Transcribed by Pamela Wagler from: Biographical Review of Des Moines County, Iowa: Containing Biographical and Genealogical Sketches of Many of the Prominent Citizens of To-day and Also of the Past, Hobart Publishing Company, Chicago, 1905.


E. M. Eisfeld, the founder of the E. M. Eisfeld Clothing House, one of the leading mercantile enterprises of Burlington, is a representative of that class of American citizens, who, coming from foreign shores, have, with ready recognition and utilization of the business opportunities of the New World, advanced from humble financial surroundings to positions of affluence, and at the same time have contributed to the commercial prosperity of the localities with which they have become identified. Mr. Eisfeld was born in Germany, and was upon the ocean on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of his birth, which occurred July 10, 1833. He made the voyage to the United States with a brother, who for many years remained a resident of Baltimore, Md., but is now deceased. Mr. Eisfeld, of this review, is the only survivor of a family of eight children. In his youth he attended the public schools of the Fatherland, and at the age of thirteen he was bound out to learn the butcher's trade, which he followed until he embarked on the sailing vessel "Wieland" for the United States, Captain Henke commanding. He landed at New York, and thence went to Baltimore. The first four weeks of his business experience in this country were devoted to butchering. From Baltimore he went to Washington, D. C., where he spent six months, and for three months he engaged in clerking in Warrenton, Va. Becoming ill, at the advice of his physician he went to Columbus, Ohio, where for two years he was engaged as a salesman in a clothing store; and in 1856 he came to Burlington, where he embarked in business on his own account, the goods being furnished by Joseph Gundersheimer. He began his mercantile career here in a small store on Water Street, one door north of the present site of the German Hotel, occupying a room twenty by forty feet, with a stock valued at four thousand dollars. Two years later he removed to the corner building on Jefferson and Water Streets, where the ticket office of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company used to be located, and as his trade grew he increased the amount of space occupied by his store. Later he moved to Main Street, remaining there until the '70's. In the meantime he had extended the field of his mercantile operations by the purchase, in 1862, of the store of Greenbaum & Kaskel, clothiers, conducting that as a branch establishment of the main store. In this he was associated with his brother-in-law, R. M. Raab, who acted as manager and partner. About 1870 Mr. Eisfeld removed to the O'Brien building on Main Street and began a jobbing clothing business, sending traveling salesmen to Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, and did considerable business in that line for many years, conducting both his jobbing and retail trade. From the former, however, he withdrew about 1890. He continued to conduct the retail business in the Parsons Block on Jefferson Street until he sold out to his son, Leon M. Eisfeld, and Samuel Herschler, in 1891, and the store has since been continued under the fame of the Eisfeld Clothing Company. As the years advanced, the trade had steadily grown until the business was large and profitable, and he thereby accumulated a handsome competence, which classes him with the substantial residents of the city. In

1872 Mr. Eisfeld built a home at 909 N. Fifth Street, a brick and stone structure two stories in height, with attic and cellar, and this he now occupies. About 1882 he built another house at 903 Fifth Street for E. Raab. Mr. Eisfeld was married in Baltimore, Md., in 1861, to Miss Fannie Raab, who was born in Hanover, Pa., of German parentage. They have seven children, of whom six reached mature years: Carrie, the wife of L. L. Strause, a wholesale tobacconist, of Richmond, Va.; Bertha, the wife of Samuel Herschler, of Burlington; Leon M., of Burlington; Harry, proprietor of a hotel at Litchfield, Ill.; Ada, the wife of I. I. Strause, a wholesale dry-goods merchant of Richmond, Va.; and Emily, the wife of W. B. Nelson, who is engaged in the wholesale millinery business at Richmond, Va.

Mr. Eisfeld is a member of the B'nai Brith, and for years has been an Odd Fellow, having joined the order in Columbus, Ohio, while later he transferred his membership to Washington Lodge, No. 1, and later to Harmony Lodge, at Burlington, the last mentioned being a German organization. He has served as alderman of Burlington from the Fifth Ward under Mayor Adams, and has ever been deeply interested in the welfare and progress of the city. As the champion of many public enterprises he has contributed to the development of Burlington, and has taken just pride in the city's development. When he arrived here, it contained only about eight thousand population. There was one railroad, two ferries being operated, so that connection was thus furnished with the opposite side of the river. He has been retired from business for thirteen years, and now spends his winter seasons in Richmond, Va., and summers at Atlantic City, N. J., in the enjoyment of the fruits of his former toil. Coming to America without capital, he has made a notable record, marked by steady advancement in the business world, and stands high in the regard of friends and fellow-townsmen.

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