Our History

How It All Began

Hammacher Schlemmer opened for business in New York City, thirteen years before the Civil War began, by offering mechanic's tools and builder's hardware. In the early 19th century high-quality hardware was not easy to come by and Hammacher Schlemmer quickly gained a reputation for offering some of the best mortise gauges, saw bummers, plumb bobs and other tools sold anywhere in the city. Soon after its founding in 1848, a 12-year-old William Schlemmer began selling tools in front of his uncle's hardware store, making $2.00 a week ($1.00 of which he mailed home to his family). As years passed, he rose through the company ranks and, with the help of Alfred Hammacher, bought out his uncle's interest in 1867. Meanwhile the store grew, moved to larger locations and gained a reputation for innovation by being one of the first stores in the United States to install electric lighting. In 1878, the store was listed among the initial 271 subscribers in the first New York City telephone directory. The store published its first catalog in 1881, and it was actually a bound, hardcover book. By 1912, the catalog contained a total of 1,112 pages and confirmed Hammacher Schlemmer as the most complete hardware source on the East Coast.When the first "horseless carriages" arrived, there were no service stations, but Hammacher Schlemmer began offering its Motorist Touring Kit to repair a flat tire or blown gasket. By the turn of the century, the store's stock included every replacement part for the most popular pianos of the day. In 1926, the company moved to its present location on East 57th Street. There it occupied all twelve floors and offered household essentials, personal necessities and the first electrical appliances.During the 1930s and 40s, the name Hammacher Schlemmer would become synonymous with innovation. We introduced the first pop-up toaster (1930), the electric razor (1934) and the first steam iron (1948). Later, we would offer the first electric pencil sharpener, food processor, electric can opener and automatic coffee maker. Other notable introductions include the first microwave oven (1968), telephone answering machine (1968) and cordless telephone (1975). At their introduction, these products were viewed by many as intriguing gadgets, we saw them as functional problem solvers.Hammacher Schlemmer continues to serve customers' needs in ways that no one else does or can. While some of the products may appear unusual, they all share the common goal of meeting the special needs of our many customers, just as a one-of-a-kind plumb bob did over a hundred years ago. From the beginning, our standard was quality-functional quality plus exemplary service. Some things should never change.Only at Hammacher Schlemmer