Rosa Zinszer

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Rosa Zinszer

Rosa Miller Zinszer-Wilder (also called Rose or Rosie, born July 12, 1857 in Ohio; died November 13, 1930 in Birmingham) was a successful furniture dealer, operating Peter Zinszer's Mammoth Furniture House, Birmingham's largest installment credit home furnishings business in the early 20th century.

Rosa was the daughter of Frederic and Olivia Miller, immigrants to Ohio from the Kingdom of Württemberg (now part of Germany). Her family moved to Louisville, Kentucky when she was a child and it was there that she met Peter Zinszer. They married in 1877 and celebrated the birth of their son Joseph a year later.

The Zinszers operated a furniture store together in Louisville. They moved to Atlanta, Georgia before 1880, and came to Birmingham as early as 1884 and opened a first small store at 209 21st Street North. They were charter members of 1st Presbyterian Church.

By 1887 they had outgrown their premises and moved into the Gilbert & Co. building nearby at 213 21st Street. Then, in 1889, expanded into a recently-built and distinctive cast-iron and glass-front building at 2119 2nd Avenue North. They expanded again into equal-sized remaining space at 2117 in 1891, and into an annex at 2215 in 1893.

The growth of the Zinszer business paralleled the growth of Birmingham itself, but was also fueled by their practice of extending credit to customers, and by a wide-ranging and imaginative advertising campaign in both the city's English- and German-language newspapers. One of Mrs Zinszer's long-running promotions invited young artists to create a depiction of customers in the store. The winner received $1, and would also see their work printed in the newspaper the next day. In 1895 the Zinszers added a "cash house" for customers who could pay for their purchases in advance. That foray did not survive Peter, who died after a long illness on October 31 of that year.

After Peter's death, Rosa's brother Gus Miller proposed to buy into the business rather than see it sold off to another merchant. Instead, she decided to retain ownership and hired him to manage the store. She renamed the business "Peter Zinszer's Mammoth Furniture House."

Zinszer remarried on October 26, 1897, becoming the wife of successful surgeon and Birmingham City Physician William Wilder. He encouraged her to "quit the business," but she found that, having "grown up with it," she "couldn't put it down." On the occasion of her retirement she reflected that, "business — something that keeps her mind and time occupied — keeps a woman young and happy and interested."

Joe Zinszer joined the business by the time that Gus, the manager, died in February 1914. It was later alleged that Joe had conducted an indiscreet dalliance with the wife of a prominent citizen at the store that year. When Rosa retired from business in August 1915 she sold the store to B. H. Cooper rather than pass it to her son.

Rosa buried her second husband in 1927. She died after a 14-week illness in November 1930. James Bryan and Trevor Mordecai officiated at the funeral, which was held at her residence at 1224 41st Street South. She was buried in the Zinszer family's mausoleum at Oak Hill Cemetery.