Meet The Finks – Our Business Is Smokin’.

John (Johann) George Fink (Finck) was born in 1830 in the German region of Quernheim Rheinpfalz in the Kingdom of Bavaria (today’s Rhineland-Palatinate). His wife – Cunegunda (Anna) Weigle Fink was born five years later – in 1835 – in Bavaria as well.

Welcome to the homeland of Johann George Finck and Cunegunda Weigle. Cunegunda (as the family spelled it) or Kunigunde is a German name derived from “kuni” (clan, family) and “gund” (war). As you’ll come to see – Cunegunda was one brave woman who had to fight through a lot of adversity!

Family records indicate that John G. Fink and Cunegunda – whose parents changed her name to Anna when arriving in America (1839) – met in Iowa City, married, and had seven children – Henrietta (Hattie) (1857-1920)*, George (1860-1910), Katie (1863-1871), Otto (1865-1941), Clara (b.1867), Emma (1871-1944), and Nellie (1872-1934).

Read more about five generations of the Fink family in Iowa City – 1835 to the present.

The 1870 U.S. Census shows J.G. Fink and his wife Ann (Cunegunda) with their five oldest children – Henrietta, George, Katie, Otto, and Clara. Daughters Emma and Nellie were born in the early 1870’s, prior to J.G.’s death in 1873.
The seven children of J.G. & Anna Fink. Read more about five generations of the Fink family in Iowa City – 1835 to the present.

The German-born John G. Fink came to New Orleans in 1852, moving northward into Johnson County in 1854, where his first job was working as a traveling salesman, and then a store clerk for the Eastman & Sperry dry goods store in Iowa City. It was during this season, he met and married Anna Weigle – whose family came to Maryland (c.1839) before settling in Johnson County (1850) as well.

Fink’s Cigar Store – in the St. James Hotel – 4 S. Clinton Street – Iowa City – c.1915.

By 1864, J.G. Fink had settled down, forming a retailing jewelry business in Iowa City with George W. Marquardt. But apparently, that partnership was short-lived, because the next year – 1865 – Fink found a new business partner – tobacconist H.J. Wieneke – opening a tobacco and cigar store – Fink’s Cigar Store. Read more here. A term rarely used today, a tobacconist is one who becomes an expert in the world of smoking.

Here’s an ad for Fink’s Cigar Store from 1899 – after the Wieneke family had taken full ownership.

Sadly, around the time of the birth of their 6th child – Emma (1871), the Fink’s 8-year-old daughter Katie died.

And then, two years later, on November 13, 1873 – just one year after their 7th child, Nellie, was born – John G. Fink suddenly passed away at age 43. This, of course, left Anna as a struggling widow with six children to care for. Below are three articles taken from Iowa City newspapers during this sad season – and we’ve included the 1935 obituary for Anna – pictured below in her role as great grandmother*…

Read more about Anna Fink’s family and their connection to Iowa City herstory…

The U.S. Census of 1880 indicates that sometime after J.G.’s death, Anna Fink met and married Samuel Fredrickson of nearby West Liberty in Muscatine County. According to family records, Samuel – born in 1815 – came to Iowa in 1837, arriving here with $5 in his pocket. He purchased a Muscatine County land claim for $100, returned home to Ohio, and went to work to earn the money to pay for it. In the spring of 1838, Samuel returned to Iowa, traveling down the Ohio River to Cairo, Illinois and then up the Mississippi to West Liberty, where he lived until his death in 1898. Fredrickson was married twice (1839), having five surviving children with his first wife – Esther Lewis, and none with his second wife (1856) – Jane Hyan – who died in 1878. Samuel & Anna married sometime prior to 1880, and as you can see from the 1880 Census (above) it was a blended family in their West Liberty home. Which brings us now to 15-year-old Otto H. Fink

According to his biography, Otto Henry (O.H.) Fink – born in 1865 – attended public schools in Iowa City, although – as the 1880 Census shows – it looks like he might have had some of his teen years in West Liberty. From there (1881-1883), he ventured to Mt. Pleasant, where he attended a German-speaking vocational college, followed by a year of study at Iowa Wesleyan College. Apparently, after college, Otto’s first business interest was farming, spending much of his next four years (1883-1887) in the fanning mill business around Johnson County.

So What Is A Fanning Mill? Dating to the early 1800s, fanning mills are one of the earliest types of farm machinery. They automated the process of winnowing coarse grains such as wheat, oats, and barley from lighter chaff and straw. A hand-operated fan moves the grain, chaff, and any bits of straw across vibrating screens, and the heavier grain kernels fall through the screens, while the chaff and straw is blown out of the machine.

After four years in the fanning business, Otto moved to nearby Cedar County, where he spent three years in the mercantile business (1887-1890), one year operating a creamery (1890-1891), and three years running a meat market (1891-1894).

All the while, Otto and his new bride Margaret Malinda Albaugh – married in October 1887 – were starting their family – two sons – John G. (1888-1940) and Guy S. (1892-1935).

1900 U.S. Census shows Otto & Margaret Fink living in Cedar County with their two sons John G. and Guy S. The census shows farming as Fink’s profession.

In 1894, Otto returned to farming, continuing in Cedar County for twelve years, when, in 1906, he was finally coaxed by his father’s old business partner – Henry J. Wieneke – to come back to Iowa City and take over the cigar & tobacco business in his mercantile store in the St. James Hotel. Read more here.

(Above left) In 1906, Otto was one of 40 Iowa City business people featured in a booklet published by The Iowa City Commercial Club. Read more here. (Above right) Here’s an advertisement from the Iowa City Citizen on January 29, 1908.

Finally, by 1906, Otto Fink – at age 41 – seemed to find his life’s calling. Returning to the work of his father, Otto spent the rest of his years in Iowa City being known as Dad – the man who knew more about tobacco and fine cigars than anyone else in town.

Built in 1872, the St. James Hotel building was located directly across from University Square. Fink’s Bazaar & Cigar Store was your one-stop shopping center for anything a person needed, from a morning newspaper, or an afternoon cigar, to a bar of soap for your evening bath. Teamed with H.J. Wieneke and his family, Otto Fink & his older son John G. (see pic below) were well-known around the community. Read more here.

This rare photograph from c.1910 shows H.J. Wieneke (center) with Otto (Dad) and his oldest son John G. (on the left) in front of Fink’s Cigar Store.
730 E. Iowa Ave in Iowa City

The Fink family – Otto, Margaret, and their two sons John G. and Guy S. settled into Iowa City, living in their comfortable home at 730 Iowa Avenue – just seven blocks east of their cigar store in the St. James.

The U.S. Census for 1910 shows Otto & Margaret with John G. (age 21), his wife Ada (age 21) and Guy S. (age 19). According to the census, John is working at the Fink Cigar Store with his father.
Disaster hit the Fink family, however, on Good Friday, April 21, 1916. An early morning fire broke out in the St. James Hotel and before it was all over the entire building was lost. You can read the full story here.

Records indicate that Otto and the family, like the Wieneke family, re-built their businesses in new downtown locations after the devastating 1916 fire. A 1932 city directory lists the Finks living at 730 E. Iowa Avenue and indicates that Margaret is working as a clerk at Yetters Department Store, while Otto is now managing his cigar store – now part of Racine’s Drug Store.

Fred Racine was a well-known cigar store owner in Iowa City and had several drug stores around town. Racine – in 1913 – bought the struggling Iowa City baseball club, renaming them the Racine Ramblers. More details here.

Sadly, later that same year – September 14, 1932, Otto’s dear wife – Margaret M. Albaugh Fink – died at age 64, and both of Otto & Margaret’s sons died at an early age as well. Guy S. Fink died in 1935 – at age 42 – while John G. Fink passed in 1940 at age 51. Left on his own and in poor health, Otto H. Fink, at age 76, took his own life on July 23, 1941. The entire Fink family, including Otto’s mother and father – J.G. & Anna – are buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City.

In a biographical piece, written in 1912, we find these words about Otto Henry Fink

On the roster of the honorable, progressive business men of Iowa City stands the name of Otto Henry Fink, a native of the University City, whose entire life has been lived within the borders of his native state, and for the most part within the county of his birth.

Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.

*Our special thanks to Renée Sueppel who supplied many of the photos and details for this page. Renée has a special connection to the Fink family. Anna Clara Stevens Williams (above center) is Renée‘s maternal grandmother. Otto Fink’s oldest sister – Henrietta Fink Stevens Howell (above right) is Renée’s great grandmother, and Otto’s mother – Cunegunda (Anna) Weigle Fink Hendrickson (above left) is Renée‘s great great grandmother. Kudos Renée to you and your extended family! Read more here.

J.G. Fink family – 1870 U.S. Census,

In Memoriam – J.G. Fink, The Daily Press, November 18, 1873, p 4

George Fink death, Iowa City Republican, November 19, 1873, p 3

Wieneke/Fink, Iowa City Republican, December 10, 1873, p 3

John George Fink, Find-A-Grave

Kunigunde, Wikipedia

Anna Fink Hendrickson, Find-A-Grave

Samuel Hendrickson family – 1880 Census,

Samuel Hendrickson, Find-A-Grave

Henrietta “Hattie” Fink Stevens Howell, Find-A-Grave

George John Fink, Find-A-Grave

Katie Fink, Find-A-Grave

Nellie F. Morris, Find-A-Grave

Otto Henry Fink, C.R. Aurner, Leading events in Johnson County, Iowa – Vol 2, 1912, p 75-76

Oct 1887 – Marriage Records – Otto Fink,

Operating the Fanning Mill, Facebook

Otto Fink Family – 1900 U.S. Census – Cedar County, Iowa,

Otto Fink Family – 1910 U.S. Census,

1932 City Directory, Otto Fink, Iowa City,

Yetters Ad, Iowa City Press Citizen, January 2, 1932, p12

Margaret M. Fink obituary, Iowa City Press-Citizen, September 15, 1932, p 2

Margaret Malinda Albaugh Fink, Find-A-Grave

Otto H. Fink obituary, Iowa City Press-Citizen, July 24, 1941, p 11

In Memory, Iowa City Press Citizen, July 24, 1941, p 12

Otto Henry Fink, Find-A-Grave

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