Rudolf Henry Pfaff
Starts The Ashtabula Foundation
Rudolf Henry Pfaff was born in Frieberg, Germany, on October 17, 1851. Mr. Pfaff’s family immigrated to America when he was three years old. He lived in Pittsburgh until 1875 when he relocated to Ashtabula at the age of 24.
Mr. Pfaff began a career as a carriage trimmer for the Ashtabula Bow Socket Company. Eventually Pfaff became the CEO of the company, and remained so until his death on February 18, 1935.
During his 60 years in Ashtabula, Pfaff served as Mayor of Ashtabula, and the President and major benefactor for Ashtabula General Hospital. He donated $250,000 to the establishment of the hospital. Pfaff and his brother-in-law, Fred K. Lewis, donated $100,000 to build the Amelia Lewis Nurses’ Home adjacent to the hospital.
In 1922, Mr. Pfaff established a philanthropic corporation known as The Ashtabula Foundation. He pledged $5,000 in Liberty Bonds to be held by the corporate trustees, or their successors, in trust, for charitable purposes. The Foundation’s earliest mission, as found in the original minutes, was “The principal and income shall be applied and used by the trustees and their successors in office, in and for religious and charitable purposes, in the relief of the needy and the benefit of humanity in Ashtabula …”
The original trustees of The Ashtabula Foundation included some of the most prominent names of Ashtabula, a tradition that continues to this day. The current volunteer board of trustees includes civic-minded community leaders in the areas of education, religion, healthcare, and business. The eleven trustees have a combined service to The Ashtabula Foundation of over 140 years.
Through contributions from other philanthropy-minded individuals, The Ashtabula Foundation assets have grown annually. By maintaining the original contributions, and granting only the income from the investments, The Ashtabula Foundation has been able to preserve Mr. Pfaff’s vision for over 90 years.