Men of Progress. Wisconsin. (pages 184-216) A selected list of biographical sketches and portraits of the leaders in business, professional and official life. Together with short notes on the history and character of Wisconsin.
FALK, Otto Herbert, one of the leading young business men of Milwaukee, and one, who, in connection with the Wisconsin National Guard, has rendered the state valuable service, is a native of Milwaukee, and was born on the 18th of June, 1865. His father, Franz Falk, was born in Mittenberg, Bavaria, August 10th, 1824, came to Milwaukee in 1848, became master brewer in the old Melms brewery, and, later, established the Falk brewery, which, at the time of his death, August 5th, 1882, was one of the leading breweries of America. The Falk Brewery company was consolidated with the Pabst Brewing company in 1893. Young Falk's mother, whose maiden name was Louise Wahl, daughter of Christian Wahl, Sen., and a sister of Christian Wahl, president of the Milwaukee board of park commissioners, was also a native of Germany. Both the Falk and Wahl families were persons of influence in their native land, many of whom were in the government service.
Young Falk was educated in the German- English Academy, Milwaukee; the Northwestern University, Watertown, Wis., and the Allen Military Academy in Chicago, which exerted a marked influence in developing his taste and natural abilities for military affairs. From this school he graduated as ranking captain. He began business at the age of twenty, as an apprentice in his father's brewery, afterward becoming assistant secretary and treasurer of the Falk, Jung & Borchert breweries. After the consolidation of this company with the Pabst company, Mr. Falk was with the latter and is still a stockholder in it, although not directly connected with its management. In 1893, he organized and became general manager of the Wisconsin Milling company, which manufactures corn goods, and has the largest mill of the kind in America, the capacity of which is 8,000 bushels a day. He is also vice-president of the Falk Manufacturing company, patentees and manufacturers of the famous Falk cast-welded rail joint. This company also does general railroad construction work. Mr. Falk is also vice-president and one of the largest stockholders of the McKenna Steel Working company, which owns and controls the McKenna patents for renewing old steel rails. It has just completed the erection, at Jolict, III., of a large mill for this industry, with a capacity of four hundred tons per day. This process is an absolute success, and will prove a valuable investment for those interested. He is secretary and treasurer of the El Xeschil company, which is engaged in the raising of coffee near Vera Cruz, Mexico. With these numerous and important business connections, it is quite natural that Mr. Falk should be a member of the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce.
After graduating from the military school, young Falk was for a year member of the Lights Horse Squadron Cadet Corps, and then, March 9th, 1886, entered the military service of the state as adjutant of the Fourth infantry, W. N. G. Within two months he took an active part in the suppression of the riots which broke out simultaneously in Milwaukee and Chicago, and by his conduct so attracted the attention of Gen. Rusk that he was appointed as aid-de-camp on the governor's personal staff. Retaining his interest in the line, however, he was promoted to major of the Fourth battalion, August 24th, 1887, and lieutenant-colonel, October 29th, the same year. Upon the inauguration of Gov. Peck, he was appointed quartermaster-general, January 5th, 1891, and, December 5th, 1893, became adjutant-general of Wisconsin, the youngest man who ever held this important office. On his own application, and in accordance with the laws of Wisconsin, Gen. Falk was placed on the retired list January 10th, 1895. He has been commended in general orders by the chief executive of the state for his action in the Third ward fire in Milwaukee, and at the Camp Douglas fire. In August, 1893, he was sent to Ashland by the governor to investigate the dock riots, and in two days succeeded in ending the trouble to the entire satisfaction of all concerned. The following message was sent to Governor Peck by the business men of Ashland: "A resolution was adopted tendering your honor sincere thanks for the timely and efficient aid rendered in the past two days to the milling and business interest generally of the city through the personal efforts of General Falk, who readily grasped the situation." July, 1892, Gen. Falk was ordered to Merrill, where a strike was in progress, and there also the trouble was ended without the aid of troops. In July, 1894, during the great railroad strike in Chicago and elsewhere, the general succeeded in keeping the state free from all rioting, expect at Spooner, where the authorities experienced some trouble in quelling disturbances. In the winter of 1893 he was in charge of the Hurley relief work. During his term of office he revised the rules, regulations and laws governing the national guard of Wisconsin; and was president of the National Guard association of Wisconsin in 1894.
Gov. Upham, in a general order retiring Gen. Falk, says the following:
"Few officers in the state have held so many appointments or filled them so well. Whether as adjutant, as battalion commander, as quartermaster or adjutant-general, he brought to the discharge of his duties rare ability, sound judgment and enthusiastic devotion. In the equipment of the state force and in the system existing in this office, he has left a monument to his executive skill. His unfailing courtesy and consideration will be long remembered, and he carries with him to his retirement the respect and esteem of the Wisconsin National Guard.
By command of the Governor, Charles King, Official.Adjutant-General."
In national politics Gen. Falk is a Democrat, but in local contests he is for the best man. In 1894, an enthusiastic movement was organized by the young Democracy to nominate him for governor, but he refused to favor it, and has never held a political office.
Gen. Falk is president of the Military Rifle association of the United States, which is formed by the union of many of the states of the northwest and of the rifle teams and details from the regular army for the purpose of encouraging rifle practice. He is also a member of many military clubs and of social organizations, such as the Milwaukee, the Deutscher and the Country clubs. He is still a single man.
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