The Story of Bernhard Moos and The
Bernhard Moos Elementary School
Moos was born in 1843 in Buchau. Buchau is a town in southwest
Germany. There he trained as a bookkeeper. Bernhard Moos was of
the Jewish faith. Most of the Jewish people in Buchau were
shopkeepers and tradesmen.
In the 19th century, it
was difficult for people to make enough money. Many young people
left Germany. When Bernhard Moos was 17, he came to America and
settled in Chicago. Then Chicago only had 30,000 people.
worked as a bookkeeper. Like other immigrants he learned
English. He and his brother opened a small cigar, tobacco, and
snuff shop in the basement of Metropolitan Hall. (At that time,
no one knew that tobacco was so dangerous to our health.) They
worked very hard. Bernhard married Karoline Berlizheimer who
also left Germany at a young age. (Karoline’s brother was author
Emily Rose’s great grandfather). Bernhard lived with his wife
and her relatives.
Bernhard Moos was very interested in
learning. Chicago did not have a library then. Bernhard Moos
volunteered as the part-time librarian at the Young Men’s
Association. It was in the Metropolitan Building.
The Great Chicago Fire in 1871
destroyed Bernhard Moos’ store. He wrote in German to his family
back in Buchau. The fire raged for 29 hours. An estimated 300
people died, and a third of the population (100,000 people) were
left homeless. More than 17,000 buildings in a four-square-mile
area—both businesses and homes—were destroyed. In his same
letter, Bernhard Moos wrote that he was able to open his shop in
a new location very quickly after the fire.
Chicago grew to have almost 500,000
people and needed a large library building.
The building design was very grand and beautiful, with a
majestic staircase and marble mosaics.
In 1887 Bernhard Moos was appointed
to the library board of directors. He was in charge of new
library’s construction for eight years. When there were
problems, he solved them. He helped all the workers. He made
sure that no one stole money.
Bernhard Moos worked very hard. He
went to the library every day and became exhausted. In 1895
Bernhard Moos was in his cigar store when some robbers barged
in. He tried to fight them off and was hit on the head. Since he
was so very weak from working too hard, he could not recover his
injuries He died a few months later when he was only 52.
When he died, the libraries were
closed to honor his memory on the day of his funeral. The board
of directors read a long proclamation in appreciation of his
dedication. The grand new library opened 2 years later in 1897.
Bernhard Moos never saw it finished.
You can see the library still today.
It is now the Chicago Cultural Center on Washington Street.
When you go, you will see 2 large plaques near the entrance. On
each you will see Bernhard Moos’ name.
That same year, the Chicago Board of
Education named a school in honor of Bernhard Moos. The board
referred to him as a faithful, upright and valuable citizen.
Moos Elementary School at 1711 North California Avenue is named
after an immigrant who knew the importance of books and
learning. Each student has the obligation to live up to that