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Menger, Johann Nicholaus Simon (1807–1892)

Theodore Albrecht Biography Entry

Simon Menger, piano teacher, choral conductor, and soap manufacturer, was born Johann Nicholaus Simon Menger in Stadtilm, Schwarzburg–Rudolstadt, Thuringia, on June 6, 1807. Menger was a teacher in Germany for many years before immigrating to Texas as a member of Castro's colony. In October 1846 he and his family arrived at Galveston, where they remained for a short time. Menger then went to Indianola, Victoria, and New Braunfels; on January 1, 1847, he bought fifty acres in Hortontown. He farmed until June, when he moved to San Antonio to teach piano.

His offerings included methods and pieces by Ignaz Moscheles, Ferdinand Ries, Friedrich Kalkbrenner, John Field, and several other of the most progressive pedagogues of his own youth. In July 1847 he founded the San Antonio Männergesang-Verein, possibly the first formally organized male singing society in Texas (see GERMAN MUSIC). During this period he also composed "Grand Waltz" (August 30, 1847) and "Mis[s] Paschal Polka" (September 3, 1847), both for piano, as well as simple études for his piano students.

In 1850 Menger opened a soap and candle factory, which became his principal source of income. The business, San Antonio's first industrial enterprise, prospered, and after Menger's death it was taken over by his son Erich, who operated it until the end of World War I. Menger must have let his singing society lapse, for the Männergesang-Verein seems to have been reorganized on March 2, 1851. The following October it gave a concert under his direction at San Pedro Springs, in which the "Prayer" from Méhul's opera Joseph may have been sung. For its New Year's Eve concert Menger's chorus sang music by Conradin Kreutzer, Felix Mendelssohn, and other composers. The society continued to make progress under Menger until he resigned in early March 1853. Late the same year he composed a male chorus, "Deutscher Sang," for the New Braunfels Germania society, but Menger's public musical activities became fewer as his soap business prospered. He sang sporadically with the San Antonio chorus for another two years and afterwards essentially restricted his musical activities to teaching piano, primarily to family members. In 1867 he composed "Ida's Reward Waltz" for his youngest daughter.

He died in San Antonio on May 1, 1892. The Menger Soap Works, located on the banks of San Pedro Creek, was restored in the early 1980s. It is considered a rare example of pre–Civil War industrial architecture and is believed to be the oldest industrial building extant in the state.

Theodore Albrecht, German Singing Societies in Texas (Ph.D. dissertation, North Texas State University, 1975).


  • Music
  • Education
  • Educators
  • Music and Drama
  • Genres (Ethnic)
  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Business

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

Theodore Albrecht, “Menger, Johann Nicholaus Simon,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 26, 2021,

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April 1, 1995
April 21, 2016

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