(Johann) Hermann Gütlich (1836-1861)

Hermann was born on October 29, 1836 in Darmstadt, the son of the wealthy spice trader Johann Nicolaus Gütlich (1790-1872).

-1- Picture Hermann Gütlich (1860) [3]

Due to the privileged family circumstances, Hermann has a socially carefree future ahead of him. He first visits the school of Dr. Ferdinand Lucius (1817-1877) after which he enters the Ludwig Georgs-Gymnasium in the autumn of 1848 and can thus fully focus on his own development towards a successful social career. Hermann is a gifted and inquisitive person and during his secondary school years he speaks Latin, Greek, French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese in addition to German.

 Between 1854 and 1857 he went to study law alternately at the universities of Gießen and Heidelberg in order to later become a lawyer. But in the spring of 1857 he unexpectedly breaks off his law studies without taking his final exams, to work in the wine business of his cousin Georg Wetterhahn in Mainz. The reason for the sudden departure to Mainz is not mentioned anywhere. However, in January 1857, something happens that may indicate his choice. Hermann has language skills; he likes to tell and write. In addition to writing, Hermann has aspirations to be recognized as a poet, as can be seen in his travelogue which includes a number of poems about his childhood sweetheart Thrineli from Switzerland. During his law studies he writes several poems that he wants to be published in the renowned writers’ magazine “Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände[1]. Much to Hermann’s disappointment, his poems are not published and because these events take place in quick succession, this rejection may have been the reason for him to finish his law studies and move to Mainz.

Not much is known about the period that he lived in Mainz. During his stay in Mainz, in 1860, in the shop of the photographers Brechtel & Urmetzer [2] took a photo of him, making it the oldest photo of the Gütlich family (see -1-).

Legacy Hermann

After Hermann’s sudden death on December 25, 1861 in Mainz, his estate was determined by the court in Darmstadt at a negative capital worth fl. 567.41. Upon further analysis of his debts amounting to fl. 1,253.43, it is noticeable that his father Johann Nicolaus is his largest creditor for fl. 664.35.

His assets are valued as follows:

Cash                                      fl.            35,24

Garments                            –              60,40

43 Debtors                          –           432,19

Liquor                                   –             60,26

Cigars                                    –           275,26

Total                                     fl.         863,35

This means that more than half of his estate consists of outstanding debts owed by others to him, from Mainz to Gießen, for amounts ranging from 30 cents to fl. 107.20. Most notable about his property is that it consists of nearly 40 percent liquor and 16 different types of cigars from around the world. Hermann’s death certificate from the city of Mainz does not state a cause of death, but his lifestyle of drinking and cigars may have taken its toll at a young age.

Hermann’s childhood friend Karl Planz told the writer Karl Esselborn through a number of anecdotes [4] indicated what kind of personality Hermann had. During the adventures that Hermann experienced with his schoolmates and fellow students, he was mainly the one who managed to determine the atmosphere of the situation with song and poetic language.

Once, playing as if he had drowned in a stream, being carried home soaked, and then suddenly found alive when he returned home, he concluded his return to the crowd with a speech in the stairwell, thanking everyone for their support and presence!

During a trip in the Odenwald in the town of Mörlenbach, he persuaded the local barber to soap the entire group of friends at the same time in the middle of the bridge and then shave in front of a group of young people!

Hermann was a man of many talents and social opportunities, but his life choices and his death at the age of twenty-five prevented him from taking full advantage of them. A promising life has not fully developed, presumably due to its own actions, and that is a sad observation.


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[1] The “Morgenblatt für gebildete Stände” (from 1837: “Morgenblatt für gebildete Leser”) is the most important representative of a new type of magazine that emerged at the beginning of the 19th century.
It was published in Stuttgart and Tübingen from 1807 to 1865 alongside the political Allgemeine Zeitung by Cotta'sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, one of the most influential German publishers of the time.

[2] https://www.dilibri.de/stbmz/content/pageview/1235021 - (Adreßbuch der Provinzialhauptstadt Mainz 1860)

[3] Hessisches Staatsarchiv Darmstadt: Signatur R4 Nr. 17501

[4]Die Wandervögel von ehedem”; Karl Esselborn; Friedberg – 1913, pag. 91-92.