For almost fifty years,. on a very modest brick
building, on the south-west corner of Gano and Main, could be read the
still more modest sign, "Ferdinand Bodman—Tobacco, Cigars, and
Snuff." The entire establishment was plain and unpretentious; and
yet the owner was already one of the millionaires of the city, his
financial operations being equaled by very few others here.
Ferdinand Bodman was born near Frankfort, Germany,
on the 16th of July, 1801, and was the son of a distinguished father,
Judge Lewis Bondman, supreme judge of the district of Hanau, a few miles
from Frankfort-on-the-Main. Ferdinand had every advantage of
careful early training, graduating with distinction at the University of
Bamberg, 1817; after which he was for five years connected with a large
bank in Frankfort.
Although occupying office under the Government,
Judge Bodman was thoroughly republican in his views, and loved the great
republic beyond the sea so much that in 1822, collecting together his
very large fortune, he brought. his family to America, and settled at
On the 14th of December, 1825, Ferdinand Bodman
was married to Miss Kate Poepplein, of Baltimore, and in 1828 removed to
Cincinnati, which was afterward to be his home till his death, which
took place July 29, 1874.
Ferdinand Bodman was a study. Born rich, and ever
afterwards accustomed to opulence, and every thing money could purchase,
yet he was one of the most plain and unassuming men in our commercial
world. About him there was neither show, pomp, nor vanity. The man
who came to him to transact affairs reaching up into the hundreds of
thousands of dollars was treated just the same and no better than the
poor laborer who was only able to purchase a penny's worth of tobacco.
While a close, careful business man, he was
charitable in the largest sense, freely giving many thousands of dollars
at various times to charities deserving recognition.
An instance of Mr. Bodman's idea of the good
citizen can be best shown by the following incident: A prominent judge
called in the store, and was talking to Mr. Bodman, when the latter took
time to wait upon a customer who desired to make a small purchase. After
the buyer went out the lawyer remarked, "Mr. Bodman, I wouldn't
think you would care about bothering yourself with work, now that you
are so rich," The old gentleman, in his own dignified, stately way,
replied : "Bother about work because I am rich! What has a
man's wealth to do with his manhood? Nothing all, sir; and I have
a much greater love for that poor old man, shoveling in coal at the
door, than I have for a person who tries to live in style, without the
means to support it. And, by the way, when that old fellow comes for his
pay he shall not be forgotten." And he was not; for, when his job
was done, what was his astonishment when Mr. Schulze, the cashier,
handed him ten dollars, with the information that, before leaving, Mr.
Bodman had given orders to give his (Mr. Bodman's) respects to the man,
and assure him that whenever in need of assistance he must come to the
store, and it would always be a pleasure to aid him. Such was one
of a thousand instances of Ferdinand' Bodman's charitable acts.
Mr. Bodman was also a great lover of animals,
spending a large amount of money and a great deal of valuable time in
securing every species of fowl and pigeons—the latter being,
particularly, one of his greatest delights and pleasures.
For many years the Masonic Fraternity had no truer
or more devoted member than Mr. Bodman, who always kept well posted in
the great objects of this grand order; and so highly was this
appreciated that it was agreed upon to name a commandery the "Bodman
Commandery," which, coming to the attention of that gentleman, he
at at once opposed the movement, and substituted that of "Hanselmann
Commandery," which it still bears.
Mr. Bodman loved liberty in its largest sense, and
took great delight in welcoming Kossuth to our city. The ex-president of
Hungary was so gratified and delighted at the attention shown him by Mr.
Bodman, that, as a return, and as a memento of the happy meeting (1851),
he gave to Mr. Bodman the elegant silk sash he wore, and which can be
seen on any of the many photographs of Kossuth.
Mr. Bodman left a widow (since deceased) and three
children—two sons, one the late Chas. Bodman, whose magnificent,
bequests to humane and scientific institutions are well known. the other
a prominent merchant in Belgium; and a daughter, Mrs. John B. Gibson,
who has just given the former Widows' Home, Mount Auburn, to the Germans
of this city as a German Protestant Widows' Home, through which grand
act many a poor, homeless German mother will be sheltered from life's
storms and adversities.
Source: In Memoriam
Cincinnati 1881, Cincinnati, A. E. Jones, Publisher, 1881.