Pollack Elected Into Wheeling Hall of Fame

Augustus Pollack, a revered businessman who founded West Virginia’s largest cigar manufacturer, has been elected posthumously to the Wheeling Hall of Fame in the Business, Industry and Professions category.

The Hall of Fame board announced that Pollack, Marc Harshman, G. Ogden Nutting, the late Stanley Romanoski and the late Rosemary Front will be inducted during a banquet at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling Saturday, April 20. Doors will be open for the general public at 5:30 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased from Hall of Fame board members or at the arena.

Board members said they are trying to locate descendants of Pollack to attend the ceremony. The 19th-century businessman and his wife, Rosalie, had a son and six daughters.

Pollack, born in Germany in 1830, emigrated to the United States at age 18.

He settled in Baltimore and opened a notions and fancy goods business that he moved to Wheeling in 1854. He established another business in Grafton, W.Va., in 1858. Pollack moved to Wheeling permanently in 1860 and lived with his family above his Main Street business. He resided in Wheeling until his death on April 23, 1906.

Pollack founded his signature business, Crown Stogies, in East Wheeling in 1871. In 15 years, Crown Stogies grew to become West Virginia’s largest cigar manufacturer. At their peak, his two factories employed more than 500 people. His factory, spanning 18th and 19th streets from Chapline to Eoff streets, was one of the largest cigar factories in the world. In an obituary, the Wheeling News-Register declared that no one deserved “more credit for the Wheeling stogie’s prestige.”

Hall of Fame officials stated, “Known to work 16-hour days at his office on Water Street, Pollack did not ask more of his employees than he did of himself. He paid them well and maintained an open-door policy regarding employee concerns over work conditions, hours and wages – an unusually progressive attitude for a 19th-century entrepreneur. … His policies influenced other local stogie manufacturers, rendering stogie-making Wheeling’s most desirable career choice for the working class.”

Pollack’s employees and their union brethren demonstrated their affection for Pollack in an unprecedented manner, Hall of Fame officials said. After Pollack’s death, local labor unions collected donations from their membership to erect a large monument in his honor. Depicting a handshake between employee and employer, the monument was placed on the grounds of Wheeling’s city building. It was later moved to its current site on Main Street near the Fort Henry Bridge entrance ramp.

“The Pollack monument is thought to be the only memorial ever built by labor in honor of a business owner,” Hall of Fame officials said.

As a civic leader, Pollack served on the board of education and as an elector on Benjamin Harrison’s presidential ticket. A devoted Unionist during the Civil War, Pollack allowed the U.S. military to use his Grafton buildings without charge for the war effort. He was involved in establishing a German American volunteer company and bringing the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad into Wheeling.

A German Jew, Pollack was an active member of Wheeling’s German immigrant community. He helped to establish a German language newspaper, The Patriot, and served as president of the German Bank and German Fire Insurance companies. Pollack was named honorary president of the 1885 Saengerfest, a large German singing festival in Wheeling. In 1870, he helped raise money for widows and orphans of German soldiers killed in war.

Pollack served as a director of the Linsly Institute and a trustee of the Female College. He was a generous patron of the arts, particularly classical music.

Members of the Hall of Fame board are chairman Jim Squibb, Wayne Barte, Laura Carter, Richard Coury, Robert DeFrancis, Sean Duffy, Jeanne Finstein, Anne Foreman, Doug Huff, William Ihlenfeld, James Kepner, William Nutting, Patricia Pockl, Bettie Steele, Kate Quinn, Dianna Vargo and Wheeling City Council representative Don Atkinson.