Mr. Ernst Mahler grew up in Vienna, Austria. In 1914, he emigrated to the US and took a position with Kimberly-Clark Corporation in Neenah. A distinguished scientist and executive, Mr. Mahler developed the process of making cellucotton, an absorbent cotton wadding from processed wood used to bandage wounds during World War I and later in feminine hygiene products and diapers.
Mrs. Carol Lyon Mahler was from Minneapolis, MN. As the story goes, on a January afternoon in the early 1930’s, the Mahlers were on the train to Chicago when Mr. Mahler announced that one of this appointments the following day was to check on the arrival of Mrs. Mahler’s Christmas present. Mrs. Mahler took this as a joke as Christmas was past and her stocking had been well filled. Mr. Mahler explained that during the Fall before, he had purchased a Germanic glass collection in Vienna, known as the Kurz Collection. He had planned this as a very special Christmas present for her, but due to shipping delays, the glass had not cleared US Customs until the previous week.
Her reply was, “Well, Ernst, isn’t this a bit like me presenting you with a negligee?”
To understand Mrs. Mahler’s acknowledgment of this gift, we must remember she admits she knew nothing about Germanic glass as produced by artisans. If she classified it in any way, it probably fell in the category of beer steins.
However, when the glass was unpacked and Mrs. Mahler viewed the fine craftsmanship of the collection, it was love at first sight. Through the years, it became hard to distinguish who was the greater enthusiast—Ernst or Carol—as the collection was cherished and shared by them both.
Mr. Mahler worked out plans for the museum with Mrs. John Bergstrom during her lifetime and was founding president of the Board of Directors until his death in 1967. Mrs. Mahler was also interested and involved in the museum’s developments. She served on the Board of Directors and was chairman of the Board for several years.