Christian Mertel (1739-1802) was an early schoolmaster, fraktur scrivener and decorator in Dauphin County, Pa. A darkened example of his work in sub-par to poor condition sold for $2,576 at an Embassy Auctions International sale on Jan. 3 in Kinzers, Pa.
Christian Mertel Fraktur Sells For $2,576
Mertel was born in Herborn, Germany, the son of John Jacob and Elizabeth Mertel. He emmigrated at age 34, coming here aboard the Crawford in 1773. On the same ship was John Conrad Trevitz (17501830), who also became a schoolmaster and fraktur artist.
At first, Mertel followed in his fathers occupation as a dyer - the trade of indigo-dying cloth. By 1793, Mertel had acquired a tract of land located between what is today Elizabethtown and Hershey, which was then part of Londonderry Township, Dauphin County. He died there nine years later. His estate inventory included an inckstand (sic) and one box with pictures, which were likely fraktur in the process of being made for various clients.
It is believed he worked at a school operated by Hoffers Brethren Meeting. He primarily made taufscheine (baptismal certificates) for Lutheran and Reformed families. Mertel was raised with the Reformed church doctrine.
Mertel was once known as the C. M. Artist, until a fraktur pasted under the lid of the chest was found bearing his full signature. His work often incorporated a pair of unicorns in profile view, as seen on this example. To learn more about this early fraktur artist, see the late Pastor Fred Weisers article, Christian Mertel, the C M artist from Der Reggeboge, Journal of the Pennsylvania German Society 21 (2): 75-85, 1987.
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