Fred W. Kramer

Page 581-583 - Fred W Kramer is a native son of Grand Rapids, and here has a heritage of pioneer ancestry on both the paternal and maternal sides. He is president of the F.W. Kramer Motor Company, which controls one of the leading Grand Rapids enterprises in the handling of motor cars, with special attention given to the sale of the celebrated Pierce-Arrow automobiles. Mr Kramer was born in Grand Rapids on the 23d of September, 1876, and is a son of William and Sophie (Loettgert) Kramer, the former of whom died in the year 1904 and the latter of whom died December, 1924. William Kramer was born in Cassel, kingdom of Wittemburg, Germany, and was reared and educated in his native land. He was a young man when he came to the United States and established his home in Grand Rapids, in the early sixties. Here he found employment as a clerk in the old-time mercantile establishment of Houseman & Jones, and in 1867 he engaged independently in the retail dry goods business, his store, one of modest order at the start, having been located at old number 244 Canal street, which thoroughfare is now known as Monroe avenue, and near the corner of Bridge street, which is now Michigan avenue. With the passing years he built up a large and prosperous business, and he long held precedence as one of the substantial and influential exponents of mercantile enterprise in the city that became his home in the pioneer period of its history. Fair and honest dealings and effective service to customers marked the career of Mr Kramer, and such was the popular appreciation of his sterling character and the reliability of his business that he gained a supporting patronage of broad scope, with a large trade derived from neighboring villages and the rural districts as well as from the city itself. He continued in business until his death, in 1904, and was one of the veteran merchants of Grand Rapids when his long and worthy life came to a close. He was true and loyal in all of the relations of life, and commanded inviolable place in popular confidence and esteem. His wife was a sister of the late Frederick Loettgert, who was one of the early merchants in Grand Rapids, where his original venture was the opening of a small toy store on old Bridge street and opposite the present fine Hotel Pantlind.  Mr Loettgert became one of the substantial capitalists of the city and was prominently identified with banking enterprise for many years prior to his death. The birthplace of Fred W. Kramer was the old homestead that stood on the site of the present Elks' Temple, and after having profited by the advantages of the public schools of his native city and of special study under the direction of a private instructor, he entered Michigan Agricultural College, in which he specialized in chemistry and mechanics and in which he was graduated in 1897, with the degree of Bachelor of Science. At this stage in his career he manifested no desire to take advantage of the financial independence of his father, but forthwith applied himself to work. He became an assistant in the photographic department of the Walter K. Schmidt Drug Company and was thus engaged at the inception of the Spanish-American war, in 1898. He forthwith enlisted in Company H, Thirty-second Michigan Volunteer Infantry, and was with this regiment in camp at Island Lake, Michigan, several weeks, he having there served as orderly sergeant to Major Knowles. He was finally rejected for active service with his command, by reason of his height being too great for his weight, as gauged by the standard of military requirements. Under these conditions he returned to Grand Rapids and resumed his position with the drug company, but three months later he entered service as a traveling salesman for the Mulcher & Robertson Company, dealers in photographers' supplies, with headquarters in Rochester, New York. When the business of this company was absorbed by the camera trust he, with sixteen other of the salesmen, found himself out of employment. He soon afterward engaged in the manufacture of sensitized paper for the photographic trade, at Buffalo, New York, and when he found it impossible to complete successfully with the large corporate interests represented by the camera and photographic trust he made an advantageous sale of his business to the Eastman company. During the ensuing year he was a traveling salesman for the American Bicycle Company, of Buffalo, with western New York and the state of Pennsylvania as his assigned territory. He made a characteristic record of successful achievement in this connection, and upon the death of his father, in 1904, he returned to Grand Rapids, where he closed out the large business of his father and where he gave several years to adjusting and settling the affairs of the family estate. In 1910, Mr Kramer manifested his appreciation of the great future in store for the automobile by turning his attention to the motor car trade, in connection with which he found his natural mechanical talent and the technical education that he had received to be of great value. As a dealer in automobiles he opened headquarters on Ionia street, in 1912 he obtained larger quarters, at 14 Island street, and the continued expansion of his business led to his removal, in 1916, to quarters in the Shank Fireproof Storage building. In that year he incorporated the business under the title of the F.W. Kramer Motor Company, and he has since continued the executive head of the large and prosperous business, which now has commodious and well equipped headquarters at 245-253 Jefferson street, southeast. He is one of the vital and progressive business men of his native city and takes deep interest in everything that concerns its welfare.

Transcriber: Terry Start
Created: 13 December 2002