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August Mencken, Sr.: Wikis

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August Mencken, Senior (1854 – 1899) was the father of writer H. L. Mencken. August Mencken founded the "Aug. Mencken & Bro." cigar factory in 1873 with a starting capital of $44 ($23 of his own money, $21 of his brothers). As a member of Baltimore's German American community, HLM later recalled that his father was a high-tariff Republican who ran a nonunion factory and viewed the eight-hour day as "a project of foreign nihilists to undermine and wreck the American Republic". HLM also recalled that his father downed a generous tumbler of rye whiskey before every meal, including breakfast.

In about 1889 the Baltimore local Cigar Makers' International Union called a strike. The union did not have the funds to pay full benefits to members; the best it could manage was the $2.10 cost of a ticket to Philadelphia, which had so many cigar shops it was known as the Cigarmaker's Heaven. The only proof it required of a candidate's profession were the tools of the trade: a boxwood cutting-board and cutting tools. The anti-union Mencken acquired a large quantity of these tools, rounded up a large number of drunks and tramps, gave them a shot of whiskey and a set of the tools, and sent them to Union headquarters for their tickets. In the course of a few weeks, according to Mencken himself, "at least a thousand poor bums were run through the mill." The union went broke and was effectively destroyed; the strike was broken.

In 1879, August married Anna Margaret Abhau (b. 1858, d. 1925). Their first child was born at the family home at 380 Lexington Street on September 12, 1880 at nine in the evening. That child was Henry Louis Mencken, called "Harry" by his family.

References

  • Henry Louis Mencken, The days of H.L. Mencken: Happy days, Newspaper days, Heathen days.. New York: Alfred A. Knopf (1947)
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