Entrepreneur, textile manufacturer. Pelzer was born on April 9, 1826, in Charleston, the son of Anton Aloys Pelzer and Johanna M. Clarke. His father had emigrated from Aix-la-Chapelle, Germany, to Charleston, where he was a schoolteacher; Pelzer may have studied at his father’s school, but the details of his education are not known. Pelzer began his business career in 1840 working as a clerk for his brother-in-law, E. H. Rodgers, a cotton factor. In 1847 Rodgers took on Pelzer as a partner. When the elder Rodgers died in 1867, Pelzer reorganized the firm with Rodgers’s son as Pelzer, Rodgers, and Company. The firm did as much as $3 million in cotton business annually.
In the years following the Civil War, Pelzer expanded his business interests into other areas connected to his cotton factoring business. He was at the forefront of two major South Carolina industries in the decades after the Civil War: phosphate and textiles. Using capital from his cotton factorage and commission merchant businesses, Pelzer became a director of the Wando Mining and Manufacturing Company in 1868. In May 1870 he was one of the organizers of the Atlantic Phosphate Company, and in 1872 he became its president. In 1878 Pelzer helped to organize the Charleston Bagging Manufacturing Company. He was also president of the Union Wharf and Compress Company of Charleston. Pelzer’s connection to cotton also aided him when he organized the Pelzer Manufacturing Company in 1881, one of the first textile mills in the upstate financed by Charleston capitalists. Over the years Pelzer was also involved in many other textile mills and other businesses in the upstate and in Charleston.
In addition to his business pursuits, Pelzer was active in civic life in Charleston. He served as an alderman there twice during the 1870s and was harbor commissioner for a time. Pelzer was on the board of commissioners of the Charleston Orphan House for nearly forty years. He married Sarah Ann Keller on April 13, 1848. After she died in 1872, Pelzer married Eliza Ford de Saussure McIver on May 4, 1875. After a long period of declining health, Pelzer died in Charleston on March 31, 1916, and was buried in the cemetery of the Bethel Methodist Church.
“Francis J. Pelzer Has Passed Away.” Charleston News and Courier, April 1, 1916, p. 10.