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Wertsch & Craig; William Wertsch Co.
Wertsch & Craig, 1872-1878; William Wertsch Co., 1878-1939; San Francisco, California
 
Associated Firms
 
     

William Wertsch was a highly-regarded carriage and automobile body manufacturer that was active from the Civil War into the mid-1930s. Although the firm was well-known in and around San Francisco and Oakland, California its vehicles were rarely seen outside of the Bay Area.

The firm's founder, William Wertsch (actually Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Wertsch), was born in Darmstadt, Germany in January of 1845, emigrating to the United States in 1857. In 1863 he came to California by way of the Isthmus of Panama, establishing himself in San Francisco where he found steady work as a blacksmith, wagon and carriage maker. The 1864 San Francisco directory lists him as follows:

"William Wertsch, blacksmith, dwl. W s Third bet. Market & Mission."

The 1868 San Francisco directory lists him as a blacksmith with Saul & McArron (Edmund Saul & Charles McArron), his home address being 219 DuPont. Saul & McArron's carriage manufactory was located at 579-581 Market St. He became a naturalized US Citizen on Oct. 5, 1868 in a ceremony in San Francisco, his occupation listed as carriage builder.

The 1869 San Francisco directory lists him as a blacksmith with Saul & Co., his home address being 209 Minna St. Edmund Saul's carriage manufactory was located at 579-581 Market St.

In 1871 Wertsch returned to Germany to marry Louisa Herrmann (born in Germany in Nov. of 1846), the return voyage to San Francisco served as their honeymoon. To the blessed union was born three children: one daughter, Augusta (m. Ernst Louis Weule; b. Sep 28, 1876 - d. 30 Dec 30, 1968) and two sons; William H. Wertsch, Jr., (b. Feb. 2, 1874-d. May 19, 1954) a well-known San Francisco music teacher and professional violoncellist; and Herman Wertsch (b. Dec. 4, 1883), who after graduating from the San Francisco Polytechnic high school in 1902, worked with his father serving as secretary and purchasing agent. Herman married Carola Malfanti, and their union produced two children, Herman F. and Robert A. Wertsch.

The 1876-1877 directories list William Wertsch Sr. as a partner with John Craig in Wertsch & Craig, blacksmiths, 5 Mason St., his home address being 142 Rose Ave.

The 1879 directory lists him under carriagesmiths at 102 Tyler. John Craig is now listed separately under carriage and wagon makers at 14 Taylor.

1880 US Census lists Wertsch at 140 Rose Ave., San Francisco, occupation carriage maker. The 1880 San Francisco directory list him as William Wertsch, carriagemaker and blacksmith, NW corner of Tyler & Jones, h. 142 Rose St. Listed in the 1880 Industrial Census of California which lists him as a carriage maker, capitalized at $6,000 with 3 full-time employees. Sales for the year beginning June 31, 1879 and ending May 31, 1880 were listed at $6,500; with cost of material $1,800; wages paid $1,500; yielding a profit of $3,200.

The 1887 directory lists William Wertsch, carriagemaker, at 102 Golden Gate, his home address, 137 Page St.

The 1889-1891 directories list William Wertsch, carriage and wagon maker, at 102 Golden Gate, his home address, 137 Page St.

An 1895 industry listing list the firm as Wm. Wertsch, 100 Golden Gate Ave., Carriage and Wagon Wheel Manufacturers.

After the 1906 earthquake destroyed their 100-102 Golden Gate Ave. manufactory, Wertsch & Co.  moved 3/4 of a mile down Market St. to new quarters located at 24 Page St.

The only mention of the firm that I could locate in the trades was in the April 1911 issue of the Carriage Monthly:

"The Wm. Wertsch Co., San Francisco carriage builders, have recently taken up the agency for the Grabowsky motor truck which they are advertising extensively in San Francisco and vicinity."

Wertsch continued working at the Page St. plant right up until his death on September 23, 1930, at age 86 at which time the business was taken over by longtime employee William F. Eckhardt in association with Herman Wertsch and Harold E. Eckhardt, William F.'s son.

The firm's listing in the 1932-1933 San Francisco directories follows:

"William Wertsch Co., W. F. Eckhardt, pres.; Herman Wertsch, v-pres.; H. E. Eckhardt, sec.; auto body mfrs., 24 Page."

Trained as a blacksmith, William Frederick Eckhardt (b. Sep. 9, 1878 d. Jul. 5, 1933) was born in San Francisco to German immigrants. He was trained as a blacksmith, marrying Elizabeth (Lizzie) Marie Adams when he was 28 years old (1906). His US draft registration dated September 12, 1918 lists his occupation as blacksmith, his employer as Wm. Wertsch Co. With his two sons Harold E. (b. 1910 - d. 1977) and Elmer F. (b. 1914 d. 1977) Eckhardt, he kept the Wertsch works active specializing in the manufacture and installation of truck bodies.

Herman Wertsch remained associated with the firm as an absentee executive, having been elected as recorder of San Francisco's Islam Temple of the Mystic Shrine, 650 Geary Street, San Francisco in 1923, a position he held for several decades (for a while he was national president of the Shrine Recorders).

Despondent over economic times and the recent (Jan. 28, 1930) death of his beloved wife Elizabeth, William F. Eckhardt fatally shot himself in the head at his home on July 5, 1933 and his eldest son, Harold Edwin (b. Sep. 11, 1910) Eckhardt assumed the presidency of the Wertsch Co., it's listing in the 1937 directory follows:

"William Wertsch Co., H. E. Eckhardt, pres.; Herman Wertsch, v-pres. treas; E.F. Eckhardt, sec.; blksmiths., 24 Page."

The firm is noticeably absent in the 1939 San Francisco directory. Harold E. Eckhardt and his wife (Mary M. Martinovich) subsequently moved to Redwood City, California where he was employed as a sheet metal worker at the San Carlos Sheet Metal Works, San Carlos, California. 

2015 Mark Theobald for Coachbuilt.com

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References

Beverly Rae Kimes & Henry Austin Clark - Standard Catalog of American Cars: 1805-1942


Lewis Francis Byington - History of San Francisco,  Vol 2, pub. 1931

   
 
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