Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men in Chicago, Photographically Illustrated by John Carbutt, 1868, Pages 245-250
Intelligent exertion is the elevating force of society. Brain and muscle, the two great elements of capital, are the true accumulators of wealth, but, like their progeny—pecuniary capital—they are valuable only when employed. Money locked in the coffer, muscle unused, brain inactive, are not productive; they fail to execute their mission. The grand law of nature, and the order of the sidewalk—” keep moving”—must be obeyed if we would be great or happy. The abilities of two men being equal, he who works most achieves most, and the true Hercules of modern advancement is not only the embodiment of strength, but of continual activity, finding relaxation in change of employment. The living exponents of this principle are all hard workers.
The great West is especially fruitful in examples of this, the genius of the nineteenth century. Her prairies have been tilled, her wide expanse banded by the iron road and the thought-throbbing wire, her mines explored, her forces utilized, and treasures appropriated, by hard work, directed by intelligent brains. It is this persistent, ceaseless activity, rapid in its transformations as the fairy’s touch, which in a few years has made the wilderness to blossom as the garden of Paradise, and in one generation raised a city site from the slough, and extended the fame of Chicago industry and enterprise to every spot covered by the migrations of two score centuries.
The name of Peter Schuttler stands out prominently among those whose owners have built up for themselves fortunes, and for Chicago her reputation. Schuttler’s wagons are used all over the United States and Territories, and have materially aided in the settlement of the far West. The large, substantial brick factory on the corner of Randolph and Franklin streets, filled with the most improved machinery, swarming with busy workmen, and surrounded by newly-painted wagons, has been pointed to proudly thousands of times, as the fruits of one man’s physical and mental effort, unaided by any capital save the gradual accumulations of his own labor. The honored architect of these fortunes departed from among us but as yesterday; his son now holds the reins; a worthy aid in the past, a double portion of his father’s spirit has fallen upon him.
Peter Schuttler was born September 19, 1841, in Sandusky, Ohio, in which place he passed the first two years of his existence.
His father, the late Peter Schuttler, of Chicago, was born in the village of Wachenheim, Grand Duchy of Hesse Darmstadt, Germany, December 22, 1812, and immigrated to the United States in 1834, at a time when steam traveling facilities were unknown. He performed the journey to Havre by wagon, much as the pioneer emigrant has done in this country at a later period. His sea voyage was a tedious one, occupying fifty-four days, and before it was ended provisions had become so scarce that Mr. Schuttler paid five francs for a piece of “hard tack.” Arriving at New York city, he struck out for the interior, and settled down within five miles of Buffalo, where he was fortunate enough to obtain a situation in a wagon shop, receiving the munificent sum of seven dollars per month and board, the value of the latter item of compensation being enhanced by the fact that he was often obliged to go out to the fields and hunt for potatoes to satisfy his hunger. His inventive genius soon showed itself in the sul)stitution of the saw for the axe in cutting out gearing, thus affording a great saving of time and material. He staid there about a year, and then removed to Cleveland and worked at the same business for about six months, when he was attacked by typhoid fever, from which he recovered only after the lapse of half a year. He then commenced business for himself in Cleveland, his capital being a very small one. He worked along for about a year, at the end of which time he found himself with a large stock of sleighs on his hands, and no buyers. He was obliged to give up business, and left Cleveland to seek his fortune elsewhere.
He went to Sandusky, with ten shillings in his pocket as his entire capital. He applied for a situation, obtained permission to put up a bench, procured an order for provisions, and went to work. He labored with a will, and by dint of constant toil, filing saws, etc., in the evenings, after his daily task was done, he managed to save up between three and four hundred dollars. He staid there six years, married to Miss Dorothy Gauch, a native of Prussia, and had two children born to him—Catharine and Peter. He remained there till 1843, when work began to grow scarce, and he packed all his worldly goods in a one-horse wagon, started across the prairies to one of the lake ports, and landed in Chicago by steamer.
His first impressions of the Garden City were far from being pleasant. He found thirteen wagon shops here, all full of Eastern vehicles, and was disheartened. He visited “Little Fort” (now Waukegan), walking the whole distance there and back in one day. That place was what the Portuguese called America—Ca-nada—”here nothing.” He took courage from a remark made by ‘Squire Berdel, that where there were so many, there was room for one more. He made the frame-works of several wagons, which were ironed on shares by P. W. Gates and others. He then built a brewery with his own hands, and commenced to run it in partnership with his father-in-law, but the first brewing was a failure, and Mr. Schuttler withdrew from the firm, resolving never again to meddle with any trade but that of wagon making. He rented a lot on Randolph street, near the present site of the works, on the corner of Franklin, and commenced alone, de novo. For a long time he averaged eighteen hours per day, working on shares, as before, living in a board shanty in the rear of his one-story shop. He had soon progressed so far that he became the employer of one woodworker, then of another, and finally hired a blacksmith and helper, and thenceforward built his wagons without outside aid. Every operation was at first performed by hand, but Mr. Schuttler soon invented a lathe, and this was quickly followed by other machinery, which was propelled by horse-power. In a few years he had progressed so fast that an eight-horse engine was required to drive the works.
An extension was demanded by his rapidly increasing business, and in 1845 he was offered a lot on Canal street, near Washington, on very favorable terms, but sensibly preferred to stay where he was doing well. In 1847 to ’49, J. M. Van Osdel erected for him his first brick shop, forty by seventy feet, and four stories high, and in this he commenced the manufacture of buggies, carriages, harness, etc., having previously confined himself to wagon making. He rented a portion of his wooden building, and used the other as a repository. His business increased each year till 1850, when everything except the brick shop was burnt to the ground, and, the insurance companies failing to pay the losses, he was again almost ruined. Witli characteristic energy, he soon righted himself, but he took such a dislike to insurance companies that he never afterwards took out a policy.
On the 11th of June, in this year, his son Henry was born. He is now obtaining a thorough education at a school in Sing Sing, New York, where he is to remain until of age. This, with Catharine and Peter, constitute all the children born to him, with the exception of a lovely little child, named Rosa, who died when two years old.
From this time he prospered without serious interruption. He gave up the manufacture of carriages, and devoted his attention exclusively to wagons, procuring new machinery, most of which he fixed himself, and thenceforward manufactured everything from the raw material. The demand increased rapidly, and his vehicles soon displaced the old prairie schooners, till then in universal use. In 1855, the fame of his wagons had reached the Mormons, and, after trying others, they bought a lot of thirty-five from him, warranted to carry 3,500 pounds each across the plains. The wagons were loaded to that extent, and reached Salt Lake in as good condition as when they started. This secured him their trade, his wagons commanding a premium of fifty dollars over others offered. He never found any but fair dealing with the Mormons, who were henceforth his best customers, though his wagons were bought largely by St. Louis firms for the traffic across the plains.
Up to the year 1856, Mr. Schuttler worked at the bench daily, kept his own books, made his own sales, and directed the movements of forty workmen. It then became necessary to share this labor, but he continued as active as ever. His business kept on increasing, till the average of one hundred and thirty-five wagons per week was reached: they now make one hundred and twenty weekly. These wagons are all used in the Western trade. They are met with on every road to California, in the mining districts of Colorado, the gulches of British Columbia, and the vast expanses of Mexico and Texas. Their mission has, however, been uniformly peaceful. They were not used in the war for the suppression of the rebellion. Mr. Schuttler might have obtained a contract, had he been willing to make wagons on the army model, but he refused to do so, believing that his patterns were fiir better fitted for hard service. Red tape bore off the palm, and utility contented itself with the reward of merit.
Mr. Schuttler died January 16, 1865, of congestion of the liver and bowels, an affection under which he had labored ever since he loft Cleveland, and brought on, no doubt, by his intense exertions. He will long be remembered as one of the most energetic men who ever came to the West. He was a model of economy and clear sightedness, and believed in hard work as being infinitely superior to speculation. Thorough conscientiousness was a prominent trait in his character. His wagons were all made to use, and one was constructed as good as another. None were allowed to leave his shop with a known flaw, and, in consequence, no one ever found fault with a bargain, and the rule was “once a customer, always a friend.” He has written his name indelibly on the list of men who leave behind them enduring evidences of taste and skill. He founded an immense business, made the fame of Chicago manufactures almost universal, and was the builder of the finest mansion in this city.
His house, located on the south half of the block bounded by Aberdeen, Adams, Morgan and Monroe, is a model of elegance and taste. It was built under the direction of J. M. Van Osdel, Esq., on the general design of the mansion of Ex-Governor Matteson at Springfield, Illinois, and took three years to complete it. The cost of the building alone was about a quarter of a million, and the lot and the furniture involved the outlay ofan almost equal amount. It has been the admiration of thousands.
With such a father, the son could scarcely fail to receive that thorough ingraining of energy which is the master of gold ; he inherits this from his birth, and his youthful training has strengthened the original impulse. Peter Avas early taught the value of intelligent exertion, and received a thorough practical education, that his energies might be the more efficiently directed. With the exception of the first two years of his life, passed in Sandusky, he has belonged to Chicago, and, since his school days were finished, has been identified Avith the business Avhich he now conducts and controls most efficiently.
His first lessons were taken in School No. 1, in this city, now called the Dearborn School. He then attended a private school in the North Division, and afterwards one taught by Mr. Gleason, an instructor at the South Side Synagogue. He made great progress in his studies, but his father was not content that he should lack any educational advantage, and determined to send him out into the world, that he might learn to use his eyes and cars to good purpose. In 1855, he accompanied his father to Germany, and there spent six weeks in studying the language; then visited the World’s Fair, and returned home. On the 21st of May, 1856, he again left Chicago, traveling at first with the family of Mr. Diversey, visiting Mannheim, on the Rhine, and Carlsruhe. At the latter place he remained four years and five months, attending the Polytechnic High School, where he studied hard and improved rapidly, under competent teachers, in the study of machine building, drafting, etc. During vacations he made foot tours through Southern Germany, noting its beautiful scenery, and becoming acquainted with the different objects of interest in Fatherland. Returning to Chicago, he attended Bryant, Bell & Stratton’s Commercial College for one year, then took charge of the books in his father’s establishment, and has kept them ever since, having been appointed administrator of the estate and manager of the wagon factory on the death of his father.
Mr. Schuttler is a well-built man, of middle height, average stoutness, ruddy features, has a clear, dark eye, dark hair, and pleasant demeanor. At the date of this writing he is still single. He was a model son, paying particular deference to his father’s opinions, and striving to anticipate his every wish. In the family he is kind and affectionate, but quiet, devoting almost his entire waking time and energies to the management of the extensive business, which he conducts most efficiently, overseeing every operation and directing every movement. There is about him no indication of bustle or excitement, but he is the soul of activity. His eye is everywhere, not “in fine frenzy rolling,” but with a cool, practical, searching glance, which sees into everything and detects a lazy stroke, a flaw or a misfit, without fail. To use a homely phrase, “there is no shirking when he is around,” and as he is always “around,” there is very little chance for it. He believes in good workmen, and is willing to pay them good wages, but requires them to work. He pays not for ability, but for its exercise. Brain and muscle are valuable in his estimation, but only when employed, and the man who should think himself too good to work all the time would speedily be reminded that a little less talent and more exertion are preferable to lazy genius. He is equally careful, as was his father, to keep up the character of the work turned out, and to avoid all possible cause of complaint his exclusive management the business has been considerably increased, and is now in a very prosperous condition.