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Otto Jaeger

Founder of Fostoria, Seneca, and Bonita Art Glass

-- from History of Wheeling, Old and New. Chicago: American Historical Society, 1923 (v.2, p. 50-51)

OTTO JAEGER as a youth learned the art of engraving on glass, has been an expert connected with the glass industry for many years, and has given Wheeling one of the largest industries of its kind in the country, the Bonita Art Glass Company, of which he is secretary, treasurer and general manager.

Mr. Jaeger was born at St. Goar in a Rhine province of Germany, June 26, 1853. His father, Frederick William Jaeger, a native of Germany, was man of most substantial attainments. He served fifteen years in the Prussian army, retiring with a rank of captain and with a pension, at one time was attorney-general at Cologne, and in 1866 he came to the United States and located in New York City, where he employed his skill as an instrumental musician as a professor of music. He died in New York City. He was a republican and a member of the Lutheran Church. His wife, Anna Mary Jaeger, was born in Germany and also died in New York City. They had a large family of children, briefly mentioned as follows: Betha, of New York City, whose husband, Captain Gehle, was a sea captain; Pauline married H. Meyer, clerk in a large importing house, and died in New York City; Emil was a lithographer and died in New York City; Otto was the fourth in age; Carl was a gilder by trade and died at New York; Emma died at Bridgeport, Connecticut, where her husband, Mr. Merkle, was manager of a department store; Louisa is the wife of Emil Leu, a chiropodist at Bridgeport, Connecticut; Alexander is a train dispatcher with one of the elevated railway companies of New York; Josephine is the wife of a railway conductor living at Jersey City, New Jersey; Arthur is a lithographer at Philadelphia; and Matilda is the wife of Ernst Nauman, who has charge of a large iron works plant and lives at Brooklyn.

Otto Jaeger was about thirteen years of age when he came to America. He attended government schools in Germany and while there studied English, French and his native tongue. After coming from New York City he rounded out his knowledge of English, but left school at the age of sixteen to serve his apprenticeship and learn the trade of engraving on glass. As a young man, possessing special skill in this line, he came to Wheeling in 1877 and took charge of the engraving and other departments of the Hobbs & Brockunier Glass Plant. In January, 1888, Mr. Jaeger was one of the organizers of the Fostoria Glass Company of Fostoria, Ohio, and for three years was the company's chief traveling representative, covering all the United States and Canada. In 1891 he organized the Seneca Glass Company of Fostoria, and was president of this company. In 1901 Mr. Jaeger returned to Wheeling, where he organized the Bonita Art Glass Company and has since been its secretary, treasurer and general manager, and has been the guiding genius in making this a distinctive industry, not only in the quality of work but in size. The plant and offices of the firm are on Bow Street in Wheeling and the business is primarily the artistic decoration of glass and china. The Bonita products to all over the United States and make up a large volume of foreign export, and the firm also does an extensive importing as well as exporting business. George E. House is president of the company, while Mr. Jaeger has the other executive responsibilities. The company employs 100 hands, most of them experts.

Mr. Jaeger is a republican in politics, and for eight years sat as a member of the City Council of Wheeling. He is a member of the Presbyterian Church, and is a thirty-second degree Scottish Rite Mason and Shriner. In 1879, at Wheeling, he married Miss Ida Frances Ratcliffe, daughter of James and Mary Ratcliffe, both of whom died at Wheeling. The two children born to Mr. and Mrs. Jaeger both died in childhood.

Many of his friends and associates know Mr. Jaeger through his versatile gifts and attainments in other lines than the glass industry. He is deeply versed in the musical arts, for many years has played the violin, flute and violoncello, and as a boy of fifteen he had the honor of playing the violin under the eminent leader, the late Theodore Thomas. For over thirty years he directed the choir of Presbyterian churches, and a number of singers who subsequently became professionals, owed much to him for his early encouragement of their talents.

Mr. Jaeger's early performances as a rifle shot will always be noted in the records of that sport. During 1885 he made the highest score in the United States for rifle shooting at a range of 200 yards, and his feat stood as the high record until tied six months later by a Boston rifleman. This record of ten straight bull's eyes at 200 yards, 96 out a possible 100, still stands. Mr. Jaeger was formerly a member of the Wheeling Rifle Club, which was never beaten in a match with clubs from other cities. At times he has owned a number of thoroughbred horses, and has himself driven them in races at fairs and other occasions in Ohio and won a number of purses and other honors.

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