Thursday, February 21, 2013

Charles N. Erich - A Self-Made Man

Charles Nicholas Erich was born in 1831 in  Germany.  He emigrated to Memphis in 1854 where he apprenticed at the Memphis Appeal under John R. McClanahan and B.F. Dill.   He saved enough money during this time to enter into the grocery business.  From this humble beginning his next step up the ladder was a small glass and queensware retail business.  Queensware was developed by Josiah Wedgewood and named after Queen Charlotte.  He did so well that in 1862 he was able to buy out T.J. Hunt's interest in the Hunt & Lloyd firm which became Erich & Lloyd.  In 1867 there was a split between Erich and Lloyd.  Lloyd went into business forming the company of Eastland, Lloyd & Gilbert at 321 Main St. with Mr Erich's popular business continuing in the opposite building at 323 Main.

Being a merchant and needing to fill his store with wares, Charles Erich traveled quite a bit.  Thanks to his travels we have a description of him from a passport application dated 1872.  He was 41 years old, five feet five inches tall with blue eyes, medium forehead, a straight nose and natural mouth.  He was blonde with a fair complexion.  

He was married to a woman named Elise or possibly Eliza and they had at least three children: Charles, Victor and John.  Unlike their German parents the sons were all born in Tennessee.

Charles Nicholas Erich was a successful businessman.  However, success in business does not always equate to success in life.  The Brooklyn Union reported on July 19, 1886 that he shot himself in an attempted suicide.  The bullet entered the forehead and was lodged in his brain. He was not expected to live.  "Domestic infelicity" was reportedly the cause.  He was interred at Elmwood on July 23, 1886

Memphis Daily Appeal
February 8, 1874

A Self Made Man
What has been Accomplished in Twenty Years in Memphis, by Energy, Enterprise, Etc.
Memphis can boast as many of this class of businessmen, now prominent in their branches of trade and industry, perhaps, as any city in the world in proportion to population and advantages, and we venture to say more than a vast majority of inland cities of this continent, but we know of no one individual to whom the caption of this article more significantly applies than to Charles N. Erich, the importer and dealer in glass and Chinaware.  mr. Erich was liberally educated in commercial pursuits in Germany, the land of his nativity, whence he emigrated to this city in 1854.  Arriving here when Memphis was in comparative infancy, a stranger and in a strange land, he conceived the idea that he would bend his efforts to the acquirement of a trade, and entered regularly upon a term of apprenticeship in the Memphis Appeal printing establishment, then under the management of John R. McClanahan and B.F. Dill.  By close application to business, at the end of the first year he had acquire a wonderful proficiency in his chosen profession, and up to the year 1857, by careful husbanding of his small earnings, he had accumulated a little capital which he invested in the retail grocery business, to which he applied himself closely and with marked success until 1859, when he was enabled to change from the small business, which was really the beginning of his commercial career in this city, to that of retail dealer in glass and queensware, in which he rose gradually, and step by step, until in 1862, he bought out the interest of Mr. T.J. Hunt in the firm of Hunt & Lloyd, in the same business, and under the style of Erich & Lloyd continued to do an extensive and increasing business until 1867, when the firm of Erich & Lloyd was dissolved, the latter gentleman associating himself with Messrs. Eastland and Gilbert, under the firm of Eastland, Lloyd & Gilbert, who fitted up, at great expense No. 321 Main street, and set up a most formidable opposition to Mr. Erich, who continued in the adjoining building, No. 323.  The latter's growing popularity as a business man and well substantiated character for integrity and fair dealing insured for him a successful competition, and by inaugurating the feature of importing his wares directly from the manufacturers, and by keeping up the largest and most complete stock in his line in the south and southwest, his business has grown to a magnitude requiring more room and better appointments to facilitate in supplying the increasing demand.  This he has succeeded in acquiring by "buying out" his neighbors when, with the beautiful arrangements made by his predecessors, and the additions making and to be made by himself, Mr. Erich will soon have fitted up the best appointed and most magnificent glass and queensware establishment in the world, eclipsing in point of elegance anything either in Paris, London or New York.  The fixtures for Mr. Erich's new establishment cost originally twenty thousand dollars, which give some idea of its magnificence.  he continues to import, as he has done since 1869, directly from European factories, making a trip each year himself, and superintending in person the selecting, packing and shipping of every article for his immense establishment here.  He expects to make a trip the coming spring, and on his return will have replenished his already large stock with the most complete assortment ever exhibited on the American continent.

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