Theodor Eichberger (1835-1917)

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A painting showing a man with beard
Theodor Eichberger
(Portrait drawn from a photo taken in 1882)

Son of an Austrian soldier deployed to the Mainz fortress in the 1830s, and a 17-year-old girl native of Mainz, Theodor Eichberger was born here on 28 December, 1835.

Theodor was raised by his mother, Martha Br├╝gel (1818-1905). As they were members to the Roman Catholic parish of St Ignatius in Mainz, Theodor from 1841 to 1849 attended St Ignatius parish school in the Zuchthausgasse (today's Weintorstra├če). In 1849, his mother was married to Mr. Haber, a stonemason. Shaped by his stepfather's creative occupation, Theodor after elementary school graduation was educated in sculpture.

Theodor Eichberger lived and worked as a sculptor in the city of Mainz, where he produced furniture and panellings with elaborate ornaments as well as picture frames, clock housings, figurines and other wood carvings.

During the 1870s, times turned bad in the newly founded German Reich. The population suffered from the extraordinary charges and inconveniences the Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 had brought. In addition, after an initial prosper of only two years, in 1873 the Long Depression struck the country, which was to last until the mid-1890s. This not being enough, Chancellor Bismarck proved quite inventive in imposing new taxes and tolls respectively raising existing ones until his dismissal in 1890.

Around the year 1870, besides his sculptor's profession, Th. Eichberger also ran a cookshop. From his grandfather's inheritance, he owned a small house in the city of Mainz that he rented for a living. In 1875, he moved from the narrow fortress city of Mainz to the rural town of Seligenstadt at the Main river, where he would run a shoe store. Sculpting then turned into a pastime to him, and probably most of the artwork and furniture that has been preserved dates after 1875.

Theodor Eichberger was member of numberless associations and societies which included carnival associations, choral societies, gymnastic and bicyclist clubs, as well as an alliance of house renters and a welfare organisation which collected pennies and cigar tips. In 1881, he was selected as a juror at the Darmstadt court of the province of Starkenburg in the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt. There is an election appeal dating from 1898, according to which Theodor Eichberger, being a senior citizen, runs for an office.

At the age of nineteen, he started to write novels and poems which were published in the Mainzer Anzeiger gazette. Humor was his favorite pastime. During the last three decades of the 19. century, Th. Eichberger was a popular humorist and carnivalist in Mainz, specializing in political satire. A number of his carnival speeches have been printed in the Mainz carnival newspapers. Over decades, his satire columns were published in the humorous supplements of several newspapers, where he glossed over local politics, temporary fashions, city life in Mainz and the politics of the empire. From October 1876 to December 1877 he published his own satirical journal, the Mainzer Schwewwel. Rooted in Mainz and its Carnival tradition, he was never entirely away from his birthplace, even when living 60 km away in Seligenstadt. Subscriptions to newspapers from Mainz kept him informed about the events in the city at the Rhine River, and until around 1912 he wrote humorous articles he sent to the editorial offices of several papers in Mainz which published them.

Theodor Eichberger composed solemn songs and poems and made speeches or inaugural addresses on many occasions, including wedding ceremonies as well as the inauguration of the new Mainz Central Station in 1884 and the observation tower on the Lenneberg.

He preferred to work standing at his high desk; and whenever he stood at the desk, he reportedly was not to be disturbed under any circumstances.

A penalty order issued by the Grand Duchy of Hesse Darmstadt in 1904 proves in an impressive manner that this indigenous Mainz Carnival jester still knew to celebrate Carnival at the age of 70 - and miles away from Mainz.

He was unorthodox in religion. Rejecting the resolutions of the Vatican Council of 1870 with their dogmas of papal infalliability and primacy, he joined the Old Catholic Church. Moreover, his Catholic confession would not prevent him from marrying a widow who, in addition, was Protestant, at the age of 49 after the death of his first wife.

Theodor Eichberger passed away at the age of 81 on 3 May, 1917 in Seligenstadt on Main.

Photo of the Seligenstadt cemetery in 1920
Theodor Eichberger's grave at the Seligenstadt cemetery

The photo above, dating from April 1920, shows the Seligenstadt cemetery with Theodor's grave in the center. On a small marble pedestal, there was a huge roofed cross of wood, which was finished with opulent carvings. Behind the cross in the picture there is the Seligenstadt Basilica. On top of the larger one of the basilica's three towers there is a statue of the Archangel Gabriel from 1743; in 1879, Th. Eichberger composed a speech celebrating the restoration of the archangel statue.


Die Widmung zu Beginn der Sammlung von Zeitungsausschnitten
For Remembrance.

The gazettes sometimes took note of
When I poetized in fun or solemn;
I did, since it was fun for myself,
Stick it into this book for my remembrance,
Thus I can read printed black on white,
That I have quite often been a real jester.

June, 1879.

Th. Eichberger

Portrait| Dichter| Humorist| Bildhauer
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