KENOSHA — The Great Depression was an ironic time. While many people struggled to make ends meet, sales of household luxuries rose steadily. An example which was probably the most popular was the waffle iron, the Kenosha History Center’s February Artifact of the Month. The late-1920s or early-1930s made Westinghouse model CBC-4 was chosen by Kenosha History Center volunteer Darleen Chiappetta.
The waffle iron came into Chiappetta’s possession some time ago. “In 1964, we bought our first home…it had been owned from 1907 until then by Fred and Mary Tektonius Stemm who died within 12 days of each other in February of that year, leaving behind a fully-furnished house,” said Chiappetta. This very personal interaction with the lives of two strangers resulted in a lasting curiosity about the lives of the Stemms.
Frederick was the son of Charles Stemm, a German-born blacksmith who found his way into Kenosha politics as a single-term mayor (serving in 1887) and Chief of Police. Frederick’s wife was Mary Tecktonius Stemm, the daughter of Bridget and Emil of Racine. Emil Tecktonius was an inventor and manufactured agricultural equipment.
Frederick Stemm was a local musician who belonged to the Stemm Orchestra, organized the Kenosha Building & Loan Association, and owned Stemm Reality & Insurance. Both Fred and Mary Stemm remained prominent in social and benevolent groups through their lives. Their waffle iron, an expensive model, is indicative of their economic and social status in Kenosha.
The Kenosha History Center, 220 51st Place, is open from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. There is no admission fee; however, donations are accepted.