|The ZAIS Oil Wick Miners' Lamp
These lamps were approximately 3"x 3 3/4"
They attached to the miners hats to light their way
"Windows to the Past"
written by Betty VanNewkirk
"Frederick Zais of Frostburg is widely recognized as the maker of many such lamps, which have now become collectors' items. He did not invent the lamps - they were already being made in Germany when he learned the tinsmith's trade. He was not the only man who made such lamps after he came to America, but lamps bearing his name are particularly sought by collectors, and those of one special design, no matter where or by whom they were produced, were called "Frostburg pattern."
Mr. Zais came to Frostburg when he was 22 years old, in 1843, and set himself up as a tinsmith. In those days skillets were made of iron, but kettles and pans intended to hold water were made of steel or copper, coated with tin to prevent rusting. Tinsmiths also make roofing-sheets, fittings for stoves and hot-air furnaces, and the lunch-buckets which workmen, including miners, carried with them. There was enough demand for their services that there were always two or three tinsmiths in business in Frostburg.
At one time Mr. Zais had a shop next to the Lutheran church, but when the fire of September, 1874, ravaged the town and engulfed both the church and the parsonage next to it, the firemen summoned from Cumberland made a fire-break by tearing down both the Zais shop and a frame dwelling behind it, facing Mechanic Street. The shop was rebuilt by Mr. Clary, who owned the property, but it was let to someone else, and Zais opened a shop in the second house above High Street on the south side of Main.
After Fred Zais's death in 1903, two of his sons continued to operate the tin shop and to live in the dwelling behind and above those premises. As time went on, the small oil lamps they made were supplanted by carbide, and, more recently, by electric light."
(Courtesy of Phyllis Rosley)
Posted December 14, 2013
Frederick Barnhart Zais
[Friedrich Bernhardt Zaiss]
Frederick Barnhart Zais was the son of George Zais and Regina Hardter. According to his 1900 United States Census record, he was born in April 1821, in Germany. Records from Germany indicate a birthday of 21 April 1821. The 1900 census records that he immigrated to the United States in 1844 (age 23), but as there are letters written by him from Philadelphia in the summer of 1843, he probably immigrated in the spring of 1843. The earliest documentation about Frederick Zais are those letters, written in German, and currently (2013) in the possession of Philip Spriggs, a descendant of John Thomas Zais. The English transcript follows:
Philadelphia, 16 July 1843
My dear, beloved parents, I finally got my trunk on July 8, and everything in it was all right, and I had to pay a dollar more freight. Once I had it, I wanted to sell my blue ?, but I didn't get help from anybody. I wanted to pawn the whole trunk, but nobody wanted to help me, even Mister Lieb, that I owe 3 dollars to, just let him see when he gets it. My Msr (Master?) didn't have any more work and I couldn't do anything but be glad that I was still getting work, and on top of that I'm in the very worst quarter of the (town?). I worked there 7 weeks, got myself a pair of summer trousers, a shirt, and 2 dollars in money, and I'm getting some tinware when I get to your place. Only July 9 Benkert the shoemaker arrived from Philadelphia, saw my bad situation, and promised to help me, so I got my things together and went to Philadelphia on Wednesday, where I like it better than I did in Baltimore. A person has to take things as they come - it was hard for me to leave Baltimore, because I might have been able to come to see you sooner. It grieves me to the heart, but there may be some better solution than I think. Don't worry, things are going to have to go better after a while - there are two possible ways to get Sophia and my fortune to this place. By early next year Doll the turner is going out and taking Sophia with him, since I think she is more disposed to now than before, because with all the name-calling and gossip about you, dear father, day in and day out, the innocent girl has to hear a lot where you are shown in a very different light from the way it really is. Under those circumstances is it possible for her to feel love for her father? Believe me, a lot of things have to be done before we can do anything. My dear father, if you care about getting me out of the ? why didn't you send me any money in reply to my first letter - I suppose you didn't have any, but no reproaches to my father! Be that as it may. Life is a school in which man is purified. Although you may be poor now, if we just have contentment in the cottage, later on your children will do what is best so that you will not have cause to complain. It is really better if I come and get Sophia myself, seeing there is still a lot to straighten out, but I won't do it before coming to see you. Up to today I still don't have any work and am at Blankenheim's at the town of Strasburg, where I hope you will be so good as to send your kindly advice. Do not take offense at my being so long in writing, because I thought I would get some help from some people, but I did not. ? dollars could have helped both you and me, but people are hard as ? when they don't see that 300 (percent?). I have to console myself with He? who said who knows what use it is, we have sunk so far truly ourselves that people don't even lend us money. Write to me by return mail what I should do. I have been healthy and well now, and I wish I were with my father until the time comes until my ? goes. I don't know what I still have to do here. My dear father, at the moment I don't have any money, and therefore I can't stamp the letter. Send me yours the same way. I couldn't find Herold the cabinetmaker or Brodes either, because I inquired, but he had moved out and no one knows where. I embrace you and send you warmest regards and your obedient son.
P.S. I don’t know anything more to write you about the present circumstances of your respected parents-in-law except that I visited them about the 8th of July two years ago, and he regretted that he had let his daughter to and had to scrimp and slave in his old age. There is more I could say, but I will not entrust family matters to paper, so it will have to be put off until another time. I certainly do not hold anything against you, dear Mother, and I say nothing about your marriage. Do not weep and grieve about the fate of your parents. They still have joy in their son. Your father told me why you really are not at home, and I certainly believe he is stern, very stern, and with regard to your marriage he – shall I write it? – he even cursed! – So much now for this time. More another time when I am with you, where I can tell you alone.
I have been very kindly received here. Freund has a bath with mineral water, confectioner's goods, and so on. W. Blankenheim has gotten a musical clock from Bretten. Cheese, schnaps from Wurz and Sattle. Lieb has taken Benefact? in May. He has also sold the business (sometimes saloon) to someone else for $190 and lives next to it it and runs a saddlery. It now costs 50 cents from Baltimore to Philadelphia, and so I was able to ride along because when I left Baltimore I had just 3/4 of a dollar and the Mstr gave me a piece of bread to take along.
I have brought along pipes and all kinds of flower seeds for you. I also have some other things that I don't need that I will bring along to you.
Address: Mr. George Zais
Philadelphia, Pa., August 3, 1843
Today I learned to my astonishment that my father has died. Can it be true? Bes of Bretten Kupferschmitt heard it in Baltimore. Is it possible that you also do not know that I am here, to be sure without work. Did you receive my letter dated July 16?, or why did I not receive an answer? Circumstances forced me to go to Philadelphia and here it is as bad as in Baltimore. If my father is no longer alive, then come, dear Mother, and I will provide for you as well as I can, I will have my money sent as soon as possible and my sister, as you wish. O God, I would never have believed that misfortune could so pursue me. Not to see my father again and to be able to help him. To me everything is not completely changed. I have had pangs of conscience constantly since I heard, write to me immediately that I can come myself if necessary. I have no more peace, everything is as nothing. Dear Father, if you are still alive write me, or dear Mother you have perhaps grieved because of the last letter. Now I must know if it is true. When and in what circumstances you find yourself. If I should have to sell the last scrap, everything must go, now I cannot do otherwise. What I must live to see! How can I defend myself to my sister when she asks did you not help your father, not comfort him in his last hour, why did you go to Philadelphia? Why did you not go to him immediately? No matter how poor you were, the last cent I earned must go to you. O send me word that I can make up for what I did badly, that I help where help is needed. In the expectation of a prompt reply, I remain your obedient son,
P.S. Write the address to Caspar Benkert,1 Boot and Shoemaker, North 3rd Street, Philadelphia, Pa.
Also inquire at the post office whether the letter of July 14 is there, because much depends on it.
The rumor of Fredrick’s father’s death was false. It is unknown when Frederick moved to Allegany County. The book Windows to the Past by Betty VanNewkirk, contains a short vignette about Frederick Zais and states that he settled in Frostburg in 1843, which would be shortly after his residence in Baltimore and Philadelphia. He acquired his citizenship In Allegany County on 14 October 1848, indicating that he was living in Maryland by October 1847. He is listed in the 1850 Census with his wife, Hester, and a son Charles, living in Frostburg and employed as a tinner2. In 1860 he was listed again in the census, along with his children Charles, Mary, George, James, and Morris. A July-August 1863 Civil War draft registration index, which recorded his name, notes that his residence was Frostburg and his occupation as tinner. He was 42 years old at the time. In 1870 Frederick was still a resident of Frostburg, listing a birthplace of Baden, Germany. He owned $700 worth of real estate and $300 personal property. His occupation was a tinner. Interestingly, it also notes that Frederick could neither read nor write, although the 1880 census indicates that he was literate, and there are at least two letters written to his parents from him. In 1874 a fire devastated large portions of Frostburg, and Frederick lost his shop as the fire department pulled it down to create a fire break:
At one time Mr. Zais had a shop next to the Lutheran church, but when the fire of September, 1874, ravaged the town and engulfed both the church and the parsonage next to it, the firemen summoned from Cumberland made a fire-break by tearing down both the Zais shop and a frame dwelling behind it, facing Mechanic Street. The shop was rebuilt by Mr. Clary, who owned the property, but it was let to someone else, and Zais opened a shop in the second house above High Street on the south side of Main3.
In 1885 a passenger list for the ship General Werder indicates that a Frederick Zais born in 1821 returned to the port of New York from Germany, although nothing in the record can confirm conclusively that it is the same Frederick Zais. The 1900 U.S. Census has Frederick living at 39 South Union Street in Frostburg with his daughter, Mary Hartig, and his two sons George and Morris. He owned the house without a mortgage, and this census also indicates that he was literate. He still listed his occupation as tin smith. After 1900 Frederick disappears from the census records. He died on 24 November 19034 in Frostburg.
Frederick’s wife is alternatively listed on census records as Esther or Hester J[ane] Zais, born around 1830 in Maryland of parents who were both born in Maryland. They most likely married in 1847 or 1848, as their first son was born in 1849. Family history records her maiden name as Winebrenner. Mary Hartig, a granddaughter of Frederick Zais, recorded that Frederick met his wife on a hunting trip in the vicinity of the Winebrenner farm in Frostburg when he stopped there to ask for some water. There is a Winebrenner Road near Midlothian, Maryland, which winds by Winebrenner Run, a creek. She is last listed in the 1880 U.S. Census, and the 1890 U.S. Census has been lost. In the 1900 Census, Frederick is listed as a widower.
In the July 1, 1962, edition of The Cumberland News, an article concerning Frostburg’s sesquicentennial, stated:
According to Mrs. William Jenkins and Mrs. Reford Aldridge, co-chairmen of the fashion show, 15 or more Frosty Belles appear in costumes that have been worn during the past century and a half. The dresses include one worn by Mrs. Martha Hester Zais, whose husband, Frederick Zais, invented the Zais mining lamp manufactured many years ago in Frostburg.
Frederick and his wife were buried in Porter Cemetery in Eckhart, Maryland, near Frostburg
(Courtesy of Robin Larson)
(JOHAN GEORG ZEISS)
George Zais was the progenitor of our peculiar branch of the Zais family in the United States. George was born in Baden, in southwest Germany. Records found in the collection “Germany Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898” documents that a Johann Georg Zeiss was born on 23 August, 1804, in Helmof, Heidelberg, Baden, Germany, to Friedrich Ludwig Zeiss and Catharina Mueller1. The name, date of birth, and place of birth correspond to what little is known of George Zais, but the connection cannot be proven with certainty. Records found in the same collection suggest that Johann’s (George’s) first wife was Regina Hardter, and that they had four children in Germany: Catarina Zaiss, born on 16 August 1819, christened on 17 August 1819, dying on 1 March 1820; Frederich Bernhardt Zaiss, born 28 April 1821 (see entry p. 11); Johann Georg Zais, born 14 October 1822, dying 12 July 1826; and Sophia Catharina Carolina Zaiss, born 4 November 1828. The birth date of Frederich corresponds to that of Frederick Barnhart Zais and the name of the younger daughter is supported by the content of a letter written by Frederick Zais in 1843.
United States Nationalization Records (from Allegany County, Maryland) show George's application for intention of United States citizenship was made on October 15, 1840, and he was admitted to citizenship on May 24, 1844. The U.S. and Canada Passenger and Immigration Lists Index notes that a George Zias [sic] arrived in Allegany County, Maryland, 18401. These dates are a helpful framework, but since United States Naturalization Law required five years residency before citizenship would be granted, they may not be entirely accurate. He may have immigrated as early as 1835. However the documentation supports the assumption that George Zais was naturalized as a United States Citizen in Cumberland, Maryland. United States Census records document Frederick’s later immigration, so George left him and his daughter Sophia behind in Germany when he came to America. Presumably his first wife had died.
George Zais’ second marriage was to Mary A. Shaffer or Shafferman (born 1815). Her last name is pure conjecture. The death certificate for John Thomas Zais, her son, lists her last name as “unknown.” Her West Virginia Death Index record lists her birthplace as Prussia. Family tradition states that she was of the Hohenzollern line who immigrated to the United States as a nursemaid for a wealthy family, but information in a letter written by Frederick Zais seems to confirm that her marriage to George took place in Germany, or that, at the very least, George and Mary immigrated together to the United States. In July 1843, Frederick wrote in a letter addressed to “My dear, beloved parents,”
I don’t know anything more to write you about the present circumstances of your respected parents-in-law except that I visited them about the 8th of July two years ago, and he regretted that he had let his daughter to and had to scrimp and slave in his old age. There is more I could say, but I will not entrust family matters to paper, so it will have to be put off until another time. I certainly do not hold anything against you, dear Mother, and I say nothing about your marriage. Do not weep and grieve about the fate of your parents. They still have joy in their son. Your father told me why you really are not at home, and I certainly believe he is stern, very stern, and with regard to your marriage he – shall I write it? – he even cursed! – So much now for this time. More another time when I am with you, where I can tell you alone.
George and Mary are said to have had four children. Two boys died young and are reportedly buried in Rose Hill Cemetery, Cumberland, Maryland, but no records have been found to substantiate their existence. George and Mary’s two other children were John Thomas and Catherine Anna. According to a note in the Zais family Bible, the family resided on the Renolds farm at Patterson Creek, presumably in Hampshire County, Virginia (now West Virginia), when John Thomas was born in 1842. The 1840 Census for Hampshire County lists a John Rannells as head of a household with five males and four females. Patterson Creek is an unincorporated settlement southwest of Spring Gap, Maryland, over the Potomac River. It is accessible now only from the West Virginia side and remains fairly isolated. However, census records for John Thomas indicate that he could have been born in Maryland, so the location of his birthplace remains unknown.
After John Thomas was born in 1842, the family moved to Cumberland. Phillip Spriggs is in possession of letters that George received in Cumberland from his son Frederick dated the summer of 1843. The letters indicate that Frederick had immigrated earlier in 1843 to Baltimore, but moved to Philadelphia to find work, and that Sophia was still in Germany1. The letter also states that George had acquired such a negative reputation in Germany that his daughter had turned against him and that German immigrants they knew in the United States refused to loan them money. A second letter written by Frederick just a few weeks later reveals that a rumor had reached him in Philadelphia that his father had died in 1843, but that rumor was false1. Tradition states that George and Mary were living on Green Street when Catherine Anna was born in October 1847. Frederick probably had joined them in Allegany County by then1 and may even have been married by that date. A letter dated 21 July 1847, prior to Catherine’s birth, written by George Zais from Baltimore, Maryland, records that he was seeking work at a brewery in the city. It appears that the family was planning a move to Baltimore. The letter was in the possession of the late John J. Turner (youngest child of Catherine Anna Zais). The translation follows:
Baltimore 21th July 1847
After long waiting I received, a few minutes ago, your letter of the 17th of this month, and from it I found out the news. I have the honor to inform you that I already could work in a brewer, but the wages are not as good as in the Saratoga Brewery. But the wife of Med. Dr. Tagnes (?) has promised me I shall be able to start within 14 days. So then I am able to have winter quarters.
Sell whatever you can change into money, and if people are not satisfied, so satisfy them.
Just now I go to Wm. Bradbeck (?) the same who wrote for me to Jean Rad (?) about my trunk. Up to now I have not made any money — but T. – you can tell Jean Thomas he had for … me so long… [the letter has a crease and is illegible]. Now both is over with, on account of certain circumstances.
You can help yourself best, sell gradually all your stuff. I shall take care of the money for travel. Mrs. Pister is very thin. Louis Muller lives two miles from here. Trudl died. Phillip is in Ohio City, but he can do very little. Miss Seibold died July 3rd; she has been married two years. Baltimore has extraordinary constructions.
My love and I shall not leave you.
Sometime in the summer of 1847, George may have joined Tighmann’s Artillery Company of the Maryland and District of Columbia Volunteers, Company G, which was organized to fight in the Mexican War. On May 11th, 1846, announcing that Mexican soldiers had crossed the Rio Grande and "shed American blood on American soil," President James K. Polk asked Congress to declare war against Mexico. Two days later they complied, voting $10,000,000 for the expense of the war and authorizing the raising of 50,000 volunteers, to be enlisted "to serve for the period of twelve months or to the end of the war." 73,260 Volunteers were recruited by the various states (16,887 Mounted, 1,129 Artillery, and 55,244 Infantry). This number includes 3,131 officers. Of these only 58,812 actually served in Mexico; 14,448 were short-term enlistees who were mustered out and never left the United States. This pension application was filed by a widow, Mary A. Zais, for her husband’s service. There is no other information regarding his enlistment.
By 1848 Frederick was living in Allegany County, probably in Frostburg. Mary Zais sent John Thomas to live with the Jacob Carpenter family in Londonderry, Bedford County, Pennsylvania. In 1850 Frederick was living in Frostburg, married with one son, and employed as a tinner. But Mary and Catherine have not been found in any 1850 census. At some time she and her daughter Catherine Anna went to live with the family of James W. Jones1, owner of a tannery who manufactured shoe leather. Mary and Anna are both listed on the 1860 United States Census as living with the Jones’ family1. The Jones’ home was known as the “Alpine House” on the corner of Fayette and Smallwood Streets, Cumberland, Maryland. In 1931 the house was demolished to make way for a Catholic elementary school. Mary reportedly had charge of the Jones’ household, including discharging duties to Mr. Jones’ slaves. Catherine Anna was rechristened by the Joneses as Anna Jones Zais.
Mary is recorded in 1880 United States Census living in Keyser, West Virginia, with her daughter Anna and her husband Jehu Turner. She died on 13 January 1896 in Keyser, and was buried in Philos Cemetery in Westernport, Maryland (Sec. E, Row Sal2).
George Zais [Johann Georg Zaiss] = Regina Hardter
Catarina Zaiss, born on 16 August 1819, christened on 17 August 1819, died on 1 March 1820
Frederick Barnhart Zais [Frederich Bernhardt Zaiss] born 28 April 1821
Johann Georg Zais, born 14 October 1822, died 12 July 1826
Sophia Catharina Carolina Zaiss, born 4 November 1828 (stayed in Germany)
GEORGE ZAIS = MARY A. --
Infant Boy [?]
Infant Boy [?]
JOHN THOMAS ZAIS, Maryland or West Virginia, 10 Sept 1842
Catherine Anna (Anna Jones) Zais, Maryland, Oct 1847
 Indexing Project (Batch) Number C93056-3; System Origin: Germany-EASy; GS Film Number 1189299
 Albright, Eleanor L., and Mary A. Dye. Naturalized in Cumberland Maryland. Cumberland, MD: Mayor and City Council of Cumberland, 1987, p. 44.
 See the entry on Frederick Barnhart Zais
 Some have suggested that the date on the second letter is 1847, but 1843 is clearly written. In addition, the second letter of August 1843 references the letter of July.
 Frederick received his U.S. citizenship in October 1848 which required him to have resided in the state for a year prior.
 Marjorie’s history stated that the family was William D. Jones, but census and tax records clearly record that James W. Jones was an owner of a leather manufactory in Cumberland; Mary and Anna are listed as domestic help in his household in 1860.
 1860 United States Census records their names as “Mary Sitz” and “Anna Sitz.”
(Courtesy of Robin Larson)