Emmert Wolf: Clinging to Life With But A Quote

Emmert Wolf: Clinging to Life With But A Quote


On October 10th, around 10:36 PM PDT, I was writing the 7300th word of my Notion article when I decided that I needed to use a saying in my writing that, at the time, I was not sure existed. I thought to myself, Well, this sounds like a popular thought. Surely this must have been said by someone in the past. After that quick epiphany passed in a brief moment of time, I control-T’d my web browser and started typing in “a tool is only as good”… when the first query from Google popped up in my search bar—

a tool is only as good as the hands that wield it.

Four other results followed it with similar wording, all alluding to the same thing— that a tool (software, in this case) is only as useful as the user of the tool is skillful. I confirmed my suspicions and quickly clicked enter to find the person that I could attribute the quote to. The first result was from blog Adaptavist, attributing the quote to a man named Emmert Wolf. I immediately assumed that this person was an author, but the Google snippet didn’t surround his name with any profession.

Before I was going to add a new tab and start sprawling away at my keyboard trying to find out who this individual was, something even stranger happened. My eyes fell to the second result, which was from Goodreads. ‘It is never the tool that decides. It’s the hands-and the heart-of the one who wields it.’ Okay. Similar enough quote. But my pupils dart to the left, where it reads,

Kevin Sands.

Who is that? That’s surely not Emmert Wolf. Not even close. I look at the third result. To my horror, there read a different name.

Wallace D.

That’s not Emmert Wolf either. Maybe this is a popular quote, but it seems weird that only one site has attributed it to Wolf. The pattern follows on the next result.

LeBron James.

Okay. At least I know who this person is. The famous soccer player.

At this point, I get weirded out and decide to do what I was going to do a few seconds prior— search up who this Emmert person was. I type it into my search bar, with my eyes growing wide as I notice… this person’s name only appears once, as the top autocomplete result. Usually people will have something more than that if they are famous enough to have a quote attributed to them: Charles Dickens Books, Stephen Curry Net Worth, Mariah Carey Songs, or something of the sort. But not Emmert. This was also about which point I found out that it was not Emmet, but Emmert— an extra R added in for what seemed like no reason to me. This was about to get a lot worse for me, though, as the results were completely “out of wack”, as I would say in real life, but not in this pseudo-academic setting of a blog.

The first result was a Goodreads link to the one, singular, lone, quote that Mr. Wolf was attributed to— the one that I was originally looking for. Below was a Reddit link to the subreddit “AskHistorians”. From the meta description on Google, I got a glimpse of what the person who posted the post was looking for. I clicked on the search result and got directed to the post.

Who was Emmert Wolf?
I was looking for a pithy quote for a blog title about tools only being as good as the people using them, and I came across this quote by Emmert Wolf:

A man is only as good as his tools.

There are many quotes on the internet that are misattributed, often to famous people, but this appears to be the opposite of that situation. Many people agree that Emmert Wolf said this, and the quote is widely used. And yet, I can’t find any record of who Emmert Wolf is, let alone any proof that he said this.

Reddit user u/dmmagic on February 13, 2019

Wow! This was pretty much me. I was looking for a pithy quote for a blog, and I also came across this individual Emmert Wolf. …and, I also had questions about him… and… also noticed that there was very little information online… wow. The post in the subreddit “AskHistorians” led me to believe that there would be answers in the comment section. I scrolled down in excitement, but to my disappointment, it was empty. Darn it.

The only thing I can find on Emmert Wolf is this image on findagrave. But there’s no way to know if that’s the same Emmert Wolf who coined the phrase quoted above, or what he did or wrote. He may have been an officer of the 112th regiment, second artillery, of Pennsylvania… and that’s the beginning and end on what I can find out about him.

Right after looking at this, I clicked my browser’s back button and saw the same findagrave.com link.

Emmert J Wolf, 1894 – 1968. Buried at Mount Morris, Ogle County, Illinois, USA. Son of Carlton Emmert Wolf and Ella Mary Fridley. Married Uarda Sears. Father of Joseph Sears Wolf. Minimal information to go off of for this individual. I mean, there’s practically more information about me, who is quite literally nobody, on the internet. I shouldn’t judge, though. This dude died over 50 years ago.

I started to wonder if this even was the Emmert we were looking for. There are a lot of people in the world, but at the same time, Emmert Wolf sounds like such a unique name.

The next thing I found would be a blast in my quest to discover Emmert Wolf. I went back once again to the Google results page, and under that, was an article titled Not Finding Emmert Wolf by Mrs. Deborah Cravey. Holy cow! There is one more person interested in this person— interested enough to write a blog post on it. I clicked on it and instantly noticed it to be a WordPress site. Interesting, I thought to myself. Hey, maybe I should write a post about this person in my own WordPress blog! And so I decided to do so. I can’t stay up too late, but this is far too interesting to not delve into. Note that I have not read the blog post, so everything from here is my own original content.

And thus, I dived into my phase of research.

Who was Emmert Wolf?

Emmert Wolf, as previously established, doesn’t seem to have a conclusive identity. For this, we assume that the findagrave.com link does actually point to the Emmert Wolf we’re looking for. Additionally, there is an Ancestry.com search that returns some more information— marriage, divorce, and other governmental records. From what I’ve collected, we can form a loose profile around our character:

  • Known as Emmert Joseph Wolf
  • born July 28th, 1894 on Mount Morris, IL, United States
  • died February 15th, 1968 on Mount Morris, IL, United States

When Emmert died is not agreed upon. findagrave lists the 15th of February, while FamilySearch.org says the 23rd.

Emmert was born, died, and was buried in the same place— Mount Morris in Ogle County, Illinois. Mount Morris is a small village located approximately 24 miles southwest of Rockford. There are a few commodities there and a population of just over 3,000 according to an estimate in 2019. The town was incorporated in January of 1848, approximately 46 years before Wolf was born. His parents were originally from Maryland and moved to Mount Morris at some point in their lives before Emmert was born.

  • Parents: Carlton Emmert Wolf (b. May 1857) & Ella Mary Fridley
  • Spouse: Uarda (Varda) Sears, married June 20th, 1916. Both were 22 at time of marriage.
  • Siblings: One sister— Ada (Aida) Blanche Wolfe, 8 years Emmert’s senior.
  • Child: with Uarda Sears— Joseph Sears-Wolf

There is an existing copy of a 1900 Census filled out by Carlton Wolfe (that’s with an E at the end. It’s unknown whether or not Emmert changed his last name at some point during his life or if what’s online is just a typo. However, aside from this census, there is no evidence that suggests so.), listing the 50 people in his place of living. Emmert’s name is also spelled “Emmut” here, although the reason for this is unknown.

Additionally, Emmert was drafted into World War I in 1917. I wish I could tell you more, but I’m not going to pay “MyHeritage.com” for information that is probably inconclusive.

Why is this quote attributed to Emmert Wolf?

Honestly, Emmert seems like one of the last people who would have a quote attributed to them. From what I have collected, Emmert does not seem to have created any literary works— to be honest, I don’t even know if he’d published anything in his life. Nothing coming from his own mouth or pen is on the Internet; only governmental records rest are on the Google search results.

Nobody who has used the quote knows who he is, it seems. Not that it really matters, but the entire situation is still quite perplexing. But I suppose that’s just how the universe makes its plays sometimes.

For lack of information, this closes out Volume 2 of Literaiiy’s Mysteries. Don’t stay tuned, as this is probably the end.

Special thanks to Dave Hoefler for the post’s featured image.