Christopher Demuth (1738-1818)

Christopher Demuth was a tobacconist whose business — Demuth’s Tobacco Shop — operated for over two centuries at the same location in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Updated: August 09, 2013


Christopher (originally Christoph) Demuth (born September 19, 1738, in Germantown, PA; died September 7, 1818, in Lancaster, PA) was a tobacconist whose business — Demuth’s Tobacco Shop — operated for over two centuries at the same location, 114 East King Street, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.[1] Demuth’s father-in-law, Robert (originally Robertus) Hartaffel, founded the business in 1771. After Hartaffel’s death, Demuth bought the property and expanded the shop, specializing in manufacturing snuff. By the early 1800s he was wholesaling his products throughout the region, and he had erected a two-story brick snuff mill (still standing) behind the shop. Demuth’s son Jacob (1778-1842) took over the business in 1816, and his descendants operated the business until 1986. The shop continued under new ownership, but closed in December 2010.[2] Proceeds from the tobacco business enabled the Demuth family to prosper and achieve prominence in their community and ultimately provided the wherewithal for Christopher’s great-great grandson, Charles Demuth (1883-1935), to become an acclaimed modernist artist.[3]

Family and Ethnic Background

Christopher Demuth’s parents were Gotthard and Regina (née Leupold) Demuth. Gotthard Demuth, born 1694 in Karlov, Moravia, was the son of Christoph and Elizabeth (née Kern) Demuth. Regina Leupold was born September 7, 1702, in Wisetaedtel, Bohemia, to George and Elizabeth Leupold. The Demuth and Leupold families were among the Protestant pietists who, in the early eighteenth century, found refuge from Catholic persecution on Nickolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf’s estate in Saxony. Zinzendorf established the village of Herrnhut for the refugees, and he soon emerged as the spiritual leader of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum or Moravians.[4]

The Moravians believed they had a calling to spread their gospel around the world, and they began their missionary work in earnest in the 1730s. Gotthard and Regina Demuth, who were married at Herrnhut in 1727, were part of this movement, and they helped establish the first Moravian settlement in British North America at Savannah, Georgia. Gotthard, a joiner (cabinet maker) by trade, was part of the initial contingent of ten men who sailed to Georgia on the Two Brothers; they arrived on April 7, 1735. Regina came with the “second company” of Moravians — twenty-five men and women — who traveled on the Simmonds and arrived in Savannah on February 23, 1736.[5]

For a variety of reasons, including linguistic barriers, a commitment not to bear arms, and internal dissension, the Moravian settlement in Georgia was not successful. As the situation deteriorated, a few settlers returned to Europe, but most moved to Pennsylvania, which had not only a Quaker (and thus pacifist) government, but also a large number of German-speaking inhabitants.[6] In 1737 or 1738, Gotthard and Regina Demuth were among the first to leave the missionary outpost in Georgia. They went temporarily to New York, but ultimately relocated to Germantown, Pennsylvania, where they built a house and according to a contemporary account “wanted to remain by themselves.”[7] While they were living in Germantown, the couple had two sons: Christoph, born on September 19, 1738, and Christian, born December 26, 1740.[8]

The Demuths continued as members of the Renewed Unitas Fratrum, and they established close ties to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the Moravian town and communal society established in 1741, after the failure of the Savannah settlement, at the junction of Monocacy Creek and the Lehigh River. During the first Congregational Council held June 25, 1742, at Bethlehem, Zinzendorf assigned the Demuths to the house congregation (Hausgemeine). Although members of the house congregation typically lived in Bethlehem, as opposed to missionaries (Pilgergemeine), the couple stayed in Germantown, but visited Bethlehem periodically.[9] As a cabinetmaker, Gotthard had skills that were needed in the new settlement. He worked in Bethlehem during the summer of 1741. Later, he spent April 28 to June 20, 1743, helping to build the community’s saw mill, and he returned the following June to inspect and repair the mill.[10]

Life changed dramatically for the Demuth family with Gotthard’s death on December 12, 1744. His funeral was held in Germantown the following day, and two weeks later, Regina and the two children moved to Bethlehem. Under Bethlehem’s communal organizational system, the congregation was divided, by age, sex, and marital status into groups known as “choirs,” whose members lived and worked together. Therefore Regina lived in the Widows’ House while Christopher and Christian were housed and cared for in the Little Boys Choir.[11] In 1747 Regina Demuth married widower David Tanneberger Sr. (1696-1760), the foreman of Bethlehem’s cobbler shop. After Tanneberger’s death, she stayed on in Bethlehem, where she died in February 1774.[12]

Christopher was baptized at Bethlehem in 1745 and in June of that year, he and his younger brother Christian were enrolled in Mount Frederick School, a new Moravian boarding school in Frederick Township, Montgomery County. The school was in operation for only five years, and the boys were back in the Boys Choir in Bethlehem by 1750.[13] By 1755 Christian Demuth was living in the Moravian community at Christianbrunn, Pennsylvania. He married Maria Magdalena Stotz on March 14, 1781, and died at Hope, New Jersey (another Moravian settlement), on September 10, 1781.[14]

Christopher Demuth stayed in Bethlehem. As a Single Brother there, he experienced the community’s transition, in 1762, from the “Oeconomy,” where all residents lived and worked communally, to a cash economy.[15] At Bethlehem, Demuth worked as a journeyman cabinetmaker (shreiner) under Brother John C. Richter (1712-78) and helped build one of the mills. The Moravians were known for their love of music, and Demuth was among the brothers who played trombone for worship services.

Demuth grew discontented at Bethlehem and chafed under its disciplined lifestyle, even after the switch to a market economy. In particular he complained about his wages, and, in 1764, he asked to be paid for piece work rather than a weekly salary, a request that his elders sternly denied. In fact, the elders observed, in July 1765, that Demuth acted as though he wanted to be independent rather than work under a master craftsman, but they stressed “he could not and should not be established for himself.” The problems continued, and by August 1766 Demuth had left Bethlehem. For a short time thereafter, he moved from one place to another and lodged with church members. In the spring of 1767 he sought forgiveness from the Bethlehem elders, who agreed to readmit him to the church, and to allow him to choose one of the town and country congregations such as Lancaster in which to live, rather than returning to Bethlehem.[16]

By May 1767, Demuth had moved permanently to Lancaster, a county seat with a large German-speaking population and a thriving business community. Although Lancaster was home to an active Moravian congregation, there were many other religious denominations there as well. Thus, the diverse town offered a very different experience from the closed community of Bethlehem, where only church members were permitted to reside.[17] While Demuth would have felt at home among fellow German-speakers and Moravians in his new location, he may have been shocked by the feelings of some Lancastrians, since, in these early years, Moravians were not particularly popular. That is, in the 1740s Moravian ministers were met with hostility and occasional violence when they preached in Lancaster. Their missionary attempts to bring the town’s Lutherans into their ecumenical fold divided that congregation, whose members came to blows over the issue. Some Lutherans stayed, others left and formed a new church, St. Andrew’s Moravian. When the St. Andrews congregation dedicated a new building in November 1746, it had three hundred members, seventy of whom were admitted to Communion. (At the time Lancaster’s population was about fifteen hundred.) The congregation, though small, was, according to historian Mark Häberlein, “prosperous and viable.”[18] Animosity toward the Moravians continued nonetheless. Prominent Lancaster resident William Henry, who joined the Moravian congregation in the 1760s, agonized over that decision because, as he recalled in his memoir, Moravians were a “despised people.”[19]

Still Demuth kept his ties to the Moravian church. His entry into his new community and the Lancaster congregation was likely eased through his marriage on November 8, 1767, to (Ann) Elizabeth Hartaffel, whose family had lived in Lancaster for nearly twenty years. Elizabeth’s father was Robert Hartaffel, born February 27, 1717, at Leidek in Bingenheim, Darmstadt. Her mother was Sophia Eckert, born February 20, 1725, at Friedberg, Budishein. The couple had married in Germany in 1744, and Elizabeth had been born on April 18, 1746. Not long after, the family had sailed for America from Rotterdam on the galley Ann. They arrived in Philadelphia where Robert took the oath of allegiance September 27, 1746. By 1749 they were living in Lancaster, and “attached to” its Moravian congregation.[20] The Hartaffels had ten (some sources say twelve) children; just five daughters survived by 1782 when Robert died, and only two were living at the time of Sophia’s death in 1802.[21]

Robert Hartaffel had been trained as an organ builder and repairman. While still in Europe, he built clavichords for the Moravian “School of Prophets” at Marienborn. He continued his work in America and repaired the chapel organ at Bethlehem in 1751. In 1756, the Lancaster Moravian congregation hired him to build their organ, but they grew impatient when the instrument was not completed by 1762 (an unfinished organ was listed in his probate inventory twenty years later), and they gave the commission to another Moravian organ builder, David Tannenberg. Perhaps Hartaffel was delinquent in the project because he was already engrossed in a new trade. Lancaster tax records for 1763 identify him as a tobacconist rather than an organ maker. By 1773 his son-in-law, Christopher Demuth, was also listed as a tobacconist.[22]

Business Development

Lancaster was a good place for Hartaffel and Demuth to do business. Established in 1729 as the capital of newly-formed Lancaster County, the town grew rapidly and became a borough by 1752. A network of roads crisscrossed southeastern Pennsylvania with Lancaster at their intersection, and it soon became a lively commercial center. Historian Jerome Wood explains that Lancaster businesses not only provided goods to the surrounding countryside, but in the late eighteenth century, served as “an emporium for the wide hinterland embracing western Pennsylvania and Maryland, as well as the upper portion of the Valley of Virginia.” [23]

In October 1771 Hartaffel purchased a two-story brick town house on a half-lot on East King Street for £512 (approximately £52,000 or $80,000 in 2011).[24] Prior to this, he and his family had lived in rented homes. His purchase of a relatively new house (the deeds reveal it had been built just ten years before) on what was then the town’s principal street suggests his improving economic status as he pursued the tobacco trade.[25] Meanwhile the Demuth family (living in rental property at the time) was growing. Christopher and Elizabeth had ten children between 1768 and 1784: Anna Maria (1768-1828), Christian (1770-72), Johann/John (1771-1822) Frederick (1773-98), Wilhelm (1775-77), Sophia (1777-81), Jacob (1779-1842), Joseph (1781-1805), and twins Abraham (1784-84) and Henry (1784-85).[26]

When the American colonies went to war with Great Britain, Demuth and his brother-in-law, Frederick Hartaffel, were among the Lancaster Moravian men who entered military service, despite the urging of church leaders at Bethlehem to remain true to the Moravians’ traditional pacifist stance. Demuth joined the Lancaster militia, and in September 1776, he appears on the muster role of Captain Jacob Krug’s company of light infantry, part of Colonel Matthias Slough’s battalion of Associators, “destined for the camp in the Jerseys.” Hartaffel enlisted in a Continental Army unit: “Capt. Abraham Dehuff’s Company of the Pennsylvania Battalion of Musquetry commanded by Samuel John Atlee, Esqr.” By September 1776 he was encamped near King’s Bridge, New York, as the company prepared to defend New York City against the British.[27]

During the war years the economy of Lancaster, like that of the rest of the new United States, was unstable. Some Lancaster tradesmen were called on to supply cloth, guns, and other materials for the Continental army. The town’s shops also benefited from increased trade as the population swelled through the establishment of a prisoner of war camp and an influx of Philadelphians fleeing the city’s British occupation. As the war went on, however, supplies of commodities ran short. Continental money depreciated steadily, inflation ran rampant, and prices and house rents soared. The economic problems continued even after the war ended. Some Lancaster businessmen were forced into bankruptcy and others simply left town.[28]

The effect of war on Hartaffel and Demuth’s business is unknown. Even before the conflict ended, however, twin tragedies struck the family. Frederick, who was the Hartaffels’ only son, died in April 1782, and in November of that same year Robert Hartaffel succumbed to apoplexy. Robert died intestate, and his property descended to Sophia and their daughters. An inventory of his possessions included a snuff mill valued at £25 and a “small snuff mill” worth just £1 5s. (The fact that these mills are listed in his inventory suggests they were portable and hand-operated, and may have been similar to those used in Germany at the time.) He also had £13 worth of tobacco and snuff on hand. Altogether his estate — his personal possessions and monies due him — totaled a modest £238 6s. 2d (approximately £23,000 or $35,000 in 2011).[29]

Four years later, in 1786, Christopher Demuth and his family moved in with the widowed Sophia Hartaffel. Since there was no male heir to carry on Hartaffel’s business, Demuth took charge. He paid the taxes on the East King Street house that year, as well as on a horse, cow, “pleasurable carriage,” and the snuff mill. In 1789 he bought the property outright, for £450, from Sophia and daughters, Mary (Anna Maria) Sponseller, a widow, and Sophia (and husband Charles) Henitch. (The price for the property reflects the fact that Elizabeth Hartaffel Demuth already owned a share of it.) The purchase was subject to the widow Hartaffel's dower or “thirds” rights which allowed her to live there for the rest of her life. This building served as the Demuth family home and tobacco shop for the next two hundred years.[30]

Eventually the young nation rebounded from the uncertain economy of the war and postwar years. The recovery began around 1789-1790, stimulated by European demand for food because of the ravages of the Napoleonic Wars.[31] In Lancaster, by 1789, the outlook seemed so promising that the Burgesses petitioned Congress to designate the borough, which by now had a population of about 3,770, as the national capital. Their appeal included an impressive list of Lancaster’s industries and manufacturers, which included six tobacconists. The attempt to bring the federal capital to Lancaster failed, but it did serve as state capital from 1799 to 1813, and by 1818 it was designated a city.[32]

Demuth’s tobacco shop was in a particularly good location in this growing commercial and political center. It was situated on a main thoroughfare, and the town square, market house, and courthouse were just a few blocks away. This put the shop within easy walking distance for the well-to-do and professional men doing business in this area who were the preferred clientele at shops such as Demuth’s. Indeed, lawyer and future president of the United States James Buchanan is said to have been a regular Demuth customer. Equally fortunate was the fact that there were a number of taverns nearby, including the William Pitt, Earl of Chatham Tavern located next door. Some of these served as stops for the stage coaches, and all had the potential to provide additional traffic for Demuth’s business.[33]

Lancaster businessmen were proactive in improving the road system around the borough to further increase traffic. Demuth was not among those who subscribed to the new Lancaster-Philadelphia turnpike in 1792, but he purchased one share in the “artificial road, from Lancaster through Elizabeth to Middletown” in 1805 and two shares in the road from the Susquehanna River at Wright’s Ferry to the Borough of York in 1808.[34]

Demuth’s personal attributes and skills also helped him succeed in this multi-ethnic community. Raised in the German-speaking community of Bethlehem and part of a church whose official language was German, Demuth could easily relate to Lancaster’s German population, who were the majority of inhabitants. However, he also had to deal with English-speaking customers and colleagues. Indeed, being bilingual in Lancaster’s business community was a near necessity. An advertisement in the Lancaster Journal from August 1798 emphasized this point: “Wanted. A Young Man who can speak the English and German languages, of good character and recommendations, to attend a store in Lancaster Borough.”[35] Demuth’s fluency in English is demonstrated by the fact that he and his son Jacob kept their business ledger (1796-1816) in that language. In addition, Demuth’s ledger entries also reflect his Moravian upbringing in their thoroughness and attention to detail. Once Jacob took over the business, the entries are much less complete.[36]

Tobacco itself, particularly snuff, had great economic potential for entrepreneurial businessmen such as Demuth. Tobacco was extremely popular with men and women of all stations who used (and became addicted to) such products as cigars, pipe and chewing tobacco, and snuff. There was little concern about associated health problems. In fact, snuff was praised for its beneficial qualities. Working people could enjoy smokeless products, including chewing tobacco and snuff without risk of fire. Sold by the penny’s worth in taverns and stores, snuff and chewing tobacco were readily affordable to working people. Even the inmates of the Lancaster workhouse received their snuff allotment. The managers bought it from Demuth in 1802-1803. Tobacco cut across class lines, however, and snuff was particularly favored by the wealthy and elite who developed a certain etiquette governing its use and acquired expensive and elaborate snuff boxes as status symbols.[37] As their switch from their former trades indicates, Hartaffel and Demuth recognized this burgeoning and diverse market, and they seized the opportunity to manufacture snuff and sell tobacco products on both a retail and a wholesale basis.

Such high demand for tobacco products also meant that towns could support a number of tobacconists, and, as noted, in 1799-1800, Demuth had competition from at least five other city men.[38] He sought to distinguish himself from his competitors in several ways. To attract the attention of passers-by, he placed a wooden figure, carved and painted by his son John, outside the shop. The figure, called “The Snuff Taker of Revolutionary Days” or “Tobacco Seller,” depicts a man in colonial dress extending his snuff box in his right hand and holding a sheaf of tobacco in the left. (The piece remained outside the shop for many years before the then-owner moved it to a display area inside the shop for security. It is currently in the Demuth Foundation collection.)[39]

In choosing a well-dressed upper class gentleman for his advertising piece, Demuth may have hoped to send a positive message about his own status and good taste and thus attract the upper echelon of tobacco and snuff consumers to his shop. In addition, he signaled his remarkably innovative spirit. Modern-day scholars and collectors regard Demuth’s advertising figure as the earliest of its kind in America. While swinging signs for taverns and businesses were everyday sights in Lancaster, the appearance of the carved “snuff taker” on the street in front of the shop must have drawn attention from passers-by. Cigar store figures, typically “Indians” for tobacconists and Scottish Highlanders for snuff shops, became common in England after the introduction of tobacco there, but they were not usually seen in America before the 1840s.[40] Nor is it known how Demuth came upon the idea of using such a figure for his shop. There is no evidence that Demuth traveled to Europe where he might have seen such figures, although it is quite possible that he heard (or read) about them. In any case, it is interesting to note that the image Demuth chose to symbolize his business was a well-dressed gentleman rather than the arguably less-refined, but certainly colorful, types common in Europe.

Another way the entrepreneurial Demuth set himself apart from his peers was by building a new brick snuff mill at the rear of his property. It is likely that he had his selling space in the front room of the family home, facing King Street (where the tobacco shop remains today), while the family lived above the shop, but he also needed a workshop where he could store tobacco and grind snuff.[41] In 1798, this work space was a wooden frame “shop” behind the house, but by 1815 he had replaced this with a two-story brick building with upgraded milling apparatus. This large fireproof building sent a strong message of solidity and permanence to the community and signaled the success that allowed him to expand his business. Tax records show that only Demuth, of all the Lancaster tobacconists, boasted such a structure on his property.[42]

The new equipment allowed Demuth to increase his capacity and output, and he changed the type and dramatically increased the quantity of tobacco he purchased to grind into snuff. That is, from 1797 to 1804 Demuth bought plug and pigtail tobacco and leaf stems from Lancaster County tobacconist Jacob Busser. (Plug tobacco was made by pressing leaves into a form, while pigtail was spun into a rope. Either could be chewed or smoked, but they might also be grated into snuff, sometimes with a pocket sized rasp or grater.)[43] Demuth’s tobacco purchases from Busser were rather modest, suggesting that he may have still been using Hartaffel’s hand-operated snuff mill. In 1799, for example, he bought a total of 890 pounds of tobacco, an average of just over 74 pounds a month, from Busser.[44] In 1802, however, as he was building the new mill, Demuth added a second supplier: merchants Tunis & Annisley, who had their business at 40 South Wharves, Philadelphia. Rather than just plug and pigtail, Demuth’s main purchases from Tunis & Annisley were large quantities of unprocessed tobacco leaves packed in hogsheads (large barrels) that weighed a ton or more each. His tobacco shipments from the Philadelphia firm totaled 18,577 pounds in 1803, dipped to 11,133 the following year, but rose to 23,023 in 1805. From 1803 to 1815, despite a dramatic drop in his purchases in 1810-1811, when the country was in an economic depression, his average annual tobacco purchase from Tunis and Company was 16,358 pounds.[45] By comparison, the snuff mill in Bethlehem, which was completed in 1766 just as Demuth was leaving, ground from five hundred to fifteen hundred pounds of tobacco in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, and about five thousand pounds of tobacco annually from 1814 to 1821.[46] By 1805 Demuth was relying exclusively on Tunis & Annisley for his supplies, and he periodically sent local wagoners to their Philadelphia store to pick up tobacco, along with imported Scotch snuff, pipes, cigars, and snuff boxes that he resold in his shop. From 1803 through 1815 these purchases averaged $25,410.50 (approximately $33,000 in 2011$) annually.

In early America, milling operations of all types usually relied on water power, but there was no stream in Demuth’s part of Lancaster. Instead, he probably used horses, another typical source of power, to turn the new equipment.[47] It is interesting to note that Demuth had sufficient disposable income to buy investment properties in Lancaster at this time, but rather than acquiring a rural property where he could power a mill by water, he chose to keep the business in Lancaster, with its active commercial scene and proximity to highways. (Even when Jacob Demuth later purchased a water-powered mill as an investment, he continued to produce snuff at the East King Street factory.)

Demuth’s rising success is also revealed in the price he asked for his snuff, which, even before he expanded the business, was consistently higher than that commanded by fellow Lancaster tobacconist Peter Shindle. The price difference shows in the accounts of storekeepers Samuel and Abraham Rex, who bought snuff from both men. Their daybooks show that Shindle’s wholesale price for snuff was 2s. per pound from 1798 to 1806, while Demuth’s price (as shown in his ledger) hovered around 2s. 6d, and then dropped to 2s. 2d. in 1802.[48] Demuth was probably able to reduce the price a bit by 1802 because of the economies of scale he realized with his new mill. He still charged more than Shindle did, though, suggesting that he, and the better sort of customers he was courting, believed that Demuth’s snuff was simply worth more. It is possible that Demuth’s distinctive snuff was favored by customers because of its flavoring. The formula for what later generations of Demuth tobacconists branded “Demuth’s Celebrated Snuff,” was passed down in the family, and even today, it is a closely guarded secret.[49] Demuth was, in fact, pioneering modern advertising and marketing techniques long before they were formally introduced. Foreshadowing the slogan made famous by cosmetic firm L’Oréal a century later, Demuth and his customers believed the price for his snuff was “worth it,” and, like the inventor of Coca-Cola, the Demuth family used the mystique of a secret formula, known by a select few, to promote his exclusive product.[50]

Demuth’s sons John, Joseph, and Jacob, and son-in-law John Eberman (Mary Demuth’s second husband) were all involved in the business in some way. John Demuth, who carved and painted the shop sign, also worked as a tobacconist.[51] Joseph Demuth and John Eberman drove wagons to Philadelphia to pick up supplies. Son Jacob was most closely involved and eventually took over the entire operation. As is typical of this era, the direct contributions of the Demuth women to the family and business economy are hard to discern from surviving documents. It is likely that they sewed the cloth bags in which Demuth occasionally packed snuff, and waited on customers in the shop, but there is no documentary evidence for their roles.

As he was assuming full ownership of the business in 1818, Jacob Demuth ran an advertisement in the Lancaster Journal for bottles of “no. 1 Rappee, Macceboy and Scotch Snuffs, wholesale and retail.”[52] However, other information about retail sales — and about customers who bought tobacco products in small quantities and paid cash at the Demuth shop — is scant because businessmen of this era did not record cash sales, such as the purchase of a few pennies’ worth of snuff. Rather, businessmen in Demuth’s day used “daybooks” to record all sales (on credit) and payments as they occurred. Periodically they posted customers’ credits and debits into larger books called “ledgers.” The whereabouts of Demuth’s daybooks, should any be extant, is not known. Should a daybook come to light, it would provide more insight into the rhythm of daily sales, including, perhaps small retail sales done on credit, but paid off before Demuth entered the account into his ledger.

However, one of Demuth’s ledgers does survive, and it shows that his credit sales were almost exclusively wholesale (bulk) transactions. The popularity of tobacco meant it was sold in many different venues. Consequently, Demuth had a large and important market in bulk sales to business people who purchased tobacco products for resale. His ledger depicts large quantities of snuff sold to customers who can be identified as grocers, storekeepers, and tavern owners, and who typically made regular purchases — once a month was common — over a period of several years. Lancaster grocers John Gundaker & Co., Simon & Phillips, and Ober & Kline bought snuff from Demuth, as did storekeepers Samuel and Abraham Rex of Schaefferstown, some twenty miles to the north. Other customers came from even farther away, including Eichhorn & Ripplier from Reading, storekeepers Mary Black and Dr. George Dawson from Carlisle, Jacob and Joseph Senton from Sunbury, and Denney & Bulen from Pittsburgh. The item that these customers purchased most often was rappee (a dark, moist, flavored snuff) packed in wooden casks weighing twenty-five to sixty pounds each. Besides packing snuff in bags, bottles, and casks, in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the shop dispensed snuff from, and sold it in, ceramic crocks, labeled “Demuth’s Celebrated Snuff.” These crocks are collectors’ items today.[53]

Reflecting Lancaster’s role as an “emporium” for the south and west, Demuth, like Hartaffel before him, also had regular customers from outside of Pennsylvania, although exactly how they attracted such far-flung customers is not clear. [54] There is no evidence that either Hartaffel or Christopher Demuth ever advertised the tobacco shop. It was standard practice in this time period to do business only with people one knew personally, or those whose trustworthiness could be vouched for by another trusted source. So, it is reasonable to conclude that these contacts came through word of mouth and personal recommendations. Customers who came north to buy Demuth snuff included prominent Fredericktown, Maryland (now Frederick, MD), merchants Benjamin Ogle, Jacob Miller, and William Scott; Jacob D. Deitrick of Hagerstown; and William Miller of Winchester, Virginia.[55] 

Demuth not only made and sold a superior product, he also offered services beyond simple sales for the convenience of his long-distance clients. For an extra fee, he arranged transportation of customers’ purchases by wagon to Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Columbia. He could also provide ferriage across the Susquehanna River. John Samuel Miller of Fredericktown, for example, bought rappee regularly from 1799 to 1813. Unlike most other customers, Miller preferred bags rather than casks for the snuff, perhaps because it cut shipping costs. In 1802-1803, he bought a total of 5,063 pounds of snuff — all packed in bags — and had it sent to Columbia, where he could make further arrangements for it to be shipped to Fredericktown.

Demuth sometimes credited a customer for goods received (rather than cash) and applied that amount to his or her account. When he bought groceries locally, he posted the expense to the grocer’s account, balancing the cost against the grocer’s debits for snuff purchases. In September 1798 Demuth bought 48 bushels of oats from James Baxter, and entered the price in his ledger against the cost of the rappee Baxter bought the previous year. From 1801 to 1805 Joseph Poole of Columbia delivered to Demuth large quantities of shingles and boards (probably destined for the new snuff mill) and took partial payment in snuff.

These transactions were the exception. For the most part, Demuth expected payment from his wholesale customers in cash, but he allowed them ample time to pay off their accounts, thus building up a network of business relationships based on mutual trust and understanding. Shopkeeper widow Wickersham (of Harrisburg and later Carlisle) bought 20 to 30 pounds of rappee monthly from 1801 to 1802. Her son came to Lancaster for a cask of snuff each month and paid Demuth $10 to $20 toward previous purchases. Such long periods for payment were typical of rural businesses, which made allowances for the vagaries of the agricultural calendar, rather than those run by city traders who demanded more prompt settlement, and are a further indication of the convenient services Demuth offered. Even when customers went well beyond three or even six months before paying their bill, Demuth did not charge interest, although he also did not discount prices for prompt payment as city merchants did.[56] This approach served Demuth well, and it underscores his business acumen (and judge of character), as well as the personal relationship that he developed with his clients. His customers proved worthy of his trust. They were faithful in paying their bills, either in person or, surprisingly often, by sending cash or bank notes in the mail. In fact, Demuth’s ledger shows only one customer to whom he charged interest, and interestingly this was his brother-in-law, Charles Henitch, who in 1797 paid one year’s interest of £3 on a £50 debt.

Social Status, Networks, Family and Public Life

As his business matured, Demuth realized enough profit to make loans to the United Brethren (Moravian) congregation at Lititz and to William Eberman, kin by marriage, whom Demuth trusted enough to name executor of his estate. He also purchased twenty-five shares of stock in the Lancaster Trading Company (later the Lancaster Bank).[57] Perhaps most significantly, he invested in real estate. By 1800 he owned the East King Street house and shop along with four rental properties, for a total value of $6,472 (approximately $120,000 in 2011$). His was the eleventh highest property assessment among the 850 taxpayers in the borough. While this figure pales in comparison to the $68,230 (approximately $1.26 million in 2011$) in property owned by William Hamilton, whose family founded Lancaster, it is well above the value of real estate held by the borough’s other tobacconists. Demuth’s nearest competitors were Nicolas Kroll and Peter Shindle who each owned property valued at $1,150 (approximately $21,000 in 2011$). By 1815, Demuth had increased his holdings to seven houses and fifteen parcels of land for a total value of $19,700 (approximately $300,000 in 2011$).[58]

By 1816 Demuth’s health was deteriorating. Suffering from severe rheumatic pain, he retired from the business. From July 31 through September 4, 1816, he advertised in the Lancaster Journal that he had “declined business” and requested that his debtors make immediate payment to Jacob, who was settling his accounts and carrying on business as usual. At some point, Christopher and Elizabeth moved into a stone house on Prince Street, and relinquished the King Street home and shop to Jacob and his family.[59] In December 1816, Demuth had a debilitating stroke that left his right side paralyzed, requiring him to use his “mark” instead of his signature on legal documents.[60]

In 1817 Demuth wrote his last will and testament. The document demonstrates that his investments in real estate were meant not only to bring in additional income in the form of rents, but to provide inheritances for his heirs. To Elizabeth he left £25 for immediate expenses, along with his household goods, kitchen furniture, beds, linen, riding chair, and three houses, including the one the couple was living in at the time. He also directed his executors to invest £2,300 (approximately £131,000 or $204,000 in 2011) and to give Elizabeth the interest from that investment for her lifetime. He left the rest of his real estate to Mary, John, and Jacob, including in each case a house where they were already living and other properties. Except for a small legacy to a grandson, he divided the residual of his estate among Elizabeth and the three surviving children.[61]

Christopher Demuth died on September 7, 1818. A notice, describing him as “an old and respectable citizen” appeared in both the English-language Lancaster Journal and Intelligencer newspapers. A similar announcement ran in the German-language Reading [Pennsylvania] Adler, which indicated that Demuth was well known, in both English and German-speaking communities, beyond his adopted hometown of Lancaster. His economic success was one reason he commanded such respect. His outstanding bonds from the Lititz Moravians ($7,133.33) and William Eberman ($530.25); monies due him from “diverse persons” ($2,010.90); interest on bank stock ($625), sums owed by sons John and Jacob ($4,130.27), cash on hand ($7,902.34), and an outstanding promissory note ($46.50) totaled $22,378.59 (approximately $408,000 in 2011$). Along with household goods worth $148.60 and real estate valued at $19,700, the estate came to $42,227.19 or about $770,000 in 2011 dollars.

A comparison of Demuth’s real estate holdings with those of other Lancaster residents helps to put his wealth into perspective and offers further evidence that he had done quite well for himself. Of the 648 Lancaster property owners listed on the 1815 tax list, Demuth, with a total assessment of $19,700 (approximately $297,000 in 2011$), ranked twenty-fourth on the list, putting him in the top four percent in terms of taxable real estate. At the top of the list were Jacob Miller, occupation unknown, who owned twelve houses and two farms for a total assessment of $42,500 (approximately $641,000 in 2011$) and Robert Coleman, a prominent ironmaster, whose Lancaster properties were assessed at $42,000 (approximately $634,000 in 2011$). Further down the list was tobacconist Peter Shindle whose two properties were assessed at $3500 (approximately $53,000 in 2011$). Ranking lowest in assessment values were four impoverished residents whose real estate was valued at just $50 (approximately $750 in 2011$).[62]   

Jacob Demuth ran the business until his death in 1842. During that time he was a prominent community figure, serving on the city council, local fire and water companies, and as a bank trustee. Like his father, he also invested in property, including a fulling mill.[63] Three of Jacob’s sons (two from his second marriage, and one from his third) took over the business and, because of the wide difference in their ages, operated it over the next sixty-plus years: Emmanuel,1842-43 and 1853-64, Lawrence, 1843-53, and Henry, 1864-1906. As trends in tobacco consumption changed, they expanded into cigar and chewing tobacco production. Henry’s sons, Ferdinand and Henry, operated the shop jointly from 1906 until Ferdinand’s death in 1911. Henry continued alone until 1937, when he stepped aside in favor of his son, Christopher Demuth, who ran the shop until he died in 1978. By his time, the market for tobacco products was decreasing. Manufacturing at the site ended in the mid-twentieth century, and Christopher’s son decided not to take up the family business. Christopher’s wife, Dorthea, oversaw the operation for a few years, but over 200 years of family ownership finally ended in 1986 when she sold the buildings and shop contents to the Demuth Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1981 to bring public awareness to achievements of the Demuth family, especially Ferdinand’s son, artist Charles Demuth. The Foundation ran the tobacco shop until 2003, when it sold the business, but not the shop building, to Domestic Tobacco Company, in order to focus solely on the Demuth Museum, located next door. In 2008 Geoffrey Ranck, president of Domestic Tobacco, sold the majority share of the business to James Shand Jr. The death of Shand in 2009 and Ranck in 2010 forced the shop’s closing.[64]


One could hardly find a more striking example of immigrant entrepreneurship than Christopher Demuth. The son of devout parents who came to America for religious reasons, he grew up in Bethlehem, the Moravian congregational town where German was the official language and where church elders maintained close ties with Herrnhut, the Moravian enclave in Saxony. Christopher lived, as did all Bethlehem residents, in a communal setting separated by sex, marital status, and age, and under the close discipline of the church. However, Moravians were not entirely cut off from the outside world. Their collective work was meant to make money to support their missionary efforts; consequently they interacted with outsiders in a market economy. In this milieu, Demuth learned cabinetmaking and something about commercial activities. He even helped to build one of the community’s mills; perhaps this was the snuff mill, which began operations just after he left Bethlehem. At Bethlehem, too, he also learned that he did not enjoy working for anyone else, even if, after 1762, he was paid a weekly wage. He wanted to be his own master, in charge of his own earnings.

Demuth’s move out of Bethlehem was probably both liberating and traumatic (he tried to return on his own terms, but was rejected). He found a new home in Lancaster, a town with a Moravian congregation and a large German population, not directly under the watchful eyes of the Bethlehem elders, where he likely encountered some anti-Moravian feelings. After marrying the daughter of a local tobacconist and fellow Moravian, Demuth took up a new trade — snuff making. Because there was no male heir to carry on his father-in-law’s business, Demuth took over and entered into a life-long and very successful career as a tobacconist and real estate investor.

One factor in Demuth’s favor was the location of the shop with which he became affiliated through marriage. By 1800 Lancaster was the largest inland city in the nation, situated at the intersection of a network of roads and center of an active business community. After demonstrating his patriotism by serving in the militia during the Revolution, and weathering the depredations of the war years, Demuth was ideally positioned to participate in the reviving economy of the new nation. Demuth’s personal attributes and skills also contributed to his success: he was individualistic and ambitious, and had learned cabinetmaking and millwright work as well as the tobacconist trade. Using a formula that his family kept a closely-guarded secret, he produced quality snuff that commanded a higher price than his competitors’ product. He was also a shrewd business man who recognized the earning potential in the strong consumer market for tobacco, particularly snuff, and so he built a large-capacity mill that enabled him to dramatically expand his production capability. This ability to manufacture snuff in quantity enabled him to fill sizable wholesale orders for snuff, as well as make smaller retail sales in the shop. Although he seems to have relied on word of mouth rather than newspaper ads, Demuth was quite innovative in his marketing techniques. Long before such figures were common in the United States, he used a wooden tobacco store figure to attract attention, and additional trade, to his shop. Also, by offering convenient services, including long-term credit and transportation of purchases for customers, he built a loyal and sizable customer base.

Like most eighteenth-century Moravians, Demuth left behind a memoir (Lebenslauf), an autobiographical document that was typically begun by the individual and finished, after his or her death, by a family member or minister. Demuth’s memoir includes dates of his birth, baptism, first Communion, and marriage, but does not address the problems he had in Bethlehem or explain why he moved to Lancaster in 1766. It emphasizes Demuth’s role as a devoted family man (father of ten children, grandfather of twenty-three, great-grandfather of five), prominent citizen, and faithful church member. “As a true husband and father he knew well how to be the head of his household and family, and the wellbeing and good of each member was close to his heart. He was beloved and esteemed as a longtime resident of the city and also a true member of our congregation.” Because of “various debilities” which caused him great pain in the last two years of his life, “he was unable to attend the church services, which he was formerly accustomed to attending regularly.”[65]

The emphasis on family first and church last may be significant. Unlike his widow, who bequeathed $400 to the Moravian church, Demuth did not include the church in his will.[66] It might be argued that, because his early years were spent in boarding school and living in the Boys’ and Single Brothers’ Choir, rather than in a family-oriented setting, Demuth was particularly driven to be a strong head of household and to provide a meaningful legacy for his family. Whatever his motivation, he achieved that goal. He left his heirs not only substantial real estate and financial security, but a sense of family heritage and a thriving business that they handed down and cherished through five generations. While he amassed enough wealth to expand his business beyond Lancaster, Demuth and his successors chose to keep the shop and manufacturing operation in the same familiar location. It could be that, having built a business that enabled him to provide so well for his family, Demuth was content. He may also have preferred to keep the business small enough so it could stay family-run.

Demuth and the family members who followed him in the business chose to concentrate on their core product rather than diversifying beyond tobacco, but they also recognized that the business had to respond to changing consumer tastes. By the twentieth century, the firm had discontinued snuff production, and was manufacturing its own line of “Golden Lion” cigars and chewing tobacco.[67] In time, the shop became a local landmark, not only because of its history, but because of the important role it played in the community. According to one observer, “Demuth Tobacco Shop did more than sell tobacco and tobacco products; it also served as a local news and gossip exchange center — and recorded temperatures on an hourly basis [on a self-recording thermometer installed in 1937] which it furnished to Lancaster newspapers.” In addition to being a gathering place for locals and a weather station, the shop was an informal museum, where local artifacts, including early firefighting memorabilia, were displayed for the enjoyment of visitors.[68]

The solid groundwork laid by Christopher Demuth allowed his descendants to achieve positions of respect and prominence in their community and enabled them to carry on the family business for more than two centuries. Ultimately, it also inspired the creation of a non-profit foundation whose mission is to highlight not only Christopher’s famous descendent, artist Charles Demuth, but to celebrate the contributions of the entire Demuth family to American society and the American economy.


[1] Milowslave Rechcigl Jr., in “The Demuth Genealogy Revisited: A Moravian Brethren Family from Czechoslovakia,” Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 92. 2 (1989-90): 55-68, gives Christopher’s full name as John (Johann) Christoph and that of his younger brother as Christian Frederick. However, in the manuscript lists of boys and single brothers in the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, PA., the two men are identified simply as Christoph and Christian. See also Rechcigl, “The Demuth Family from Moravia and Their Descendants,” (accessed June 7, 2012). On the shop and business, see Diane Wenger and J. Ritchie Garrison, “Commerce and Culture: Pennsylvania German Commercial Vernacular Architecture” in Architecture and Landscape of the Pennsylvania Germans, 1720-1920, ed. Sally McMurry and Nancy Van Dolsen (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press), 146-180, esp. 167-171; Henry C. Demuth, Demuth’s 1770: the History of a Lancaster County Tradition (Lancaster, 1925), (accessed March 26, 2012).

[2] The closing was described at the time as temporary. Tim Mekeel, “Doors Are Closed at Demuth’s Tobacco,” (accessed May 3, 2012).

[3] Gerald S. Lestz, Tobacco Pro & Con: A New Look at an Old Subject (Lancaster: Aurand Press, 1989), 15; Betsy Falhman, Chimneys and Towers: Charles Demuth’s Late Paintings of Lancaster (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum, 2007), 118-123.

[4] Rechcigl, “The Demuth Genealogy Revisited,” 59; Katherine Carté Engle, Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), 16-18.

[5] Adelaide L. Fries, The Moravians in Georgia, 1735-1740 (Raleigh, NC: Edwards & Broughton, 1905), 47-48, 112, 237.

[6] Aaron Spencer Fogleman, “The Decline and Fall of the Moravian Community in Colonial Georgia: Revising the Traditional View,” Unitas Fratrum 48 (2001): 1-22.

[7] Fries, Moravians in Georgia, 238; William C. Reichel, Memorials of the Moravian Church, Vol.1 (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co, 1870), 158-159; correspondence of August Gottlieb Spangenberg, 1738, cited in Fogleman, “Decline and Fall of the Moravian Community,” 9-10.

[8] Rechcigl, “Demuth Genealogy Revisited,” 60.

[9] Kenneth G. Hamilton, The Bethlehem Diary, Vol. 1, 1742-1744 (Bethlehem: Archives of the Moravian Church, 1971), 18. On the two groups, see Engel, Religion and Profit, 30-31 and Hellmuth Erbe, Bethlehem, Pa.: A Communistic Herrnhut Colony of the 18th Century, Ph.D. diss. (University of Leipzig, 1929), 19-21.

 [10] Hamilton, Moravian Diary, 27, 34, 146, 151, 199. See also Carter Litchfield, et. al, The Bethlehem Oil Mill, 1745-1934: German Technology in Early Pennsylvania (Kemblesville, Pa.: Olearius Editions, 1984), 63-66.

[11] Hamilton, Bethlehem Diary, 213, 215. On the choirs, see Engel, Religion and Profit, 40.

[12] “Marriage Register of the Moravian Church, Bethlehem, 1742-1800,” Pennsylvania Archives, Ser. 2, Vol. IX, ed. John B. Linn and William H. Egle (Harrisburg: Lane S. Hart, State Printer, 1880), 107-27; Augustus Schultze, “The Old Moravian Cemetery in Bethlehem, Pa. 1742-1897,” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, Vol. 5 (1897): 97-267; David Tanneberger, Sr. Memoir, Bethlehem Digital History Project, (accessed March 7, 2012).

[13] “Catalog of Single Brothers in Bethlehem,” BethSB 06:48. Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pa.; Abraham Reincke and William C. Reichel, “A Register of Members of the Moravian Church and of Persons Attached to Said Church in this Country and Abroad, between 1727 and 1754,” Transactions of the Moravian Historical Society, Vol. 1 (1876): 283-426; John W. Jordan, “Henry Antes’ Moravian School” in Historical Sketches: A Collection of Papers prepared for the Historical Society of Montgomery County Pennsylvania, Vol. 4 (Norristown, Pa: Herald Printing, 1910), 171-172.

[14] “Catalog of Single Brothers and Boys,” BethSB 06:49,Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pa.; “Marriage Register of the Moravian Church,” 112; Mila Rechcigl, “Demuth Family Tree,”; Jeff Williamson, “Christian Demuth,” (both sites accessed March 7, 2012).

[15] On the Oeconomy, see Engel, Religion and Profit, 170-181.

[16] This sketch of Demuth’s time at Bethlehem is drawn from the following documents in the Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pa.: “Diary of the Single Brothers in Bethlehem, 1762-1767” (BethSB 03:2), “Catalogues of the Single Brothers and Boys in Bethlehem” (BethSB 06:47, 48, 49, 51,54, 185), and Aufseher Collegium Minutes, September 24, 1764 and July 8 and 15, 1765.

[17] For the contrast between Bethlehem, where all residents were subject to the rules of the church, and “town and country” congregations such as Lancaster, see Scott Paul Gordon, “Entangled by the World: William Henry of Lancaster and ‘Mixed’ Living in Moravian Town and Country Congregations,” Journal of Moravian History 8 (2010): 7-52.

[18] Wood, Conestoga Crossroads: Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1730-1790 (Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1979), 47,184-185; Mark Häberlein, The Practice of Pluralism: Congregational Life and Religious Diversity in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, 1730-1820 (University Park: Penn State Press, 2009), 42, 98-99.

[19] William Henry Memoir, cited in Gordon, “Entangled by the World,” 13, 19.

[20] The Hartaffels first settled in Warwick, just north of Lancaster, and joined that Moravian Congregation. Rechcigl, “Demuth Family Tree”; “Burial Book of Moravian Church, Lancaster,” in Pennsylvania Vital Records: From Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine and the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, vol. 1 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1983), 389-429; Ralph Beaver Strassburger and William John Hinke, Pennsylvania German Pioneers, Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc. 1980), 360-361.

[21] The Hartaffel children included: Ann Elizabeth (1746-1841); Anna Maria/Mary (1751-1820); a stillborn daughter (1756); Louisa (1754-82); Frederick (1757-82); Christina (1760-?); Sophia (1762-?); Catherine (1764-85); and Johannes (1766-?). John J. Humphrey, Pennsylvania Births: Lancaster County, 1723-1777 (Apollo, Pa.: Closson Press, 1997) 136; “Burial Book of the Moravian Church, Lancaster,” 392, 400, 402. On Anna Maria Hartaffel, (accessed March 20, 2012).

[22] Raymond J. Brunner, “That Ingenious Business”: Pennsylvania German Organ Builders (Birdsboro, Pa.: Pennsylvania German Society, 1990), 107; Häberlein, Practice of Pluralism, 99. Lancaster Borough Taxes, 1763-86, micro. Lancaster County Historical Society, Lancaster, Pa. (Hereafter LCHS).

[23] Wood, Conestoga Crossroads, 93-94.

[24] All 2011 financial figures based on “Lawrence H. Officer and Samuel H. Williamson, "Six Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.K. Dollar Amount, 1270 to present," and Samuel H. Williamson, "Seven Ways to Compute the Relative Value of a U.S. Dollar Amount, 1774 to present," MeasuringWorth, 2011, using the Retail Price Index and Consumer Price Index, respectively.

[25] Lancaster County Deed Book QQ: 327; 331, micro, LCHS.

[26] Mila Rechcigl, “Demuth Family Tree.”

[27] Pennsylvania Archives, Ser. 2, Vol. XIII, ed. William B. Egle (Harrisburg: E.K. Meyers, 1887), 335-36; Pennsylvania Archives, Ser. 5, Vol. II, ed. Thomas Lynch Montgomery (Harrisburg: Harrisburg Publishing Company, 1906), 489-492, available online at (accessed March 7, 2012).

[28] Wood, Conestoga Crossroads, 144-55.

[29] Hartaffel Probate Inventory (photocopy), Hartaffel Family File, LCHS.

[30] Lancaster Borough Taxes, 1763-86, micro; Lancaster County Deed Book QQ; 332, micro, LCHS.

[31] Thomas M. Doerflinger, A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia (New York: W. W. Norton, 1987), 266-267.

[32] Wood, Conestoga Crossroads, 47, 80; Horace R. Barnes, “Industries of Lancaster County Prior to 1800,” Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 100: 4 (Winter 1998), 354-371.

[33] Gerald S. Lestz, Historic Heart of Lancaster (Lancaster: John Baer’s Sons, 1962), 27; Lestz, Tobacco Pro & Con, 5; H. Ray Woerner, “Taverns of Early Lancaster and the Later-Day Hotels,” Journal of the Lancaster County Historical Society 73:2 (Easter 1969): 37-95.

[34] Charles I. Landis, “History of the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike,” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 62:1 (1918), 1-258; “Executive Minutes of Governor Thomas McKean,” Pennsylvania Archives Ser. 9, Vol. III, ed. Gertrude MacKinney (Harrisburg, 1931), 2116-19 and Vol. IV, ed. Gertrude MacKinney (Harrisburg, 1931), 2499-2504, available online at (accessed March 20, 2012).

[35] Lancaster Journal, August 25, 1798, micro, LCHS.

[36] Christopher and Jacob Demuth Ledger A, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa. The ledger entries cover Jacob and Christopher’s business from 1796 to 1816; it was used by an unknown person in the 1840s for miscellaneous expenses. All information about Demuth’s sales, unless otherwise indicated, is drawn from this ledger.

[37] Eric Burns, Smoke of the Gods: A Social History of Tobacco (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007), 120-124.

[38] In 1800 the Lancaster tobacconists included: Christopher Demuth and his son John Demuth, Joseph Gallagher, Nicholas Kroll, Joseph Meyer, Peter Shindle, Adam Thompson, and Daniel Billet, who lived with Peter Shindle and may have been an apprentice. Lancaster City Tax, 1800, compiled/edited by Richard E. Stevens, University of Delaware, (accessed March 20, 2012).

[39] Gerald S. Lestz, Charles Demuth and Friends (Lancaster: John Baer’s Sons, 2003), 71; Emily Farnham, Charles Demuth: Behind a Laughing Mask (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971), 34-36. The figure is mounted on a base labeled “Original Sign 1770,” but this date is clearly suspect, since the piece is attributed to John Demuth, who was not born until 1771.

[40] Hugh McCausland, Snuff and Snuff Boxes (London: The Batchworth Press, 1951), 37-38; J. L. Morrison, “Passing of the Wooden Indian,” Scribner’s Magazine, Oct. 1928, 393-405, cited in Jean Lipman, “Cigar Store Figures and Other Trade Signs,” American Folk Art in Wood, Metal and Stone (New York: Dover, 1972), 73-84. See also Kate Sanborn, Hunting Indians in a Taxi-Cab (Boston: Richard G. Badger, The Gorham Press, 1911).

[41] The last family member/owner-operator, Dorthea Demuth, also lived over the shop and continued to do so after she sold the property to the Demuth Foundation in 1986. “Foundation Purchases Demuth Tobacco Shop,” Demuth Dialogue: Newsletter of the Demuth Foundation Vol. 4:3 (Winter 1986), 1.

[42] The 1798 Federal Direct Tax records shows that Demuth owned a one-story wood frame tobacco shop, 32 x 26 feet. By 1815, when Lancaster buildings were evaluated for a local direct tax, Demuth was assessed for a two-story “millhouse.” Federal Direct Tax (1798), micro; Lancaster Direct Tax (1815), photocopy; LCHS.

[43] E. R. Billings, Tobacco: Its History, Varieties, Culture, Manufacture and Commerce with An Account of its Various Modes of Use, From its First Discovery Until Now (Hartford: American Publishing Company, 1875), 220-221.

[44] The source of Busser’s tobacco is unknown, but he was probably buying southern grown tobacco, as Tunis and Company did. (Some of the tobacco Demuth bought from Tunis was specifically identified as Kentucky, Virginia, and James River.) It was not until around 1830 that Lancaster County farmers cultivated tobacco as a cash crop. See Horace Richard Barnes, “Early History of Tobacco,” Papers of the Lancaster County Historical Society 45:1 (1945), 1-23.

[45] This figure does not include his purchases of such processed tobacco products as plug, pigtail, and Scotch snuff. After 1808, the firm became known as Tunis & Way. In his will, Richard Tunis (who died in May 1808) directed his son John to go into business with James Way, who “managed my concern in trade.” Philadelphia Will Book 2:305; abstract available on .

[46] Litchfield, Bethlehem Oil Mill, 63-66.

[47] There is a tradition that small donkeys in the basement of the building powered Demuth’s mill. Lestz, Tobacco Pro & Con, 5. For a sketch of an early horse-powered snuff mill see

Billings,Tobacco: Its History, Varieties, Culture,240.

[48] On Samuel Rex’s daybooks, see Diane E. Wenger, A Country Storekeeper in Pennsylvania: Creating Economic Networks in Early America, 1790-1807 (University Park: Penn State Press, 1998), 205-206. Samuel and Abraham’s purchases from Demuth appear in his Ledger A, HSP.

[49] A snuff recipe discovered a few years ago during the renovation of the Demuth museum included soap and whiskey, among other ingredients, but the exact formula remains a secret. Jack Brubaker,Remembering Lancaster County: Stories from Pennsylvania Dutch Country (Charleston, SC: History Press, 2010), 52.

[50]Because I’m Worth It: the Story Behind the Legendary Phrase,”  (accessed May 8, 2012); Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country, and Coca-Cola: The Definitive History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 56.

[51] John was also a rifle maker. See “Burial Book of Moravian Church, Lancaster,” 408.

[52]Jacob’s ad appeared from March 4 through August 7, 1818. Lancaster Journal, Lancaster County Digitization Project, (accessed March 25, 2012).

[53] Edwin Tunis, Colonial Craftsmen and the Beginnings of American Industry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1965), 53. “Rare Snuff Jar Returns Home,” Demuth Dialogue: The Demuth Foundation Newsletter Vol. 16:2 (Dec. 1998), 1.

[54] Hartaffel’s probate inventory mentions debts owed to him by Jacob Miller and Benjamin Ogel of Fredericktown, both of whom had accounts with Demuth.

[55] Although the South grew virtually all commercially sold tobacco, there were few snuff mills there. In 1796, when the U.S. government placed a tax on snuff mills, Maryland and Delaware had only two mills each; Virginia had none. “A Statement of the Revenue arising on Mills and Machinery used in the Manufacture of Snuff, from the 1st day of October, 1795, to the 30th September, 1796,” American State Papers, House of Representatives, 5th Congress, 2nd Session, Finance, Vol. 1, 564. Library of Congress Website, (accessed March 23, 2012).

[56] For business methods in the countryside and city during this time period, see Wenger, Country Storekeeper, 104-109, 137-139.

[57] The investments are listed in Demuth’s probate papers. Photocopy, LCHS. William Eberman (1787-1857) was Mary Demuth Eberman’s step-son, who went on to be an active in the Moravian ministry. See Schultze, “Old Moravian Cemetery,” 251.

[58] 1815 Direct Tax, Lancaster, bound photocopy, LCHS; 1800 tax, Lancaster, compiled/edited by Richard E. Stevens, University of Delaware, (accessed March 20, 2012).

[59] Jacob was widowed twice; he remarried each time and fathered a total of 20 children between 1804 and 1840. In 1816, when his parents probably moved out, he and his second wife had six living children, and probably needed more space. Jacob’s wives were Elizabeth Eberman (1783-1805), Catherine Medford (1785-1823) and Ann Frances Hurst (1801-1868). Rechcigl, ”Demuth Family Tree.” Jacob eventually bought the former tavern next door and cut an adjoining door between the buildings to give his family additional space. This is where artist Charles Demuth grew up. Lestz, Charles Demuth and Friends, 9-10.

[60] Demuth’s health is described in his memoir, a document written by or for devout Moravians as they neared death; Memoirs Lancaster 0095, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pa. I am grateful to Scott Paul Gordon for locating the Demuth memoir and to Alan Keyser for translating the document.

[61] Christopher Demuth Will, Lancaster Will Book M, Vol. 1, 166-69, micro; LCHS. Elizabeth Demuth died in 1841; her beneficiaries were son Jacob; the children of her deceased children Mary, Joseph, and John; and the Moravian Church to whom she left $300. Elizabeth Demuth Will, Lancaster Will Book S, Vol. 1,471-73, micro, LCHS.

[62] Lancaster, Pa. 1815 Local Tax List, Compiled/Edited: Lauren Groff, University of Delaware (accessed May 28, 2012).

[63] These activities are revealed in articles in the Lancaster Journal, 1816-1836, Lancaster County Digitization Project (LCDP), (accessed March 25, 2012).

[64] “Demuth Family Tobacco Business Changes Hands,” Demuth Dialogue: The Demuth Foundation Newsletter Vol. 21.3 (Dec. 2003), 1; Demuth Museum; Mekeel, “Doors Are Closed at Demuth’s Tobacco.”

[65] Christoph Demuth Memoir, Memoirs Lancaster 0095, Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pa.

[66] Elizabeth Demuth Will, Will Book S, Vol. 1, 471-73, Lancaster County Historical Society.

[67] Fahlman and Barry, Chimneys and Towers, 121; Lestz, Tobacco/Pro & Con, 6.

[68] Lestz, Charles Demuth and Friends, 10; “Foundation Purchases Demuth Tobacco Shop,” Demuth Dialogue, vol. 4, no. 3 (Winter 1986), 1.


Cite this Entry

APA Style

"Christopher Demuth." (2018) In Immigrant Entrepreneurship, Retrieved February 18, 2018, from Immigrant Entrepreneurship:

Chicago Style

Wenger, Diane. "Christopher Demuth." In Immigrant Entrepreneurship: German-American Business Biographies, 1720 to the Present, vol. 1, edited by Marianne S. Wokeck. German Historical Institute. Last modified August 09, 2013.

MLA Style

"Christopher Demuth," Immigrant Entrepreneurship, 2018, Immigrant Entrepreneurship. 18 Feb 2018 <>

Portrait of Christopher Demuth, n.d.

  • Demuth Celebrated Tobacco Stoneware Crock
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