O. T. Frasch home
Otto Theodore Fraasch
(O. T. Frasch)
September 26, 1882 - January 24,
Otto Theodore Fraasch was born September 26, 1882 in Jefferson,
Wisconsin. His parents (Heinrich and Augusta) immigrated from
Germany in 1871 and settled in Bellingham, Minnesota, following members
of their families who had preceded them. They raised potatoes on
a small farm. They died when Otto and his brother were very
young, however, and the boys were placed in an orphanage.
Records indicate that Otto became a photographer and had a studio in
Bellingham. A newspaper article of 1905 stated that the fingers
of his left hand were injured when a flash pan he was holding
exploded. The article in the paper implied that he was an
employee of the paper but there is no confirmation of this.
Otto and his wife (Marie, later shortened to Mary) left Minnesota in
1906 to come to Lilliwaup, Washington where his wife's sister, Lizzie
Hollarn (who died of liver cancer in 1912) owned property on the small
bay. Their first daughter, Elsie, was born en route in a small
town near Denver on October 16, 1906. A picture of the three of
them, taken about 1909, is at right.
Otto dropped the second "a" in his last name at about this time.
He stated that he felt it was too difficult for English speaking people
to pronounce the Germanic version of his name and "Frasch" would be
much easier. Only one photo with the original spelling of his name is
An enlargement of the imprint from the lower right corner is below:
After arriving in Washington, Otto started a small photography business
in Seattle, selling real photo postcards (RPPCs). Otto
had a strong interest in capturing everyday occurrences on film.
His curiosity about current and ongoing construction projects in
Seattle and environs and the many photos he took of the Alaska Yukon
Pacific Exposition (AYPE) held in Seattle in 1909 made his business
profitable. Many photographers of the day copied his pictures and
sold them as their own, and it eventually forced him to quit.
Otto and Mary had two more girls, Marion and Ada, before Mary Frasch
died in 1918, two days after complications in
childbirth. The premature baby died ten hours after birth.
Otto placed the girls in a Catholic orphanage south of Seattle as he
felt that was the best thing to do. Mary was a Catholic, though
he was not. Ada was taken in (though not legally adopted) by the
Spauldings, of sports equipment name, and her name was changed to
Elsie and Marion were "farmed out" as housekeeping staff. Otto
maintained sporadic contact with them through the years.
Elsie graduated from Issaquah High School. She had a book of
poems published and she was proud of the fact that it was in public
libraries. She was working as a waitress in a roadside coffee
shop where she met Floyd Chapman, a truck driver with Brown Trucking
Company of Snoqualmie, Washington. They were married in Seattle
on June 14, 1926.
Elsie's son Bob Chapman writes that "Otto tracked down Elsie in 1941,
when I first met him. Apparently, he kept track of Barbara, at
that time living in Hollywood and going by the stage name of Janine
Joanne, called 'JJ' for short. Elsie had maintained contact with
Sometime in the period between his photography business ending (1915 to
1918, though the exact date is not known) and 1941, Otto appeared in
vaudeville. Bob Chapman writes that "he had an act that no one
could duplicate, playing a
guitar while simultaneously playing a harmonica through his nose.
He met many famous people of the vaudeville, including Fanny Brice and
Harry Houdini. In later years he talked of his associations with
vaudevillians, remaining friends with many up to the time of his
death." He wrote and sold scripts to movie studios to earn a few
extra dollars while on the road selling his products. They were
scenarios of events and conversations he witnessed or imagined.
Otto was also an inventor. He designed an overhead door
still in use today, and was granted U. S. Patent #2,214,229 for it on
September 10, 1940. The first figure from that patent is shown below.
He also invented a motor oil cleaning machine
and sold it to trucking firms. This was long before additives
were introduced, and most oil had to be changed every thousand
miles. The oil cleaning machine allowed motor oil to be
reused. Haviland "Two Thousand Mile" oil was his nemesis,
however, as it could not be cleaned by his machine.
For the most part, Otto spent the rest of his life as a traveling
salesman, selling among other things curios, souvenirs, and large
wooden salt and pepper shakers. He also marketed and sold "Dubble
Lucky Dice" under the name "The Energy Company," of Los Angeles,
California. The brochure that came along with the dice solicited
games and other inventions
that could be patented or copyrighted, or patents that could be
Eventually he started the Triangle A Company, which became the Triangle
Art Company because his customers kept writing checks to that name
instead of "Triangle A."
He also sold fine leather gloves to men's apparel stores for the
Sullivan Glove Co., San Francisco, California. Bob Chapman
writes: "I accompanied him
into one store to listen to his sales spiel. He was good!
He used the right tones of voice and spoke earnestly, as he truly
thought the gloves the finest made anywhere.
"While traveling with him (I sold the Triangle Art Co. line of curios
and souvenirs, he sold gloves), he told me many stories about the
rigors of traveling in the '20s. It took two days to drive from
Los Angeles to San Diego. He told the story of getting held up
for hours on a one-lane 'corduroy' road over sand dunes. It had
turnouts in case another car came by. Two cars met and neither
driver would back up to a turnout. It was several hours before
one finally relented."
The picture to the left shows Otto and his car in a washout,
while the picture to the right shows Otto's car in a turnout on the San
Diego-Los Angeles Road, with a wrecked car below. Note the plank
surface on the road.
In February 1941 Otto placed a classified advertisement in Desert Magazine,
offering to buy desert glass (left out in the sun until it turned purple):
To the best of our knowledge this was the only ad he placed in this
magazine; we do not know if it was successful. The address in the ad, P. O.
Box 5241 Los Angeles, is the same as the address on the brochure for the
Dubble Lucky Dice above.
Otto died in San Francisco on January 24, 1958. No photos or
negatives were found in his warehouse - only his cameras. One was
a large glass plate portrait camera probably used for his postcards,
and the other was a folding Kodak, of which he was very proud since he
knew George Eastman, the inventor of the Kodak. The portrait
camera is no longer in the family, but we still have the Kodak.
Images in Numerical
(with larger pictures)
§ Newly Acquired Images (with larger pictures)
Questions? Comments? Do you have O. T. Frasch photos or postcards to