The 2014 Fall / Winter Decatur-Forsyth Visitor Guide published by the Decatur Area Convention & Visitors Bureau features the Mueller Museum.
The bronze busts of Hieronymus Mueller are familiar to all Mueller Co. employees and retirees. One of the busts sits near the Decatur plant entrance inviting workers to keep the nose well-polished as they pass by to and from work. A copy stands in the lobby of the Museum and yet another graces the lobby of the corporate offices of Mueller Water Products in Atlanta, Georgia.
In the summer of 1911, Decatur newspapers were filled with the buzz of the new state law abolishing the public drinking cup. “The Cup of Death”, would soon be a thing of the past. Medical science had identified the communal drinking cup which was chained to a faucet in public places as a source for the spread of deadly epidemics which were sweeping through communities.
From Mueller Co.’s beginnings, women have played important roles, both traditional and unusual. Hieronymus Mueller’s wife, Fredericka, was certainly the “woman behind the man” accompanying both Hieronymus and sons on business trips to trade shows as well as seeing to the needs of the Mueller employees and their families.
Before the day of water mains and pressurized water delivery, fires were generally fought using the old-fashioned bucket brigades. Hieronymus Mueller is remembered for his role in establishing the first water distribution system in Decatur, Illinois in the early 1870’s, creating a revolution in the way fire departments fought fires.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Fredericka Bernhardt Mueller’s death on January 26, 1911. The cause of her death is recorded as a cerebral apoplexy which may have meant a number of things but was most likely a stroke. Funeral services were held at the home of her daughter, Mrs. F. W. Cruikshank, at 346 W William St. in Decatur. Services were attended by a large number of family and friends who were then joined by the factory employees in a march to Greenwood Cemetery.
Recently, a short feature titled “How Time Flies” by Jack O’Keefe appeared in the Bloomington, Illinois Pantagraph which mentioned a 1910 race that Philip Mueller, second eldest son of Hieronymus, had with the interurban traveling from Bloomington to Decatur. Mr. O’Keefe kindly took time to furnish the entire story as it originally appeared in the Pantagraph August 4, 1910.
An interesting little bit of history was unearthed in sorting some old company papers – Mueller Information and Factory Rules. This small 34-page booklet was published in 1925 for distribution to all employees and tells us a great deal about the relationship between the company and its workers. Here are some excerpts from the booklet to share with you along with some thoughts on their significance.