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p i l d e r w a s s e r



Mostly True Story: Hirsch Pilderwasser had a distillery in the old country but when the Czar took control of it Hirsch decided to hit the road and come to America. On August 20, 1891 Hirsch Pilderwasser, a 50 year old immigrant from Russia landed on Ellis Island in New York. He eventually made his way to Cincinnati, Ohio. Several years later, his son Charles shortened his name to Pilder so it would fit on the sign for his market. Now, three generations later a messenger in Seattle has a website with the old name because it's not too long to fit on a computer screen. Pilderwasser meant “miller by the water” as in miller of grain, and distiller of grain. I like to think of making booze, down by the river. There may be a few Pilderwassers kicking around and a quite a few Pilders, especially in and around Cincinnati.

Hirsch arrived in the USA just in time for the bike boom. The original bike boom, the big bang of bikes. When bicycles became affordable for all and everyone had to have one.

The original Madison Square Garden in New York City was built in the 1870s as an arena for track cycling. The highest paid athletes in North America were bike racers. Roads were getting paved for bicycles long before cars took over. Mechanics learned to be mechanics on bicycles before cars came along and then they switched to cars. Racers raced bikes then switched to cars. The Wright Brothers cut their teeth on bikes.

The photo above is not really a Pilderwasser. But don't let that discourage you. Imagine putting on your Sunday Best, your clean shoes and your new hat and getting your portrait taken with your pride & joy, your prized possession, your bicycle. For several years bikes were status symbols and too expensive for average folks. Those were the days...today I have five bikes in the stable, but that sure isn't an indication of my elevated status in the Seattle economy.

This is Charles Pilderwasser and Gertrude Daener's wedding photo from Cincinnati June 21, 1908.