Johnstown, OH Ironworkers
Sometime before 1887, a German immigrant, Friedrich Friesinger, arrived in Zanesville, Ohio. Trained in German as a mechanic, he soon opened a blacksmith shop and in 1891 was joined by his 13-year-old brother, Gottlieb, who semi-retired in 1948. The shop was moved to 20 8th St., where it still stands, in 1906. Gottlieb’s son, Herman, though a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, decided in 1923 to give up the white-collar world of business, and move back to Zanesville to help his father, who was then overworked and unable to get good help. The name of the business became G.C. Friesinger and Son. In addition to the usual blacksmithing and horseshoeing work, Herman decided to do some ornamental and architectural metalwork. Gottlieb called it “fancy work” and thought it was not what a good blacksmith did. (He also objected to Herman’s purchase of a Westinghouse arc welder – which we still use.) The last horse was shod in 1938 and the last wagon repaired – as a favor to Herman’s old friend Hugh White – in 1964, with the help of his grandson Michael. After WWII, Herman’s son-law, Walter La Plante – back from combat, attending college – joined the firm. While the mainstay of the business was still fabrication and equipment repair, Walter shared Herman’s interest in wrought ironwork. When Herman semi-retired in 1968, Walter took over the business and incorporated it under its current name – Friesinger’s, Inc. In the late 1980’s, Walter’s sons took over management of the company, making them the 4th generation in the business. In 1999, his elder son Michael took over sole ownership and continues to run the business, now almost exclusively doing architectural and ornamental metalwork. Michael’s designs and work have won local and national awards both in art shows and as functional pieces. Friesinger’s work has appeared regularly in Columbus Monthly and architectural trade journals. The company generally works within about 2 hours’ drive of Zanesville, but has undertaken larger projects in San Antonio and Pittsburgh. The coal forge, while still used occasionally, has been largely displaced by a gas forge; but the ancient Moloch trip hammer is still running strong.