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Dwight J. Partello - Part II Expand / Collapse
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Posted Sunday, March 13, 2011 9:25 AM


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(continued from Part I)

It was on the ship to Europe in 1885 that Partello made an acquaintance of a young man named Louis Horst. This meeting would have fateful consequences for Partello and his entire family. Louis Horst had been born in Tuttlingen in 1865[1], but his family had emigrated to New York in 1870 or 1871. Louis left school when he was 12 years old and worked as a gofer in the port of New York City. Despite his lack of schooling he must have been a quick study because he later obtained a job as assistant proofreader for the Evening Post. At sixteen, he landed a job with the Red Star Line, and by the time he was 20 he had saved enough money to take a one-month trip to Europe.

Partello was impressed enough with Horst to invite him to visit his family in Stuttgart. Nothing is known of this visit, but later events make it clear that Horst and Partello’s eldest daughter, Carolina (at some point she changed her name to Carita), had hit it off. After his European tour, Horst returned to the U.S. and a few years late in 1889 he formed a business with his two brothers, Clem and Paul, as hops traders.[2] They negotiated deals directly between California hops growers and buyers (mostly beer producers) in Europe, thereby cutting out the brokers in New York who had been charging large commissions.

In the meantime, Horst and Carita Partello stayed in touch via mail. Carita graduated from the conservatory and appeared as a soloist with the Leipzic Symphony. In 1892, Louis and Carita were married in Washington, D.C. and they then moved to Chicago where they set up house. There is nothing to suggest that Dwight Partello opposed this marriage, but it is worth noting that he did not attend the wedding. According to newspaper clippings of the event, he was detained in Germany due to a sudden death of the vice consul of Dusseldorf.[3]

Later that year, however, Partello visited his daughter and son-in-law in Chicago and he brought with him his violin collection which he loaned to the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893-94. As of 1894, he had, by his own account, purchased “12 Italian and other violins – a viola exhibited in the late Vienna Exhibition – a cello, and 15 bows including five Tourte, two Peccatti and others, all fine specimens, and amongst my instruments may be found the celebrated Falmouth Bergonzi of the celebrated Adams’ collection.”

During his stay in Chicago, he met with representatives of the Lyon & Healy firm, which was quite eager to sell instruments from his collection. Partello was not completely adverse to this idea as he thought he might be able to get a good price for the instruments in the U.S. and use that money to buy even better instruments when he returned to Europe.  

In a letter published in The Violin Times on June 15, 1894, Partello claimed that he had agreed in principle to let Lyon & Healy sell some instrument from his collection, starting with a small, late-period Nicolo Amati.  Partello set the price at $1,500 with the understanding that Lyon & Healy would retain a $250 commission. A few weeks later, Partello received a check from Lyon & Healy for $150 along with a letter stating that the instrument had been sold and that Partello would receive the balance of $1,100 as soon as the World’s Fair had ended and the instrument could be collected by its new owner.

Partello was pleased with the transaction until he heard from a third party that the instrument had been sold for $2,500, not $1,500, meaning that Lyon & Healy had pocketed not just $250, but $1,250. Disturbed by this, Partello decided not to sell any additional instruments through Lyon & Healy. For their part, Lyon & Healy felt that they had lived up to their part of the bargain, but that Partello, by withholding his other instruments, was not honoring his side of the agreement. In retaliation, Lyon & Healy refused to send Partello the balance of his money for the Amati. Partello then gave his daughter, Carita, power of attorney and she filed suit to collect the sums owed by Lyon & Healy.

The suit dragged on for more than a year, but was eventually settled out of court when Partello returned to Chicago sometime in 1895. As part of the resolution, Partello wrote a letter to Lyon & Healy absolving them of any fault, and pinning most of the blame for the “misunderstanding” on his son-in-law, Louis Horst. The letter, along with a letter by Lyon & Healy, was published in the November 15, 1895 edition of The Violin Times.[4] The Lyon & Healy letter presents the case as follows:

“… suit was brought against Lyon & Healy in October, 1895, by Mr. Horst, claiming to represent Mr. Partello, which suit has been pending to the present day. . .Now, on October 28 [1894], Mr. Horst, son-in-law of Mr. Partello, called on Lyon & Healy and demanded that the full amount, less a small commission, be paid him for his principal, and threatened if his demands were not complied with he would not only hold the Amati, but would keep all the other instruments in the collection, among them a ‘Stradivarius’ for which Lyon and Healy had received an offer of 5,500 dollars.”

Partello’s letter, without mentioning Horst by name, also makes it quite clear where he felt the blame lay:

“Upon an examination of the facts of the case, suit being brought by a third party supposedly acting in my interest during my absence in Germany, I find that there was absolutely no ground or reason for the same. . . I desire to state that what I said in that interview [the earlier article in The Violin Times] was based upon information sent to me from Chicago, which information I find to be incorrect, and I freely and cheerfully retract all that is therein published. As an evidence of my good faith and entire confidence in your house, I shall place on sale with you a number of my choicest old violins, thereby carrying out as far as my power my original agreement.”

This represents a quite extraordinary reversal of Partello’s stance and an unusual public dressing-down of his son-in-law, Louis Horst. More than 100 years later, it is hard to know exactly what transpired but it certainly seems to suggest some tension between Partello and Horst.

But if Louis Horst was having problems with his father-in-law, he was having no difficulties whatsoever in his business activities. The Horst Brothers business grew rapidly and they expanded by buying hops ranches in California and creating a hops options exchange in Chicago whereby buyers could lock in a price for up to 5 years. Both strategies were quite innovative and successful --so successful, in fact, that Louis Horst could afford to buy a large house in Coburg, Germany around 1893.  This coincided with the move of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh[5] to the Rosenau Castle in Coburg, where they were installed as the new Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  According to one source, Carita was often invited to the royal estate in Rosenau where she sometimes played duets with the Russian Grand Duke Cyril.[6]

(to be continued. . .)

[1] Thomas Boghardt, “A German Spy? New Evidence on Baron Louis von Horst,” The Journal of Intelligence History, Winter, 2001.

[2] “Death Claims Emil Horst, 73,” Oakland Tribune, May 24, 1940.

[3] “Society Events,” Baltimore Sun, March 23, 1892.

[4] “D. J. Partello v. Lyon & Healy,” Violin Times, November 15, 1895.

[5] Boghardt.

[6] “She Misread Stars to Lead Hitler to Doom,” Times-Bulletin, Von Wert, Ohio, Feb. 9, 1956.  In 1905, Cyril married the second daughter of the Duchess, Victoria Melita (“Ducky”).



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