Charles Fey was born as August Fey on February 2, 1862, in a small village called Vohringen, in Bavaria. He was the youngest child of 16.
During a school vacation, at the age of 14, he joined his older brother, Edmund, to work in a farm tool factory in Munich. There, he first discovered his passion for mechanical devices.
After returning home, the difficulties of living in his father’s strict household, and the risk of being drafted into the German army, made the opportunities found in America very appealing. His uncle, Martin Vollman, had successfully immigrated to New Jersey in the 1850’s, and therefore August decided to follow.
He left home at the age of 15, and headed for France where he took a job with an intercom equipment manufacturer. He saved just enough money to cross the English Channel, and lived in London for the next five years. There he worked as a nautical instrument maker while he saved for passage to America.
Having saved enough money, he sailed to America and arrived in New York. He lived with his uncle’s family, which left back to Germany shortly after. Fey, now with no relatives in the new world, then decided to leave the harsh winters of the Northeast and started his journey to California.
He arrived in San Francisco during the spring of 1885 and took various jobs as a mechanist. Shortly after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was given less than a year to live, but he did manage to recover. And picked up his life again by finding permanent employment at the California Electric Works company, at the age of 25.
Fey married, Marie Volkmar, a native Californian, with whom he had three daughters and a son. In 1889 …