LEMUEL H. FLERSHEM

Source: Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County, Illinois with Portraits 3rd ed. revised and extended (Chicago: Calumet Book & Engraving Co., 1895), pp. 82-84

LEMUEL HERMANN FLERSHEM was for many years one of the active merchants of Chicago, and was noted wherever known for his enterprise and geniality.  His father, Lemuel Flersheim, was a native of Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Germany, born July 4, 1776, and served under Napoleon in the military campaigns of the early part of the present century.  Tiring of the unsettled and depressed condition of Germany, he settled in England, and engaged in the manufacture of jet ornaments, in which at one time he did an extensive business.  He was a man of liberal education, and spoke seven languages.   He was married, in England, to Anna Bayley, a native of Shropshire, daughter of a farmer living near Shrewsbury, whose wife was a member of the well-known Llewellyn family of Wales.  They were the parents of a family of three children who attained mature years.  In 1835 Mr. Flersheim came to America and settled in Buffalo, New York.  Here his sons started in business.  He died in Buffalo in 1846.  He was a devoted student and was very fond of music.  He taught languages, as a means of pleasant employment, after coming to America.

Lemuel, the subject of this sketch, first opened a clothing-house, which was succeeded by a retail fancy-goods and jewelry business, to which was added a jobbing department as business increased.  Mr. Flershem was a fine salesman and spent the most of his time soliciting business.  He soon built up a large trade in Canada, where he sold large consignments of Waltham watches and jewelry.   Flershem’s variety store was one of the best-known business houses in Buffalo.

In 1864 he was induced to come to Chicago to take charge of the business of his son-in-law, Edward F. Peugot, wholesale dealer in toys, notions and fancy goods, who was sick at the time.  Shortly afterward Mr. Flershem became a partner in the business, and sold out his Buffalo interests and moved to Chicago.  In 1869 he retired from this business and began importing, photograph albums being his specialty.  In 1870 he began making annual trips to Europe for the purpose of selecting goods for importation.  He was the first direct importer of goods in his line in Chicago, and his annual purchasing trips were continued for five years.  The great conflagration of 1871 destroyed Mr. Flershem’s store and stock, besides his residence on Superior Street, with all his household goods.

In 1872 he went to New York and made a new beginning in the same business, but was a heavy loser by the financial panic of the succeeding year.  He remained in business, however, and in 1877 returned to Chicago, where he continued his former business.  He also conducted the Kinney Prize Package Company for a year.  He again became a large dealer in jewelry, and was the principal in the firm of Whitney, Cooke & Company, one of the first establishments to sell direct to out-of-town purchasers at retail.

In 1887 Mr. Flershem organized and became the senior partner in the firm of Flershem & Company, wholesale dealers in jewelry packages, which were sold to dry-goods and other general stores.  During this time he was the representative in Chicago of C. W. Firnhaber & Company, of Paris, and in that capacity sold anything made in France, making a specialty of importing human skeletons, photographs and optical goods.  For four years, beginning with 1880, he was Secretary and Treasurer of the Cereal Packing Company of Chicago.  On account of ill-health, he was compelled to retire from active business in 1892, and spent the remainder of his life in retirement.

Mr. Flershem’s married life began on March 14, 1841, when he was united in wedlock with Miss Maria Whitney Cooke, a native of Berkshire, Vermont, born July 14, 1823.  The following children were born of this union, namely: Maria L., who became the wife of Ed F. Peugeot, and after his death married William McGregor.  The second child, Lina W., became the wife of Dr. W. H. Byford, one of the leading physicians of Chicago.  Her death occurred in October, 1893.  Lem W., the third, now of the firm of Lapp & Flershem, has been well known in the jewelry business of Chicago for twenty years.  George T. took the classical course and graduated from the Chicago High School in 1869.  The four years immediately following graduation he spent in the employ of the Western News Company, with which he was subsequently connected for three years, beginning in 1877.  He also spent two years with Jansen, McClurg & Company, and seven years with his brother Lem, 1880 to 1887.  After this date, until the death of his father, he had the management of the jewelry business, to which he succeeded, and which is still continued under the style of Whitney, Cooke & Company.

George T. Flershem was married, in October, 1884, to Margaret Gallagher, of Chicago, daughter of John and Ann Gallagher, early settlers of the suburb of Highwood.  Mr. and Mrs. Flershem have two children, Whitney Byford and Marguerite Leslie.

Lemuel H. Flershem was born in Birmingham, England, July 18, 1817, and died in Chicago April 3, 1893.  He and his beloved wife lived to celebrate their golden wedding, March 14, 1891, at their home, surrounded by their children and grandchildren.  Mrs. Flershem survived her husband less than a year.  Her death occurred January 18, 1894.

The name of this family was spelled Flersheim until after the Chicago Fire, when, on account of pronunciation and its resemblance in form to the name Floersheim, the present form was adopted.  Lemuel H. Flershem was a man in whose life the elements of good luck and misfortune were alternately in the ascendant.  But, with the patient industry and tenacity of purpose that distinguish the successful business man, he persevered and finally triumphed.

Mr. Flershem was a person of good appearance, courtly manners, a splendid conversationalist, and enlivened his discourse with a fund of anecdote and humor.  As a citizen he was held in high esteem by all who knew him.  In politics he was an active Democrat.  He knew Grover Cleveland in Buffalo, long before his wonderful political career was foreshadowed, and they maintained a friendly correspondence till Mr. Flershem’s death.

                                -- Submitted on 11/8/99 by Sherri Hessick ( slhessick@crosswinds.net )