The Varied life of Samuel Auxer, Plane Maker, Bibliophile and Entomologist.

The Obituary:

The Lancaster Daily Intelligencer
Wednesday, January 6, 1909
Samuel Auxer, a well known resident, died on Tuesday afternoon at his home, No. 150 South Prince street. he was in failing health for a year. He was born near Elizabethtown, a son of the late Jacob and Catherine (sic) Auxer, but he lived in this city since childhood. He learned the trade of plane making, but retired many years ago to engage in the secondhand book business with the late Samuel H. Zahm. Subsequently he conducted the business on his own account until two years ago when he retired. He was a member of the First Reformed church. His wife survives. Miss Mary B. Auxer and Mrs. Frank Faesig are sisters of deceased.

The Story:
The obituary does not even begin to tell the story. His accomplishments aren’t even touched in his obituary.
Samuel was the nephew of my ancestor, Michael. He was born on September 17, 1834 in Elizabethtown, as his obituary notes. The following month, he was baptized in The Reformed Church in that place.
His name is first mentioned in the census in 1850. Samuel was 16 years old and the family was living in Lancaster. He was confirmed in the First Reformed Church, also in Lancaster, in October of the same year.
In 1860 the family is still together and none of the children have married even though they are all in their 20’s. The 1870 census reflects Jacob’s death by his absence. Samuel is living with his mother and sisters and is 35 years old and still single. He doesn’t marry until 1875 at which time he and Rebecca Nolty marry at Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster.
Census data is good, but it doesn’t reflect what went on in Samuel’s life between birth and 1875. During that period he apprenticed himself to Emanuel Weidler Carpenter, the renown Plane Maker in Lancaster at that time. Along with Samuel, Carpenter’s nephew, William Keifer, was also an apprentice.  Eventually, Keifer and Auxer formed a partnership and today, there planes are highly collectible.  Very recently an auction sold one of their more unique planes for over $12,000.
This is one of their planes from my collection. The handle is smooth from many hours of use, and their are chips, notably that one on the left front. This is probably one of the more common planes made by the partners.
Each plane made by Kiefer and Auxer bore this stamp in the front of the plane. Samuel was also in partnership with a Mr. Remley. I have not been able to determine exactly which Remley in Lancaster was in business with him since there are several Remleys who were listed as “carpenters” and several listed as “gunmakers.” None of them, on tax lists, city directories or census records, list an occupation as “plane maker.”

Samuel was still associated with Kieffer in the 1869 Directory of Lancaster County. It was during this period of his life he became interested in entomology, and was known to have a “very fine collection of insects.” A little blurb appeared in an article in “The Brief History of Lancaster County,” chapter XVIII covering the natural history of Lancaster. In 1862 he was instrumental in the formation of “The Linnaean Society of Lancaster City and County,” an organization that was concerned with “the cultivation, development and advancement of natural science, and for the investigation of the character, quality and habits of the animals, plants and minerals of Lancaster County. . . . .”

In 1877 he became a partner with Samuel Hensel Zahn and started his new career as a bookseller. Mr. Zahn was renowned for being an avid bibliophile and our Samuel acquired the same reputation.

Samuel died in January of 1909 and is buried in Greenwood Cemetery next to his wife and her family. Interestingly enough, he bought the family plot his sisters and parents are buried in, but he is not even buried in the same cemetery. Is there a story here?

The Academy of Natural Sciences noted his passing in volume XX of their 1909 issue:
Mr. Samuel Auxer, of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, died on January 6th last. He was born near Elizabethtown seventy- four years ago. In early years he was a plane maker, but later became engaged in the book and stationery business. Mr. Auxer was a great lover of books, but probably loved nature better. He was an ardent collector of entomological specimens and had a large collection and exchanged with many scientists in America and Europe. He was a valued citizen of his town and had the respect of many persons, who admired him for his modesty and knowledge of nature in general. He is survived by his wife, but had no children.


A Rhode Island newspaper published the following article on June 1, 1910. It appears that the estate was being settled at this point.

His interests were varied and it would appear that anything he attempted, he excelled in. I wish I had known Samuel.

I was one century too late.

Published in: on September 23, 2008 at 9:54 pm  Comments (2)  
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