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Brothers Aleš (17 July 1852 – 9 September 1909) and Karel Komers (30 October 1839 – 15 July 1918) – career of a state and a private official
The new structure of public administration in the middle of the 19th century introduced administrative dualism: firstly, there were the state political authorities, with their competences, and secondly, the newly established local government bodies. In Bohemia (as well as in Moravia and Silesia), political districts were gradually established, administered by district captainships headed by a district captain. In parallel, in Bohemia there was the local self-governing administration consisting of district authorities led by a district mayor. As concerns patrimonial administration, it was partly taken over by the local authorities. What remained was private administration of large estates. The extensive public agenda needed qualified staff and offered employment in a number of clerical and office jobs. Work in the public administration offered a regular salary, and after a certain time also the guarantee of a pay rise as well as the opportunity to climb the career ladder and achieve social prestige. Private administration of large estates adapted the principles of state administration to suit its own needs, but the internal administrative setup always depended on the owner of the estate. Nevertheless, even private officials could rely on receiving a regular salary, sometimes also accompanied by numerous benefits, and the chance of career advancement linked to social prestige and titles. On the other hand, both public and private service required frequent moving for work.
For many graduates of secondary schools, gymnasiums and universities, a career in the civil service meant leaving their hometown and family tradition. Not all siblings in a family were always able to study. Some completed only the basic education needed to take over a farm or a trade. Those parents who let their children study, very often, alongside church or military careers, sent them to study to become teachers or doctors, or the children found employment in public or private administration. In several of the families studied in this project, one of the brothers was employed in the civil service and one in the private sector, thus giving us the possibility to compare their life stories: their careers, their salaries and the highest position attained, as well as their family background (entry into marriage, number of children).
Josef Komers (1809–1876), father of the brothers Aleš and Karel, came from a large family of craftsmen from Humpolec. He was raised together with his seventeen siblings (both his full and half-siblings) in a family of butchers. Of his siblings, only one (half) brother survived to adulthood; he stayed in Humpolec and worked as a confectioner and gingerbread baker. Five of Josef’s sisters married woollen cloth makers and dyers. Josef was the only one who at the age of 16 abandoned the tradition of crafts and went into traineeship on an estate, where he later became a financial and administrative clerk. He left the patrimonial service in 1838, when he obtained the position as a clerk at the municipal office in Mšeno, Central Bohemia. Josef Komers then spent the rest of his professional career working in various offices of the political administration. In 1870, while working as a district commissioner in Milevsko, a terrible thing happened to him: he was shot. Reports detailing his injury immediately appeared in the press, but the wound was not serious after all. The chronicle of Milevsko notes the following about the incident: “(...) he suffered just a minor injury, and the shooting seems to have been accidental and not intentional.” Josef Komers remained in the position of district captain in Milevsko until 1875, when he retired. He died a few months later in Smíchov. The press reported on his death, recalling that he “enjoyed universal esteem everywhere and won the hearts of people.” Josef Komers was the first member of his family to work in administrative offices, and his sons followed in his footsteps.
Report of the shooting from the Milevsko Chronicle
Josef Komers married Johanna Kozlíková (1820–1893), the daughter of a furrier from Mšeno in Central Bohemia. The couple had a total of nine children, of whom four daughters and two sons lived to adulthood. Both sons received an education and held office positions, the elder Karel in the private princely economic administration of a large estate, the younger Aleš in the state political administration.
Karel (whose full name was Karel Boromeus Marcel) was born on 30 October 1839 in Mšeno as the first-born son of the municipal clerk Josef Komers. He graduated from a Prague grammar school and then took up a traineeship at the district office in Hlinsko, where his father Josef was an assistant clerk at the time. The trainees usually performed their traineeship at their own expense and very often worked as assistants to their fathers or other relatives. However, Karel Komers soon decided to leave the political administration and in November 1857 he was hired as a trainee in the economic administration at the estate of Nasavrky, belonging to the princely Auersperg family. He then spent the next 56 years in the service of the Princes of Auersperg.
Karel’s traineeship period, i.e. his training and becoming familiar with everyday office work, ended in August 1862, when he became an economic assistant clerk of the second class and was transferred to the administrative office of the Auersperg estate of Nieder Fladnitz in Lower Austria. In May 1871 he was promoted to the position of economic controller. Further career advancement soon followed. In 1874, he returned to Bohemia and became an assistant at the Auersperg Central Audit Office in Tupadly. In 1879, i.e. more than sixteen years after entering the service, he became an accounting auditor. In the civil administration, such a position would have been equivalent to the rank IX and to the position of, for example, district commissioner. By a decree of 28 December 1878, Karel Komers also obtained a rise in salary, his annual monetary remuneration amounting to 1 600 guldens, which would have corresponded to the rank VIII in the civil service.
Aleš (whose full name was Aleš Josef) was born on 17 July 1852 in Hlinsko. At the time, his father was a local district commissioner of the second class. Unlike his father and brother, Aleš graduated from the Faculty of Law at the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague. Legal education was a prerequisite for a career in political administration. Aleš Komers started in 1874 as a trainee official at the Bohemian Governor’s Office and three years later became a junior governor’s office official. As early as 1879, Aleš Komers was appointed a district commissioner. He thus reached the same position as his brother after about two years (not counting the time as a trainee).
Karel Komers continued his career at the Central Audit Office in Tupadly. In 1885 he was appointed chief auditor and remained in this position for more than twenty-eight years. From January 1914 he held the post of Director of the Central Audit Office with an annual salary of 6 000 crowns and in-kind benefits. The same princely decree granted the same amount of salary also to Vincenz Kern, the central treasurer in Vienna, to Josef Valenta, the director of the mining office and a chemical factory, to Martin Höcher, the director of a sugar mill in Slatiňany, and to Wenzl Hruška, the director of a Slatiňany estate. These positions would have corresponded to approximately rank VIII–VII in the civil service. In terms of financial remuneration, the aforementioned salary of 6 000 crowns would have corresponded to the salary of a district captain according to Act No. 34/1907. Karel Komers remained in the position of Director of the Central Audit Office until his death in July 1918.
Aleš Komers reached the peak of his career in 1890, when he became a district captain in the rank VII. He remained in this position until his death in 1909. In 1899 he was given the title of junior governor’s office councillor, which corresponded to the rank VI. At that time his salary could range from 6 400 crowns upwards.
When comparing the careers of both brothers, it is remarkable to observe the point at which their careers intersected in 1879. In that year, both had attained roughly the same position, corresponding to the rank IX: Karel was promoted to accounting auditor while Aleš was appointed district commissioner. It is also worth mentioning that it was in the position of district commissioner that their father Josef died in 1876. What differs substantially, however, is the time that it took the two brothers to reach their respective positions. Karel spent more than sixteen years (and four and a half years of traineeship) in the princely service, while his younger brother Aleš, who had a law degree, reached his position after only two years (and three years of traineeship). University education played a crucial role in this respect, but it is also evident that a long and loyal service, in itself a condition for attaining higher positions, was appreciated in the private sphere.
The families of the two brothers were also quite similar. For both of them, the wives they chose were a confirmation of the social status they had attained. In May 1871, Karel Komers married Terezie (1845–1922), the daughter of the late Albert Pudivitr, former princely administrator of the Nieder Fladnitz estate. The couple had three children, two sons and a daughter. In 1874 their son Aleš (Alexius) was born, who later became district captain and ministerial councillor ad personam. In 1883, Karel’s brother Aleš Komers married Marie (1861–1920), the daughter of the provincial lawyer and notary Eduard Brzorád. Aleš and his wife also had three children, two sons and a daughter, but both sons died; Eduard a few months after his birth, and Aleš, a medical student, shot himself at the age of nineteen. Both Komers brothers started their families at the ages of 30 (31), and both had three children, the last being born when they were 39 years old.
Archival Department of Zámrsk, Nasavrky Estate: Knihy výnosů a nařízení 1900–1923, Personalstand 1840–1897.
State Regional Archive of Hradec Králové, Collection of registers of the East Bohemian region, Parish office of the Roman Catholic Church in Hlinsko
State Regional Archive of Prague, Collection of registers of the Central Bohemian region, Parish office of the Roman Catholic Church in Mšeno
State District Archive of Písek, Archive of the town of Milevsko, Memorabilienbuch der Stadt Mühlhausen.
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KLEČACKÝ, Martin a kol. Slovník představitelů politické správy v Čechách v letech 1849-1918. Praha: Masarykův ústav a Archiv AV ČR, v.v.i., 2020.
VYSKOČIL, Aleš. C. k. úředník ve zlatém věku jistoty. Praha: Historický ústav, 2009.
Ottův slovník naučný. Sedmý díl. Praha: J. Otto, 1893, p. 501–502.
Pražský denník, 1876 (15 March)
Pokrok, 1870 (25 November)