Born in Germany in 1834, Edward Aschermann emigrated to the United States at about the age of 16. Quickly assimilating as a new immigrant, Aschermann didn’t wait very long to establish his own business. It is uncertain as to when Aschermann took residence in Wisconsin, but as early as 1859 Aschermann began manufacturing cigars in Milwaukee.
His first business establishment was located in a small store on West Water Street, where both he himself and five employees did a small retail trade in tobaccos and other related products. There he and his employees manufactured cigars and sold them directly to the public.
Over the course of the next several years, Aschermann partnered with several others, all the while remaining a small, yet growing business operation. Sometime about 1864 Aschermann’s business took a turn for the better, more employees were hired, and the firm began to quickly grow. Quickly but patiently Aschermann expanded his business, focusing on quality, name recognition, and territory.
By 1877 Aschermann’s workforce numbered upwards of 350 men. By this time Aschermann’s venture included not only a storefront, but also a factory, offices, and shipping facilities. From a meager several thousand cigars per year at his start, Aschermann’s manufactory was now rolling over 7 million cigars per year.
In addition to Aschermann’s Milwaukee operation, he also began fulfilling orders to other parts of the country. Customers and dealers were scattered about a large area of the U.S., covering the states of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Tennessee, and Nebraska. Retailers purveyed his products as far south as Texas, and as far east as New York City. In fact, demand grew so quickly for his products that a railroad spur was soon added to accommodate the volume of product leaving his factory.
By 1881 Aschermann’s enterprise grew to employ over 500 men, becoming easily the third largest cigar factory in the United States. On his annual payroll of about $250,000 were about 420 cigar makers, 73 strippers, 41 packers, and a team of three traveling salesmen. From a mere several thousand to 7 million in 1877, Aschermann’s yearly output increased to upwards of 25 million cigars.
By this time, Aschermann was using over 350 tons of tobacco to manufacture his cigars. As with his operation, his sales territories had also expanded, extending from the Pacific coast in the west, to Galveston in the south, to New England in the east.
In July 1883 Edward Aschermann and his firm had become so successful that he announced his retirement, and sold his business interest to Herman Segnitz, a long time employee. Being only 49 years old, his retirement was short-lived, however, Later that year, in December, Aschermann announced a new partnership with another cigar manufacturer, Louis Kindling.
During the course of Aschermann’s cigar making empire, he held dozens of trademarks and patents for cigars, cigarettes, chewing, and smoking tobacco products. Given the extent and rapid growth of his operation, he also invented many cigar manufacturing apparatuses.
By 1895 Aschermann’s cigar companies were bought by William Graf & Co. However, the Aschermann brand and many of its products remained well into the 20th century.
Edward Aschermann died in 1904, at the age of 70.
On or about the year 1863 the Milwaukee firm of Mossin & Marr were retained to engrave and strike tokens for Aschermann’s business.
On the token’s obverse is Aschermann’s signature logo, featuring a Native American riding atop a pony. Six varieties of the token are known to exist, outlined in the following table.
Pictured below is an E. Aschermann & Co Civil War token, Fuld WI550A-1a. Struck in copper, the specimen is MS-66 in grade.
Notes and Sources
- Standard Catalog of United States Tokens 1700-1900 Fourth Edition, Russell Rulau, Krause Publications, ©2004
- U.S. Civil War Store Cards Second Edition, George & Melvin Fuld, Quarterman Publications, ©1975
- Die Photos & Fuld/Moore Listings Update of 4th Revised Edition Patriotic Civil War Tokens, George & Melvin Fuld, ©1993
- The Civil War Token Collectors Guide, Bryan Kanzinger, Valley Forge Coins-Books, ©2001
- Wisconsin and Minnesota State Gazetteer for 1865-66, G. W. Hawes, 1865
- Edwards’ Annual Directory in the City of Sheboygan for 1868-9, Richard Edwards, 1868
- Milwaukee illustrated, Charles B. Harger, W. W. Coleman, 1877
- History of Milwaukee Wisconsin, The Western Historical Co., 1881
- ‘Edward Aschermann Retires,’ The Milwaukee Daily Journal, July 7th, 1883
- ‘Edward Aschermann Again on Deck,’ The Milwaukee Daily Journal, December 19th, 1883
- The American Mail and Export Journal – Volume 20, H. Lockwood & Company, 1887
- The Samuel Gompers Papers Vol. 1: The Making of a Union Leader, 1850-86, University of Illinois Press, ©1986
- Milwaukee Historic Photos, Milwaukee Public Library
- The Wisconsin Historical Society
- The Library of Congress Digital Archives