The Biele Family
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Charles F. Biele and Sons

 

Soon after arriving in America, Caspar Biele started a business manufacturing cases.  His son Charles F Biele joined Caspar's showcase business and took over after Caspar's death in 1875.  Working with his brothers and later his sons, Charles F grew the business into a premier showcase, metal working, and mouldings company.  The business later known as Charles F. Biele and Sons manufactured custom showcases for the top museums and private collections of the day.  A New York Sun article from 1938 provides a great description of the business.  Examples of the company's correspondence including letterhead from museum archives and an engraved envelope bought at auction, provide additional insight into the business.

 

The first business address for the family is in 1871 at 59 Canal with a single listing for Caspar Biele with occupation as "cases".  This was near Caspar's residence on Rivington Street in the lower East Side on Manhattan in New York City.  From 1872 until 1876 (just after Caspar's death), the business address was 219 Centre.

 

In 1880, Charles F is listed with an occupation of "cases" at 112 West Broadway, in 1885 and 1890 at 42 West Broadway and in 1895 at 143 West Broadway.  His brother Emil is also listed as being in the cases business in 1885 and 1890 at the 42 W. Broadway address.  In 1890 there is also a listing for a "C. F. & E" company at 45 West Broadway.  The engraved envelope from 1893 lists the address as 45 & 47 West Broadway and the business "C. F. & E. Biele". 

 

(see the New York City Directory for these and other Biele business and residential listings)

 

In 1898, the business moved to 379-381 West 12th Street and 120 Jane in the Greenwich Village area of New York City and remained there for the next 28 years.  During this period, Charles F was joined in the business by his sons Carl and Eduard.  In 1910, the company was incorporated in the state of New York as "Charles F. Biele & Sons Co."  Charles F. was the President and Treasurer of the company, Carl the Vice President, and Eduard the Secretary.  Ewald (Charles F's youngest brother) is listed as a foreman or superintendent for the business from 1895 to 1910. 

 

In the 1926, after a fire, the business moved to its final location at 33-39 Bethune Avenue just a block over from the prior location.  33-37 Bethune, a large commercial building,  housed the operations and 39 Bethune, an adjoining townhouse, housed the offices.  (Both structures survive to this day.  33-37 Bethune later housed a business known as Pickwick Papers and was finally converted into residential lofts called Pickwick House.  39 Bethune is now a residential townhouse.  39 Bethune was also the fictional residence of the villainess in the best selling fictional novel "The Angel of Darkness" by Caleb Carr. 

 

Charles F. led the business until his death in 1930.  Carl then became President and Eduard the Vice President.  Other family members also worked in the business at various times including Carl's' son Charles and Eduard's son Edward. 

 

Eduard left the business in 1938 and after enduring the hardships of the Great Depression, the business went under in the early 1940's.  Carl is listed as President on the 1943 papers of dissolution.

 

Notable customers included (hyperlinks to pages with more details):

 

Albright Galley, Buffalo, New York - Charles F. Biele and Sons did at least one custom display case for the gallery in 1934

 

American Museum of Natural History, New York City

 

American Numismatic Society - A 2003 article in the ANS magazine references correspondence I had with them.   I bought an envelope at auction that was sent by CFB and Sons to ANS.

 

Cunard Lines - Charles F. Biele and Sons built a case to house a model of the RMS Majestic for the Cunard building in New York

 

Katherine Dreier - Charles F. Biele made at least two cases in 1936 to Ms. Dreier, an artist and art collector.

 

Charles Lang Freer -

 

Metropolitan Museum, New York City

 

The Rockefeller family - Charles F. Biele and Sons did work for the Rockefeller Family, most extensively at John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s apartment at 740 Park Avenue from 1937 to 1939.

 

Jacques Seligmann and Company - Charles F Biele and Sons did business with the New York City office of this famed art dealer.

 

Smithsonian, Washington DC

 

St. Regis Hotel, New York City - Charles F. Biele and Sons executed an Anna Tiffany design for a new bar in the King Cole Room

 

Arthur Wendell - Charles F. Biele and Sons made at least two display cases for Arthur R. Wendell.  The first in 1911 and the second in 1915.