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Candid Camera: George H. Hermann

by Alethea Drexler, archives assistant
Phil and I found a few boxes of photographs stashed within the Hermann Estate collection when I was looking for hospital-supply ephemera last week.  I had not seen these when I re-boxed the collection five years ago because they didn’t contain any business papers.
One box consists mostly of images of or relating to George H. Hermann, for whom the hospital and the park are named.
Mr. Hermann, in a later portrait (probably circa 1910-1914):

Click on the images for larger versions.

George Henry Hermann

George Henry Hermann was born in Houston on August 6, 1843, in a house that stood near where City Hall stands today.  He served in the Twenty-Sixth Cavalry during the Civil War[1] and then returned to Houston to make a fortune in timber, cattle, real estate, and, most especially, oil.  He passed away in 1914 and keeps illustrious company in Glenwood Cemetery[2][3], which is just off of Allen Parkway.

Phil was told recently that Hermann’s father, John, was a Swiss veteran of the Battle of Waterloo (on the losing side).  This page on Swiss Texans[4] says that, too.  I’d love to be able to find out more about the elder Hermann.

In his later years, Hermann was plagued by failing health and traveled to the north and northeast in search of remedies.  He spent some time at John Harvey Kellogg[5]’s (of cornflake fame) Battle Creek Sanitarium[6] in 1911 and sent a postcard home to a friend:

Houston, Texas, guests of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, 1911

Hermann is in the back row, on our left.

The aim of the Battle Creek Sanitarium was to restore patients’ general health through a high-fiber, low-fat, diet; fresh air, and exercise.  We would probably call it a “spa“[7] today.

There were a few pictures of Hermann in the yard with a man and some little girls.  The folder says “Hermann with May Ewing.”  May seems to have been the smaller of the girls.  The man holding her is probably T.J. Ewing, who was one of the three men Hermann appointed as a trustee of his estate in the event of his death.  Hermann lived with the Ewing family for the last years of his life[8].

With the Ewing family

Sadly, Ewing and his partners in trusteeship, J.J. Settegast and John Stewart, son of Hermann’s attorney, caused a scandal by being profligate with Hermann’s fortune and failing to carry out his wishes[9].  Hermann’s Swiss relatives later filed a lawsuit to try to claim the property, but were not successful[10].

Hermann died at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 21, 1914[11].  Everybody turned out for his funeral:

In addition to the idea and the means to build and operate Hermann Hospital, Hermann donated the land that is now Hermann Park[12].

Park dedication

Works consulted:

[1] George H. Hermann, Houston

[2] George H. Hermann, Handbook of Texas Online

[3] Glenwood Cemetery

[4] Swiss Texans

[5] John Harvey Kellogg, Wikipedia

[6] Battle Creek Sanitarium, Wikipedia

[7] Spa, Wikipedia

[8] “A Trust Corrupted, A City Betrayed,” Texas Monthly, February 1986, page 175

[9] “A Trust Corrupted, A City Betrayed,” Texas Monthly, February 1986, page 176

[10] Hermann Hospital Estate collection, Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center Library, John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center, Houston, Texas

[11] George H. Hermann, Find A Grave

[12] George H. Hermann, Wikipedia

A Trust Corrupted, A City Betrayed,” Texas Monthly, February 1986, pages 99-103, 175-181, 184, 190.