Gogo's Embroidery Shop

If your family was part of the upper crust of New York society -- an Astor or a Vanderbilt, for example -- the lady of your house might have had her embroidery work done at a small, fashionable shop in New York City.

Business Card for 'Mrs. A. Wingendorff, Embroideries....'

The shop of Mrs. Anna Wingendorff was located, so it was said, in a fashionable brownstone, almost directly across from Bloomingdales. According to family history, Wingendorff's was a very well-known shop known not only on Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue but in tony New Jersey towns like Far Hills, as a source of fine needlepoint work. (It's even said, but not yet proven, that the shop worked on the inauguration gown of Frances Cleveland in 1893.) The family is fortunate to have a small embroidery "sampler" (shown 40% of actual size), no doubt intended to be given to prospective clientele.

"Mrs. A. Wingendorff" was Anna Wingendorff -- "Gogo" to her family. She was the second wife of John Wingendorff, who remarried after the death of Bertha BOEHME. One of John's daughters was Mary HAVEMANN, who would later work in the shop. We don't know at this point whether Mary's sister, Johanna, also worked in the shop, but it's likely. After Gogo retired, Mary ran the shop. Otto's sister, Anna Havemann, was another shop employee. (Anna was known in her later years as "Tanny" because the grandchildren couldn't quite pronounce "Aunt Anna.")

The shops probably weren't storefronts, but a residential brownstone building (quite common at the time; many uptown brownstones still survive). Barry Havemann, Mary's grandson, recalls that once you were admitted, you would find yourself in a small vestibule. There were rooms to the right and left, but customers would be directed straight ahead to the end of the hall where, in a small backroom, a number of ladies sat around a table, catching up on the latest news while they embroidered.

For reasons unknown, but likely having to do with the Depression, Gogo moved her shop a few blocks away in 1932:

Card announcing that the shop would be moving
The card reads:

"Mrs. A. Wingendorff, Designer and Embroiderer, wishes to announce that after February 1st, 1932 she will be located at 140 East 55th Street, between Lexington and 3rd Avenues, New York. Phone EL Dorado 5-7418"

The other employees in the embroidery shop seem to have been quite good friends with each other and with the owners as well; Mary left behind a nice collection of photos of the needlepoint gang. The photos were all taken at Mary Havemann's summer camp, called "Marizana," at Lake Erskine, NJ. They show people playing, laughing, paddling canoes, and thoroughly enjoying each other's company.

Mary and Anna up the creek, with a paddle
Mary and Anna up the creek... at least they had a paddle!

Best of all, Mary thoughtfully noted on the back of the photos the names of the people who were employed at Gogo's shop.

Probably no one living today knows much about these people -- but, by sharing Mary's photos here, perhaps one of their descendants will see their names and their faces -- and perhaps know them a little better. And, just maybe, they'll have some photos and memories to share as well!

BELOW: another shot of the gang -- Mary Meyer, Tanny, Mary Havemann, Aunt Augusta, Rose Novotny, Rose Heimowitz
ABOVE: The caption reads, "1924: Grandma and the girls working for Gogo at 59th address across from Bloomingdales. Left to right: Mrs. Coopersmith, Grandma, Ella - Mrs. Hetzel's granddaughter, Mrs. Hetzel, Rose Heimowitz, Rose Novotny."

You'll notice that Gogo herself isn't in these photos -- perhaps she was the one holding the camera. You can see her in another group shot; Gogo is the rather imposing woman in the middle with the checked dress and glasses. Mary Havemann is to our right.

Gogo was a large woman who wasn't afraid to speak her mind. She wouldn't hesitate to demand a better cut of meat from the butcher -- and when she spoke, with her heavy German accent, you listened.

Gogo lived a long life and died at 91.

Interestingly enough, I have a near-identical version of this photo taken at the same moment; thus, two photographers. Perhaps one day I'll be able to tell who they were by deducing who is not in this one.

Anyone researching these names? If so, please get in touch.

I'd also like to learn more behind the Cleveland inaugural gown tale, and perhaps obtain photos of the buildings in which the Wingendorff shop was located. If you know of any leads (free or commercial collections, etc.), please let me know.