Reprinted with permission from 
Vintage Fashion & Costume Jewelry
P.O Box 265
Glen Oaks, NY 11004
and the author


by Cheri van Hoover

Cheri Van Hoover and her husband, Robert (Rocky) Day own and operate Milky Way Jewels, a web-based vintage costume jewelry business. Her interest in vintage jewelry has been strong since about 1969, and she has both collected and sold it for many years. She is also a certified nurse-midwife and has worked in many settings over the course of her long career in women's health. She has a special interest in social history and enjoys researching the stories behind the jewelry she collects and sells.

Once upon a time, not so very long ago, giants walked the earth. Amazingly, many of them worked in the costume jewelry business. One of these giants was Carl Schraysshuen.

I can hear a collective query, "Carl Who???" rising from the lips of my readers, but perhaps this name will sound more familiar when you learn that Carl Schraysshuen (whose last name, according to his grandson, when it is said fast sounds much like a chicken sneezing) was half-owner and managing partner of Carl-Art, a major manufacturer of quality costume jewelry, from 1936 to his death in 1953.

Carl was born in 1885 and raised in Pforzheim, a center of German jewelry production near the Black Forest. He attended school there at the jewelry "gymnasium." In 1904 or 1905 he went to the Far East to seek his fortune.. His employer sent him to the Philippines where he worked in various aspects of the jewelry import/export business. Over the next several years the ambitious young Carl learned to speak seven Asian languages.

In 1914, however, romance carried him back to Germany and into a future different than any he ever could have imagined. He had been corresponding with a beautiful young Pforzheim woman named Hedwig. Returning to Germany to claim his bride, Carl had the poor luck and bad timing to arrive just as World War I erupted. This intelligent and strapping young man was promptly drafted, given the rank of sergeant, and sent to the infamous Russian Front. He was off the field of battle before the first snow fell, but not because of any better luck than that which had already landed him in this unfortunate situation. Within weeks of his arrival he and his company were attacked. Most of his men were killed, and Carl was bayoneted 13 times, with 10 of these wounds involving various vital organs in his chest and abdomen. Despite his critical condition, Carl managed to walk five kilometers back to the German camp, where he warned them of the close presence of the Russian army, thus saving many hundreds of lives. For this tremendous act of strength and courage, he was awarded the Iron Cross.

He was kept in a military field hospital at the front because his condition was too unstable for him to be sent to a safer and better equipped facility. Conditions were poor, and morphine was in short supply. Since Carl was expected to die soon, rather than use up precious stores of morphine on someone whose condition was hopeless he was given a fifth of whiskey to drink daily to kill the pain. Every day his wounds were cleaned, but otherwise he was given little care. Months later, in June of 1915, Hedwig risked her own life by traveling to the front by train to marry him as he lay on his deathbed.

Miraculously, Carl didnít die. He was discharged from the Army and continued his slow recovery home in Pforzheim. In 1917 Carl and Hedwig married in church, where he stood supported by two canes. In 1919 their first child was born, a boy they named Manfried. In 1923 they had a girl, Rosalie.

Carl worked for the Speidel Corporation and apparently impressed them very much. After little Manfried died of yellow fever in a 1921 epidemic, the devasted Carl and Hedwig were more than ready to leave Germany. Carlís experiences in the military, his slow and painful recovery, and the post-war conditions which led indirectly to their beloved sonís death made them both eager to jump at the opportunity when Speidel offerd to transfer him to the United States. It is unknown exactly when their immigration took place, but the best evidence suggests that it was probably around 1929 or 1930.

The American branch of Speidel was struggling financially. They felt that new management was needed and believed that Carl was the man to do the job. It appears they were correct. Speidelís American business thrived under Carlís leadership and was reinvigorated during his time with the corporation. One of Speidelís most significant innovations during these years was the Twist-O-Flex watchband, patented in 1932. Family legend has it that Carl invented the Twist-O-Flex band, but that it was patented by the corporation so he never reaped any profits from the excellent idea. Credibility is lent to this belief by the existence of a 1933 document written in German, drafted by Speidel attorneys and signed by Carl, which specifically states that any inventions by Carl Schraysshuen during the course of his employment belonged to the company.

Disillusionment over the Twist-O-Flex experience could have been responsible, or maybe Carl was just ready to strike out on his own, but when he was approached by Arthur Loercher to become equal partners in the company to be known as Carl-Art, Carl was ready for the new challenge. Carl-Art was a manufacturing plant, as well as a wholesaler. Their three- or four-story building covered most of a block in the jewelry center of Providence, Rhode Island, standing just a block away from the building owned by Speidel. They sold sterling, gold, and gold fill jewelry under their own name, and manufactured for other jewelry companies, as well.

Walter Lampl, Jr., who took over management of Walter Lampl, Inc. after his fatherís death, reports that Carl Schraysshuen was a pleasure to work with. Walter remembers both Carl and his partner, Art Loercher, with fondness, describing them both as very nice people. Walter Sr.ís younger son, Burt, laughs to recall that Carl and Art were oddly matched in size, as Carl was a very lagre tall man, and Art was much shorter.

A picture of the partners at a party shows Art standing next to the diminutive Hedwig, the two of them nearly matched in height. Carl stands on the opposite side of the table serving punch.

The perspective of the photo makes it hard to judge, but Carl is clearly the much larger man. Little is known about Art, since he was very quiet and none of his survivors have yet come forward to discuss his history. Both Carl and Art are said to have been extremely honest and dependable men. This is not surprising, since integrity was very important to Carl. He was fond of telling people, "14K means, 14K, not 11 Ĺ!"

Carl-Art jewelry is typically characterized by just that integrity and purity of design. Carefully manufactured in timeless styles, this is jewelry for the ages. It is interesting to note that the years immediately after World War II marked a flurry of design patent activity for Carl Schraysshuen. Three patents are known to exist under his name in 1941 (one of these was the flower finding used so frequently by Walter Lampl). These are the earliest known Schraysshuen patents. Then there was a respite until 1945 when he patented four designs, followed by a remarkable 30 patents in 1946 alone, then four more in 1947, finishing with a single patent dating to 1950. It is unknown why, after nearly 10 years in business with only a handful of design patents, Carl felt the need to protect his company this way, but it could well have been because of has previous experiences with personal calamity in the aftermath of another world war.

Anti-German sentiment was strong in the United States during World Warr II, and Carlís family suffered as a result of it. His brother, Adolf, had immigrated to the U.S. before World War I, and had long been a citizen. He managed another jewelry company in Providence. Carl brought the rest of his immediate family to the U.S. during the 1930s. He, Hedwig, and their daughter all became American citizens well before World War II. Their commitment to this country was deep and permanent. Adolf was stubborn in his refusal to discuss the difficult times he experienced during World War II until he was an old man and then when pressed by Carlís grandson to tell him about that time finally said, "They tried to burn down my house every day."

Despite their loyalty to the United States, it was painful for the Schraysshuens to know that their relatives and friends back in Germany were suffering terribly during and after the war. Pforzeim, as a jewelry manufacturing center, was ideally suited to wartime military production. Just as many U.S. jewelry factories were turned to wartime uses during the 1940s, the same was done in Pforzheim. Pforzheim fell under heavy aerial bombardment by Allied forces on February 23-24, 1945. The town, including all its factories and industries, was almost completely destroyed. The death toll from those two days of bombing varies from 17,000 to 20,000, depending on which historical sOurces one reads. Carl refused to allow his Providence manufacturing plant to be turned to wartime production, saying he did not support Germanyís actions or government, but that he would not make bullets that might kill his family and friends. After the war Carl sent money to surviving family members in Germany to help them rebuild their lives.

Carlís appetites were as great as his intelligence, integrity, and ambition. He is said to have smoked as many as 12 cigars a day. He loved to eat, and that fact was reflected in his ample physique. The taste for liquor that may have begun with the whiskey used as primitive analgesic in the army hospital continued throughout his life, partly because he continued to use it to deal with the chronic pain caused by those old war injuries. In November of 1953 he died, probably as a result of a heart attack.

Hedwig inherited his 50% of Carl-Art, but sold it soon thereafter. The business continues in operation today, under completely different management.

The more one studies the history of the Golden Age of American costume jewelry, the easier it is to understand the any factors contributed to its greatness of style, quality, and design. Extraordinary minds and talents were drawn from such richly diverse backgrounds and brought together in the melting pots of Providence, where base metals and glass were being transmogrified into wearable works of art. One of the magicians in this transformative process was the larger than life Carl Schraysshuen.

Carl-Art Jewelry Photo Gallery


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