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Otto Firzlaff's buttons

I’ve mentioned museum volunteer Deb Fortier before in the weekly column that I write for the Manistee News Advocate and how from time-to-time Deb (who has been going through and organizing artifacts, documents, etc. at the museum for many years) will bring me a really cool item she has just discovered in the odds and ends she’s been shuffling through.

About two months ago, she came across six buttons in an old matchbox that upon a quick glance could just be written off as nothing more than really old buttons. But after flipping them over you find that they aren’t just really old buttons but really old buttons that were once used by local merchant tailor, Otto Firzlaff in his clothing business.

Otto Firzlaff was born in Germany on February 8, 1855 and arrived in Manistee at the age of 22. By his mid-20s, he became involved in the tailoring business eventually opening his own store at 386 River Street. In 1900, Otto moved to Milwaukee but just a few years later decided to move back to Manistee where he continued to work in the tailoring businesses, once again opening up a shop at 422 River Street.

A well-known businessman for many years, Otto was also the brother of Frank Firzlaff, who operated a saloon and boarding house in Manistee. As such, Frank was the operator of the Franklin House (formerly located at the corner of Filer & Division streets) and was part owner of the Dunham House/Hotel Chippewa (formerly located at the corner of Water and Pine streets) as well as a grocer.

For 33 years Otto was considered one of Manistee’s busiest tailors until his declining health forced him to retire. After being confined to his bed for roughly three months, he passed away due to complications from diabetes on July 19, 1913. He was survived by his wife, one of his sisters and a nephew. He was laid to rest in Mt. Carmel Cemetery.

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