Derk Meerstadt (1873-1951)

Derk was born 8 Mar 1873 in Zutphen, The Netherlands, son of Albertus Meerstadt and Klasina Wunderink, and brother-in-law to my granduncle Egbert Gast (dutch link). And his behavior had a rather large impact on the family.

Derk started a cigar company in Eindhoven, which at that time was the center of the cigar manufacturing industry. He, together with Egbert’s older brother Gerrit,  incorporated on 10 Jan 1905 as D. Meerstadt & Co. Derk had deposited a trademark for a cigar company (Aurora Sigarenfabriek) in 1901. The plant burned down on June 11, 1902. And thanks to insurance, he was able to rebuild in a different location.  Lots of interesting information about the cigar industry in Eindhoven can be found at the website (only in dutch).(1)

In 1921 there is a notice in the paper, that the corporation has been dissolved. Derk is living in Brasschaat, Belgium at that time (where apparently he started another cigar company). Gerrit continued the business by himself for a while, and even started two new brands (I esp. like  the second one “Mijn eerste liefde” (My first love), ah, the romance of smoking), but declares bankruptcy in 1928.

Derk didn’t just leave the company in 1921, he left, taking the money with him, making life rather difficult for Gerrit and his family, esp. after the bankruptcy. His wife took in boarders (among other some directors of Phillips, which was how daughter Betie became a secretary at Phillips) and sold her household linens etc. door-to-door.

Leeuwarder courant, 20 Jul 1931

She was also the landlady of Douwe Kalma, a well known Frisian writer (1896-1953) in the late 30’s until 1942, who was at the time an English teacher at the Lorenz High School in Eindhoven. I have some of the correspondence from Douwe to Gerrit’s wife.

But Derk’s acts had a wider impact on the family;  they led to severe guilt feelings on the part of Egbert’s son (his nephew) for the hardships his mother’s family caused his father’s. Gerrit seems to have lost his drive after the bankruptcy, it is his wife who keeps the family going. Gerrit’s daughter both stay single, and become professionals: Betie a private secretary, Mieke a nurse  and later head of a home for old nurses. She was baby-nurse for several children of the Fentener van Vlissingen family in Den Haag (Source: interviews with Mieke Gast, 1997-1998)

I don’t know what Derk’s descendants made of him, to them was he an ambitious entrepreneur, a success story? All I know is that on in my family the influence of his actions was rather disastrous.

(1) The parts of the website pertaining to Meerstadt are meerstadt, meerstadt-gerrit-gast, and meerstadt-later. All have lots of interesting pictures.

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