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A Workplace Accident: A Hamburg Shoemaker’s Plea for Assistance and a Senator’s Response (1883-84)

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[Note: Senator Versmann, who had commissioned the inquiries on August 22, 1883, proposed the following day that Huthmann be employed as a “veteran of the construction squad” – these were old or physically handicapped men chosen by the poor relief department who were employed by the building department to do light work; in 1886 these men received a daily wage of 1.2 marks. It is probably on account of this low wage that Huthmann stated in September of 1883 “that he wished to think it over.” On November 17, 1883, F. Andreas Meyer, the chief engineer in charge, asked Versmann whether he "still wish[ed] to do something for the old man, who has not come around again but nevertheless seems to be living in abject poverty and whom we would like to admit to our veterans.” On November 18, 1883, Versmann ordered that the matter rest until Huthmann got in touch again. Secondary commentary from Jens Flemming, Klaus Saul, and Peter-Christian Witt, eds., Quellen zur Alltagsgeschichte der Deutschen, 1871-1914. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1977, p. 172. See source information below.]

February 28, 1884

To Herr Senator Versmann,

Please accept my apologies for bothering you again, since you arranged the sweeper's post for me in 1883, but I fell once more with my leg, and since then I have had to lie still in bed. And now I am good enough with that leg to walk again and have reported this year to the Herr supervisor and was also at the meeting for the gentlemen. There, I was told [sic] how old I was, so I gave 55 years as the reply; then they say that I am much too young – this was a post for people over 60 years, so I was turned away completely and now I want to ask the Herr Senator for justice and support. Since I have had nothing to do all winter and my wife has had nothing either, on some days we have had nothing to eat.

I request from and ask the Herr Senator
Humbly, W. Huthmann

[On March 10, 1884, Versmann recommended consideration of the application, as a result of which Huthmann was apparently hired. Secondary commentary from Flemming, Saul, and Witt, eds., p. 173)]

Source: Staatsarchiv Hamburg [Hamburg State Archive], Baudeputation [Building Deputation] B 284.

Original German text also reprinted in Jens Flemming, Klaus Saul, and Peter-Christian Witt, eds., Quellen zur Alltagsgeschichte der Deutschen 1871-1914 [Source Materials on Everyday Life in Germany 1871-1914]. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1977, pp. 171-73.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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