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Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler and Sigmund Zeisler papers

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Zeisler

Scope and Content of the Collection

Correspondence is mainly family correspondence between Fannie and Sigmund Zeisler and their three sons, Ernest, Leonard and Paul, much of it in German. A few letters are to and from Fannie regarding her professional life, and letters to Sigmund, including 5 from William Jennings Bryan; most concern his legal life and/or his article "Reminiscences of the Anarchist Case." Among the miscellaneous material is an autograph book, a family visitors' book, various articles, clippings, pamphlets and programs, a photostat copy of Sigmund Zeisler's biography of Fannie, some published music and probate and estate records for both Zeislers; also, a group of photographs of Fannie and Sigmund and a few family members, and several celebrities including Hamlin Garland, Victor Herbert and Leopold Stokowski; also nine artifacts.


  • Creation: 1869-1981
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1883-1931



Materials are in English and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler and Sigmund Zeisler papers are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum (Priority II).

Audiovisual recordings in this collection have been digitized and are available online. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler and Sigmund Zeisler papers are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections at

Biography of Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler

Austrian-American concert pianist.

Fannie Bloomfield (nee Fannie Blumenfeld) Zeisler, whose concert career spanned forty years, was born near Vienna in 1863. The Blumenfeld family in 1866 emigrated to the United States, finally settling in Chicago in 1870, where Fannie's father set up a dry-goods store. Always musically precocious, she began her piano studies at the age of seven. Her talent proved so impressive, and being unhappy in school because of poor health and her Jewish background, at fifteen Fannie Blumenfeld went with her mother to Vienna for five years of study with the great piano pedagogue, Theodor Leschetizky.

In 1883, using the name Bloomfield, Fannie began building her reputation as a concert pianist by touring American cities. In 1885 she married Sigmund Zeisler, a politically active lawyer who would serve as associate defense counsel for the Chicago anarchists following the Haymarket riot of 1886. Though happy in her marriage as wife and mother of three sons and despite continuing poor health, Fannie Zeisler did not choose to give up her highly successful professional life. Besides years of touring both in the United States and Europe, she maintained a commitment to teaching and to various professional associations. Although she referred to herself as Fannie Zeisler, she was also known as Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler.

In 1893, Zeisler and Paderewski were solo artists at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Following a triumph there, she toured German cities, earning great acclaim from reviewers who pronounced her a first-rank performing pianist. By the season of 1901-1902 Zeisler was making over forty appearances, a schedule which finally took its toll on her always frail health. After several seasons in retirement, she returned to touring, first in American cities and then again in Europe in 1912. A triumphant Golden Jubilee celebrating her very first public appearance took place in 1925, and this marked the end of Zeisler's active, brilliant musical career.

The Zeislers had three sons: Leonard, Paul and Ernest. Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler died in 1927, honored as an important force in the development of music in Chicago.

Biography of Sigmund Zeisler


Sigmund Zeisler was born in Bielitz, Austrian Silesia in 1860. He emigrated to Chicago in 1883, and in 1884 earned his LLB at Northwestern University, after which he practiced law in Chicago until his retirement. In 1885 he married Fannie Bloomfield, the successful concert pianist.

Associate counsel for the defense in Anarchist cases, 1886-1887, Zeisler was a liberal and active member of many associations including the American Anti-Imperialist League, the Municipal Voters' League, and the Civil Service Reform Association. Besides being a writer and popular lecturer on legal topics, Zeisler was also associated with a number of Chicago social clubs such as the Chicago Literary Club, The Little Room, Book and Play and the Cliff Dwellers.

The Zeislers had three sons, Leonard, Paul and Ernest. After Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler's death, Zeisler married Amelia Spellman in 1930. He died in 1931.


3.8 Linear Feet (5 boxes, 1 oversize box, and 2 artifacts boxes)


Correspondence to and from pianist Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler, Sigmund Zeisler, their sons Ernest, Leonard and Paul, and relatives and friends; also, miscellaneous material relating to Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler's life and musical career, including a biography of Fannie Zeisler written by her husband Sigmund; works of Sigmund Zeisler relating to his legal career and involvement in the Haymarket riots of 1886; also assorted memorabilia of Fannie Zeisler and the Zeisler family, photographs of the Zeislers and a few celebrities; and nine artifacts.


Papers are organized in the following series:

Series 1: Family Papers, 1882-1981
Box 1
Series 2: Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler Materials, 1877-1931
Box 2
Series 3: Sigmund Zeisler Materials, 1881-1951
Boxes 3-5
Series 4: Photographs, 1869-1930
Box 5
Series 5: Artifacts
Boxes 6-7

Collection Stack Location

1 6 4


Gift of Claire Zeisler, 1987; Betty Jean Klapman, 1988; Mrs. Robert W. Catzen (Fannie Zeisler Catzen), 1996.

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2003.

Inventory of the Fannie Bloomfield Zeisler and Sigmund Zeisler papers, 1869-1981, bulk 1883-1931
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2023-01-17: Audiovisual materials have been permanently removed from the collection for preservation. Access to the original audiovisual items is restricted.

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States