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August 1914, a Family Mystery Solved.

The first blog entry about my father’s inventing career (September 2011) was titled “Covington, Kentucky, A Family Mystery.” (Click here to read it.) My sister, Sarah Vogt, and I were beginning to document the timeline of his personal and professional life. His scrap book from high school, college, and three years following had recently been sent to me by my (now late) half sister, Emily Postma. There were no clarifying remarks or dates on the photos, and they weren’t necessarily in chronological order. There was a letter of introduction to a bank in England and a photo of him (on the right) sitting with an unknown gentleman.













The post raised a question as to why he was making a transatlantic voyage in 1914- was it specific to his delay detonation device for missiles (click here to read about it), a topic also being researched?

The story has since been filled in and this post is an update. The military patent came later, and this trip was to advance his knowledge of refrigeration, with visits to refrigerating manufacturers (presumably) in France and Germany.

From a publication called “Ice and Refrigeration” under the heading “Frigerous Particulars” (August 1914) was this announcement:

“Clarence W. Vogt, of the Henry Vogt Machine Company, Louisville, KY, sailed July 13 on the S.S. New Amsterdam to visit the various icemaking and refrigerating plants in Europe.”

Little did he know how short- lived his visit would be, and of the earth shaking event whose beginning he would witness first hand.

The following nine pictures are scanned from his scrap book. The first is of an unmarked liner.

The next is of an automobile showroom with the name BENZ. The details are clearer on the actual photograph.

The next four images are from a seaside location where bathhouses on wheels were rolled into the surf.

Cars and women in swimsuits. Welcome, 20th century!

The final three are taken at an outdoor market. As I woodworker, I am drawn to the crates, boxes, and wine cart.










































































































































































































We have no specific information as to his initial travels once he reached Southampton, or his proposed itinerary. We do know, from oral history, where he was on August 4, 1914:

“One evening when I was a child, Daddy told me many stories about experiences he’d had in wartime Europe. His stories were so vivid that I have remembered the details very clearly (even though I wasn’t old enough then to have any real understanding). Here’s one. Daddy told me that he’d gone to Europe to study advances in refrigeration. One night, when he was attending a ‘dance hall’ in Belgium, the music stopped. And over the PA system came the announcement that the Germans were invading their country at that very moment!! The questions that I have for him now!” – Sarah Vogt.

The Rape of Belgium was soon to follow.




















He then joined the mad scramble of thousands of Americans fleeing the continent. The Louisville Journal, Sunday August 16th, had front page stories of accounts of:

“The Plights of Louisvillians Stranded in Europe by the Invasion 2 Aug’14.”

“Escape Russia On Last Train” “Harrowing Journey Across The Frontier To Berlin” “Miss Ada Lewis Hart Writes of Race For Safety” “Louisville Feminine Party Arrives In London” “Hasty Departure. Letter Gives Experience Of Louisville Party In Paris.”

Among the listings is “Three Arrive From Europe. Miss McGill, Miss Maloney and Clarence Vogt Now In New York.”















“Clarence W. Vogt, who was touring abroad, arrived Wednesday night on the Philadelphia, according to a communication received from him yesterday. Mr. Vogt stated he had been forced to travel in the steerage of the liner for a part of the voyage from Southampton, from which port the Philadelphia sailed August 6th. He said that he managed, however, to get into the first cabin on the second day out. He is now stopping at the Knickerbocker, in New York, but will leave to-day for a short visit to his mother in Bay View, Mich., after which he will return home.”

A few things to note about the above. My father’s personal force and drive were such that the poor steward on the ship Philadelphia had no chance- place my father in steerage? He was lucky not to have been tossed to the waves.











My father’s youngest brother, Alvin, was a fraternity brother at Princeton University of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s and they gambled together at the Knickerbocker Hotel.

My grandfather, Adam Vogt, had built a home in Bay View, Michigan, renowned for the freshest air in America, as a summer residence at the Chautauqua retreat for my grandmother in particular, to escape the brutal Louisville summer heat and humidity.






















Clarence’s arrival in Michigan was confirmed by this telegram announcement:

















He returned to life with his young wife, Ruth (née Duncan) in Louisville and continued work for the HVMC. When the US went to war, he was called up in the first draft, by-passed boot camp, and went directly as vice-lieutenant to the Frankford Arsenal in Philadelphia where he solved the technical issues on the delay detonation device for missiles. From there he went to serve in France as a captain in the in 4th Ordnance Heavy Artillery. More on this in a later post.


13 comments to August 1914, a Family Mystery Solved.

  • Peter Follansbee

    As you know, I love these family history stories Tico. it’s engrossing reading, history for real.

  • Gina

    I’ve been to that Bay View house! It was magical!!!

  • Craig Christensen

    What an awesome story! Thank you for sharing it, Tico. I’m looking forward to reading more when you have a chance to put together another chapter.

  • Thanks for sharing this, Tico. It is always fascinating to learn of what brought us to our lives. I wonder how our progeny will look back on us. Will the current proliferation of information create more clarity or more confusion?

  • Sylvain

    The 3rd picture (with Benz) seems to show the Brussels “palais de justice” in Belgium.
    Google “Bruxelles palais de justice” and look at the pictures.
    The building with Benz doesn’t exist anymore.

  • Sylvain

    If you use mapstreetview (Google product), place yourself at the crossing of “rue des quatres bras” and “rues aux laines” and you will see the “palais de justice” the same way as on the picture.

  • Sylvain

    It is easier via Google Earth:
    coordinates 50* 50′ 12.00″ N ; 4° 21′ 13.00″ E

  • Barney Klein

    Tico, This stuff is fascinating! You are so lucky to have the treasure trove of pictures and documents. When you are a “force” as you describe your father, you get documented I suppose. Great stuff here.

  • tico

    Thank you for this information!

  • tico

    Sarah retrieved from internet sources the newspaper documents and telegram. Yes, we are so lucky to have all of the amazing photos.

  • Ron Brese

    Interesting post. I have so many questions I wish I had asked my parents,


  • Tony Mathis

    Nice detective work tracing your father’s path, Tico and Sarah! A reminder that business travel can provide unexpected adventures (or perils) – I was stranded in Copenhagen for a week when a volcano erupted in Iceland, but with modern e-mail and credit card I could easily continue working and staying in touch. It must have been very alarming for the family to hear the news of war and worry about C W’s safety.

    These photos are over 100 years old and quite a treasure! I was drawn to the last one from the outdoor market, where the gentleman in the long coat has a handlebar mustache like my own! Those collar insignia look military. My best guess is he is looking at a fishmonger with a basket of eels for sale.

    All the best,


  • Alan Van Reed

    Hi Tico and Sarah

    Much Thanks for this connection to Clarence ….. being a student of history ….. it was fascinating for me to see how the start of WW1 played out with citizens abroad …. I applaud you for the work and research.

    Best Thoughts,
    Roslindale Massachusetts

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