Grandpa was a number of things: a salesmen, a magician, a comedian, an athlete (in his younger days), and an artist. He was also a collector, which may have stemmed from an undoubtedly meager upbringing at the Christian Orphans' Home on North Euclid in St. Louis.
Grandpa's collection didn't focus on any single theme or niche. He had a variety of transportation-related items, like a wooden airplane propeller and a pair of oil-burning headlights from the early days of the auto industry. He had wall clocks, like the kind that hung in school rooms 100 years ago, and bit keys. He had old tools. He also had lots of old advertising, packaging, and promotional items.
When grandpa moved into the assisted living place he couldn't take much with him. I'm not sure how his collection was prioritized, but some of his stuff went with him and the rest got estate-saled. Before the sale I got to grab a few items; I kinda stuck to the old tools and oddball stuff I thought was kinda cool. I felt pretty uncomfortable taking his belongings so I didn't take much.
After grandpa passed away, the stuff he had at the assisted living facility had to be dealt with. My dad sent me a bunch of pics and I laid claim to a few more items. I'm not much of a collector per se, but if it's old, especially if it's old AND connected to St. Louis somehow...I'm in. One of the items I snagged was a giant wall thermometer that at one time belonged to or advertised a business known as "Math. Hermann & Son".
If you look closely, you can see the Mississippi River in the bottom righthand corner of the above image. Back then, St. Louis was a rapidly growing city and Hermann's business was located in a densely populated neighborhood very near the river-driven commercial action.
It's hard to say for sure which particular building was 3521, but it's one of the buildings in the center of the yellow oval.
Here's a look at the area in 1909; it's tough to make out but if you squint just right you can see the word "undertaker" on a building across Broadway from the "coal & wood shed", that was Mathias Hermann's business. That area of St. Louis has been almost entirely demo'd and replaced with largely nondescript low-rise industrial buildings, surface parking lots, and blight, although the Mallinckrodt facility is still very much there and in operation.
The Hermann family residence was located at 3935 Florissant Avenue, which was about a block west of Hyde Park. Much like Hermann's business location, this once-thriving area is in poor condition and would be unrecognizable to the Hermann family patriarch today.
During his lifetime, Mathias Hermann belonged to a number of societies, lodges, and clubs, as well as being a member of the Catholic church and lifelong Republican (which means he'd be a Democrat today). He died in 1908, although the business was carried on by the Hermann family for almost another 100 years.
And then there's the thermometer. I have no idea where it came from or how my grandpa wound up with it, but it's pretty interesting.
I didn't notice it at first but after looking through the pics I took of the thermometer, I'm pretty sure the bottom section -- the "Mo." part -- is grandpa's work. Looks to me like he grabbed a black marker and filled in a couple letters, and drew in a few lines where he thought there should be some. Grandpa collected stuff he liked, not because something may or may not have had monetary value; if he thought an item was missing something, he'd find a way to make the thing complete.
Anyhow...the thermometer was made by Taylor, which first began making thermometers in Rochester, New York in 1851. Taylor eventually expanded and had offices all over the place, including in the Frisco Building at 9th and Olive in downtown St. Louis. The St. Louis office didn't exist until 1914, so I suspect the thermometer isn't any older than that.
From there, it's hard to say how old the thing is but from the looks of the paint, it's probably fairly old. And it's hard to say whether the thermometer was hung on a wall in Hermann's business, or of it was a promotional/advertising item that hung on the wall of somebody else's business. Taylor is still in business today, but they've been around for so long and produced so many varieties of thermometers that finding a record of this exact model is very needle-and-haystack.
Regardless, it doesn't make any difference. It's old, it's connected to St. Louis, and for it to have been one of grandpa's last remaining possessions, he must have really liked it.
That's good enough for me.