Wulff, Anton Friedrich (1822–1894)

By: Arthur J. Mayer

Type: Biography

Published: January 1, 1996

Updated: May 7, 2016

Anton Friedrich Wulff, businessman and civic leader, was born in 1822 in Hamburg, Germany. Wulff left Hamburg and took a sailing ship to the United States on June 17, 1848, arriving in New York on August 22. Unable to find a job there or in Cincinnati, he traveled down the Ohio River to the Mississippi and on to New Orleans. His money gone, he managed to reach San Antonio, where he worked as a clerk for five dollars a month; a fellow clerk was James R. Sweet, who soon started a retail business. Wulff bettered his fortunes by working at a salary of thirty dollars a month for Joseph Landa on Main Plaza. In January 1852 he went to Fredericksburg and opened a dry-goods business with Sweet, who remained in San Antonio. In November 1852 Wulff traveled to San Antonio and married María Guadalupe Olivarri, a descendant of the Leal family, who came to San Antonio in 1731 from the Canary Islands. Wulff received his United States citizenship in 1854, and that year he began expanding his business activity. He moved back to San Antonio and, while retaining his Fredericksburg business, opened additional stores in Coke County, Laredo, and at Presidio del Norte. In 1857, possibly because of rising anti-German and pro-secession sentiment in San Antonio, Wulff moved his family and business to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande at Presidio del Norte, where he started a mercantile business. He supplied both United States and Confederate garrisons at Fort Davis with hay and corn. In October 1861 Lt. Col. John R. Baylor at El Paso declared Wulff a spy and ordered that he be enticed into Texas and arrested. An unsuccessful six-man attempt to kidnap Wulff on October 16 resulted in the deaths of two Confederates and one Mexican. Wulff moved to Monterrey and in 1863 took his family to Hamburg, where they remained until near the end of the Civil War.

Upon his return to San Antonio Wulff acted as agent for the San Antonio-Chihuahua City stage line and operated a profitable wagontrain between the two cities. In 1870 he constructed the "castle" on King William Street (see ANTON WULFF HOUSE); a dedicated gardener, he landscaped the grounds elaborately with flowers, decorative shrubs, and large cacti. During two terms (1875–79) as alderman from the predominantly German Ward 4, Wulff planted trees, shrubs, and flowers on various public plazas at his own expense. Mayor James H. French recognized Wulff's civic-minded generosity by appointing him the first city park commissioner in 1885. In 1888 San Antonio started paving Main and Alamo plazas. The following year Wulff was elected alderman-at-large, and in November 1889 he introduced resolutions that started the beautification of Alamo Plaza, known as the "Frog Pond." He designed and supervised the landscaping of the plaza, and on March 21, 1890, the businessmen of Alamo Plaza presented Wulff with an engraved gold-headed walking stick for his work in transforming the plaza "from an unsightly mudhole into a circle laid off in an artistic manner, and planted with trees, rare shrubs, roses, and other flower-bearing plants." Wulff also served as a director of the San Antonio Electric Company. He died in 1894.

Mary V. Burkholder, The King William Area: A History and Guide to the Houses (San Antonio: King William Association, 1973). Frederick Charles Chabot, With the Makers of San Antonio (Yanaguana Society Publications 4, San Antonio, 1937). August Santleben, A Texas Pioneer (New York and Washington: Neale, 1910; rpt., Waco: Morrison, 1967). The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

  • Peoples
  • Germans
  • Business

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

Arthur J. Mayer, “Wulff, Anton Friedrich,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed July 01, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/wulff-anton-friedrich.

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January 1, 1996
May 7, 2016