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Hon. T. W. Thiesen, Racine’s popular mayor and one of its most efficient and progressive business men, now president of the Red Cross Drug Company, was born in Hamburg, Germany, November 19, 1867, a son of Thies and Emma (Karsten) Thiesen. He began to earn his living when but six years of age as a bootblack and newsboy and afterward became a butcher’s apprentice. On the 18th of June, 1884, when a youth of sixteen years, he left Germany and on the 4th of July, 1884, arrived in Racine. Here he secured employment in the drug store of Charles Giesler, with whom he worked for three years at ten dollars per month. He afterward spent one year in Milwaukee. Wisconsin, where he was employed as a drug clerk, and then, feeling the necessity of further educational development as a preparation for advancement in life, he entered the University of Wisconsin, through which he made his way by practicing strict economy. He had previously saved from his earnings the sum of one hundred and eighty dollars and by living frugally and utilizing every opportunity he managed to complete the course, being graduated from the pharmaceutical department with the class of 1890.
Mr. Thiesen next went to Kansas City, where he spent three weeks, after which he proceeded to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he was employed for two and a half years. In September, 1892, with the capital which he had saved from his earnings, he returned to Racine and opened a drug store on State Street. The following year he became one of the organizers of the Robinson Drug Company, of which he was the president and general manager. Later its business was reorganized under the name of Kradwell-Thiesen Drug Company, with Mr. Thiesen as the president, in which position he continued from 1896 until he sold out in 1902. He then organized the Reliance Iron & Engine Company and was president of that corporation from 1902 until 1907, when he disposed of his interest in the business. In the meantime, in 1905, he had resumed active connection with the drug trade, having in that year organized the Red Cross Drug Company, mention of which is made elsewhere in this volume. He has given his entire attention to the drug business through the intervening years to the present, covering more than a decade, and has developed an enterprise of large and extensive proportions, owning five different drug stores, conducted under the name of the Red Cross Drug Company.
On the 2nd of November, 1892, Mr. Thiesen was united in marriage to Miss Carrie L. Clausen, who was born in Racine, a daughter of Carson and Marion (Anderson) Clausen, who were early settlers of this city, having arrived in 1865. The children of this marriage are: Emma, the wife of Dr. G. G. Graham, of Kansas City, Missouri; Loraine, deceased, and Aileen, at home.
Mr. Thiesen is a prominent member of the Benevolent Order of Elks and is the father of the project which resulted in the erection of the Elks building in this city. For three years he served as exalted ruler of the local lodge. He is also identified with the Knights of Pythias and with the Loyal Order of Moose and his deep interest in the material development of Racine and the extension of its trade relations as well as in its civic projects is indicated by his active membership in the Commercial Club. His political allegiance was given to the Democratic Party for some years without change. Later he maintained a nonpartisan course, but ever fearless in the expression of his honest convictions, his change of opinion concerning political questions and issues has led him to become an advocate of the Republican Party. He served for thirteen years on the board of education, during which time he was president of the board for two years, and he did work on all important board committees. His efforts in behalf of the educational interests of the city were marked and resultant. It was Mr. Thiesen who was the prime mover in instituting the improvement of the school buildings and yards. He has served on many committees in connection with civic affairs and public welfare, and in April, 1915, his fellow townsmen indicated their appreciation of his services and devotion to the public good by electing him mayor. As chief executive he has been active in promoting and developing the paving and sewer improvements of the city and in promoting the park interests. He studies closely every question relative to municipal welfare, avoids useless expenditure and as well avoids that needless retrenchment which hampers progress. In a word, his administration is businesslike and practical and substantial results have been accomplished. Mr. Thiesen is widely honored and highly respected. Through early struggles and adversities he has come into a position of prominence and of wide influence, acquiring as he has gone along, educational and cultural gifts as well as those material interests which are the basis of life’s comforts, and he has accomplished a prodigious amount of work, which has been of worth to the community at large as well as to the individual.