Buffalo and its German Community, Pages 286 - 290

Biographies for Pastor J.A.A. Grabau, Rev. Prof. Wilhelm Grabau, John F. Grabau, and Paul H. Schramm


John F. Grabau

John F. Grabau descends from one of the oldest and most respected German pioneer families of Buffalo. The family has given us many Lutheran spiritual leaders. John F. Grabau is considered among the best artistic bookbinders in our country. Mr. Grabau is a true artist in his field, who has perfected the design and execution of artistic bookbinding. The monthly journal Palette and Bench, which is published in Syracuse, N.Y., wrote in its August 1909 issue "The work of Mr. John F. Grabau of Buffalo is considered among the best in this country." The same article praises the understated and elegant artistry of Mr. Grabau, the uniqueness of his creativity, and acknowledges that he never repeats a design but rather uses previous work as a ground for further cultivation of technique. Among the artistic circles of our city Mr. Grabau has an excellent reputation. The creations of his studio are highly esteemed by all.

John F. Grabau was born on January 4, 1878 in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, where his father, the Rev. Wilhelm Grabau, was a Lutheran minister. His grandfather was the well known Lutheran Pastor Rev. Johannes Andreas August Grabau.

Caption under picture at lower left reads Pastor J.A.A. Grabau

Caption under picture at upper right reads Rev. Prof. Wilhelm Grabau


Pastor J.A.A. Grabau left Prussia in protest against the Evangelical Union, which he considered a corruption of true Lutheran teaching. He left with a portion of his congregation and other Lutherans, numbering about one thousand souls, in 1839 and emigrated to the United States. He settled in Buffalo. Pastor Grabau established Trinity Lutheran Church at the corner of Goodell and Maple Streets. He piously worked here until his death on June 2, 1879. One of his sons, Rev. Joh. A. Grabau, former pastor in Bergholz, N.Y. and currently living in retirement here in Buffalo, has written about his father's life and published a book about it. The current shepherd of souls of the Trinity Lutheran Congregation, Rev. Johannes Nathaniel Grabau, is a son of the Rev. Joh. A. Grabau and has worked at the church established by his grandfather since 1893.

Rev. Wilhelm Grabau, Mr. John F. Grabau's father, was born on January 23, 1835 in Erfurt. He was the son of Pastor J.A.A. Grabau and his wife Christiane Sophie, nee Burggraf. At the age of 4 he came with his parents to Buffalo. Like his father he chose the spiritual calling and worked at the church he established, St. Andrew's in Buffalo. Later he became pastor in Martinsville, N.Y. and Cedarburg, Wisconsin. He was called upon to become a teacher at the Martin Luther Seminary in Buffalo. He held this position until shortly before his death on November 29, 1906. Rev. Prof. Wilhelm Grabau was married twice. After the death of his first wife Maria, nee von Rohr, who was John F. Grabau's mother, he married Miss Minna Tobschal of Buffalo. His widow is still living in our city. Rev. Prof. Grabau left behind 8 children: Rev. H.R. Grabau in Lyons, N.Y.; Prof. Dr. A.W. Grabau of Columbia University in New York; Mrs. Adele Ziemer, wife of Pastor Robert Ziemer in Altamont, Illinois; Philip Grabau, owner of a photographic studio in Boston, Massachusetts; John F. Grabau, art bookbinder in Buffalo; Mrs. Grace Bruss, wife of Pastor Otto Bruss in Bergholz, N.Y.; Miss Lucy Grabau, German teacher at School 39 in Buffalo; and Miss Rose Grabau, employed at the Larkin Co.
The wife of Prof. Dr. A. W. Grabau of Columbia University is the well known author who writes under the name of Mary Antin. Recently she published a book, which received great attention and favorable acclaim. It was called The Promised Land: The Autobiography of a Russian Immigrant.

The von Rohr family, from which Mr. John F. Grabau's mother decended, belongs to Prussian military nobility. Mrs. Grabau's father was a captain in the Prussian army and emigrated together with Pastor Grabau to America.

Caption under picture at upper right reads John F. Grabau


Once in America he became a Lutheran minister. The family is currently settled in Winona, Minnesota.

Mr. John F. Grabau, who came to Buffalo with his parents when he was seven years of age, received his education at the congregational school of Trinity Lutheran Church and Public School 15. He became an artistic bookbinder and apprenticed in the printing shops of Gies & Co. and the bookbindery of Peter Paul. Later he worked in A.T. Browns Printing House and perfected his art with the Roycrofters in East Aurora. In 1905 he became self-supporting and opened a studio at 78 Pooley Place. In 1907 he relocated his residence to 429 Parkdale Avenue and he built a beautiful studio there. Mr. Grabau has been very successful in his business. Although he has only been in business for 7 years the establishment has a significant following and is still growing. Mr. Grabau works chiefly for private libraries. Each piece coming from his studio is hand-worked, which Mr. Grabau insists is the mark of true artistry. All designs and lettering are done by him alone. He only uses the best materials for his work from Half-Moroccan to the finest Levant Moroccan leather. A handcrafted volume costs between $2 and $200. Design and execution are perfect in every detail. Mr. Grabau is a master of the modern style but he lets the contents of the book determine the art style of the binding.

Mr. Grabau is a member of the following artistic societies: the Buffalo Guild of Allied Arts, of which he is director; the Buffalo Society of Artists; the Guild of Book Workers in New York.

Caption under picture at center reads Art volume, designed and executed by John F. Grabau. (Above image supplied through the courtesy of the Keromie Studio Publishing Co.)


Furthermore he is a member of the Buffalo Historical Society and the Optimists Club, an association of business people. He is also one of the founders of the Art Workers Club, which has met in his studio every Friday for the past 4 years. The club discusses art and takes on artistic projects. Other members of the club include: Richard Göhle, Wilhelm Lutz, Edward Oexle, C.B. Kirby, and others such as Dr. Otto Göhle and Arthur Baker as honorary members. Mr. Grabau belongs to the English Lutheran Church of the Redeemer on Elmwood Avenue and Ferry Street. For 10 years Mr. Grabau has been a member of the State Militia. He is a sergeant of Company E of the 74th Regiment.
On February 27, 1900 Mr. Grabau married Miss Minna Mason of Buffalo. Five children have come from the happy union: Dorothy (12 years of age), Wilhelm M. (10), Grace (5), Francis (4), and Adele (2 years of age). The family residence is in the same house as the studio at 429 Parkdale Avenue.

As the son of a German pastor Mr. Grabau naturally speaks the German language fluently and he displays a lively interest in all German-American activities. With justifiable pride he lives up to the family heritage, which is so tightly bound to the development of our city. And John F. Grabau continues the tradition of his family by being a capable and idealistically inspired man who is serious about his art, in which he has achieved such excellence.

Paul H. Schramm

"Bread must come before art." These poetic words acknowledge the dire fate by which the majority of artists are humbled. In the bitter battle to earn their daily bread many of genius have fallen. Many of talent have not achieved the full development of their potential. It is so in other countries but it is more pronounced here.

Caption under picture at center reads John F. Grabau's Studio


The American people represent a young culture and the hunt for the dollar, which is the hallmark of life here in America, engulfs the entire interest of the population. The way of the artist in the United States is strewn with thorns. The American artist may be able to compensate for this unfavorable relationship with his native-born spirit of profit but how is it for the young Germans, who come to this land with high ideals and then learn that America has very little regard for artistic endeavors in the range of its cultural development? - Ergo sorrowful experiences and deep disappointment. Thus we must instill man with the higher knowledge that despite all difficulties he must stand up against the odds and defeat it. One must unerringly strive to achieve his goals and never put a price tag on artistic know-how. When a man proves that he is an artist through excellent achievement, the German element to which he belongs must acknowledge him. The German-American people should take pride in the tradition of their forebearers, who have set before us examples of true art in its most wonderful forms. Here is an arena in which the German-American people can have a new and positive influence. Each nation is judged by its art for it is the base upon which its culture is built. There's so much to be done in America lest it lag far behind other cultures of the world. There needs to be a sense of sympathy developed between the great masses of the educated and the artistic circles. And above all else industry should offer artists the opportunity to freely express themselves. A diplomatic representative of the United States, who was in France, asked what were the reasons behind the proliferation of artisanship in that country. He received this answer - "French industrialists have an ongoing relationship with creative artists and visit their studios many times a year. They study the innovations of art and the artists impart their own ideas." This is a custom which could bear fruit in America.

There is an entire group of significant artists of German descent, who live and create in our country. There are many here in Buffalo employed in various capacities. Here we have Paul H. Schramm, an artist of high and varied talent. Mr. Schramm has not just achieved excellence as an artist and sculptor. He's at home with other fields of craftmanship. With justification one can declare that his designs for goldwork and jewelry display the highest mastery in the field. Mr. Schramm, who came to the United States 16 years ago, has been in Buffalo for 2 years now.

Caption under picture at upper left reads Paul H. Schramm

The rest of the biography of Paul H. Schramm can be found on Webpage 43


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Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks
Revised September 1, 2005