Sweet Caroline and the Candy Man

“Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined
To believe they never would…”
(Neil Diamond, “Sweet Caroline”)

“Who can take a sunrise
Sprinkle it with dew
Cover it with chocolate
And a miracle or two?

The Candy Man
Oh, the Candy Man can.

The Candy Man can
Cause he mixes it with love
And makes the world taste good.”
(Sammy Davis Jr., “Candy Man”)

It is always very interesting to me how many parallels can be drawn between events and people of the past and events and people of today.

Two people in Schaffhausen had a dream…to do the thing they loved.

These are their stories…

Most people in Schaffhausen had / have a trade for a living.

Until the 20th century, manufacturing and commerce were the backbone of the urban economy.

According to a 1766 census, there were 46 different skilled trades in the town with a total of 751 masters.

Bakers, butchers, silversmiths, tanners and shoemakers were the most represented.

Skilled workers in Schaffhausen mostly produced for regional demand.

Large export industries did not exist.

Master craftsmen from different professions joined forces to form professional associations to represent their interests and protect themselves against competition.

These professional associations from different professions were politically assigned to ten craftsmen’s guilds.

The politics of the authorities, guilds and professional associations were not orientated towards the idea of a free market economy.

In contrast to today, the economy of the 16th to the 18th century were strictly regulated.

The aim to secure a good livelihood for all town citizens and their families was first and foremost.

Every skilled worker had to obey to the conditions set by his professional assoication.

Learning a trade was only for men and not open to women.

Training to become a master was exactly regulated by the professional associations.

After an apprenticeship lasting 2 to 4 years, a skilled worker travelled around.

Depending on the trade, these travels could last 3 to 6 years and took young men to places far afield.

Life as a journeyman ended with the admission to the master profession, giving the right to found his own business.

Not every journeyman attained the title of Master.

Some remained journeymen the rest of their lives…

Johann Jakob Oschwald was a candy man, a confectioner.

In 1799, Oschwald ended his three-year apprenticeship at a confectionery shop in Schaffhausen.

His travels as a journeyman through half of Europe were often covered on foot.

Oschwald described his adventurous experiences in many letters to his parents.

He worked for confectioners in Stuttgart, Herisau, Bern, Regensburg and Mannheim.

After a few weeks in each town, he would resign in anger and leave the town.

He looked in vain for a job in Vienna.

Feeling cursed by bad luck, the young man travelled to Trieste, Venice and back to the East.

In Pest (Buda + Pest = Budapest) Oschwald finally found a job again.

It was there in 1804 he met the poor daughter of a poor Catholic lieutenant and fell in love with her.

Soon a child was on the way.

His well-off parents were shocked but agreed to the marriage.

In 1808, Oschwald succeeded in becoming a Master.

He opened his own confectionery in Pest, which he ran for 5 years.

He eventually returned to Schaffhausen with his wife and children where he spent the rest of his life as an innkeeper at the inn “zum Schwert” (the Sword Inn).

Basically a simple and happy story…

In the early decades of the 19th century there was a painter, Caroline Mezger (1787 – 1843), whose works convey a vivid picture of the people in her home town.

With amazing attention to detail and graphic ease, she depicted men, women and children, not only from the middle class milieu, but also from other social classes: relatives and friends, town characters and ordinary middle class women, servants and foreign officers.

Mezger observed her contemporaries with an alert eye and humor.

The urge to exaggerate can be seen in pictures full of irony and wit.

She also depicted scenes from everyday life, such as a sleigh ride in winter, a house concert or a maid at the well.

Caroline’s pictures are rare testimonies of great documentary value for the history of Schaffhausen.

Mezger, born into a clerical family in Schaffhausen in 1787, showed a talent for drawing already at a very early age.

When she was 23, she expressed her wish to study and become a painter.

Although this was unusual for a woman at that time, she found support from her parents.

For reasons unknown, Caroline soon broke off her first attempt at studying at Stuttgart.

However in the years that followed, she continued her studies and created numerous works.

In 1819 she finally completed her training.

For about a year she was taught by the painter, Heinrich Lips, in Zürich.

It was there that she fell in love with a young pastor who asked for her hand in marriage.

However he demanded that she should give up painting completely and conform to the role of a wife and mother.

Faced with this choice, after a great deal of hesitation and against marriage and social expectations, Caroline decided in favor of her art.

Another unhappy affair and conflicts with her family drove her increasingly into isolation.

Caroline spent the last years of her life in Feuerthalen, just outside Schaffhausen, where she died in 1843, in total isolation.

Two dreamers, two very different stories…

Is there a moral here?

Oschwald found love and was successful.

Caroline did not and was not.

Modern parallels?

I think so.


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