Benjamin Bosse

Benjamin Bosse (November 1, 1875 – April 22, 1922) was the mayor of Evansville, Indiana from 1914 until his death in 1922.

Early Life

The son of an immigrant from Prussia, Henry Bosse, and an immigrant from Germany, Caroline L. Schlensker-Bosse, Bosse was born November 1st, 1875.

When Bosse was 14 years old he left his home, a farm in Scott Township, and moved to Evansville. He quickly got a job as the driver of a horse-drawn grocery delivery truck. His salary was a whopping, $10 per month, plus board.

Business

In 1899, with financial backing from three other men, Bosse formed Globe Furniture Co. with a total capitalization of $16,000.

Bosse formed Bosse Furniture Co. and World Furniture Co., and in 1910 merged the three companies into Globe-Bosse-World.

When Bosse first started Globe Furniture, the company had 22 employees. Sixteen years later, Globe-Bosse-World was one of Evansville’s largest employers with 500 to 600 employees.

He was the first manufacturer in Evansville to reduce the long hours his employees worked.

Bosse promoted free trade. By 1911, his Globe-Bosse-World furniture firm sold products to dealers in Mexico, Cuba and the Panama Canal District.

By 1915, Bosse had sales representatives in South America.

His Imperial Desk Co. made sales to England, Holland, Australia and South Africa.

Bosse was the motivating force behind the construction of the Furniture Exchange Building — now known as the Court Building Downtown.

Bosse served as president of the Evansville Business Association (the forerunner of the current Chamber of Commerce). In that role, he led the fund-raising for the Industrial Campaign that brought major businesses to Evansville, including Faultless Caster, Imperial Desk Co., and the companies that later became Servel and Bucyrus-Erie.

At the age of 27, he and others formed the West Side Bank, where he served as president until his death.

Bosse was the president and owner of both The Evansville Courier and the old Vendome Hotel and a Willard Library trustee.  He had been president of at least 20 companies and served on the boards of directors of more than 25 companies.

He also owned, or partly owned, American Bankers Life Insurance Co., American Packing Co., Bennett Hutchinson Agency, Bosse Coal Co., Bosse Furniture Co., Bosse Realty Co., Evansville Baseball Club Co., Evansville Pure Milk Co., Evansville Furniture Co. and Evansville Top & Panel Co., General Forrest Hotel Operating Co., Globe Furniture Co., Globe Paper Co., Graham Brothers Motor Truck Co., Grocers Quality Banking Co., Imperial Desk Co., Karges Wagon Works, Metal Furniture Co., Ohio Valley Roofing, World Furniture Co., W.H. Dyer Co., West Side Real Estate Co., and numerous others.

Bosse was loyal to his employees and they returned the loyalty. Of the 22 employees who started with him, 16 were still in his employ 13 years later — and virtually all were in supervisory or management positions.

On the national level, Bosse advocated for a shorter workweek, higher pay and better working conditions for furniture workers.

He was the first manufacturer in Evansville to reduce the long hours his employees worked.

Mayor

In 1914 as a Democrat, Bosse ran for and won the mayor’s seat in Evansville, Indiana. He was well known as the progressive mayor

When he was elected mayor he challenged the citizens of Evansville to develop civic pride.

One of the most notable quotes attributed to Bosse is, “When everyone Boosts, everyone wins.”

Bosse was viewed as one of the Midwest’s most progressive mayors.

While acting mayor from 1914 until his untimely death in 1922, Bosse’s work to improve the city of Evansville was second to none. Bosse declined his mayoral salary, opting to donate it for civic improvements.

Evansville Advances and Developments

St. Mary’s and Deaconess hospitals

Evansville College (now University of Evansville) to Evansville. (Bosse went door to door to collect funds to keep the University of Evansville intact.)

Development of the Evansville Coliseum. He served as president of the Board of Public Safety and president of the Evansville Coliseum Corporation.

Acquiring and developing Garvin Park

Acquiring 212 acres for what is now Mesker Park Zoo & Botanic Garden

Modernizing and motorizing the city’s fire and police departments including moving the EPD from city offices to their own station.

Establishing in Evansville the first free dental clinic of its kind in Indiana

Building a farmer’s market (across from Willard Library)

Establishing the city’s first laboratory to battle influenza and tuberculosis

Replacing Horse drawn fire carriages

Paving of most downtown streets

Improved public markets were built in several locations.

The Public Recreation Department was formed.

Built Evansville’s first public playgrounds, tennis courts and swimming pools.

The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Coliseum was completed in March 1917

Early planning and fundraising for U.S.41. Bosse chaired the Dixie Bee Line Highway Committee, which eventually led to the establishment of U.S. 41

Bosse Field

Bosse Field, Evansville’s minor league baseball stadium, was named for Benjamin Bosse in honor of his “great encouragement and support” to the development of an athletic program in the local schools.

Benjamin Bosse High School

The high school is also named after Bosse, who bought the school’s land and financed the building of the school. Bosse died in 1922, the same year construction began.

Death

Bosse died in 1922 at the young age of only 47, following an illness while in his third term as mayor.

An editorial in The Indianapolis News, upon Bosse’s death, stated: “A man is best judged by his own people. At Evansville, where Benjamin Bosse lived and died, he was acclaimed as a man among men …

“His prominence as a member of the Democratic Party gained for him the state (Party) chairmanship and, recently, his friends had started a movement to make him the Democratic nominee for governor.”

Personal Life

He married Anna Riechman on September 02, 1896. He was a devote Lutheran and he is buried at Lutheran Cemetery, Evansville, Ind.

Bosse had ten brothers and sisters, William, Louise, John-Fred, John-Henry, Henry, Louis, George-Henry, Elenore, August, and Amelia.

His philanthropy was manifested in the establishment of the Benjamin and Anna Bosse Scholarship Fund that still awards annual scholarships.

The bulk of Benjamin Bosse’s estate went to a trust at Integra Bank as a scholarship fund, which in 2009 granted 36 scholarships of $3,000 each to high school seniors attending Indiana colleges.

Other examples of Bosse’s community leadership and involvement include an extensive list of philanthropies.

 

 

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