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Built by my Great Grandfather's Hands

Hidden away from view in the top drawer of a dresser in the guest bedroom, lies an old wooden cigar box. It is cracked, has faded brass of decorative hinges which frame the antique.

Inside, the box has protected a gift from over a hundred years ago. It is a steam engine made by my great grandfathers hands. Standing about 5 inches tall and made by Otto Albertin of Germany.

Otto was a tool and die maker in his lifetime. This was a skilled trade during the latter part of the 19th century.

You had to be meticulous, detailed and a stickler for accuracy. Otto must have been all of these things because this little machine is made to perfection. It is a relic from an era of industrial factories where employees worked for low pay and endured long hours. A time when machines and mechanical inventions were taking over the world. Automobiles were starting to appear on a more regular basis and the horse and buggy was fading away into history. My great grandfather's little creation was testament to the creativity and inventive spirit that must have been prevalent worldwide. He is listed on the 1900 New Jersey census as being a tool manufacturer from Germany.

But, as I looked at this census it was amazing how many were from foreign countries.

Just on this one page alone the majority of people were from Germany with Russia running in second and England in third. How can we say immigrants hurt our nation? When most of us, unless you are a Native American, have ancestors from another country.

But, back to Otto. I remember we had a small set of tools that went with this steam engine. They consisted of screw drivers, wrenches and the like. All in miniature size and like the steam engine, all made by Otto.

During the Christmas holidays it was always a tradition to set up the HO train set in our basement. Adorning the layout were a series of beautiful brass street lights. Again, built by Otto for my grandfather and his siblings. Made to last and passed down to me and my siblings.

I am really grateful to have this little engine. The cigar box is dented and damaged, but the old steam engine inside is still in good shape. made by my great grandfather's hands. An object that has traveled through time to be held by my hands.


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