meier.
I remember as a kid always hearing that “Oscar Meyer” weiner song on the television and other kids asking if that was my family. Nope, we don’t have any connection to the hotdog. But I do have an Oskar Meier in my family tree!
Oskar Max Meier was born the 29th of October 1886 in Stollberg, Germany, according to his naturalization papers. He married Marie Elsa Neubert on 3rd of September 1908 in Thalheim, Germany. This information was also provided by his naturalization papers. Our family visited Thalheim, Germany in June 2013. We were unable to gain any additional information on the family, but we did see the church Oskar Max Meier and Marie Elsa Neubert were probably married. We were also able to visit where their last address in Thalheim before immigrating to America. I’ve included a picture below. There is no longer a house on the lot, it was empty. The town was very small and quaint and unlike other parts of Germany we visited, like Frankfurt and Munich, there were not many people who spoke English. That was okay, we wanted to get a feel for the town in which my great-great grandparents had walked.
Max Meier (as he is listed on most documents) arrived in New York, New York on 17th March 1914. He sailed from Bremen, Germany on the Prinz Friedrich Wilhelm (image attached). He was twenty-seven years old and traveling alone. I often wonder what prompted the family to immigrate to America in 1914. Were the signs of World War I already apparent in Germany? The official start to the war was 28th July 1914. Max left Germany four months before war broke out, leaving behind his wife and two children, plus parents and siblings.
However, the Passenger List states that Max was going to his brother, Paul Meier, at 80 Mt Hope Ave in Dover, New Jersey. Some of the Meier family had already immigrated to the United States. Yet, by the 1920 Census, Max is living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and his wife and children have joined him; having arrived in 1917. I have been unable to find exactly when Max made the move from New Jersey to Wisconsin.
In 1917, Max completed a Draft Registration Card for World War I. The U.S. did not enter the war officially until 1918, however, this paperwork shows they were gearing up for entry. Max was not yet a citizen at this time, yet he was still required to complete the paperwork. Interestingly, he requests an exemption to the draft because he has a brother in the German army. There is no evidence that Max ever served in World War I and had to fight against his own family.
In 1920, the family was living on 21st Street in Milwaukee and after only six years in the United States, the census records that Max owns his home. The record also shows that Max has filed a Petition for Naturalization to become a U.S. citizen. He became a citizen the 26th of September 1926.
By the 1930 Census the family has moved to 14th Street in Milwaukee, where the own their home. To put the family in historical context, the stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression has begun by the 1930 U.S. Census. So far, it appears that the family is doing fine.
I was able to obtain a copy of Max’s Social Security Application, which he completed in the 27th November 1936. Social Security was enacted by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on 14th August 1935, in part, as a response to the devastating financial condition of American families, especially the elderly, in wake of the Great Depression. Max was completing an application at the time Social Security was first instituted. The document shows that the family was living at 3602 N. 14th Street in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For a very small document it provides quite a bit of valuable information. Max’s parents names are included – even his mother’s maiden name. I did not have this information before this document. Also included is the place of employment, however, this is very illegible on Max’s document. Luckily, his son, Richard Meier, and his grandson, Harry Meier, both worked at the same facility, with the same address, which I could match up. Max worked at the Phoenix Hosiery Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This company manufactured hosiery, at this time period for items such as ladies’ pantyhose; during the years of World War II, items such as parachutes, would have been manufactured instead.
What is important to note is that during the years of the Great Depression, the Meier family was not experiencing what many other American families were, especially those that farmed in the Midwest – financial ruin, starvation, unemployment, etc. Max’s family was doing well.
By the 1940 U.S Census, Max and his wife, Elsa are empty nesters. The children are gone from the home but Max is still working at the hosiery factory as a knitter. They still live on N. 14th Street in Milwaukee.
At age 55, Max had to complete another draft registration, this time for World War II. It documents his employer in 1942 as still being the Phoenix Hosiery Company and that he continued to live at North 14th Street in Milwaukee. Max did not fight in this war either.
On the 27th March 1963, Max Meier died of a coronary occlusion at the Mayfair Nursing Home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was buried in Wanderers Rest Cemetery in Milwaukee.
I have attached several documents that I have found in my research and photographs that my father has provided of Max and his wife, Elsa. I didn’t know Max but from my research I do know that he lived in a turbulent time in both German and American history. He left his native country months before the outbreak of World War I – the war to end all wars. He came to America and luckily did not get drafted to fight against his native home or family. He found employment and after three years, which must have seemed interminable, he was able to bring his family over to America in the midst of World War I. He found employment with a company that he stayed with for his entire working career and which provided stability in the midst of the Great Depression, when many families were without work. He owned two homes over the years and raised two children with his wife. He became a U.S citizen and was again required to sign up for another war draft against his native land. By the time he died, the U.S. was experiencing a counter culture in the 1960s that would have been drastically different from the life Max had lived. It must have been amazing and terrifying living a life that spanned two continents from 1886 to 1963!
If you are reading this and your family is related to Max Meier, please contact Anna at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can compare notes and information.