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La Crosse County Historical Society discovers, collects, preserves, and shares the history of La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

Object Record

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Object Name Chest, Tool
Catalog Number 1988.058.01
Description Large wooden chest, painted black, with compartments for tools.
Collection LCHS Tool Collection
Year Range from 1874
Year Range to 1939
Provenance Owned and used first by Frank Roraff, and then by his son William. Frank worked at Hackner Altar Co.
Used By Frank and William Roraff
People Roraff, Frank
Roraff, William
Search Terms Tools
Woodworking
Hackner Altar Company
Featured in Things that Matter
Notes Featured in Things that Matter

"A craftsman’s tools were some of his most valuable possessions. Each one would have been carefully selected and made or modified to fit a specific need. They were highly personalized, and to the craftsmen, often priceless.

These tools — which include several types of rulers, glass cutters, blades, hammers, screwdrivers, saws and wrenches — are from the chest of Frank Roraff, a carpenter and woodworker for Hackner Altar, a company that played an important role in the history of La Crosse. The tools were passed along to Roraff’s son William and were eventually donated to the La Crosse County Historical Society by William’s wife.

Hackner Altar was founded by Egid Hackner, who was born in Bavaria in 1856. He migrated to the U.S. after receiving a letter from his brother encouraging him to join him in the Midwest. He established Hackner Altar in the 1880s, and many of the workers Hackner would hire were expert carvers who also emigrated from Europe.

All of the work done by the company until 1910 — everything from altars to stairs to pews — was done by hand. After Hackner retired, his children ran the company, which outlived its founder. Hackner died in 1952 at the age of 95. The company stayed in business until 1963.

Some of Hackner Altar’s most famous work was the main altar and baldachin at St. Benedict’s in Chicago, the main altar at the church of the Incarnation in Minneapolis, the Pieta altar and canopy at St. Mark’s church in Cincinnati, and the altar at St. Agnes Church in Buffalo, N.Y. The company’s work also can be found in La Crosse inside Mary of the Angels Chapel at St. Rose Convent."

This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune.
Title: The Art of Woodworking
Author: Natalie Van Dam
Publish Date: July 1, 2017