Charles F. Schramm, starting out to make his own living at the age of thirteen years, is now, a half century later, one of the most prosperous and prominent merchants of Burlington, having since 1863 been connected with the large dry-goods business, of which, conducted under the name of the Schramm & Schmieg Dry-goods Company, he is the vice-president. A large percentage of the leading business men of this city are of German birth, and among those whose lifework has been creditable alike to the land of their birth and the land of their adoption, Mr. Schramm is foremost.
A native of Bavaria, Germany, he was born in 1825, and when eleven years of age, accompanied his parents, J. C. and Margaret Barbara (Kiesling) Schramm, to America. They were also natives of the Fatherland, and were there reared and married. In 1837 they started with their family for the New World, crossing the ocean in a sailing vessel, which was seventy-seven days in making the voyage. Mr. Schramm, as a member of the Prussian army, had served in the famous battle of Jena, in 1806. He followed both farming and merchandizing, and after emigrating to the United States engaged in the grocery business in Circleville, Ohio. Later he came to Burlington, arriving on the 9th of May, 1849. He died the following day of cholera, being at that time sixty-seven years of age. His wife survived him until 1850, when she, too, died of cholera. A sister of Charles F. Schramm, Mrs. Margaret Teuscher, resides in Burlington. Her husband, who was at one time engaged in the retail grocery business, and served as county treasurer of Des Moines county, is now living retired in Burlington.
Charles F. Schramm had no opportunity to attend school after leaving the Fatherland, and the education he has acquired, making him a well-informed man, has been gained through reading, observation, and experience. When thirteen years of age he began serving as clerk in the post office at Circleville, Ohio, and later engaged in clerking in the dry-goods store of S. & B. Olds, of that city, with whom he remained until 1843, when he came to Burlington, and accepted a position as salesman with the firm of Postelwaite & Craigen, dry-goods merchants. He afterward went to Farmington, Van Buren county, where he clerked for his brother, George Schramm, who is now living retired in Des Moines, at the advanced age of ninety years. Charles Schramm remained in Farmington until 1853, when he returned to Burlington, and entered mercantile life on his own account with J. S. Schramm as a partner, this continuing until 1859. Having lost his wife and three children within a year, he went to Texas, where for one year he lived the open life of the plains for the benefit of his own health. Returning to Iowa, he joined Mr. Schmieg, in 1863, in the establishment of the business which has since had a continuous existence.
During the period between 1861 and 1862, Mr. Schramm spent two months with the Second Iowa Regiment as clerk to J. T. Stewart, a lieutenant at Bird's Point, Ky., and Cairo, Ill. He was also one month with the Seventh Iowa Regiment as sutler, and with J. R. Nelson as a clerk.
Returning to Burlington, he joined Frederick Schmieg in the establishment of a dry-goods business on Jefferson Street, between Water and Main Streets, where they continued for twenty years. They then established a wholesale house at 110 North Main Street, and in 1903 the business was incorporated with F. Schmieg as president; C. F. Schramm, vice-president: and Arthur Schramm, secretary and treasurer. They carry a large line of dry-goods, notions, oil cloths, and table furnishings, and occupy three floors and basement of the building. Five men are employed in the store, and the house is represented on the road by four traveling salesmen. The business has continually grown, expanding to large proportions, until the trade now covers a large territory. Throughout almost his entire life Mr. Schramm has been connected with the dry-goods trade, and his long experience, keen discernment, and business sagacity have been the foundation upon which he has built his success. The policy of the house has ever been fair dealing and good merchandise, and the reputation which they sustain in commercial circles is one which any man might be proud to possess.
In 1848, in Farmington, Mr. Schramm was married to Miss Charlotte Benson, a native of Ohio, who died July 23, 1858. They became the parents of four children, only one yet living: Arthur, of Burlington, who married Mary Gage, and has three sons, Fred, Arthur, and Edwin. Mr. Schramm was again married in Farmington, Iowa, in 1862, his second union being with Miss Jennie Perry. They had eight children, five of whom reached mature years, but all are now deceased. The wife and mother died in 1884, and was buried in Aspen Grove cemetery. On the 16th of April, 1885, Mr. Schramm married Miss Ella Haskell, of Burlington, and they reside at 1102 South Third Street, where Mr. Schramm has made his home since 1858.
Mr. Schramm is a member of Des Moines Lodge, No. 1, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. He gives his support to the Trinity Lutheran church. His wife is a very active worker in the Congregational church, and along many benevolent and charitable lines. She belongs to the Ladies' Aid Society of the Burlington Hospital, to the auxiliary of the Young Men's Christian Association, is a teacher in a sewing school, and also belongs to a musical club. Her efforts have been of a most practical and helpful character, and many have benefited by her labors. Mr. Schramm is a conservative gold-Democrat, and in matters of citizenship, relating to the welfare and improvement of Burlington especially, he is most progressive, contributing to many measures for the general good. His career demonstrates in the highest and broadest sense that nationality or birth does not determine, in this country, either in spirit or degree, the future standing of any one, either in finance, patriotism, or society — the American idea of the "common brotherhood of man."