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
FRANK C. FISH. At a time and in a country when and where specialization along all lines seems to have become the custom. It is not unnatural that the artistic sense should be manifested in various ways. Every line of industry, all of the professions, even the religious organizations, have their specialists, and it would be strange if those animated by an artistic spirit did not seek and find their own special field. At any rate, such has been the case with Frank C. Fish, of Waterloo, who has made sign painting both a business and an art, elevating it far above the standards and planes of the itinerant sign-painter of the olden days, who trudged hither and thither down the dusty roads and lanes, with his brushes and paints, hung across his shoulders and encased in a paint-besmeared box of tin.
Frank C. Fish was born at Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a son of Harry G. Fish, who
was a native of Newark, New Jersey. The latter's father was a prominent
physician and surgeon of Newark, where it is thought that he spent his entire life
in the successful practice of his profession. Harry G. Fish was reared at
Newark, where he received his educational training, and in young manhood moved to Illinois, where, soon after the start of the war he enlisted in an Illinois volunteer infantry regiment. He served with his command in its various battles until he was made a prisoner by the enemy and had the misfortune to be sent to the notorious Andersonville Prison Camp. This Confederate States military prison was noted for its unhealthfulness and for barbarity of discipline. Between February 15, 1864, and April, 1865, 49,485 prisoners were received, of whom 12,926 died in that time of various diseases. Henry Wirz, the superintendent, was later tried for injuring the health and destroying the lives of the soldiers confined here, was found guilty, and hanged, November 10,1865. The long trenches where the soldiers were buried have since been laid out as a cemetery. Mr. Fish was forced to suffer the same hardships and cruelties as those of his companions, but was possessed of a rugged constitution which withstood the frightful experience, and eventually managed his exchange. He then rejoined his regiment and served until the close of the war, when he received his honorable discharge. After recuperating he engaged for a time in railroad work, and about 1870 came to Iowa and settled at Cedar Rapids, where he continued in the same line. From that city he came to Waterloo, where he joined Buffalo Bill's "Wild West Show," which was then in its infancy. Eventually he resigned his position and settled at Waterloo, where he established himself in business as a sign painter and house decorator, but several years thereafter move to La Porte, Texas, where he died at the age of seventy-six years, one of the highly esteemed men of his community. Mr. Fish married Louise C. Womelsdorf, who was born in Germany and came to the United States with her parents. She died at the age of forty-nine years, having been the mother of two sons: Frank C., of this review; and Harry, a resident of Houston, Texas. Three daughters were also born, but none are now living.
Frank C. Fish attended the public schools of East Waterloo, and commenced his career of usefulness at the age of fourteen years. For a time he was variously employed, and traveled extensively, but he had learned the rudiments of
sign painting from his father, and, being possessed of talent as an artist, decided to develop along these lines. He was not possessed of sufficient means to secure a regular training, but perhaps this has done him no harm, for it led him into original fields and has served to give an unique touch to his productions that has added considerably to their value either from an artistic
or commercial standpoint.
With the advent of the automobile he quickly sensed the progressive demand
for highway painted advertising, and today his beautiful displays may be seen
in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. He has also helped develop the new Neon
Gaseous Tube sign, many of which may be seen in Waterloo territory.
He is now carrying on a large and profitable business, maintaining a
down-town sales and service office, at 522 Lafayette Street, and owning and
operating a large studio and plant at Park Road and Fairview Avenue, where some twenty-five people are employed the year round.
Mr. Fish is a public-spirited citizen and has borne a fair share of the
responsibilities of public service. He is a member and director of the local
Chamber of Commerce and for four years served on the city council. Fraternally he is a past exalted ruler of Waterloo Lodge No. 290, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, and a member of Helment Lodge No. 89, K. of P. He is greatly
fond of all outdoor sports and a member of the board of directors of the Waterloo baseball club.
On November 16, 1903, Mr. Fish was united in marriage with Miss Bessie
Stewart, at Wall Lake, Iowa, daughter of John Fremont and Sadie Stewart, and to
this union there have been born three children: Mildred, who is the wife of
George Hagerman; and Virginia Louise and Franklin, who reside with their
parents. Mr. and Mrs. Fish are Universalists in their religious faith.
*Check you facts, don't know how accurate.