Seller Story: Peter Marrocco, Cincinnati, OH

“My great-grandfather John A. Hillenbrand’s father, a German immigrant and woodworker, settled in the German-speaking community of Cincinnati before the Civil War. He relocated to Batesville, Indiana in 1861 and soon passed away, leaving his 16-year-old son orphaned with two infant sisters. John abandoned the family farm and began purchasing small sections of woodland, selling hardwood to the railroads for track ties, then selling the cleared land to farmers.

Like his father, John combined hard work and acumen to create several Hillenbrand family enterprises, including a general store. In 1906, he bought the Batesville Casket Company, founded in 1884, saving it from bankruptcy. He employed German woodworkers, carvers, and cabinet makers to build the coffins. In 1929, his son William started Hill-Rom, a hospital furniture manufacturing company. Batesville Casket Company and Hill-Rom would compose what would be Hillenbrand Industries, which has since become a Fortune 500 company.

My great-grandfather on my father’s side, Anthony Scola, was an Italian silk dyer. Many of the items came over from Italy with him between 1907 to 1912. The marble tables, Oriental carpet, marble bust, and a Spanish painting that dates back to the 15th century were among these. Scola built a famous mansion in Paterson, New Jersey on 178 Durrom Avenue around 1920. When he died, he left the property to the Roman Catholic Church and it was used as a Bishop’s mansion for the next 50 or 60 years. That’s where a lot of these items came from.” – Peter Marrocco, great-grandson

Seller Story: Peter Marrocco, Cincinnati, OH
Seller Story: Peter Marrocco, Cincinnati, OH
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Seller Story: Peter Marrocco, Cincinnati, OH

Where did your great-grandfather source some of the artwork?

John Hillenbrand funded and financed many artists in the early 1900s. Cincinnati was considered the Gateway to the West, and at one point was one of the largest cities in the world. For that reason, it drew many artists such as Ralph Blakelock, Henry Farny, Joseph Henry Sharp, and “Wild Bill” Hickock even had his residence here. My great-grandfather and his siblings would fund the artists’ journeys out to the American West, and when they returned, they’d give them some of their artwork as repayment. That artwork was passed down to my grandmother and then to my mother.

Was this dining table and chairs set part of the Batesville inventory?

Hillenbrand incorporated Batesville Cabinet Company in 1913 and focused this company on the production of dining room furniture.The dining room table and chairs were custom made by Batesville Cabinet Company for my grandfather and have been in our family since. I have many memories sitting around that table for dinners with my family. Anyone from Cincinnati or Batesville will find the items in this sale very historically relevant to them.

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