San Francisco, 1906

Among the collections in the Historical Society of Montgomery County, are the four boxes which comprise the Frank and Flora Zissa Papers.


Frank Zissa came to the United States from Germany with his family in 1889 at the age of 10.  The family settled in Stowe and his father worked in the Pottstown area iron industry.  In 1898, Frank enlisted with the military to fight in the Spanish-American War.  When that was over, he joined the Marine Corps.  He stayed in the Marines until 1919 and then was a reservist for another ten years.  During that time, he traveled all over the world to Japan, the Philippines, Mexico during the Zapatista Revolution, Haiti and Santo Domingo.


During that whole time, he was corresponding with Flora Huetter. Their letters begin  in 1906.  Frank had been corresponding with Flora’s father Robert Huetter, and he sent along a note for 21 year old Flora along with a set of postcards from the place he was stationed – Goat Island, San Francisco.

Flora responded first, describing herself and mentioning that they had once met a long time before.  She closes with this:


Frank, at 27, was also nervous about writing.  He added this postscript to his first letter, written in March of 1906.


Of course, if you know your history, you know where this going.  At 5:12 am on April 18, 1906, a very strong earthquake struck San Francisco, killing over 3000 people and nearly destroying the city. Frank’s next letter kindly reassured Flora that he was all right. Here is the two page letter in it’s entirety (you can click on the images to make them bigger).

blog143 blog146

Frank also made the local news when he reported in a letter to his mother (Mary Zissa), that the Marines had been called out to prevent rioting by destroying San Francisco’s liquor supply.


Frank gave Flora more details in his letter of May 6.  it’s a long letter, but here’s the first page, in which he compares the few remaining brick walls and chimneys to gravestones.


Later in the letter, he adds this:


Frank and Flora married in 1915 and they had three children, including Robert Zissa who generously donated his parents’ correspondence to the Historical Society in 1991.


  1. Nancy,
    My first “job” at HSMC was cataloging the Zissa letters. What an interesting mission. Watching their correspondence grow from friend to husband and wife. She even sent him a piece of fabric from her wedding dress. It is in the Zissa collection.
    Rita Thomas

  2. Things I’ve not read about of my grandfather Frank whom I carry as my middle name and my grandma who rocked me a few times the year I was born and she passed shortly after that year. Thanks for passing this information that found it’s way to his grand , great grand and great great grand children.

    Robin Frank Nye, his daughter Flora Mae Zissa Nye’s 3rd son.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s