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  • Herman H. Kohlsaat Collection

Herman Henry Kohlsaat was born March 22, 1853 in Albion, Edwards County, Illinois, one of six children of Reimer and Sarah (Hall) Kohlsaat. Reimer and Sarah Kohlsaat were abolitionists whose home was reportedly a station on the Underground Railroad. The Kohlsaat family moved to Galena, Illinois, in 1854 until moving to Chicago in 1865.

He became a travelling salesman, eventually working for Blake, Shaw and Company, a wholesale bakery owned by R. Nelson Blake, who was to become Kohlsaat’s father-in-law. In 1880 Kohlsaat married Mabel E. Blake and became a junior partner of Blake, Shaw and Company in charge of a bakery-lunch establishment in the city.

In 1883 he brought out Blake, Shaw and Company’s interest in the establishment and started H.H. Kohlsaat and Company, which for about thirty years was one of the largest baking establishments in Chicago. He opened several lunch stores which drew a good patronage from the businessmen of the Loop district.

In 1888 Kohlsaat was an alternate delegate at the Republican national convention held in Chicago. He became an early supporter of William McKinley, then Governor of Ohio, working for his nomination and election to the presidency in 1896. Kohlsaat was a friend, confidant and advisor of five United States Presidents: McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, and Harding. 

In 1891, Kohlsaat purchased a half-interest in the Chicago newspaper Inter-Ocean. In 1894 Kohlsaat abandoned his interest in the Inter-Ocean, and purchased the Chicago Times-Herald and the Evening Post. He converted the papers from Democratic to independent Republican organs.

His influence in the Republican Party helped draft the gold-standards plank during the 1896 convention in St. Louis. McKinley’s ensuing campaign for the presidency against free silverite William Jennings Bryan was ultimately won on the gold standard issues. 

In 1901 Kohlsaat purchased the Chicago Record from Victor F. Lawson and combined it with the Times-Herald, naming the new paper the Record-Herald. Kohlsaat resigned the editorship of the Record-Herald for a time to devote himself to his real estate interests, but later regained control in 1910. He remained editor of the Record-Herald for two years, and then he returned to edit the Inter-Ocean. Kohlsaat left the Inter-Ocean after a year and became a member of the staff of New York Times.

Kohlsaat died October 17, 1924, in Washington, D.C., at the home of Herbert Hoover.

The finding aid for the Herman Henry Kohlsaat Papers, 1892-1924 may be found at:

Photographs in this collection include portraits of several prominent United States politicians and elected officials including Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Grace Coolidge.

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