Johann Christian Dressler
From: “Das Geschlecht der Staudernheimer Geib,” in Bukowina: Heimat von Gestern
Erwin Massier, Josef Talsky and B. C. Grigorowicz, eds. (Karlsruhe: Selbstverlag “Arbeitskreis Bukowina Heimatbuch”)
Sophie A. Welisch, PhD, translator
Published in the Bukovina Society Newsleter, Vol. 8, No. 4 – December 1998
The descendants of the Geibs, who in 1784-85 immigrated from Staudernheim in Hesse to Landstreu and Ugarsthal in East Galicia and then to Bukovina, were productive people in all areas of human works and deeds. The activity of many of them was often of such significance to their immediate and even wider surroundings, that streets were named after them, e.g., Geib Street in Czernowitz and in Stanislau (Galicia). They were for the most part dyed-in-the-wool farmers and for that alone a blessing for their urban communities.
Johann Georg Geib, born on 23 May 1799 in Landstreu and documented as “smith and bell caster in Landstreu,” is the first bell caster to be identified from the family of the Staudernheim Geibs. He was followed in this vocation by his son Philipp Andreas Geib, born on 13 March 1832, who can actually be viewed as the founder of the “Geib bell caster dynasty.” He learned the trades of bell caster and blacksmith from his father, became a master craftsman, and in 1868 moved with his family to Czernowitz, where he was not unknown, since he had already shipped five bells to Bukovina. He constructed his workshop in the extended Transylvania Street (Siebenbürgerstrasse) under house number 85, to which in 1872 a large foundry shed was added.
This Geib, who was an excellent farmer on the side, and who also produced various superb agricultural tools and machines, was especially ambitious and worked to the end of his life. In the course of a half century he cast over 650 bells, of which the largest of 2,600 kg. with a diameter of 1.60 m. was for the Greek Orthodox cathedral in Czernowitz, in addition to a 1000 kg. bell for the monastery in Putna. But his best work, for which he was repeatedly honored, even with the gold medal, was the royal bell cast for Mahala in 1886, which in World War I was confiscated by the Austrians for war purposes.
Of the five sons of the “founder of the Geib bell dynasty,” only two remained loyal to the trade of their father, which they plied in addition to their principal occupation: Alfred Geib, farrier and wheelwright, and Gustav Geib, “teacher and bell caster,” as they referred to themselves. Aside from his trade, the former, Alfred Geib, born on 15 August 1853, was a capable farmer. With his son he opened his own bell foundry in 1908, which continued in operation until 1914.
Arnold Geib, born on 3 March 1879, was until 1893 an apprentice under his grandfather and during this time also graduated from the state trade school in Czernowitz. For one year beginning in 1901 he was the town counselor in his home town. Between 1903 until 1914 he worked together with his father as actual director of the foundry. After World War I, in which he served on the Russian front and thereafter on the Italian front, he consolidated his foundry with that of his uncle, Gustav Geib, whose collaborator he remained for a time after the death of his father until toward the end of 1923, when he liquidated his partnership and once again worked for himself. His enterprise flourished as never before. As a result of events related from the war, the demand for bells was very great and the contracts which Arnold Geib had to fulfill grew from day to day. The increasing competition from and advertisement by various firms in Old Romania (Romania in its pre-1914 boundaries) could not affect him since “Geib bells” were preferred to all others because of their excellent quality.
During his period of activity in Bukovina Arnold Geib cast over 1,250 bells, i.e., the most of all the Geib bell casters. His special masterpieces were the royal jubilee bell cast for Mamajestie in 1908, the large bell weighing 1,500 kg. for the Nicholas Church in Czernowitz, and the big bell for the Greek-Oriental Church in Illischestie. Among these bells is also the one cast in 1924 for the Lutheran church in Badeutz, which, during the transfer of the Germans from Bukovina (1940), was brought to the Palatine and today peels in Friedelsheim. For his exemplary achievements Arnold Geib was awarded the gold medal at the 1925 exhibition in Kishinev (Ukraine). His younger brother, Edmund Geib, born on 22 June 1899, was his successor.
After the death of the immigrant Philipp Andreas Geib, the “First Czernowitz Geib Bell Foundry,” including the farmstead, went to this second son, Gustav Geib. He has already been identified as “teacher and bell caster.” As a graduate of the Imperial and Royal Provincial Teachers’ Training Institute in Czernowitz, he was, after a brief period in the Lutheran school in Czernowitz and until his retirement, teacher and headmaster of the State Boys’ School on Transylvania Street From 1903 until his death in 1934 Gustav Geib cast over 1,100 bells. His outstanding work was the jubilee bell cast in 1906 for the exhibition in Bucharest, for which he was awarded the gold medal. This bell, designated as “a unique work of art of its type anywhere in the world,” showed on its mantel busts of Emperor Francis Joseph I, Emperor William II, the Russian Tsar Nicholas II, and the Romanian King Carol I. This bell then went to the community of Molodia.
Gustav Geib was a bell caster for fifty-six years and a teacher for forty-eight. Despite both these professions, he always found time meaningfully to participate in all the German clubs and establishments of his hometown as well as in his church community. “However, he was not one to say ‘no’ to a good drink and also spent many a happy hour in the circle of his many friends!”
His artistic workmanship was continued by his son, Gustav Geib, born on 11 June 1902. The latter became an apprentice in his father’s shop in 1918, later added to his knowledge through studies in Germany, and thus, in addition to his position as town councilor, became a worthy successor of his father and grandfather.
Until the resettlement of the Bukovina Germans to Germany in 1940, Gustav Geib produced bells which all together weighed 28,900 kg. His son, Gustav Geib, more accurately Gustav Friedrich Geib, emigrated to Adelaide, Australia in June 1949 with his wife and his son Lothar. Do “Geib bells” peel there as well?
Be that as it may, the descendants of the Staudernheim Geibs have vanished from their homelands in eastern and southeastern Europe, but their works from the Palatinate and its broader surroundings to beyond the Carpathians give testimony to their multifaceted skills and the great sacrifice in time and effort which they expended for others. They were productive people whom one must acknowledge with respect and appreciation.