Albert Vander Naillen, Jr. 7

August 14, 1909 8

Albert Vander Naillen, Jr. (August 7, 1858 – January 9, 1956) was an engineer but led a varied life. He was also an actor, surveyor, aeronaut, and helped found a bank. (NB: "Vander Naillen" is spelled "Van Der Naillen" in some sources.)

Vander Naillen was born August 7, 1858 in Overboelaere, Brabant, Belgium, to Albert Vander Naillen, Sr. and Victoire Delphina Vander Naillen, and the family moved to the Bay Area when he was six years old.

Albert married Mary Lillie Kramer (Vander Naillen) (1870–1934) in 1887, and they had two daughters, Dorathy C. Vander Naillen (Rosemeyer) (1888–1964) and Jeanne Lucy Vander Naillen (Hagan) (1889–1954). Albert and Mary divorced in 1909 after a several year separation. Albert married Amy Shumway (Vander Naillen) (1883–1951) and Mary married Charles Creighton (1875–1918). Albert lived at 427 - 50th Street.

He taught at and managed Vander Naillen's School of Engineering that his father founded. His younger brothers Edmund Louis Vander Naillen (c.1913) and Ralph Leopold Vander Naillen (c.1914) also managed the school.

About 1908, he helped found the Telegraph Avenue Savings Bank and acted as cashier. 5

In 1918 he was a candidate for county surveyor, but later endorsed Harlan D. Miller. He worked as a deputy county surveyor for Alameda County for almost 30 years, retiring in 1948. Projects he worked on include the Posey Tube, the Caldecott Tunnel, and various bridges across the estuary. 3 He was the chief deputy surveyor from 1921 until his retirement.

More famously, Vander Naillen flew a balloon, The City of Oakland, in a 1909 flight along the balloon's creator, Captain Park A. Van Tassell, 6,000 people were looking on for the launch. Unfortunately the winds blew it out over the bay and then back, but the pilots were safely rescued, thanks to the efforts of 14-year old Lee Scott on Moss Avenue. The next voyage ended up with the balloon getting blown to Livermore where the passenger basket was dragged along the ground, leaving the aeronauts bruised and bleeding. 6

Less well known is that Vander Naillen worked as an actor. He was known as Charles H. Brooks, and was the star of the Ben Cotton Minstrel Company. When he quit a railroad surveying crew to open a dance studio in San Diego in 1881, his father "hit the ceiling." 1

Vander Naillen was active in the Loyal Order of Moose, and was the Supreme Regent in 1926. 2 In 1939, he was made a life deputy grand commander at large. 4

courtesy Oakland History Room, Oakland Public Library
image restoration by Bennett Hall / Business Image Group

Links and References

  1. Oakland Engineer, Nearly 97, Tells Long-Held Secret: He Was An Actor! Oakland Tribune December 5, 1954
  2. Moose Members from Bakersfield to Hear Leader Bakersfield Morning Echo August 27, 1926
  3. Veteran County Official Feted Oakland Tribune February 4, 1948
  4. Oaklander Given High Lodge Honor Oakland Tribune July 27, 1939
  5. Had Faith in Oakland's Future Oakland Tribune January 25, 1911
  6. Oakland Aeronauts, Bruised and Bleeding, Are Dragged Over Fences by Derelict Gas Bag Oakland Tribune August 15, 1909 (p.13, p.15)
  7. A. Vander Naillen School of Practical Engineering Prospectus
  8. Monster Balloon, 'City of Oakland,' Soars Aloft on Initial Voyage, With Two Passengers, As Thousands Look On Oakland Tribune August 14, 1909