Theo Buerbaum's Salisbury

Buerbaum HomeText ListingThumbnail IndexHistory RoomRPL Home

About Theo. Buerbaum

Theo. Buerbaum was born in Westphalia, Germany on September 2, 1852.  He was the son of Joseph and Elizabeth Paas Buerbaum.  His father, a college professor, passed his love of learning on to his son.  He came to Salisbury as a young man and established himself well in his new community.  On December 29, 1885, he married Jenny Eames, a local girl, and fathered four children, Elizabeth, Francis, Alfred, and Minnie. 

The bookstore he established and operated for 46 years was very successful.  Books were not the only product however.  It was also possible to purchase china, crystal, wallpaper, toys, musical instruments, and pictures.  Picture frames were also available, which Buerbaum made himself.  And, of course, the store sold post cards. 

He was active in his church, clubs, and civic organizations.  Buerbaum was a charter member of the Old Hickory Club, Salisbury’s oldest social organization.  He established, with Dr. F. J. Murdoch, one of the first knitting mills.  And, along with Theo. Klutz, he launched Chestnut Hill Cemetery, which they later sold to the city of Salisbury. 

From 1892 until 1900, Buerbaum and his father-in-law, Dr. R. M. Eames, published the Salisbury Herald, a weekly newspaper, which they later sold.  He was also very interested in history and was one of the organizers of the Rowan Historical Society. 

With a collection of 5000 books set aside in his store, Buerbaum even established the first "library" in the city.  In 1885, the membership fee was two dollars. He was considered a kind, honest, and generous man.  He gave the gifts of his time and love to his adopted community, and by most standards, these were generous gifts. 

But Theo. Buerbaum gave much more.  An amateur photographer, he loved to photograph the scenes of Salisbury.  His images captured the people, places, and events with amazing clarity.  He took the best images and sent them back to a friend in Germany to have them turned into beautiful black and white or hand-tinted postcards, which he sold in his store.  They were popular, too--not just the pretty scenes, but also the real people and the daily events.  They included scenes such as buildings being constructed, trolley tracks being laid, businesses in their daily operation, or children in their classrooms. Years later, people began to collect the images he so lovingly created.  They included them in books and exhibits.  Rose Post wrote articles about them in the Salisbury Post.  The Edith M. Clark History Room of the Rowan Public Library not only holds books that include Buerbaum's images, but also two collections of Post Cards, which include a generous selection of his creations. 

The anniversary of his 50th year in Salisbury was on January 30th, 1926.  He took out an ad in the paper to commemorate that event and thanked the people of Salisbury for their friendship, wishing them peace and happiness.  Theo. Buerbaum died on February 1, 1926.  

Theo. Buerbaum’s postcards are showcased in several books on Salisbury post cards:  Salisbury and Rowan County by Susan Goodman Sides, Charleston, SC: Arcadia, c1999

Historic Salisbury and Rowan County in Vintage Postcards by Susan Goodman Sides, Salisbury, N.C.: S. Sides, c2003.

Souvenir Postcards and Other Photographs compiled by Clyde Overcash, [Salisbury, N.C.]: C. Overcash, 1977, 1988 printing.


Salisbury Evening Post advertisement, January 30, 1926

Salisbury Evening Post Obituary for Theo. Buerbaum, February 1, 1926

Salisbury Evening Post Editorial on Theo. Buerbaum, February 1, 1926