Christian Augustus Ludwig Herter
(1839-1883)

Their father Christian was referred to as an "ébéniste", meaning cabinetmaker. The term would have been derived from the fact that in the mid-17th century France an ébéniste primarily would have worked in ebony wood. Christian is most undoubtedly the first and probably most influential figure in shaping future direction of the talented brothers. Christian's early training remains a mystery and could have ocurred in either Stuttgart or Paris.

Johanna Christiana Maria Barbara Hagenlocher (1805-1871) married Christian Herter in 1835 and on January 8, 1839, Christian Augustus Ludwig Herter was born. Christian Sr. adopted Christian Jr.'s brother, Gustave, sometime after the marriage.

In 1859, Christian's name began to show up in New York documentation and he declared his intent to become a citizen. Much isn't heard of Christian again for a while except for a mention of him working at Tiffany & Co. He did not become a part of Gustave's business until 1864 at which point the name changed to Herter Brothers. Christian was making $300,000 (2007 dollars) in 1863 and was making $4 million a year by 1866. Between 1868 and 1869, directories in New York state that France was Christian's official home.

Herter Brothers became one of the most successful and noted cabinetmakers of the time producing pieces during several design eras: Renaissance Revival, Neo-Grec, Eastlake, the Aesthetic Movement, and "Anglo-Japanese style". Herter Brothers designs leveraged the those of Europe balanced with contemporary American influences. In the later years, England and Japan were the two most prominent design influences.

At 40 years of age in 1870, Gustave took the equivalent of about $1.2 million in today's dollars of his investment in the firm and relocated to Germany with his wife and children for purposes of their education. Christian Herter was left at the helm of Herter Brothers.

By 1880, the Herter Brothers are listed for the first time in Paris city directories in addition to their American central presence.

Christian's largest and most elaborate commission in his career was the William H. Vanderbilt residence on Fifth Avenue from 1879 to 1882. Each room had it's own theme, including Pompeian, Japanese, Renaissance, and Anglo-Japanese. The Vanderbilt commission ended up being Christian's last as it appears that the Herter company was struggling financially at the time.

Christian left Herter Brothers as the visionary design leader and became a hands-off partner in 1882. He returned to Europe shortly thereafter with his family and died in 1883 from tuberculosis.

The firm continued on for another 20 years without the brothers, finally closing shop in 1905.

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Other References

Victorian Cabinetmakers