A Narrative History
The People of Iowa
SPECIAL TREATMENT OF THEIR CHIEF ENTERPRISES IN
EDUCATION, RELIGION, VALOR, INDUSTRY,
EDGAR RUBEY HARLAN, LL. B., A. M.
Curator of the
Historical, Memorial and Art Department of Iowa
THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL SOCIETY, Inc.
Chicago and New York
LOUIS C. KURTZ. The name of Kurtz is at once associated in the minds of
residents of Des Moines with participation in large and important affairs. Three
generations of the family have been prominent in mercantile affairs,
banking, real estate and public life, and the family has to its credit a record of
splendid achievement. Among those who have worthily held up the traditions of
this family is Louis C. Kurtz, chairman of the board of directors of the
Iowa-Des Moines National Bank & Trust Company, who also has other large and
important interests, and who has borne his full share of the burdens of good
Mr. Kurtz was born at Des Moines, November 28, 1867, and is a son of Louis
H. Kurtz. Louis H. Kurtz was born at Voelkingen, Prussia, Germany, December
14, 1840, a son of Peter and Katherine E. (Munger) Kurtz. He was of French
descent on both sides of the house, the district where he was born having
belonged to France until 1812, when it was acquired by Prussia. He was one of a
family of eleven children. In 1854 the family came to the United States,
landing at New York City and stopping for a short time at Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania, whence they resumed their western journey. They had reached Iowa when
attacked by the dread malady, cholera, and the parents both died at Keokuk,
Iowa, within twenty-four hours of each other.
Louis H. Kurtz was only thirteen years of age when left an orphan, but was a
strong, willing and able lad, and for several years found employment on a
farm. he was not contented however, to work for others, and eventually he and
three older brothers formed a partnership, rented land and began the
cultivation of a farm of their own. Subsequently Louis H. Kurtz disposed of his
interest in this land and went to Van Buren County, Iowa, where he applied
himself to learning the trade of tinner and in 1861 settled at Des Moines, where he
followed his trade until 1866, He then embarked in business on his own
account, with a cash capital of less than $350 and from this small beginning
developed the great firm of L. H. Kurtz Company, the largest wholesale plumbing
and heating establishment and wholesale and retail hardware business in the
city. Mr. Kurtz also became interested in other lines of business, and was a
member of the Board of Directors of the German Savings Bank. he was
recognized as one of the highly efficient and progressive citizens of Des Moines, a
man who by useful and upright life reflected honor upon himself and his adopted
city. On June 5, 1864, he was united in marriage with Miss Annie M. Kula, a
native of Bohemia, Austria, who came to the United States about the same
time as himself, and to this union there were born three children: Emma, the
widow of Walter L. Seeburger, of Des Moines; Louis C., of this review; and Mary
A. Schuster, deceased, wife of Joseph R. Schuster, of Des Moines. Louis H.
Kurtz, whose death occurred January 28, 1923, was profoundly mourned
throughout the city. Mr. Kurtz was independent in politics, a devout member of the
Catholic Church, and was active in the Knights of Columbus.
Louis C. Kurtz grew to manhood under favorable conditions and in an
environment that encouraged industry and honesty. After receiving his preliminary
educational training in the parochial schools of Des Moines he took a business
course at Iowa Business College, Des Moines, and St. Benedict's College,
Atchison, Kansas, and immediately became identified with his father in the
hardware and sheet metal business. At the end of three years he was admitted to
partnership, and the Kurtz firm from that time forward has continued to be
prominent in the hardware, plumbing and heating line, having equipped many of
Iowa's finest public and business structures. The firm later entered the
wholesale plumbing and heating line and became the pioneer jobber of plumbing
supplies in the city. In 1902 the business was incorporated as the L. H. Kurtz
Company, Louis C. Kurtz becoming the first secretary and manager of the
business, which under his management has grown to be one of the most important
business enterprises of Des Moines.
On June 23, 1896, Mr. Kurtz was united in marriage with Miss Alice E.
McDonnell, daughter of the late N. S. McDonnell, who was the head of the McDonnell
Boiler and Iron Works of Des Moines until his death in 1929, when the company
went out of business. Mrs. Kurtz is a devout member of the Catholic Church.
She has been an active worker in the Des Moines Woman's Club, having been
president of this organization at one time, and in the Literary Club. She is
diocesan president of the National Council of Catholic Women, vice president
and a director of the Public Welfare Bureau and president of the South Side
Community House. She and Mr. Kurtz have had three children: Louis C., Jr.,
born May 11, 1897; Louis Henry, born November 8, 1903; and Bernard B., born
August 21, 1905.
Louis C. Kurtz, Jr., received good educational advantages, attending the
public schools of Des Moines, St. Mary's College and the Iowa State College,
Ames. he is one of the capable and progressive young business men of Des
Moines, and now holds the office of vice president of the L. H. Kurtz Company. He
married Miss Helen Miley, and they have five children: Louis, Jr., Bobby,
Mary Alice, Nancy and Helen Clare.
Louis Henry Kurtz, the second son of Louis C. Kurtz, died August 28, 1904.
Bernard D. Kurtz, the youngest son of Louis C. Kurtz, is a graduate of Des
Moines Catholic College and St. Mary's College, Kansas, and is secretary of
the L. H. Kurtz Company.
Louis C. Kurtz in addition to being president of the L. H. Kurtz Company is
chairman of the Board of Directors of the Iowa-Des Moines National Bank &
Trust Company. He was formerly vice president of the German Savings Bank, and
when that bank merged with the Des Moines National Bank he became a member of
the Board of Directors of the latter institution. He was elected chairman of
the board and later president of the Des Moines National Bank, which
position he held until the consolidation of the Des Moines National Bank, Iowa
National Bank and Des Moines Savings Bank & Trust Company, at which time he was
elected chairman of the Board of Directors of the consolidated institution. he
is also president of the Kurtz Realty Company, a position in which he
handles property of his own, although he devotes the greater part of his time to
the bank. He is a director of the Northwest Bank Corporation and a director of
the Chicago Joint Stock Land Bank.
Always a staunch and loyal Republican on May 1, 1911, Mr. Kurtz was
appointed postmaster of Des Moines upon the recommendation of Sen. Albert B. Cummins,
and assumed charge of that office June 1st of that year. He managed two of
the campaigns of U. S. Senator Albert Cummins, and was a delegate to the
national convention that nominated Warren G. Harding for the Presidency.
He was given liberally of his time and energies to public service and every
movement looking to the civic betterment of his native city has had his
hearty cooperation. He served eight years as a member of the school board and was
three times selected as president of that body. he was a member thereof
during the consolidation of the various school districts, and to his labours is
due in no small degree the present high efficiency of the public school
system. He was one of the pioneers in the agitation for the river front
improvements, was one of the early members of the Greater Des Moines Committee, and
served for four years as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Auditorium
He is a member of the Des Moines Club, the Wakonda Club, the Knights of
Columbus, and holds a life membership in the Benevolent and Protective Order of
Elks. he has always been active in the work of the Catholic Church.
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