Pioneer Schmitt: A Visual Biography

Johann Peter Schmitt was not a man to take chances with the lives of his sons. The political climate in Germany during the 1830’s grew more perilous by the day, as his twin boys pursued their teenage optimism of political activism. But the father of these young progressive thinkers knew better. He had seen too much. And he became not only alarmed, but desperate.

Peter had lost several of his brothers and many of his cousins to the Prussian army. Peter’s younger brothers and older nephews had joined the socialists to form the German revolution. He also had cousins who had settled previously in New Jersey, sending letters from the Long Pond Ironworks—which were not only successful, but had been instrumental in building the colonies.

So the choices for Peter were not good in Germany, but promising in the New World. As his sons were about to turn 16 years old—the age of the draft, he had to make a hard decision. (Did he also sense the doom of the upcoming revolutionary defeat?)

Peter was already 62 years old with three older daughters as well as his youngest twin boys. The two eldest of his daughters were married, and the youngest, engaged. He needed to focus on the future for his promising sons. He chose escape, and planned their new beginning.

I began the Schmitt story with Specific Schmitt: Surname Origin” that discusses Peter’s heritage in Germany. So, consider this Part 2: Peter with wife and three children were Chicago-bound in 1840. Although descended from blacksmiths, Peter was a farmer and entrepreneur. He chose not to live in the city, and with the help of grown children, decided to clear the land and establish a large homestead. 

First, the family built a rough cabin that serviced Peter and his wife for thirty years. I have illustrated this cabin and am pleased that it has been beautifully preserved by the Winnetka Historic Society. (The cabin had been purchased by the Burnham family, moved, and subsequently donated to historic preservation.)

As the Schmitt children married, they built houses nearby. Then, the grandchildren scattered. But Peter with his wife, Anna Maria Bruck, stayed in their rough cabin until they built their “dream house” in 1870. He was 82 years old, which for the time was ancient. To realize such a dream for him even at an advanced age had to be gratifying! He died in 1875, so he did not get to enjoy his dream house for too long, but at least he did.

I have illustrated the Illinois phases of change witnessed by Peter, and summarize the series of “Symbolic Schmitt.” Although he did not move from his homestead, the community grew around him, evolving from Grosspoint to Ridgeville to Rodgers Park, to Chicago (today). Peter evolved from a tiny beleaguered village in Germany to a prosperous farmer, property owner, and successful builder in America. Uncle Peter lived to see his goals for family fulfilled, proving that it is never too late to dream. —always inspired, Liane

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The Story of Schmitt: The Series

The history of the Schmitt family is ubiquitous. As their “Schmitt” name is common, they also share experiences that are part of almost every American’s family tree. Schmitt descendants left the oppression of their homeland for the freedom of choice. The patterns of prosperity and devastation had become intolerable—especially when there was an escape. All immigrants to the United States want the same things: opportunity, prosperity, and a better life for the next generations.

The Schmitt family is unique in how much they exemplify these qualities. As people with deep convictions, they stood up for their beliefs and helped to shape their communities. Their achievements, versus their names, can be found in the history books. Theirs is a story of building, developing industry, following opportunities, participating in change, and taking risks. They hold a mirror up to ourselves, as their past is our past. Their story is both worth remembering and honoring:

Symbolic Schmitt” gives an overview of the series and how it developed.

A Boast of Modesty” shows the first Schmitt house that I drew, representative of where the family lived the longest.

Specific Schmitt: Surname Origin” portrays the family origins in an ancient, and preserved, German village.

Biography in Buildings” summarizes the Schmitt Story in six images—the first three representative and the second three documented.

Please see the overview of the series Ore and Origins: A Biography.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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An Oldest Original Discovered

There is always a friction between preservation and progression. It is a challenge for any lover of history.  Living in a vintage house, I am always aware of this contrast. I see this conflict in any legendary house, even when the preservationists win. But it is most apparent in the evolution of humble everyday homes.

On the one hand, renovation makes a dwelling more comfortable, and visually intriguing. On the other hand, the integrity of the building, along with a general history, can be lost through remodeling. This dichotomy is one of my life’s themes. Time edits, but we also make the decisions of what to keep and what to change—and how to best make the past and present work together. Creativity is more challenged by integrating value from the past versus replacing it.

What happens when the change is so great, even if preserving the old within, that the new becomes completely different? The personality of the dwelling is transformed. The best examples are in very old homes—by Illinois standards, circa 1840.

Baumert House, Nauvoo, Hancock County, IL was built in 1840. This illustration estimates its original appearance. The front room was added in 1865, and the renovation in 1895. It was awarded National Heritage status in 1934.

One my state’s oldest sits by the Mississippi River. A forgotten gem, the Baumert House is tiny and modest compared to its more famous, and well-preserved neighbors. (For a small town, Nauvoo has a very active and rich mid-19th century history with a healthy tourist trade.) They are beautifully maintained versus transformed.

Faced with a simple one-story tin-roofed structure built in 1840, at first, I didn’t really know what I was looking at. I thought it would be a fast drawing to do! But at least half the time in life, looks are deceiving. It is the details that reveal the true nature of buildings (as well as with people). To cultivate unbiased observation skill is essential for developing an understanding of what the details mean.

Though there are no photographs (as yet found) for how this modest brick house must have looked when built, I examined historic evidence and comparative buildings of the time. The more I studied the house while drawing it, the more strange clues to its original kept appearing—a sunken doorway, a covered window, a hidden gable.

The drawing became a journey, uncovering a history by peeling away decades of layers. So I have drawn an estimate for what it may have looked like, including logical lost elements, based on the technology of its builder.

This transformation encloses the original house in front and back additions. The grade of the street was altered, thus lowering the first floor, and making the side entrance door sink into a “window well” that could accommodate stairs. It is possible that this was the original front.

A humble little house in the impressively historic town of Nauvoo, it is not one that would stop a sight-seer in her tracks. It is not on the walking tour maps. But it is one of the oldest houses in the state of Illinois. It represents a time of paddle wheel boats along the Mississippi River, white washed picket fences, carriages and wagons, with a Tom Sawyer lifestyle. It has seen carriages and wagons to model T cars, to SUVs, wood heat to air-conditioning, gas light to electricity. This house represents not grandparents, but great-grandparents now just outside living memory.

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SERIES:
Please enjoy my other illustrations that express architectural transformations:

Drawing Backwards in Time Although a building may have endured many changes since built, hints of its original form exists. Sometimes old photographs show how a house looked, but most often, there are no images. Illustration can fill the gap. I have always wondered what my house was like in 1888 when new. It certainly does not look the same now! With an enclosed front porch, room additions, siding, and decorative shutters, its character is totally transformed. So I went to City Hall, researched the permits and historic records, and concluded with this interpretation.

Spirit of Place: Creation versus Preservationexamines a life-long dilemma of balance. There is a trend in Allendorf to plaster over the original half-timber skeletons. From an American point-of-view, these wooden patterns offer a warmth, coziness, and charm. But, it may be that to the residents, that makes an area appear old-fashioned or out of date. These homes, though hundreds of years old, are very much within date! The plaster lends a geometry, simplicity, and unity, while following the shapes and design. Taking an illustration that I did of Obergasse 7 in Allendorf, I imagine what it must have looked like when my ancestors lived there. Most of the homes that I have drawn would be familiar to them.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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A Chart of Strategic Choices

The hardest part about designing a genealogical chart is legibility. If it includes more than four generations, there are too many boxes on the page causing the type to be too small to read. The graphic illustration might be beautiful, but it fails in communication.

With less than 20 names on a chart, the type can be large enough to read. Yet, this also fails in communication because most charts have more than 20 names. To divide the data into several chart components, connecting like a puzzle, adds another complexity, and again, is not user-friendly. As a historical illustrator, the information design challenge confronts me everyday in genealogy projects. Each person that I work with, if tracing lineage back to prior to 1800, confronts this difficulty.

Converging around 1700, these three families intertwine for almost 200 years. The first generation begins the momentum: Schmitt is red, Driessler is blue, and Dellwo is green on this genealogy chart.

It is not surprising that small 18th century villages had families that intertwined through marriages. The “ancestor loss” dictates the structure of the chart, whereas databases simply use double entry. These genealogical knots are where I begin a chart design, as this example from the Schmitt family demonstrates.

Genealogy charts become huge fast, as generations expand. “Alliances of Ironworkers” has 13 participants in three generations (it does not include all the siblings or show other spousal surnames, focusing only on three: Schmitt, Driessler, and Dellwo from the Rhineland’s Züscher-Hammer ironworks).

Through adding three more generations, there are 34 names in chart “Interlinking Ironworkers,” which goes from 1700 (when they all arrived in one place) to the 1850s. In this design, by making the circles into ovals, I saved half of the vertical space. This changes the overall shape of the chart from a square to a horizontal rectangle, which fits onscreen.

Portraying the relationships of three families out (from the ten introduced in Ore and Origins”) the result is that the immigrant generation in the mid 1800s were all cousins—many double cousins and some triple. I profile their history in “Dedication and Definitionwhere I add the next generations.

A Schmitt relative recently sent me a message: “How are you related to me?” I found I could not answer him without a chart, because he is a triple fifth cousin! Many cousins do not know the family history back to Germany. (I didn’t either until the data started coming online a few years ago.) This is very sad to me because it is through our ancestors that we know who we are. To lose that is to lose an important part of ourselves. Finding the story in the experiences gained through ten generations is a precious gift that not many people can claim—though now they can if they want to. It does take an acceptance of both the positive and the negative—do we believe that some things are worth forgetting? I hope that this story inspires a wish to know more, so that the wisdom gained is not lost.—always inspired, Liane

Please see the overview of the series Ore and Origins: A Biography.

Please enjoy other examples of my chart design portfolio.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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A Boast of Modesty

It is only within the last few years that historians have become fascinated with the everyday lives from the past. Maybe it was inspired by the 2,000 year-old Roman “notes” jotted on stone scraps, used at Hadrian’s Wall for messaging. These showed both how lifestyles have changed and have not changed—historians seek to determine how little or how much. Such comparisons are best measured in the effects and events of every day people.

One of my family surnames is extremely common: Schmitt (or Schmidt). What German descendant does not have a few in dotted through family trees? Fortunately, much is known about this Schmitt branch, through who they married and where they lived. I have endeavored to express their migration through illustrations in “Specific Schmitt: A Surname Biography in Three Images.”

The last of the family German residences, before immigrating to the Midwest, were in Rhennish villages clustered around the ironworks of Züscher-Hammer. This house on Brunnenstraße in Züsch, is chosen to represent the simple 1-1/2 story “hut” construction that made homes fast to build and efficient to maintain. The Schmitt family lived and worked in the area for nine known generations—over 200 years.

It is cool that my family history represents a large percentage of the average American lineage that possess 25% German DNA. Similarly, I’ve always done well in business by being a barometer of comprehension, which helps to develop insight into shared cultures. On the one hand, what makes progression significant requires diverse contributions. But what makes a culture strong requires a commonality of purpose, continuity of effort, and commitment to shared values. So progress becomes a study and a blend of what contrasts and what complements. —always inspired, Liane

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The Story of Schmitt: The Series

The history of the Schmitt family is ubiquitous. As their “Schmitt” name is common, they also share experiences that are part of almost every American’s family tree. Schmitt descendants left the oppression of their homeland for the freedom of choice. The patterns of prosperity and devastation had become intolerable—especially when there was an escape. All immigrants to the United States want the same things: opportunity, prosperity, and a better life for the next generations.

The Schmitt family is unique in how much they exemplify these qualities. As people with deep convictions, they stood up for their beliefs and helped to shape their communities. Their achievements, versus their names, can be found in the history books. Theirs is a story of building, developing industry, following opportunities, participating in change, and taking risks. They hold a mirror up to ourselves, as their past is our past. Their story is both worth remembering and honoring:

Symbolic Schmitt” gives an overview of the series and how it developed.

Specific Schmitt: Surname Origin” portrays the family origins in an ancient, and preserved, German village.

Pioneer Schmitt: A Visual Biography” follows the courageous journey of a Schmitt family to the wilderness of the new world.

Biography in Buildings” summarizes the Schmitt Story in six images—the first three representative and the second three documented.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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Rascal’s Revolt: A Memorial Tribute

There are always two ways to perceive a person’s character: through public and through private behavior. From personal experience, I have found these two persona can be very different from one another. For example, once I met a famous publisher who, from the podium, seemed like the nicest person—like he would be an engaging dinner companion. But when I got to know him while serving on a conference project, he was arrogant and self-absorbed. His partner, wooden and nervous when speaking publicly, was warm and perceptive. You never know. My ancestor, featured here, got mixed reviews—a contrast between the public and the private.

For this Memorial Day, I reflect on all my patriotic ancestors that have served in the military. Several risked or lost their lives in our country’s major conflicts. These events forever changed their lives, and the lives of their descendants. I wrote Pioneering Patriot to tell the story of my first ancestor to fight for American freedoms.

My great-great-grandfather, John Schmitt, was a Civil War veteran. We revere him, at the same time, question some of his activities. The family tells many stories of his rascal nature. On the one hand, he was a true patriot, successful businessman, and contributed to the community. On the other, he had three wives, engaged in some dubious circumstances, and formed contentious personal relationships.

As part of family history, I wish to pay tribute to his uniqueness. We have a photograph of him in his uniform in 1853. When researching his background, his militant tendencies, and his courageous nature, his activities started with his independent convictions in Germany. Then, bringing the same values to his new country, he was willing to again stand up for them.

The 4th Wisconsin Volunteer website has well documented his regiment, their marches, battles, and profiles. His was Company L and then Company H. For Civil War enthusiasts, this is a must-read! (I have contributed John Schmitt’s biographical sketch to their archives): http://www.4thwisconsin.com/

Please see the overview of the series Ore and Origins: A Biography.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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Magnetic Migration: Ironworkers to Züsch

When I drew the regional map to express the convergence of ironworkers in 1700 Germany, the results didn’t satisfy. Although its scale offers the proximity of villages and forges, it doesn’t give a larger national context. To adequately tell the story of these industrious ironworkers is to show the regions that contributed its pioneers. Zooming in too close on the map destroys an immediate geographic recognition; the setting in central Europe must include the borders of France, Belgium, Germany, and Switzerland to be most understood. So, this new design shows the region, its continental position, and still emphasizes its centralizing migration.

In “Ore and Origins,” I profile these ten pioneering families (their progenitors are 9 and 10 generations removed). The managers of Züscher-Hammer were primarily local German professionals. But half of the skilled workers were imported from Belgium, hired by Hauzer. Their trades included blacksmiths, tool-makers, carpenters, developers—all those needed to build infrastructure and industry. The ten ancestor families represent a successful diversity of origins and blend of contributions.

Data from these family groups reveal a larger story of innovation, perseverance, and independent thinking. The decisions of siblings, cousins, and in-laws mirror the history that eventually contributed to American culture. Their continuing skills were fundamental to pioneering. Though the Belgian workers in 1700 may have only moved hundreds of miles versus the thousands of miles their immigrant descendants would undertake 150 years later, the change for them was as dramatic and challenging.

Map illustrations have always been some of my favorite projects. From years of commissions, I have a library of original global, regional, and town locations. I adapted my European Master for this Immigration Map, making it efficient to create. So, I can offer map illustrations to fit customer data very affordably. Please see samples of illustrative maps that can be used to enhance family legacy. —always inspired, Liane

Please see the overview of the series Ore and Origins: A Biography.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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Continuity of Construction

Architecture marks the character of a place longer than its inhabitants, who offer the timeline of evolution. Blending past with future is a running theme in much of my work—a curiosity to not ignore the rearview mirror. But mine is more than a desire not to burn bridges, it is a commitment to learn from the past. Through the research I do for illustration, I become immersed in subjects enough to present, simply and symbolically, their essences. I hope that I can extend my imagination, through modern technology, help from friends, and research, back in time. Working on a series of Hessen historic homes, I am very grateful to cousin Tom Euler, mayor of Allendorf, who has assisted in this time-travel adventure.

What strikes me most about the architecture in Allendorf (the new homes mirror the old) versus the architecture of where I, as a descendant live near Chicago, reveals the a difference in lifestyle values. There, the street side of the homes are formal and uninviting. Gates close off the house entrance as well as enclose courtyards. Where I live, the entrance doors are on the front, have with walkways and steps up to a porch. If there is not room for a small front yard, there is always a median with trees and grass. In Allendorf, the gardens, trees, and grass are hidden behind the street facades. Yet essentially, the interior floor plans of the homes are probably similar. The silhouette of peaked roof and outline is similar; barns become garages.

The differences between the feeling of a central European village and a midwestern United States town demonstrates how architecture both dictates and reflects the lifestyle of its inhabitants. As I draw structures in a town of ancestors, I get a perspective of the culture preserved by descendants and the cultural change the immigrants embraced. —always inspired, Liane

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Historic Access— An exploration of family origins leads back to 1500 Allendorf/Lahn-Giessen, Germany. Through a friendship, an amazing discovery, and a place that integrates natural beauty, history, and contemporary living, there is much to inspire. They are proud of many houses that were build in the late 1600s and early 1700s. A series of illustrations captures some of these historical gems and the impact of time.

Spirit of Place: Creation versus Preservationexamines a life-long dilemma of balance. There is a trend in Allendorf to plaster over the original half-timber skeletons. From an American point-of-view, these wooden patterns offer a warmth, coziness, and charm. But, it may be that to the residents, that makes an area appear old-fashioned or out of date. These homes, though hundreds of years old, are very much within date! The plaster lends a geometry, simplicity, and unity, while following the shapes and design. Taking an illustration that I did of Obergasse 7 in Allendorf, I imagine what it must have looked like when my ancestors lived there. Most of the homes that I have drawn would be familiar to them.

Finding Foundations It is impressive how much of the past is preserved in Hesse, considering the turmoils that challenge survival. Allendorf is proud of its central old town that has evolved for almost four hundred years. Any of these could have been homes to ancestors, today occupied by cousins.  From the center of town, illustrating the historic buildings along Obergasse is a walking-tour of the imagination. It represents a continuity very rare in the “new world,” and a determination for preservation that continues from generation to generation. Through this journey, I find a kindred spirit asking many of the same questions.

Historic Hessen Houses Several of the Heritage Cultural homes display the half timber construction. From an American viewpoint, their wood patterns convey a warmth and charm. Distinctive consistency gives a harmony to the ancient streets, and the mix of new between the old still maintains style. It turns out that I am descended from three of the founding families, and discover much in common with cousin Tom Euler, mayor of Allendorf.

Please see this related example of my illustrations:

beforeafter-house200Drawing Backwards in Time Although a building may have endured many changes since built, hints of its original form exists. Sometimes old photographs show how a house looked, but most often, there are no images. Illustration can fill the gap. I have always wondered what my house was like in 1888 when new. It certainly does not look the same now! With an enclosed front porch, room additions, siding, and decorative shutters, its character is totally transformed. So I went to City Hall, researched the permits and historic records, and concluded with this interpretation.

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CONTACT:

Liane Sebastian wears an artist’s hat, designer’s coat, and editor’s shoes.

BLOG: http://www.publishingpioneer.wordpress.com
PORTFOLIO: http://www.lianesebastianillustration.wordpress.com
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/liane.sebastian
LINKEDIN: www.linkedin.com/in/lianesebastian
EMAIL: lianesebastian9@gmail.com

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