No Ordinary Hat Rack

hat rack

Moving to another country is not simple, externally or internally. I have been excited and full of thoughts, but sometimes a wave of sadness hits me. That’s to be expected; any big life change, even a joyous one, probably comes with some sadness. I was paddling atop one of those waves when the doorbell rang; upon opening the door, I found a big box waiting. I knew what it was, but when I cut through the tape, pulled back the cardboard, and saw the gleaming green hat rack, my sadness skedaddled, landing me on dry ground. I spent a few minutes turning the rack in the light.

Over the past year I have written a few pieces about my great-granduncle Charles Fischer (the oldest brother of my great-grandfather), his company (the Chas. Fischer Spring Co.), and his inventions. Three people wrote to me in response:

1. Robert Charles Fischer, Charles Fischer’s grandson, with whom I have now met several times in person, to my joy;

2. A person inquiring about the drum magazine (manufactured by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co.) for the Thompson Submachine Gun, which was used in World War II;

3. A person in Ontario (a couple, rather) who owned a hat rack manufactured by the Chas. Fischer Spring Co. and wanted to know whether I would like to have it. Of course I said yes; I was thrilled. Here it is! I’m bringing it with me to Hungary.

Look at this lovely thing. Each hat rests atop a spring, to which a cord is attached. You can mount the rack high up in the closet or hallway and then just pull the cord of the hat you want. The stamp (which is faint) says PATENT APPL’D FOR / THE CHAS FISHER SPRING CO / BRROKLYN, NY. I couldn’t find the patent for this particular rack, but there’s a 1926 patent for an altogether different one. I don’t know which one came first.

It’s easy to take hat racks for granted–I’ve never even had one before–but they help you not only save space  but preserve the hats themselves. Putting them on a stand is much better than heaping them together on a shelf. The hat rack brings to mind a time when clothes were durable and people took good care of them. (That practice hasn’t entirely vanished, but it takes more determination.) Taking care of your clothes allowed you to survive on little money; you didn’t often have to buy new things.

Charles Fischer came to the U.S. from Hungary in 1890, at age 14, with his parents and seven siblings. From what I gather, they had lived in both Budapest and Györke (now Ďurkov, Slovakia). In the U.S., they started out at 346 East 3rd Street in Manhattan; then they moved elsewhere (Brooklyn, other parts of Manhattan, and Queens). Charles began working as a toolmaker before specializing in springs and founding his own company. It seems that he never went to school here; he began working right away. Yet the patent specifications are written in clear and elegant prose; the logic is clearly his, and the words probably are too. Someone may have edited his spelling and grammar, but the descriptions and explanations must have been his own.

I will write more about his inventions in future posts and essays; for now, I am delighting in the rack–not only the rack, but the thoughtfulness of the people who sent it to me. I can’t wait to mount it in Szolnok and put my hats on it. I will take good care of them all.

Update: I have finally mounted it in my “new” apartment (the place I purchased in Szolnok two years ago)! It took be a while to figure out where to put it, but I decided on the bedroom. Now I need a couple of colorful hats to accompany these two.

IMG_9932

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14 Comments

  1. Yes. The great gift was their thoughtfulness in sending it you. Wonderful, that.

    Love the women’s hats from the 1920s. Though not too crazy about what those did to exotic bird populations worldwide. Florida, where I live, came close to losing its roseate spoonbills.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Bob, for stopping by and commenting! I found this interesting article on the subject of hats and birds: http://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/07/15/422860307/hats-off-to-women-who-saved-the-birds

      Reply
      • Awesome. BTW, LOVED the Take away the take away TED talk. Always great when a teacher is actually thinking about the work rather than following some ed school script.

      • I am glad to hear that! Yes, my most memorable and influential teachers (from elementary school onward) were the ones who thought about the subject matter. They showed what it meant to go farther and farther into the problem or work.

      • yes yes yes yes yes! breathtaking to me how often kids walk away from these canned spam ed school recipe lessons having no new world (what?) or procedural (how) knowledge and no questions. But, hey, they’ve practiced their “inferencing skills,” as if that were some one thing. The greatest teachers are models of what it is to be an intrinsically motivated learner. I would count you among those.

      • Thanks for the link. Very much enjoyed that article.

  2. David Zucker

     /  March 29, 2018

    Could it be that one of Charles’ siblings was Samuel Fischer, my maternal grandfather? He came to the US in the late 1800’s and owned a company in NY called Fischer Robes. I think that they came from Durkov?

    Reply
    • Yes, one of his siblings was Samuel Fischer, and you and I are second cousins once removed! Their parents were Sigmund and Fanny (Liebman) Fischer; they came to the U.S. from Durkov in 1890 or so. Samuel Fischer lived from 1881 to 1954. In 1918 he lived in the Bronx; later he and his youngest brother, Emanuel, moved to 215 W. 88th St. Fischer Robes is mentioned on his World War 2 registration card. I would love to learn more about him and his family. Please feel free to email me (dianalouisesenechal at gmail dot com).

      Reply
  3. Karl Kessler

     /  November 13, 2021

    Hello again. I sent the hat rack to you. Your writing about this unassuming, useful object, and also about the pleasure its delivery brought to your doorstep, is a rich reward for having sent it. And if, as you suggest, I was thoughtful in sending it, I was inspired to do so in large measure by your thought-provoking blog, which I found through a Web search for “Charles Fischer Spring.” It’s a funny world full of strange and wonderful connections. I suppose that some are even of our own making.

    Reply
    • Greetings and thank you! I agree, it is a funny world full of strange and wonderful connections–and memories and reminders too. I treasure the hat rack. When I moved to Szolnok, Hungary and into a long-term apartment, I mounted the rack as soon as I found my way to a hardware store and got some nails . Two years later, I moved to another place in the same city; it came with a wall-length built-in closet, a built-in rack, etc., so I didn’t know where to put the hat rack at first. But I have found the perfect place and will post a photo when it’s up.

      Reply
    • Greetings again: I have finally mounted it again! See the update at the end of this post.

      Reply
  4. Allan Windt

     /  May 14, 2022

    I’m Allan Windt the grandson of William Fischer the brother of Charles Fischer.

    Reply
    • Greetings, and thank you for commenting! We are second cousins once removed. I would love to hear anything you know about the Fischer family, especially about your grandfather, William Fischer. Please feel free to comment here or to write to me at (dianalouisesenechal at gmail dot com).

      It seems, from what I have gleaned so far, that William Fischer came to the U.S. on a different ship from the others. If you know what his given name was at birth, that could help unlock some mysteries. I am hoping to find some birth or other records over here in Hungary (or Slovakia, since the village where they lived is now in Slovakia) but have had no luck yet. The earliest record I have found is a ship passenger list that seems to have most of their names (although there are some discrepancies).

      Reply
  1. Springtime in the Mind | Take Away the Takeaway

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