A rare c. 1870s trade card for a Galveston, Texas hotelier. Image credit: Ian Brabner, Rare Americana

A Chicago House
Goes Texas

A rare Texas trade card from the nineteenth century — circa the 1870s — references German immigration to Texas.

Bilingual, this 19th-century Texas trade card solicited German-speaking immigrants to stay at the Chicago House. The Chicago House was a hotel in Galveston, Texas. Its proprietor was Fritz Scheel.

We don’t know the naming origins of The Chicago House, but we do know the hotel had different kinds of lodgers.

For English readers, the Chicago House hotel offered “Boarding & Lodging, per Week, $7 ; per Day $1 50”.

German-speaking émigrés to Texas, however, were offered a better daily rate than their counterparts:

Das deutsche Kosthaus von Fritz Scheel liegt nabe Landung, und ist besonders zur Bequemlichkeit der Einwanderer eingerichtet. Emigranten 1 Dollar per Tag. [Approximate translation: The German Boarding House of Fritz Scheel is a central hub, and is particularly adapted for the convenience of immigrants. Emigrants $ 1 per day.]

What were the reasons for this rate discrepancy? Only economics?

Post Civil-War America, Galveston was a main center of immigration into Texas:

After the Civil War ended, ships loaded with German immigrants once again unloaded at the Galveston wharves. From 1865 to the early 1890s, more Germans arrived in Texas than during the thirty years before the war. The number probably reached 40,000. Many of them settled in the rural areas and towns of the German Belt [from Galveston to Hondo]. … By the 1890s sizable German elements had appeared in Texas cities, particularly in San Antonio, Galveston, and Houston.¹


Strand Street, Galveston is to your lower left on the map.

The discounted rate for immigrants removing to — or perhaps only traveling through — Galveston, Texas suggests the Chicago House proprietor, Fritz Scheel, had himself once been a newly-minted émigré to Texas.

Perhaps Scheel felt empathy for others ex-pats navigating the cultural divide. According to The Galveston Daily News, Scheel died in June, 1878. We date this trade to c. the 1870s based on this fact and its typography.

A rare Texas trade card from the nineteenth century, referencing German immigration to Texas.

Bibliographical Details

Chicago House. Fritz Scheel, Proprietor … Galveston, Tex. [Galveston, Texas, c. 1870s]. [1]p. Trade Card. 2¼ x 3½ inches. Cream-colored card stock. Printed in English and German. Ref. 1. HOTO online.


If you liked this story, please “Recommend” below. Thank you!


First published via RareAmericana.com

© 2015 Ian Brabner, Rare Americana. All Rights Reserved.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.