Friday, March 21, 2014

Charles Frederick Bielefeld (1803-1864) "52 Ancestors"

Week number 12 of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is now here and I am still on track. Actually I wrote this one two weeks ago just to make sure I could keep on track in case something came up (like my impending move). I decided to focus on an artistic ancestor this week. Because of the artistic manner of this story I had to include many more images than usual. 

The subjet of this story is not a direct line but no one said we had to stick to direct lines now did they? This story is about Charles Frederick Bielefeld from Middlesex, England. Charles is my wife's 3rd cousin 5 times removed. The Bielefeld family originated in Germany and then spread around the globe. Charles' line settled in England. My wife's family immigrated to Ohio. Another line settled in Australia.

Charles Frederick Bielefeld was born on 24 February 1803 in St. Marylebone, London, England to John Henry Bielefeld (1771-1848) and Mary Record (1780-1820). According to The London Book of Trades (1775-1800), his father, John, was a toy dealer and had a shop on Oxford Street. I have a record of residence stating that John lived at 14 Claremont Place, St. Pancras, Middlesex, England at the time of his death. Many members of the extended Bielefeld family were active in the trades around London. One member sold music for guitars, another was a book binder, and Charles was no different. He was a world famous papier mache artist.

Charles married Elizabeth Phillips (1811-??) around 1828. Elizabeth was born in a home on Oxford Street, the same street as Charles' father's toy store. I know of at least 10 children from this marriage. They included: Charles Edward (1829-??), Julius Martin (1832-1919), Albert (1834-??), Sydney K (1836-??), Francis (1837-??), Julia (1839-??), Clara (1842-??), Emily (1844-??), Ellen (1846-??), and Louis (1847-??).

In 1839, when his daughter Julia was born, Charles was living at 32 Albany Street, St. Pancras, London.

The 1841 census states that the family had moved to Wellington Street, Westminster, Middlesex. The family consisted of Charles (age 35), Elizabeth (age 35), Charles (age 12), Julius (age 9), Sydney (age 5), and Julia (age 20 months). In addition to the family members there are three individuals listed as family servants. Charles is listed as a papier mache manufacturer. His papier mache factory was located at 15 Wellington Street North. Charles rented the factory space for £33 19s 7d per quarter. In 1860 he had to expand the factory space by renting a warehouse, office space and storage area nearby for £140 per year.

Bielefeld Papier Mache Works, (c. 1840)
The work that Charles did was not your typical papier mache. He elevated it to an art form and had several patents for the manufacturing process. His business quickly expanded and he had agents throughout the country selling his products. In 1846 Charles had to file suit against two brothers whom he had hired as sales agents for the area around Glasgow. The brothers were given £300 of materials to use as samples but those items "disappeared" and no money was returned to the company. 

A news article written in The Courier from Hobart, Tasmania on 25 February 1848, talks about renovations to the Drury Lane Theatre in London. This was one of many locations that Charles Bielefeld designed the decorations for. The article reads as follows:

Drury Theatre today
The Builder thus describes the present appearance of the house, the pit being boarded over for "promenade concerts," with which the theatre will open tomorrow. The decorations are simple, although exceedingly effective, and may be described in a few words. 

The fluted Corinthian columns which form the proscenium, two on each side, have their caps and bases gilt; the flutes are real apertures, to assist the view from the private boxes between them, and are entwined by a continuous wreath of flowers gilt, as are also the small columns which support the boxes throughout the house. The whole of the ornaments, fruit and flower work, are of papier mâché, the ornamented moulding which forms the trellis being of a new patent machine made kind, and were made, gilt, and fixed, in five weeks, by Mr. Bielefeld.

Papier mache mirror c. 1840
There may have been changes to the work that Charles did in this theater over the last 165 years but just looking at the decorations there today can give you an idea of how elaborate his work was. In addition to the Drury Theatre, his work was included in many other buildings including the Reading Room of the British Museum and Parliament. Examples of his work can be found in a catalog he produced in 1842, On the use of improved papier-meche in furniture, in the interior decoration of buildings, and in works of art. A copy of this catalog recently sold for £1100. Occasionally you can find some of his actual works that still exist. For example, in 2012 Christy's Auction House sold a papier mache mirror that he produced for £6,060.

The 1851 census lists the family's residence as 15 Wellington Street North, St. Paul Court Garden, Westminster, the same location as the papier mache factory. The family consists of Charles (age 48), his wife (age 40) - listed as Mrs Bielefeld, Julius (age 19), Sydney K (age 15), Julia (age 11), Clara (age 9), Ellen (age 5), and Louis (age 3). There are also two servants listed in the household. Julius is working in the papier mache factory. The rest of the children, including 3 year old Louis, are listed as scholars. 

In 1852 Charles submitted a patent for improvements in the manufacture of sheets of papier mache. The patent is described as:

An example of Charles' papier mache work.
These improved processes are for the manufacture of pressed articles from pressured sheets instead of pulp, and for the production of such prepared sheets. The apparatus which the patentee uses in this manufacture consists of a table, having a rack on either side, by which it is traversed backwards and forwards under a roller, so supported as to give the required degree of pressure to the material, and at the same time capable of being varied in its elevation, in order to reduce or increase the amount of pressure; or it may be a weighted roller for the purpose. The material which the patentee prefers for the manufacture of sheets of papier mache, suitable for panels for cabins of steam-vessels and other like purposes, is given in the following proportions : — Mix with thirty parts of flour eighty parts of water, thoroughly incorporating the flour, so as to reduce the mixture to the consistency of paste, adding, at the same time, nine parts of alum and one of copperas. With this paste is then mixed fifteen parts of resin, previously dissolved by heat, adding, also, ten parts of boiled linseed oil and one of litharge. These ingredients having been mixed in the above order, are then mixed with about sixty parts of rag-dust, which the patentee finds the most economical, but other matters may be used, such as paper-makers half-stuff or pulp deprived of its moisture to such an extent as to be no longer fluid.

The panels that are discussed in the patent had several purposes. First of all was the construction of cabins in ships. Charles thought that his material was an improvement over other materials used inside ships because it was able to withstand the moist sea air better. He also found that he could use these panels to construct homes. This is an early example of prefabricated homes. In 1853 Charles published a book titled Portable Buildings which included plates illustrating the various home designs he had available. Some of the designs were vary elaborate and also included interior decorations made of papier mache. He would construct all of the materials and deliver them to his clients throughout England. The durability of these papier mache homes was tested and proven in the moist English landscape. He was even asked to fabricate several buildings to be exported to Melbourne, Australia.

After many years of innovative and creative work, elevating papier mache to an artform, Charles died about a month short of his 61st birthday on 10 January 1864.


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