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Biography of William H. Kranz

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For more than seventy years the name of Kranz has been associated with the business development of Racine and has long been a synonym for progressiveness and reliability in commercial circles. The wholesale paper and stationery business conducted under the name of Kranz was established by John Kranz and since his death has been conducted by his son, William H. Kranz, whose name introduces this review. The latter was born in Racine, July 18, 1856, and the former in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany. Having arrived at years of maturity, he wedded Elizabeth Ritchie, a native of Lensburg, Switzerland. It was in the year 1844 that he came to the United States, settling first at Rochester, New York, but in 1845 removing to Racine; where in 1850 he established business on his own account as a dealer in paper and groceries. His trade grew and with its substantial growth he developed the wholesale paper and stationery business which is now conducted by his son, who joined him in the enterprise in 1881. The father remained active in the management and control of the business until 1898, when he retired to spend his remaining days in the enjoyment of a well earned rest, his death occurring in this city in 1904. His wife was a daughter of August Ritchie, who, on coming to the United States with his family, settled first at St. Louis. Missouri, but afterward removed to Walworth County, Wisconsin, where he cast in his lot with the pioneer settlers.

William H. Kranz is therefore a representative of two of the old families of this part of the state. Reared in Racine, he mastered the branches of learning taught in the public and high schools and also pursued a commercial course, which qualified him for the responsibilities that devolved upon him when he entered business life. He was a youth of nineteen when, in 1875, he entered the employ of the firm of Gorton & Buffham, with whom he continued until 1881, when, as previously stated, he became assistant to his father in the conduct of the wholesale paper and stationery business which John Kranz had developed. The son acquainted himself with the trade in every particular, more and more largely relieving his father of the management of the business, which he took over entirely upon his father’s retirement in 1898 and of which he became sole owner upon the father’s death, six years later. This is the oldest commercial business in Racine and probably the oldest business enterprise of any character. In 1913 the company removed to a new building, where Main Street crosses the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul tracks. Theirs is today the largest wholesale paper house in Wisconsin. The building is seventy-one by eighty feet, three stories in height with basement, supplied with elevators and is of mill construction. It was erected for this business exclusively. The vicinity of the St. Paul railway tracks affords direct shipping facilities and they use auto trucks for local delivery. In 1851, when the wholesale business was started, it was predicted that such a business would not succeed. The banks refused to loan money, but the enterprise and determination of the promoters never faltered and time has justified their wisdom and their methods. The trade has now grown to extensive and gratifying proportions and the proprietor may well feel proud that this establishment overtops any other of the kind in the state. Its success has been built upon the foundation of enterprise, progressiveness and commercial integrity. Their methods are such as have at all times borne the closest investigation and scrutiny and measured up to the highest commercial standards and ethics.

Mr. Kranz exercises his right of franchise in support of the men and measures of the Republican Party, but is without ambition for office. He belongs to the Commercial Club and his high standing in the business circles of the city is indicated in the fact that for six years he was retained in the presidency of the Racine Business Men’s Association. He early displayed conspicuously the traits of character which have made his life brilliantly successful. At the outset of his career he performed all the duties that devolved upon him, however humble and however small the recompense might be, conscientiously and industriously, and since he came into active connection with the wholesale paper and stationery business a splendid prosperity has steadily been his. It is true that, like other business men, he may not have found all the days equally bright. Indeed in his commercial experience he has seen the gathering of clouds that threatened disastrous storms, but his rich inheritance of energy and pluck has enabled him to turn defeats into victory and promised failures into successes. His strict integrity, business conservatism and judgment have always been so uniformly recognized that he has enjoyed public confidence to an enviable degree.


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