Thousands of Letters, 1839-2013

Berlin, August 14, 1839.  Letter from brothers Heinrich Bernhard Oppenheim and August Oppenheim to their parents in Frankfurt, congratulating them on my great-great grandparents' engagement.

Berlin, August 14, 1839. Letter from brothers Heinrich Bernhard Oppenheim and August Oppenheim to their parents in Frankfurt, congratulating them on my great-great grandparents’ engagement. (Click for a larger image.)

Since I started this website two years ago, I have published 41 stories here.  To my astonishment, they have been read by hundreds of people in more than 50 countries.  I have had just under 10,000 hits, far more than I anticipated when I started.  I also did not anticipate that I would become friends with readers previously unknown  to me who discovered the stories here:  ocarina players in Indonesia who connected to the story of my grandfather Rudolf’s ocarina; a Swiss historian writing about the descendants of Moses Mendelssohn, one of whom was the wife of my great uncle Eduard; members of the medical faculty at the University of Erlangen in Bavaria, who were excited to find the portraits of Isidor Rosenthal and Anna Hoeber Rosenthal, who left their mark on that city; and my now-good-friend Phil White of Olathe, Kansas, who is writing a book about the Truman campaign my father worked on.

All of the stories on this website are made possible because of the Höber/Hoeber family’s mania over several generations for saving letters and other paper records.  The earliest letter in the collection was written 174 years ago by Heinrich and August Oppenheim, my great-great grandmother’s brothers, who were congratulating their parents on their sister’s engagement to my great-great grandfather.  The collection also includes love letters my great-grandparents exchanged daily in Berlin in the 1860s.  The collection includes every income tax return my parents filed from 1939 to 1999.  There are my grandparents’ photograph albums from the early 20th century in Zürich  and professional papers my parents wrote from 1940 to 1980.  The variety of material is dizzying. Together, this archive tells the story of a  family that made a mark in business, science and progressive politics in Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and then started all over again in the United States.

Berlin , 1867-1880, letters from my great-grandmother, Marie Marx, to her husband, Jakob.

Berlin , 1867-1880, letters from my great-grandmother, Marie Marx, to her husband, Jakob. (Click for a larger image.)

Johannes Hoeber's income tax return, 1942.

Johannes Hoeber’s income tax return, 1942. (Click for a larger image.)

Organizing and preserving these family papers has taken years.  I had to study German to be able to read some of the complex papers, and I have translated many documents into English so they are accessible to readers here.  Physically arranging the papers so things could be found was a substantial task.  They are now housed in archival manuscript boxes and filed in acid-free folders so they will be preserved for the future.  The papers have been partially indexed, but I still have work to do in this area.

One of more than 60 archive boxes in which the Hoeber papers are housed.

One of more than 60 archive boxes in which the Hoeber papers are housed.

Eventually I will place the collection of these papers with a large historical manuscript archive here in Philadelphia.  In the meantime, I will continue to write stories based on these letters for you, my kind readers.

The Hoeber Papers, 2013

The Hoeber Papers, 2013

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4 Comments on “Thousands of Letters, 1839-2013”

  1. Patrick Hennessy says:

    Two years of wonderful postings that are consistently interesting. Your family archives are amazing in their depth, and your talents in preserving them are the reason we can now enjoy them.

  2. […] their friends were as fortunate as they.  When I was working on the book, I found a letter among my parents’ papers that told the astonishing story of a close friend of theirs.  The letter was written to my father […]

  3. […] While my parents were able to escape Germany before the War, my mother’s mother and three brothers were trapped there for the duration.  After the war, communications between Americans and German nationals continued to be restricted for many months.  Desperate for news about her family, and unable to communicate through civilian channels, my mother wrote to Robert Kempner in Nuremberg asking him to find out if they were alright.  As a prosecutor, he had access to the American military mail system, and wrote my parents an extraordinary postcard in response. The original is preserved in my family’s papers. […]

  4. […] the extensive archive of my family’s papers, I found the University of Heidelberg law degree bestowed on my great-great-grandmother’s […]


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