Access and Provenance

Biographical Sketch

Scope and Content Note

Box and Folder Listing

A Finding Aid to the

Bernhard Bettmann Papers

Manauscript Collection No. 473

1846-1945. 0.4 Linear ft.


The BERNHARD BETTMANN PAPERS were donated to the American Jewish Archives by Miss Florence Bettmann and Mr. Richard Allen, both of Cincinnati, Ohio. The materials given by Mr. Allen were received by the Archives in March, 1990. Property rights to the materials have been assigned to the American Jewish Archives. All literary rights to materials authored by Bernhard Bettmann are held by his heirs. Literary rights to materials authored by others are held by the individual author or his/her heirs. Questions concerning rights should be addressed to the Director of the American Jewish Archives.

The BERNHARD BETTMANN PAPERS are open to all users. The original manuscript collection is available in the reading room of the American Jewish Archives.


Bernhard Bettmann was born August 29, 1834 in Weidnitz, Bavaria, the youngest of six children of Jacob and Jeanette Bettmann. He received advanced education at Bamberg, Bavaria. At the age of 15 he immigrated to the United States, arriving in Cincinnati, Ohio, on July 5, 1850.

In 1856, after several years as a shop clerk, Bettmann established a wholesale men's clothing business in partnership with his brother-in-law, S. Schohl. Bettmann's success as a clothier continued after Schohl's death in 1866 under the name B. Bettmann & Co. By 1886 he was president of the Ohio Valley National Bank of Cincinnati.

Politically, Bettmann was a Republican and quite active. He was high in the councils of his party and often presided over Republican city and county conventions. Beginning in 1884 he served fourteen consecutive years on the School Board for the Seventeenth Ward of Cincinnati. He was appointed in 1897 as Collector of Internal Revenue for the first district of Ohio by President William McKinley and retained the post until 1913 (with a sabbatical in 1905-1907 to make a trip abroad) under two other presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.

Bettmann was also active in Jewish communal life of Cincinnati. Only five years after arriving in Cincinnati, Bettmann was appointed as the first secretary of the Zion Collegiate Association, an organization founded by Rabbi Isaac M. Wise. In 1875, Bettmann was among the founders of Hebrew Union College (HUC). He served as president of the HUC Board of Governors from 1875-1910. Among his many other Jewish communal activities, Bettmann served as a founder and member of the executive board of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, president and treasurer (1884-1910) of Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, the first president of the United Jewish Charities of Cincinnati (1896-1903) and for twenty-two years was a member of the Talmud Yelodim Institute.

A master Mason, Bettmann was one of the charter members of Hanselmann Lodge No. 208, F.&A.M., joining in 1857. He translated rites into German (German Ritual for Masonic Lodges) and was also a member of the Scottish Rite. Bettmann's other literary accomplishments included authorship of many poems, essays and articles for magazines and newspapers. He was also a popular speaker and debater.

On October 26, 1859, Bettmann married Tillie Wald of New York City. They produced seven children of whom three sons and one daughter survived: Miss Florence Bettmann; Dr. Henry Wald Bettmann (1868-1935), Cincinnati physician and faculty member of the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati and nationally known as an authority on internal medicine; Edgar Bettmann, a prominent Cincinnati businessman (shoe manufacturer, Bettmann-Dunlap Co.); and Morris L. Bettmann. Bernhard Bettmann died at his home in Cincinnati, Ohio, on June 18, 1915 at the age of 81.


The BERNHARD BETTMANN PAPERS describe the career of Bernhard Bettmann as merchant, public official and civic and communal leader in Cincinnati, Ohio. The collection includes correspondence, business agreements, news articles, poetry, testimonials, certificates and personal items. The collection is divided into three series:
  • A. Bernhard Bettmann, 1846-1915
  • B. Bettmann Family, 1857-1945
  • C. Certificates, 1896-1909.
  • SERIES A. BERNHARD BETTMANN, 1846-1915, consists of 5 folders of correspondence, business papers, obituaries, programs, a newsletter, speeches and miscellaneous. Some letters are written in the German language. The materials in Series A span the years 1846-1915, and include some undated materials.

    SERIES B. BETTMANN FAMILY, 1857-1945 consists of 4 folders of correspondence, news articles, menus, invitations, testimonials and obituaries and miscellaneous materials. The bulk of the material in this series pertain to Bernhard and Tillie Bettmann's 50th wedding anniversary. Obituaries for two of their sons, Henry and Edgar are also filed in this series. The materials in Series B span the years 1857-1945, with the bulk dated 1909.

    SERIES C. CERTIFICATES, 1896-1909 consists of 5 certificates filed in the AJA Flat File. The certificates identify several of Bernhard Bettmann's political activities. The materials in Series C. are dated 1896-1909.

    PHOTOGRAPHS received with the BERNHARD BETTMANN PAPERS were removed to the AJA Picture File, filed under Bernhard Bettmann and Henry Wald Bettmann. Included are portraits of Bernhard, his wife Tillie, and son Henry Wald Bettmann. Two group photos of unidentified boys' baseball teams from the late 19th or early 20th century were filed under Bernhard Bettmann. Also see lantern slide (glass) of Bernhard Bettmann filed as AJA Negative No. N-4529.


    Box  Folder    Contents
    1         SERIES A.  BERNHARD BETTMANN, 1846-1915 and n.d.
         1    Correspondence and misc., 1846-1905 and n.d.
         2    Obituaries and condolence letters, Je, 1915 
         3    United States Internal Revenue Collector - correspondence and misc., 1913 and
              n.d.  See also Certificates in Flat File listed below.
         4    Hanselmann Lodge No. 208 - programs, newsletter, talks by Bettmann and Jubilee
              book, 1901-1907 and n.d.
         5    Testimonials for 70th Birthday, 1909; and Memorial, 1915
              SERIES B.  BETTMANN FAMILY, 1857-1945
         6    Wedding and anniversaries - news articles, menus, invitations and dance card,
         7    50th wedding anniversary scrapbook, 1859-1909
         8    Golden Anniversary Celebration Testimonials, 1909
         9    Obituaries for Henry and Edgar Bettmann, 1935 and 1945
    Flat File.     SERIES C.  CERTIFICATES, 1896-1909 (Cabinet 5, Drawer 13)
    1 certificate of election as an Elector of the U.S. President and Vice-President for the State of Ohio signed by Governor Asa S. Bushnell, D 1, 1896
    1 certificate designating Bettmann as U.S. Delegate to the International Congress of
    Chambers of Commerce and Commercial and Industrial Corporations at Liege, May 2, 1905
    3 certificates of appointment as collector of Internal Revenue signed by President
    Theodore Roosevelt, 1907-1909


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