Florenz Kitten: Full Steam Ahead

| May/June 1996

Reprinted from The Ferdinand News Sent to us by Jerry Kitten RR 2, Box 6 Slaton, Texas 79364

Florenz Kitten, Sr. and the town of Ferdinand were born the same year. That the two names Kitten and Ferdinand should forever be intertwined now seems almost inevitable. Henry and Theresa (Heke) Kitten's son Florenz was born in Prussia in 1840. Surely his parents dreamed of a great future for him. Ferdinand, Indiana, was born from the perseverance of Fr. Joseph Kundek and there is no doubt he dreamed of great things for his brainchild.

Political upheaval in Prussia began that same year, with the death of King Frederick William III. His son and successor, Frederick William IV, lacked a practical nature and so Florenz Kitten's first eight years of life were marked by economic depression and capped by political revolution. A working class uprising in June was crushed by frightful bloodshed. Politics, war and poverty in the home land a chance for democracy, peace and prosperity in a new land. This the Kittens must have considered before deciding to emigrate to the United States, the land of milk and honey where all the streets were paved in gold.

Henry Kitten was a wooden shoe maker; places to ply that particular trade were probably limited, even in the mid-nineteenth century. Somehow the family arrived in Ferdinand where Henry had ready-made good German customers for his wooden shoes.

Employees of the Ferdinand Foundry and Machine Works pose for a picture with founder Florenz Kitten, seated at front right, who boasted a white beard.

Young Florenz was probably 10 years old. Although he attended school and worked on a farm, by all accounts Kitten was a forward thinker more interested in evolving technology than in the usual childhood pursuits.