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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Kate's Brief History


George Reuss in Holland’s Directory

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While progress has replaced many of Naperville’s earliest structures, not only does George Reuss’s business building still stand but so does his home. And both are fine monuments to his maxim that "industry and economy lead to wealth." 

Trained as a tailor, Reuss left Bavaria in 1854, remaining for a time in New York until moving west to St. Charles, Illinois. Mathias and Gertrude Krapf, a family he knew from back home, also settled in St. Charles, bringing with them their daughter who was an old school friend of George’s. In 1856, Reuss married Anna Maria Krapf, moved to Naperville, and started a store with “a Mr. Dollinger.” This is possibly Franz “Frank” Dollinger as he also lived in St. Charles for a time and was a member of Euclid Lodge, the Masonic organization in Naperville. The partnership didn’t last long, however, and they split up the stock to go their separate ways. 

Now in his twenties, Reuss operated a clothier’s shop which sold men’s furnishings and utilized his tailor training. His obituary states that while Reuss was “a stern man, he was eminently just and demanded much more of himself than he did of anyone else” and his business seems to have flourished. In the 1860s, Reuss hired local contractor, Levi Shafer, to erect a fine clothing shop on the corner of Washington and Jefferson. In addition to being a successful builder, Shafer is known for loaning his gun to Marcellus Jones who is said to have fired the first shot of the Battle of Gettysburg with it.  

Reuss’s good reputation and sturdy building impressed the farmers and townsfolk who were his customers and they started asking him to hold their money. So the clothier became a banker, launching the Bank of Naperville in 1886. Isaac Murray, brother to the Ruth that I wrote about in my first book, was vice president of the bank. 

George installed a vault and added another room and rebuilt the entrance with elegant red granite to better reflect the change from tailor to bank. Thes

“Sample Rooms” in Holland’s Directory

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Naperville today has an abundance of drinking establishments and it was much the same in 1886. In fact, there were six saloons in the downtown area and one out by the train depot for a population of just over 2,000. 

These drinking establishments called themselves “sample rooms” which was a name leftover from when distributors let commercial customers sample stock before purchasing. The sample rooms in Naperville actually catered to folks who wanted to relax with a beer, a cigar, and a game of billiards, both locals and travelers. The Pre-Emption House was listed under “Hotels” and not “Sample Rooms,” but probably travelers could also buy food and drink there, as they had for since its inception.

Adam Conrad ran the sample room south of the railway station. Not a lot has been found about him other than the fact that he married Josephine Adams and they are both buried in Saints Peter and Paul Cemetery. One supposes that he particularly catered to folks waiting for a train and perhaps railroad employees. 

The in-town sample rooms were run by some more familiar Naperville names. We talked last time about Jacob Keller, who, yes, is related to Ron Keller of the Municipal Band. He started with a sample room, expanded his business with a hotel on Washington Street, and then returned to his original location with a scaled-down hotel and sample room establishment.  

Hotels in Holland’s Directory

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The 1886 Holland’s Directory lists three hotels in Naperville: American House, Pre-Emption House, and Washington House. All of them were on Main Street, just a stone’s throw from each other. 

Jacob Keller emigrated from Germany to Naperville in 1851 and, at first, worked for Stenger Brewery. He eventually became a saloonkeeper on Main Street around 1867, but he had grander plans.  In 1872, he built a hotel on the northeast corner of Washington Street and Jefferson Avenue which he called, naturally, Washington House. According to Holland’s, it was a “fine brick building,” but “this, not being to his mind, he sold, at a great sacrifice, in 1872." Keller moved his business back to the Main Street location in 1879, keeping the name, Washington House. The hotel was also designated as the township polling place.

American House was started by B. F. Russell in 1875 as an addition to the livery business he had been running since 1869. Russell’s livery offered ten horses and twelve different kinds of wagons for customers to rent and provided his hotel with a particular advantage in transportation. As a bonus for American House guests, Russell ferried travelers to and from the train station for free. He also ran a taxi-type service to “carry citizens to any part of the village for ten cents.”

The Pre-Emption House had the oldest history. It was originally built in 1834 by George Laird and had a

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Using Tech for Book Marketing

Don and Kate Gingold


Kate and husband Don have been building websites since 1996 for all sorts of clients, including authors.

As the Internet has evolved, producing books and marketing them has become much more complicated. Whether traditionally-published or self-published, authors today need to know their way around websites, blogging, social media and other online marketing tools.

Kate regularly writes about online marketing for Sprocket Websites and provides tips and techniques for entrepreneurs, small- to medium-business owners and not-for-profit directors. Since being an author today is not really different from being an entrepreneur with a small business, most of those tips are just as useful to authors.

Frequently Kate also writes about tips specific to authors, some of which are available here.

The Sprocket Report

The Sprocket Report is published every other week with Internet marketing tips, tools and techniques. The archive features articles from 2011 up to the present. You are welcome to read how business owners are using technology to market themselves and apply those tips to your author business.


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