Flake, Ferdinand (unknown–1872)

By: Randolph Lewis

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: April 7, 2016

Ferdinand Flake, publisher of both German and English language newspapers, was born in G├Âttingen, Germany, the son of a Lutheran minister, Rev. Henry Flake. Both of his parents died during his adolescence, and he raised his younger brother and sister. After the small family inheritance was depleted, Flake emigrated to Texas, a popular destination for young Germans of the 1840s. After a few years inland he settled in Galveston, where he operated a profitable seed business and brought his younger siblings, Adolph and Lina Flake, to his new home.

In 1855 Flake bought Die Union, a German-language newspaper that F. Muhr had started in 1855. Flake, acting as both editor and publisher, brought out the paper three times a week, and soon it had the largest circulation in Galveston. But this success was undermined by Flake's unpopular strong criticism of secession and the slave trade; "the odor of the slave trade was too strong for my nostrils," he wrote. In 1860 he wrote an editorial condemning the secession of South Carolina, and in response a mob destroyed his offices. Undaunted by this violence, Flake used type that he had hidden at home to produce the next issue of the paper. Even local political opponents defended him and condemned the actions of the mob, which was said to be composed mostly of German Americans. One of Flake's defenders, James P. Newcomb of the Alamo Express, asserted, "Mr. Flake is an old Texan, a slave holder, and a better Southern man than any editors of the Herald. Mr. Flake's crime was a devotion to the Union."

Flake remained staunchly Unionist throughout the war, and only his strategic friendships with local Confederate leaders prevented further violence. After 1861 he discontinued his German-language paper in favor of a newspaper called Flake's Bulletin. It appeared in any color paper that Flake could obtain, white being unavailable due to the war, and was set on a small Washington handpress by an inexperienced compositor. Flake printed all the news he could receive from Shreveport by pony express and wire. After the war he produced the Bulletin with the aid of his son-in-law, Selim Rinker, and also restarted Die Union. Supported by the local businessmen, Flake's paper became increasingly popular in the late 1860s. On March 22, 1872, he transferred his interest in the paper to the Bulletin Publishing Company, of which he became president. That summer he went East for new printing material. He died in a New York hotel of a chronic kidney ailment on July 19, 1872. Die Union and Flake's Bulletin soon ceased publication. Flake was survived by his wife of twenty-five years, Anna Margaret (Olichslager) Flake Buchholtz, who died in 1878, as well as by six children.

History of Texas, Together with a Biographical History of the Cities of Houston and Galveston (Chicago: Lewis, 1895). C. Richard King, "Horace Greeley in Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 64 (January 1961). Marilyn M. Sibley, The Port of Houston (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968).

  • Journalism
  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Writers, Authors, Publications, and Literature
  • Authors and Writers
  • Literature
  • Memoirs, Diaries, Letters, and Travel
  • Publications, Journals, and Magazines
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Organizations

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Randolph Lewis, “Flake, Ferdinand,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 17, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/flake-ferdinand.

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April 7, 2016