August Herman Mittendorf, sometimes called “Herman” or simply “A. H.,” was born in March 1863 in Ohio, the fourth surviving child of Rev. William Mittendorf (1830-1895) and his first wife Louisa Remmert (~1830-1879). The other children of William and Louisa were: Eliza, Charles, Louis, John, Lydia, and Anna. William and his second wife Rosina Meyers (~1846-1893) had two more children: Nellie and William.
August’s parents were born in Germany and came to America in 1853, settling first in southern Ohio (near Portsmouth and Ironton). Rev. William Mittendorf was a preacher with the United Brethren Church and traveled many Midwest circuits in the 1860s. In 1869, the family came to Dayton, Ohio, where Rev. Mittendorf served for many years as an editor at the United Brethren Publishing House.
While several members of the Mittendorf family followed Rev. William’s footsteps and joined the printing business, August pursued a much different occupation: wood carving and design.
In the 1879-1880 Dayton City Directory, “Herman A. Mittendorf,” then age 16, was listed as a “carver.” He appeared the following year (1880-1881) with the same entry. On the 1880 census, he was listed as a “cabinetmaker.”
A. H. Mittendorf was conspicuously absent from the Dayton City Directories for the four years from 1881 to 1885. The specific reason for August’s apparent absence from the directories (and probably from Dayton) during that time is unclear.
August appeared in the Dayton City Directories again in 1885. The 1885-1886 Dayton City Directory listed A. H. Mittendorf with occupation “wood carver and designer; architectural carving a specialty.”
Thenceforth, from 1885 until 1938 (more than 50 years), A. H. Mittendorf was listed in the Dayton directories under some variation of the following occupations: wood carver, designer, cabinetmaker, and even maker of “interior woodwork and special furniture.” (The most common entry was “wood carver.”) For much of his career, August’s business office was located on the south side of Third Street, just east of Main (address 10 E. Third, 28 E. Third, 32 E. Third).
Based on his business records, August sometimes did business as a subcontractor, and sometimes he was hired directly by his customers. He frequently did Dayton businesses such as M. Ohmer’s Sons furniture manufacturers, contractor O. L. Bouck, and F. A. Requarth manufacturers, as well as Middletown lumber business Caldwell & Iseminger.
Through both subcontracted and direct-hired work, A. H. Mittendorf created detailed wood carvings for the architecture and furnishings of many prominent Dayton area families, including F. P. Beaver, E. J. Barney, Edward Canby, R. C. Schenck, the Threshers, the Thrustons, and the Chews (of Xenia). He also did many carvings for National Cash Register Company and a few for Barney and Smith Car Company.
In addition to these local customers, Mittendorf designed wood carvings for the architecture of at least 15 county courthouses in 9 states. He also designed carvings for the Ohio State House; Ohio Senator John Sherman’s Washington, D.C., residence; and the residence of former Ohio governor William Dennison.
[Although the job apparently predates or is simply not listed in the Mittendorf Business Records, A. H. Mittendorf carved the two large decorative panels that hung over the arched window in the Old Library and which can now be seen hanging in the Local History Room of the Main Dayton Library:
In 1895, August H. Mittendorf married Harriet A. Roser (1865-1945), who was a dressmaker in Dayton for many years. In 1898, they moved to the Dayton View neighborhood and made their residence at 621 Grand Avenue until their deaths. They do not appear to have had any children.
August Herman Mittendorf died on April 4, 1949, in Dayton, Ohio. He and his wife are buried in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton.
Dayton (OH) City Directories, 1877-1949. Dayton Metro Library.
Death notice of August H. Mittendorf, Dayton Journal, 6 Apr. 1949, p. 15.
Hamilton, William J. Press Release [re: Old Library Panels]. 18 Feb. 1938. Dayton Metro Library Collection (MS-007), 8:3, Dayton Metro Library (Dayton, Ohio).
Haverstock, Mary Sayre, Jeannette Mahoney Vance, & Brian L. Meggitt, eds. Artists in Ohio, 1787-1900: A Biographical Dictionary. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2000), 606.
History of Montgomery County, Ohio. Chicago: W. H. Beers & Co., 1882. “W. Mittendorf,” Book 3, pages 226-227. Dayton Local History 977.172 H673.
“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1994,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X87T-FLF : accessed 21 June 2012), August H. Mittendorf, 1895.
“Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/X6R7-GP1 : accessed 21 June 2012), August Herman Mittendorf, 1949.
U.S. Federal Census, 1870-1910, via Ancestry Library Edition.
Woodland Cemetery & Arboretum Interment Database, accessed 7 June 2012, http://www.woodlandcemetery.org.
 It is difficult to determine specifically where August was born, since his father was a preacher and moved often in the 1860s.
This biographical sketch was originally written by Lisa P. Rickey in June 2012 for the Mittendorf Business Records (MS-048) finding aid at the Dayton Metro Library, 215 E. Third St., Dayton, Ohio, 45402; phone (937) 496-8654.
Additional information about the sketch’s subject can be found in that collection. For more information about the manuscript collection’s contents, please see the original finding aid available in the Local History Room of the Dayton Metro Library or the OhioLINK EAD Repository entry.
Please contact the Dayton Metro Library or this blog’s author for more information about how to access the original finding aid or the manuscript collection.