That sentence, with which Hon. Augustus Pollack started an article which he wrote for publication several years ago, was not only his motto, but it involved what was perhaps the strongest characteristic of his well rounded life, which ended peacefully during his sleep at an early hour yesterday morning.
He was a tireless worker. Six o’clock each morning found him at the desk in his office on Water street, and there he remained until nine or ten o’clock each evening. For a year or more he has been failing, but his mental vigor has never been impaired despite his seventy-five years, and his ailment did not affect his will power. He wanted to be in his office, even when he should have been receiving medical treatment at home. As late as Thursday of last week, he was at his desk, but his friends -- whose name was legion -- noted the fact the he appeared to be in poor health. He was a sufferer from asthma for years. The disease took a very acute form, and together with ailments incident to his advanced age, caused his death.
The news came as a shock because it was unexpected. The entire city was affected, and the death was a principal topic of conversation, but those who were more particularly affected were the stogie makers in his employ. They lost a personal friend and an influential one. They lost a man who was, more than any other person, responsible for the present prestige of the Wheeling stogie, and the high wages paid to workmen here engaged in that industry.
The two Pollack factories, employing about 325 men and probably 200 girls and boys, closed down yesterday morning, and last night a meeting of Garfield Assembly of the International Stogie Makers Union held a special meeting. In several addresses that were made, the sense of personal loss which the speakers felt was expressed. A committee was named to draft suitable resolutions on Mr. Pollack’s death, and it was unanimously resolved to attend the funeral in a body. The largest turnout of stogie makers in the history of the union is expected.
Mr. Pollack has not only been a strong friend and supporter of the stogie makers union, but he has also been a friend of organized labor generally, and for that reason the Ohio Valley Trades Assembly has done the unprecedented thing of calling a special meeting to arrange for the attendance of every local union represented in that body, at the funeral on Thursday. Never before was similar action taken upon the death of an employer of labor here, and no stronger testimonial to Mr. Pollack’s worth as a man could be given than the evidence of the grief of all classes of citizens upon his death.
Mr. Pollack may be said, without disparagement to any other stogie manufacturer, to deserve more credit for the Wheeling stogie’s prestige than any other man. He was 41 years of age when he started in the manufacturing business and one of his employes remarked last night that if he had started twenty years sooner the stogie industry in Wheeling would be immeasureably larger today larger today. The wages of men engaged in stogie "rolling" have advanced probably one hundred per cent since Mr. Pollack opened his Crown factory on Water street.
Whenever the men wanted an advance they invariable saw Mr. Pollack first, and the instances were very few indeed when he gave a negative reply, always accompanying such an answer with a plain statement of trade conditions that satisfied his workmen. But wages gradually advanced, for employers followed the lead of Mr. Pollack in acceding to the requests of the men, until today the trade of stogie maker is regarded as one of the best and most profitable in the city.
Mr. Pollack aided in the fight to prevent the use of the word Wheeling on stogies manufactured elsewhere, but it was when he had made up his mind last year, probably after several years of consideration, to retire from active life, that Mr. Pollack did the thing which more than anything else endeared him to the stogie makers in his employ. He had well earned a rest in his old age, but he declined to take it until he had safeguarded the interests of his employes, as to wages and working hours. The unwillingness of parties who were negotiating for the purchase of his plants and business, to be bound by any restrictions as to their treatment of the men and their recognition of the union, led Mr. Pollack to politely but firmly decline to go on with the negotiations. It was a personal sacrifice which the men appreciate, and the fact accentuates their grief over his death. All arrangements for the funeral have not yet been completed, but it will take place Thursday
from the family residence on Chapline street. In deference to the wishes of the decedent, it will be simple and unostentatious, as was his entire life. The pall bearers will be selected from the men in his employ.
Augustus Pollack was the son of Joseph and Bertha Pollack, and was born in the suburbs of Bunde, in the valley of the Weser, Westphalia, July 5, 1830. His father was engaged in agriculture and was a large dealer in both horses and fine cattle. His son, when fourteen years of age, was entered as a student at the Bunde Gymnasium (college), where he remained for three years, concluding the course, after which he was apprenticed at the commercial house of Edward Gerson, at Soest. There he remained until the revolutionary period of 1848, when he was offered and accepted a position with the firm of Hambleton & Sons, Baltimore, and on April 5, 1849, he sailed from Bremen for the United States, arriving at Baltimore May 18th following. Mr. Pollack remained in Baltimore for several years, starting in business for himself, in the notion and fancy goods line, in 1852. Two years later he removed his business to Wheeling, and on March 31, 1855, while still engaged in business here, he was married to Miss Rosalie Weinberg, of Baltimore. In 1858-9 Mr. Pollack purchased property at Grafton and thereon erected a residence and store building, and there conducted a general business, being in addition local agent for the Adams Express Company. In 1860, however, he returned to Wheeling, and acquired property on Main street, which he still retains, and therein established a large wholesale notion business residing with his family in the same building, the upper floors of which afforded a commodious residence. He continued this business for eleven years, or until 1871, when he determined to embark
In the stogie and cigar business, for which he saw a fine field for earnest business endeavor. He erected the present extensive factory and ware house buildings on Water street, immediately west of his residence and store property, the two extending entirely through the block, and there for many years he conducted an immense business to which he gave the closest of personal attention, with the result that a large measure of success was achieved; the goods made of superior excellence, being known throughout the United States, although rarely sold in Wheeling.
While taking a large and intelligent interest in public affairs, Mr. Pollack never held but one office, that of a member of the Board of Education from the Third ward, and the next approach to it was his unanimous selection as an elector-at-large on the Harrison presidential ticket. In politics he was always a Republican, but had an admixture of liberality and conservatism in his views that eliminated from his partisanship every element of objection. His loyalty to the cause of the Union during the Civil War was equal to that of any other man, and was notably exemplified at the outbreak of hostilities when he tendered the government, without money and without price, his Grafton buildings for military purposes -- an offer which brought on June 7, 1861, from Simon Cameron, Secretary of War, a flattering letter of acknowledgement and appreciation. But Mr. Pollack’s efforts did not stop there. He contributed liberally to the cause of the government, and then enlisted in one of the West Virginia regiments of infantry, and saw such home service as his command was called upon to perform. He was never, we believe, in the field.
In the local business world, Mr. Pollack was an important factor for forty years. His business interests, aside from his immediate manufacturing establishment, were large, and he took a deep and earnest concern in the welfare of others, an instance of long ago, tending to illustrate his liberality, being his contributions and active support in behalf of the establishment of the German newspaper, The Patriot, during the early days of the war. He was for a time President of the German Bank of Wheeling, a director of the Aetna-Standard Iron and Nail Company, or the German Insurance Company, President of the West Virginia Tobacco Company, a trustee of the Linsly Institute and of the Female College during its existence, and was interested in many commercial and manufacturing enterprises to a greater or less extent. His real estate holdings were also large.
A few facts will illustrate Mr. Pollack’s large public interest. In 1870 he was chairman of the movement having for its object the raising of funds for the widows and orphans of German soldiers killed in war with France, and his forwarding of the handsome local contribution brought a letter of acknowledgement from Hon. George Bancroft, United States Minister at Berlin. He also took a prominent part in the German peace celebration of 1871, and was again called upon to act as the president of the local organization. He presided at the Garfield ratification meeting at the Opera House, November 20, 1880, upon which occasion Hon. A. W. Campbell was presented with the handsome oil painting commemorative of the Wheeling editor’s celebrated self-assertive stand in the National Republican convention. He was president of the first Saengerfest celebration in Wheeling, July 20-25, 1885, and president of the great trades display, August 25, 1887. He presided at the local ceremonies commemorative of the death of Emperor William of Germany, March 22, 1888, and transmitted an engrossed copy of the resolutions adopted to Berlin. He was umpire to adjust the differences between the employes of the Central Glass Company and the management and performed other public duties with cheerfulness and distinct credit to himself, meanwhile carrying on personally the details of his own large and increasing business and individual affairs. In addition to all these things and many more, he was a liberal patron of all things musical, and his was a familiar figure at concerts of the better sort, classical music appealing to him with peculiar force, with the result that every laudable undertaking of this nature found his name among the list of subscribers, guarantors or sponsors.
Mr. Pollack’s daily business life was at once a model and a marvel. It has truthfully been said of him that no one of his employes worked so hard as he, nor such long hours. Early at his place of business in the morning, he rarely left his desk before eleven o’clock at night, and this trying and exacting routine was kept up for years at a time, without the loss of a day.
That he, or any man, could stand such a strain was something often remarked by both friends and acquaintances, and yet he did it, and showed no trace of the path he had marked out for himself. Until his recent illness there was no perceptible diminution of his exceptional powers of endurance and no indication that either the lapse of years of the weight of business cares had sapped a wonderful vitality and a phenomenal capacity for the most trying work.
In figure Mr. Pollack was a man of striking figure. About five feet seven or eight inches in height, he was of heavy and stocky build, with a strong countenance, a large head, surmounted by curling hair tinged with gray, a luxuriant and slightly whitened moustache and imperial. His entire personality was exceptional and both in private conversation and public address his voice was rich and his vocabulary an extensive one. He was a man well calculated to command attention and create an impression not easily to be forgotten -- yet this was done without ostentation on his part -- rather the reverse, for he was among the most modest and approachable of men.
Deceased is survived by his widow, one son and six daughters, the latter Mrs. Birdie Baer, Misses Gussie, Delia E., Blanche and Grace, Mrs. J. Kent Boyd, and Mr. Joseph Pollack.
from The Wheeling Register, April 24, 1906.