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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

KUNDTZ, THEODOR - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

KUNDTZ, THEODOR (1 July 1852-14 Sept. 1937) was an inventor, manufacturer, financier, philanthropist, and patriarch of the Hungarian community.

Kundtz was born in Metzenseifen, Hungary, to Joseph and Theresia (Kesselbauer) Kundtz. He learned woodworking from his father and after immigrating to Cleveland in 1873, Kundtz found a job with the Whitworth Co., a small cabinet shop at 28 St. Clair Ave. Kundtz and several co-workers purchased the company in 1875 after a fire seriously damaged the business, reorganizing as the Cleveland Cabinet Co. In 1878, Kundtz split from his partners and opened THEODOR KUNDTZ CO. at 122 Elm Street in the FLATS.

Among his early customers was THOMAS WHITE† of the White Sewing Machine Co. (see WHITE CONSOLIDATED INDUSTRIES, INC.), for whom Kundtz made what became his chief product, sewing machine cabinets. Kundtz patented 44 inventions, most of which were mechanisms enabling sewing machines to fold up into fine cabinetry of his own design.

Over the years, Kundtz employed a significant portion of his tome town of Metzenseifen. When his business peaked around 1900, 92% of his 2500 employees were from Hungary. Kundtz helped thousands immigrate to Cleveland, acquire homes, and start their own businesses. He founded the Hungarian Savings and Loan Company and built Hungaria Hall on Clark Ave. in 1890.

At the turn of the century, Kundtz built a magnificent mansion in LAKEWOOD overlooking Lake Erie. The Kundtz Castle, as it was called, was torn down in 1961.

Kundtz served on the Mayor's Advisory War Committee during WORLD WAR I. He was an officer and director of the United Banking and Savings Company, the Forest City Savings and Loan, and the Lorain Street Bank. In 1884, Kundtz married Maria Ballasch of Cleveland and they had ten children: Theodore, Jr., William, Ewald, Leo R., Joseph E., Merie (Mrs. Wm. Tubman), Irene (Mrs. A.C. Weizer), Angela (Mrs. A.T. Hueffed), Dorothy (Mrs. W.J. O'Neil), and Joseph P.

Theodor Kundtz was knighted by Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria-Hungary in 1902. In 1994, the American-Hungarian Foundation posthumously awarded Kundtz the George Washington Medal. He died in Cleveland and was buried in Lakewood Park Cemetery.

Eiben, Christopher J. Tori in Amerika (1994).

Last Modified: 17 Jul 1997 04:38:11 PM

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