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BREITHAUPT, EZRA CARL, engineer and businessman; b. 19 Feb. 1866 in Berlin (Kitchener), Upper Canada, sixth of ten children of Louis Breithaupt, a tanner, and Catharine Hailer; d. there unmarried 27 Jan. 1897.

Ezra Carl Breithaupt’s father, originally from Germany, was living in Buffalo, N.Y., by 1853, when he married Catharine Hailer, the daughter of German immigrants to Berlin, Upper Canada. A fifth-generation tanner, he had inherited his father’s interest in a tannery in Buffalo, but around 1857 he set up another in Berlin and in 1861 moved his family and his firm there. The family became active in Zion Evangelical Church and in local business and politics. At the time of his death in 1880, Louis was mayor of Berlin. His elder sons were to continue the leather business and would be involved in establishing the Berlin Gas Company around 1883.

Ezra Carl Breithaupt (usually known as Carl)attended public and high schools in his native town, and from 1883 to 1887 took a general course at the evangelical North-Western College in Naperville, Ill. For several years afterwards, he had health problems, possibly respiratory in nature, which led him to winter with the family physician, Dr David Sovereign Bowlby, in Bermuda and in Texas. Breithaupt’s choice of profession was probably influenced by his family’s involvement in the Berlin Gas Company. In the autumn of 1890 he began the two-year course in applied electricity offered at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore since 1886. He was certificated in applied electricity in 1892.

On his return to Berlin, Breithaupt entered the Breithaupt Leather Company, of which he became a director, and the Berlin Gas Company, in which he combined professional and family interests. By 1892 he owned more than $2,000 in shares in Berlin Gas and about then became its manager. The firm began generating electricity, and in 1895, with power from Berlin Gas, Breithaupt converted two horse-drawn streetcars owned by the Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Company to electric traction; its power also lit eight arc street lamps in Waterloo. Between July 1895 and February 1896, Breithaupt, his brother William Henry, and his sister Melvina Emilia acquired more than $22,000 of the $40,000 capital of the street railway company, and Carl soon became its president. He expanded both firms, building a large gas tank and extensive additions to the powerhouse and plant for Berlin Gas and installing new rails and two new electric cars for the street railway.

Like his elder brothers, Carl had a place in the local community. Louis Jacob was mayor of Berlin in 1888–89, and John Christian in 1896–97; both served as presidents of the board of trade, Louis Jacob in 1891 and John Christian in 1895. Carl was a member of the board’s financial committee in 1893, was elected its vice-president the following year, and in 1896 sat on its council. Through these years he also acted as consulting engineer in various parts of Canada and published articles on Canadian electrical engineering in American journals. A member of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, he belonged to the Canadian Electrical Association (formed in 1889), served on its executive, and in June 1896 was chosen its second vice-president. His papers were frequently read at the meetings of the association.

In January 1897, at the age of 30, Breithaupt died from injuries sustained in an explosion in the new gas tank he had built for Berlin Gas. His mother donated a pipe-organ to Zion Evangelical Church in memory of her husband and Carl, who had been choirmaster and a Sunday school teacher there. She also gave $1,000 of Carl’s estate to Berlin-Waterloo Hospital, which installed a window in his memory.

John Parry

Johns Hopkins Univ. Arch. (Baltimore, Md.), Registrar’s records, E. C. Breithaupt student file, including transcript from North-Western College (Napierville, Ill.), 11 Feb. 1889. Kitchener Chamber of Commerce (Kitchener, Ont.), Board of Trade, minute-books; Chamber of Commerce records. Kitchener Public Library, Rare Books Dept., Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Company, stock-book; Berlin Gas Company, stock-book. Univ. of Waterloo Arch. (Waterloo, Ont.), L. J. Breithaupt, diaries, 1867–1927; Breithaupt family photographs. Zion Evangelical Church (Kitchener), Reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials. “The late E. Carl Breithaupt,” Canadian Engineer (Toronto), 4 (1896–97): 285 (includes photograph). Berliner Journal (Berlin (Kitchener]), 8 March 1866. Daily Record (Berlin), 27, 29–30 Jan. 1897. Berlin, Canada: a self-portrait of Kitchener, Ontario, before World War One . . . , ed. Paul Tiessen (St Jacobs, Ont., 1979). [W. H. Breithaupt], Sketch of the life of Catharine Breithaupt, her family and times (Berlin, 1911; copy at Kitchener Public Library, Rare Books Dept.). John English and Kenneth McLaughlin, Kitchener: an illustrated history (Waterloo, 1983). J. C. French, A history of the university founded by Johns Hopkins (Baltimore, 1946), 169–70. W. V. Uttley, A history of Kitchener, Ontario (Kitchener, 1937; repr. [Waterloo, 1975]). “Waterloo County railway history,” Waterloo Hist. Soc., Annual report (Kitchener), 1917: 19.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

John Parry, “BREITHAUPT, EZRA CARL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 23, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/breithaupt_ezra_carl_12E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/breithaupt_ezra_carl_12E.html
Author of Article: John Parry
Title of Article: BREITHAUPT, EZRA CARL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 12
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1990
Year of revision: 1990
Access Date: August 23, 2014