Munich Greeter

Famous Munich citizens – Frederik Hodges (the captain)

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Munich is famous for its heritage, customs and of course the people living here or those who lived here in former times. Some of them influenced Munich’s history, others were just nice fellows, sometimes a bit freakish, but always typical Munich-ish :-). This one here wasn’t even born in Munich, but became a Munich original…

Frederik Hodges was born in 1831. His father owned a stearin factory (other sources say it was a Gin destillery) in the Metropolitan Borough of Lambeth, a London borough, which is now part of the London borough of Lambeth. So you can say Frederiks family was quite rich. He was sent to Munich at the age of 15 to study in Munich, but as the German Revolution of 1848 started, he had to go back to London. In 1851 his father died and Frederik had to take over the factory. At that time there were a few factories in Lambeth. Once a nearby factory caught fire, but the London firebrigade couldn’t manage to extinguish the fire so the factory burnt down. Frederik Hodges was impressed and shocked, that the firemen couldn’t do anything about the fire. He also was afraid to loose his own factory, which stayed unharmed (at least this time). He bought his own fire engine and trained workers to use it, known as the “Hodges brigade“. But he felt this wasn’t enough, so he travelled through Europe to study different firebrigades in bigger cities. He also came to Munich and was deeply impressed about the Munich fire fighters and their system.

So he created a factory firebrigade like the Munich fire fighters and soon he could prove the effectiveness. Near river Thames his fire fighters took out a dangerous fire and Hodges was awarded the title “captain”.
Nobody knows why, but after a while, he sold everything and went to Munich with his wife (who was a daughter of a royal bavarian personal doctor). They lived extravagant in Munich and when his wife died, he lavished money even more.

Hodges was a hulk. This and the fact he always wore fine suits and special long walking sticks made him well known in the streets of Munich. But he wasted his money and also the money from his family, so they forced him to accept a pension. From there on he couldn’t waste his money anymore… Hodges died in Munich aged 75 on Christmas Eve 1904.

In Munich he was known as “der Kapitän”, which is a correct but literal translation from the english “captain”. But in Germany, the word “Kapitän” refers to “skipper” or “shipmaster” and not to a military rank. The military rank “captain”, Hodges was given, would be translated to “Hauptmann” in german.
So the citizens called him “shipmaster” and not “Hauptmann” because of this mistransaltion.

You can find a picture of Frederik Hodges, taken in 1875 on this website of Deutsches Museum (the photos are sorted by surname).

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