The Biechele Branch                                        return to home page
rev Jan 2012

 The following is an article from the Canton Ohio Repository.  The clipping, which was saved by my aunt, Dorothy Fickinger Bolger, the granddaughter of Charles Biechele, had no date on it.  It probably was published sometime between 1920 and 1940.   I have added a few comments in blue italics.  (W. Fickinger  22 November 1997)

Men Who Made Canton
The Four Biechele Brothers, Merchants and Manufacturers

By J. W. Hughmanic

     The perseverance and industry of the four Biechele brothers - Charles, Joseph, Leopold and Gustavus - made Canton known throughout the United States.  All four came here from Edingen, Baden, Germany in 1847.  (See next paragraph!) (Edingen is a town between Heidelburg and Mannheim.  Their mother, Carolyne, later crossed the Atlantic to join her sons.  She came via New Orleans and was tragically killed in the explosion of the steamboat Natchez on the Mississippi River.)

Correction! In 2004, I received an email from Herr Edgar Biechele who lives in Endingen 79346 (not Edingen), a town in the Black Forest around 50 miles northeast of Freiburg, in the German province of Baden-Württemberg. He told me that there are many Biechele’s still living there, and that no doubt, this was the correct birthplace of our Biechele brothers! The journalist (and a lot of Canton directories) got the spelling wrong.

     Stoves manufactured by Leopold and Gustavus earned Canton considerable publicity, but it was the soap manufactured by Charles and Joseph that brought it national fame.  They made this city a competitor of Chicago, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Philadelphia as a soap manufacturing center.

     Charles Biechele, who originated the business, learned the formula destined to attract national attention by experimenting in the back yard of his house at ?th St. and Piedmont Ave, NE.  He made soap in a small way for a decade, until in 1858 demand for his product necessitated installation of the best machinery available.  His brother Joseph became a partner and together they built a prosperous business.  In 1869 their plant was equipped with improved machinery.  At this time Joseph bought out his brother, who entered the wholesale grocery business.

    It was under Joseph's management that Biechele soap became nationally famous.  More than 30 brands were perfected.  Many readers will recall the names of California, Pure White, White Laundry, Best Family, Banner and Magic - all well known soaps manufactured here.  The business was an uninterrupted series of successes and expansions.  In 1913 Mr. Biechele sold his interest to the firm now known as the Hygienic Products Co.

Interested in Other Affairs
     Joseph Biechele's interest was not confined to the soap business.  He was identified with several other financial and commercial enterprises.  He was one of the founders of the Berger Manufacturing Co.  He became president and treasurer of this company, and devoted the latter part of his life to it.  He also was president of the Central Savings Bank.  He married Aphalon Bernard.  Their children, well known to many Cantonians, were: Mrs. Anna Whelan, Mrs. Emil Rinkenforf, Mrs. Edmund Balm and Joseph Biechele Jr.  Joseph Biechele Sr. died in 1916.

The Other Brothers
     Charles Biechele, who had quit the soap business in 1869 to enter the wholesale grocery business, continued in it for many years.  He married Mary Bernard (the sister of Aphalon; the Bernards came from Arlon in the southeast corner of Belgium), and they had three sons and four daughters. The sons were: Charles, Dr. Robert, and Julius, all deceased.  (Robert received his MD at the Medical School of Western Reserve University - where I have taught for 33 years in the physics department.  He went on to become a leading physician in Stark County.)  The daughters were: Mrs. Augustus Loeffler, Mrs. Olivia Wernet, Mrs. Mary Sidle and Mrs. Nathalai Flickinger (that is, Natalie Fickinger, my grandmother).  Charles Biechele Sr. died in 1916.

     The life of Gustavus (better known as Augustus) Biechele is perhaps the most romantic of those of the four brothers.  When he came to Canton in 1847 his trades, masonry and blacksmithing, offered no prospects, so in 1850 he went to California during the gold rush.  Arriving in California, he worked at first for wages, receiving $32 a day.  Later, he staked his own claims, one of which he abandoned because it was disputed by an English syndicate.  During a two year stay he made and lost several fortunes, but, in the end he came out ahead and started home by way of Cape Horn with a company of prospectors.  Officers of the vessel on which he sailed wanted the prospectors' gold and decided to poison their passengers.  The prospectors, warned by a man from the ship's kitchen, verified the plot by feeding their food to chickens, which died.  They then banded together and took possession of the ship.  At the first port they forced the designing officers to leave the ship and sailed to New York with the rest of the crew.

     Gustavus arrived in Canton in 1853.  Shortly afterward, he and his brother Leopold purchased the tin and stove store of Rufus Little, for whom Leopold had worked since his arrival in Canton in 1847.  The firm name was L. Biechele and Brothers.  Later, they purchased the building and business of David H. Harmon, situated on Tuscarawas at East ?.
     The brothers continued as partners until 1882, when Leopold retired.  Gustavus conducted the business alone until his death Nov. 22, 1897.  The business then was managed by Edward A. Biechele, son of Gustavus Biechele.
     In 1855, Gustavus Biechele married Mary Lothamer.  They were the parents of four sons and three daughters:  Edward A; Andrew; Albert, Arthur, who at one time was with the Aultman Co.; Tina, who married Dr. August Leninger, Ella, who married Harry Webb; and Corinne, who married James Burns.
 Leopold Biechele, the other founder of the tin and stove business, married Louise Held, a native of Germany.  They had six children.

(The four Biechele brothers and their wives are buried under one large obelisk tombstone in St. Peter's Cemetery in Canton.)