Archival Collection #015 - Voigt, Herpolshiemer and Company contains correspondence, account books/sheets, booklets, cards, catalogs, handbooks, inventory books, invoices, ledgers, newspaper clippings and photographs pertaining to the Voigt, Herpolsheimer & Company. In 1865, William G. Herpolsheimer, a Civil War Veteran, joined Charles G. A. Voigt in establishing the firm of Voigt, Herpolsheimer & Company, a dry goods and carpet store. This was the forerunner of the Herpolsheimer Department store. The partnership between Voigt and Herpolsheimer ended in 1902. Before the break-up, the company had acquired what was to become Voigt Milling Co. on the Grand River. So after 37 years of partnership a dissolution was agreed upon, Voigt took the mills and Herpolsheimer the store. The 1 cubic foot of papers, records and photographs document the history of the store. Correspondence, account books/inventory books, invoices and ledgers illustrate the everyday business proceedings of the store from 1867-1907. Correspondence also contains information regarding the stores’ transition from Michigan City, Indiana to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Catalogs, 1896-1900, provide information on clothing fashions for women and children. Newspaper clippings contain information on the store and the Herpolsheimer family. Photographs portray the Herpolsheimer family and store from 1876-1898.
A full listing of the contents of this collection can be found in the Finding Aid that is attached to the media section of this catalog entry.
Voigt House The Voigt family, whose home is now preserved by the Grand Rapids Public Museum, moved to the city in 1875 and resided at 133 Court Street (now Scribner Street). The Voigt family partnered with the Herpolsheimer family in the dry-good and carpet business and in a few years the partnership expanded to include two flour mills -- the Crescent and Star mills located on the Grand River. In 1902 the partnership came to a mutual end. The Herpolsheimer family retained the dry-good store and the Voigt family kept the two mills. By the turn of the century, Voigt flour under several brand names, and later Voigt Cereal, were known across Michigan and far east as New England. Due to bankruptcy and a strike, the flour milling business came to an abrupt end in 1955. In 1895, Carl G.A. Voigt hired local architect William G. Robinson to design a house on 115 College Avenue Southeast to serve as his retirement home. It was modeled after the chateaux at Chenoceaux, France. The home is a fine example of Victorian architecture and complemented the Victorian family that lived in it. It was lived in by just the Voigt family which was comprised of Carl Gustav Adolf Voigt, his wife Elizabeth Wurster Voigt and their children. They were the parents of nine children with six surviving until adulthood. The family lived in the home from 1895 to 1971.
Charles "Carl" Gustav Adolph Voigt Charles (Carl) Gustav Adolph Voigt was born December 5th, 1833 in Saxony, Prussia. He was the oldest of the five sons of August Adolph and Johanna Wilhelmina Voigt. In 1847 the family immigrated to the United States, settling on a farm near Michigan City, Indiana. Charles’ father and mother lived until 1852 and 1853 respectively. By 1856 Charles had married Virginia Bateman Phillips, four years his senior. They had two children, Johanna and Charles Bateman. The daughter and mother died by 1859. The son lived to age seven, dying in 1865. Charles married Elizabeth Wurster who was eight years his junior in 1860. Together they had nine children, three of which died in infancy: Oscar (1863), Clarence (1864), and Lilly (1879-1880). The other children included Frank (1861-1927), Clara (1868-1951), Emma (1870-1953), Amanda (1873-1963), Carl (1874-1958), and Ralph (1882-1971). The second generation of Voigts, from the birth of the first child by Mr. Voigt's first marriage to his last child’s death had spanned 114 years.
In 1895 Charles hired William G. Robinson to design his retirement home on 115 College Avenue Southeast. It was inspired by the chateaux at Chenoceaux, France. He lived in this house until he passed away in 1908.
Voigt Milling Company From the early 1860s until the mid-1950s, flour milling was one of the more prosperous industries in Grand Rapids. Some of the prestigious flour milling companies that had their operations in the downtown district included Valley City Milling Company, Watson-Higgins Milling Company, and the Voigt Milling Company. For 57 years the Voigt Milling Company (VMC) was highly recognized in the flour milling industry in West Michigan. The firm had its resources in the Star Mill and Crescent Mill. Star Mill, erected in 1868 by Mitchell and Hibbard, was situated on North Front Street south of Bridge Street. In 1870 John Mangold purchased an interest in the firm (Star Mill) and the partnership name became Mangold, Hibbard & Company. In 1875, Christoper Kusterer bought out John Mangold’s interest in May of the same year Carl G.A. Voigt and William G. Herpolsheimer purchased the Hibbard interest; changing the firm’s name from Mangold, Kusterer & col. Voigt and Herpolsheimer bought out Kusterer’s interest and the firm became C.G.A. Voigt & Company with Carl G. A. Voigt, William G. Herpolsheimer, and Louisa F. Mangold as partners.
Crescent Mill, erected in 1875 by Hibbard, Rose & Co., was situated at the West End of Pearl Street Bridge (location of the Van Andel Museum Center). The original cost of the company with its equipment was $65,000. In 1875, John F. Craft leased the mills, bought out the Rose interest and continued business as Hibbard & Craft until 1882/1883, when the Crescent Mill was purchased by Voigt and Herpolsheimer, who carried on business under the firm name of Voigt Milling Company, with Frank A. Voigt as manager. They remodeled the plant and installed the first roller mill in the Michigan. In July 1898, Voigt Milling Co. (operators of Crescent Mill) and C.G. A. Voigt & Col. (operators of Star Mills) consolidated as the Voigt Milling Company, with Carl G.A. Voigt and Frank Voigt as managers.
In 1902 the Voigt and Herpolsheimer partnership, by mutual consent, came to an end. Mr. Voigt continued to operate the milling business and Mr. Herpolsheimer the dry-goods store. After Carl G. A. Voigt’s death in 1908, the business was taken over by sons Frank, Carl, and Ralph. On January 9th, 1909, the business was incorporated and was renewed on January 7, 1939, under Michigan Laws. The firm continued prosperously through World War II, winning government recommendations and “E” ratings from Army and Navy. After World War II, the flour milling industry of the area started to decline. There were three major reasons why this occurred: (1.) farmers of the region tapered off on growing wheat as they found fruit and other crops more profitable; (2) more westward states had vast wheat acreage and more direct rail transportation to import centers; (3) the west could raise both soft and hard wheat which when combined, made a superior product.
In 1955, shackled by a strike, the Voigt Milling Company went out of business for all practical purposes. The mills were demolished in the late 1960s to meet the demands for automobile parking lots of neighborhood business in the ear of urban renewal. Ralph Voigt, interviewed by the Grand Rapids Press in 1970, mentioned that during the time period from 1900-1930 the flour mills usually produced 1,200 barrels of flour and 50 tons of mill feed every day. The products were shipped to wholesalers including bakers, and dealers through the United States, with some export trade. Voigt manufactured patented graham, whole wheat, bran, and pancake flours. Their standard grade was branded “Crescent Flour” with the styles “Mark Twain Flour” and “Royal Patent” used for commercial purposes. In 1900, they began manufacturing cereal, the trade name of which was “Voigt Cream Flakes”. In 1908 Carl S. Voigt was made general manager of the Voigt Cereal Food Company.
Sources: Dun & Bradstreet Analytical Reports, 1946-1951; Grand Rapids Press, “Family Pride and a Gift for Old Time’s Sake”, January 4, 1970, and Dwight Goss, History of Grand Rapids and Its
Herpolsheimer's In 1865, William G. Herpolsheimer and Charles G. A. Voigt, two young businessmen, established the Voigt, Herpolsheimer & Company, a dry goods and carpet store in Michigan City, Indiana before relocating to Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1870. The partnership between Voigt and Herpolsheimer ended in 1902 with Voigt taking over the flour mills and Herpolsheimer the store. Herpolsheimer's Firm continued to operate department stores until it was sold in 1987 making it one of the longest-running retail establishments in West Michigan.