Hammacher History

U.S. History

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1839

Albert Hammacher, the man who would eventually provide half of our company's name, is born on February 16, 1839 in Leichlingen, a town in the...more

United States Army officer George Armstrong Custer is born in Ohio. Custer developed a strong reputation leading Union troops during the Civil War...more

1841

William Schlemmer, whose name will come to be associated with a landmark New York City store and America's longest-running catalog, is born on... more

William Henry Harrison served the shortest tenure of any U.S. president, just 32 days, and became the first to die in office. Vice President John Tyler is sworn in... more

1848

The store that would eventually become known as Hammacher Schlemmer - one of the first national hardware stores - begins in the Bowery district of New York City... more

On January 24, 1848, gold is discovered in California, eventually sparking a huge influx of prospectors from across the country and around the world to the area...more

1853

Twelve-year-old William Schlemmer, born in Westphalia, Germany, comes to America where he finds sanctuary and employment at the store... more

On January 24, 1848, gold is discovered in California, eventually sparking a huge influx of prospectors from across the country and around the world... more

1857

By 1857, construction was booming and the hardware business increasingly found itself in demand. As a result Tollner needed to expand to larger... more

On March 23, 1857, Elisha Otis' first elevator is installed at 488 Broadway in New York City. That same year, Hollywood, the famed center of movie production... more

1862

As the Civil War began, demand increased for Hammacher & Tollner's specialty hardware, with the company supplying Northern manufacturers... more

The American Civil War, or the War Between the States, begins in April of 1861, when forces of the newly formed Confederate States attack the U.S. military... more

1867

Throughout the 1860s, William Schlemmer began to gradually buy out Charles Tollner's stake in the company. When Tollner passes away in 1867, 26 year-old Sclemmer... more

On February 7, 1867, Laura Ingalls Wilder was born near Pepin, a small town in the "Big Woods" of Wisconsin. Her childhood and experiences here formed the... more

1876

Following Bell's success with the telephone, which led to a widespread use and new market full of telephones as well as the typewriter, Hammacher begins... more

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell makes the first successful telephone call to his assistant Thomas A. Watson, saying "Mr. Watson, come here... more

1881

William Schlemmer was made a full partner in the company and the firm took its present name, A. Hammacher Schlemmer & Co. His son, William F. Schlemmer... more

On the morning of July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot twice by an assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, a disgruntled federal office-seeker... more

Our first Illustrated Catalogue and Price List showcased products with the same care as they received in the mahogany cases of our store. This page ... more

1883

As ornate furniture designs and tufted luxury in sofas, chairs and footstools becomes more popular, Hammacher introduced a new Upholstery Goods department... more

The same year that the 1st Vaudeville Theater opens in Boston, Massachusetts, the Brooklyn Bridge, connecting the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn... more

Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the Lougee Improved Hair Picker, a labor-saving machine that removes impurities from filling used in upholstery... more

1892

Albert Hammacher resigns, leaving the entire business in the control of William Schlemmer who forms a new corporation but retains the company's... more

The first federal immigrant inspection station is opened on Ellis Island in New York City. The first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island is... more

1896

Taking advantage of the new technology developed during the Industrial Revolution, Hammacher Schlemmer's store in New York City becomes... more

American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose literary masterpiece "The Great Gatsby" was hailed as one of the most important books of the century... more

Hammacher Schlemmer offered a Francis Glue Spreading machine, an iron and steel contraption for furniture makers that automatically... more

Hammacher Schlemmer publishes a 400-page catalog featuring tools for all trades. In keeping with its reputation for high quality and and wide selection... more

1902

Despite the fact that there are fewer than 600 automobiles in New York City and no gas stations, Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Auto... more

Theodore Roosevelt becomes the first American President to ride in an automobile when he rides in a Columbia Electric Victoria through Hartford, Connecticut.

Weighing up to 750 lbs., the "Star" Screw-cutting Engine Lathe was operated via foot pedals. Chief among its many virtues was was its outstanding... more

To help motorists reduce their repair bills, Hammacher Schlemmer offers the tourist autokit, "the highest type of repairing outfit procurable". The kit contains... more

Hammacher Schlemmer publishes catalog No. 115, a 300-page edition featuring tools for machinists and metal workers. The opening page serves notice... more

1904

Hammacher Schlemmer moves uptown to more spacious quarters at 13th Street and Fourth Avenue, previously the site where New York's... more

In the same year that Henry Ford sets a new automobile land speed record of 91.37 mph, and the ice cream cone is invented during the Louisiana Purchase... more

An article in The American Upholstery and Carpet Journal describes Hammacher Schlemmer's new quarters in glowing terms. "Architecturally, the structure is... more

The U.S. Navy begins using the company's catalog as an equipment manual - it was still used up until 1971.

1912

Business at Hammacher Schlemmer is booming as the company stocks over 100,000 items, the largest inventory of hardware on the East Coast. Even more... more

At 2:20 a.m. on April 15, 1912, the British ocean liner RMS Titanic sinks in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, taking with it over 1,500 victims and making it one... more

Hammacher Schlemmer's Cabinet Makers Benches were, appropriately, crafted almost entirely of wood and considered fine examples of furniture-making... more

Hammacher Schlemmer prints its largest catalog to-date. Spanning 1,112 pages and taking a total of four years to compile, the catalog confirmed Hammacher... more

1918

Two years after World War I broke out, William Schlemmer Sr. dies at the age of 75, leaving his son William F. Schlemmer complete control of the... more

The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, sparks World War I, or the Great War. In less than a month... more

During the Russian revolution, the Czar sent an emissary to New York City to buy the world's greatest hardware and supplies. The representative from Russia... more

According to a Hammacher Schlemmer magazine ad, "There is nothing more fascinating to the average man or boy than Tinkering With Tools"... more

1920

As American prosperity flourishes in the years following WWI, Hammacher Schlemmer, under the leadership of William F. Schlemmer, begins... more

In 1920, Americans usher in the "Jazz Age," a period of economic prosperity. Also, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution is passed... more

Hammacher begins its "gnome" campaign - an ad campaign that featured diligent little cartoons in the pages of its catalogs.

1923

Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates its 75th Anniversary and achieves the milestone of selling 100,000 different products. The company now operates out... more

The same year that the first issue of Time magazine is published, the first Yankee Stadium opens its doors to the public in the Bronx, New York City... more

Hammacher Schlemmer publishes a 32-page brochure to commemorate its 75th anniversary. Documenting the company's growth, as well as the... more

1926

Hammacher Schlemmer moves to its present location at 147 East 57th Street, a twelve-story building designed and built specifically for us. With a new... more

American novelist Harper Lee, whose sole novel, To Kill a Mockingbird earned her a Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom... more

This ad for giant matches and a lighter imported from France is a fine example of our evolution from a hardware store to "The House of Fine Housewares"... more

This advertisement in The New York Times invites the public to visit our landmark store "New in everything but the unfailing policy of generous dealing and strict... more

This catalog shows Hammacher Schlemmer at the crossroads of its hardware store roots and its new direction as a purveyor of unique gifts... more

1929

By 1929, Hammacher Schlemmer was becoming known as an entertaining place to shop as well as browse for the serendipitous. Thanks to this reputation... more

On October 29, 1929, the Wall Street Crash marks the beginning of the Great Depression. Lasting until 1933, the financial crisis brings about high... more

One way Hammacher Schlemmer seeks to appeal to the fastidious taste of its upscale clientele is by putting an unusual twist on otherwise mundane household... more

1931

In the same year that Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Portable Radio-weighing 30 pounds-the first Pop-Up Toaster appears on the shelves... more

In 1931, construction of the Empire State Building is completed, and its doors are opened to the public on May 1. The 102-story building soars 1,250... more

Among the many sporting goods now available at Hammacher Schlemmer, is The Kangru Springshu, "An invigorating sport for small boys and girls!" Like... more

An example of Hammacher Schlemmer's transition from hardware to housewares, this 5-piece set for carving roast and game features stainless steel... more

In the same year Hammacher Schlemmer debuts its housewares supplement, the first catalog of its kind in the country, this brightly colored yet simply titled... more

1934

Miss Palmer is hired as Hammacher's first female salesperson, a bold and considered by some almost scandalous employment practice for the time... more

The same year the Apollo Theater opens its doors in Harlem, New York City, Public Enemy Number One, John Dillinger, is gunned down in a shootout... more

In the same year Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Electric Dry Shaver and the first Electric Food Processor-the Waring Blender, created by musician... more

This ad to support our "Unique Wares" catalog features our new Indirect Lamp, a wall bracket lamp that "can be hung up or taken down with as much ease... more

"As usual, Spring finds 'The House of Fine Housewares' blossoming with the unusual", boasts our "Unique Wares" catalog. Our store has added a new glassware... more

1939

Dominic Tampone, later a president of Hammacher Schlemmer, was recognized as Hammacher Schlemmer's top salesman. In protest of the Nazi... more

On December 15, the film Gone with the Wind, starring Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland, and Leslie Howard, premieres at Loew's Grand Theatre in... more

"Most ingenious!", the Tip Over Tea Pot has a separate chamber for tea leaves in its top. When the pot is set on its side, the tea begins to steep. When again... more

One way Hammacher Schlemmer sought to serve the needs of its refined clientele was to create a "Connoisseurs' Food Department" that gathered delicacies... more

1945

In 1945, William F. Schlemmer passes away at the age of 67, leaving his wife, Else, in charge of the company. Schlemmer began working at the hardware... more

The same year that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected to an unprecedented 4th term and World War II officially ends with the surrender... more

The Ink Maker Pen uses a dehydrated ink "battery" that produces a fresh supply of ink when the pen is placed in a cup of water. Made of durable plastic-"streamlined... more

This newspaper ad for outdoor furniture shows a couple shopping in our New York store, presumably visiting to "Learn the priceless art of relaxation... more

The cover of our gift catalog features an illustration of a fine Victorian lady accompanied by her son (in matching garb) window shopping outside what appears to be... more

1948

Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates the 100th Anniversary of offering the "Best," the "Only" and the "Unexpected." Our next century begins with... more

The same year the Berlin Blockade begins, prompting the U.S. to launch the Berlin Airlift, Albert I becomes the first monkey astronaut, traveling... more

The same year Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Automatic Steam Iron and the Amazing Electric Broom, this "Ferris Wheel Set" captures the atmosphere of... more

In a departure from our typical gnome-inspired covers, this Gift and Fine Housewares Catalog features a whimsical depiction of two dogs riding a gift-laden toboggan... more

1955

By 1955, Hammacher Schlemmer completely discontinues the sale of hardware in favor of more upscale merchandise with the renewed emphasis on... more

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks is arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person, sparking the beginnings of the national civil... more

In the same year that Hammacher Schelmmer introduces the public to the first Electric Toothbrush, we offered rhinestone pet collars for $1.10 per inch... more

In 1953 Else Schlemmer sold the business (marking the end of the Hammacher and Schlemmer families' involvement) to a group of investors who proved to... more

Perhaps a sign of the times, the design of our Spring supplement is atypical with its simple cover illustration dominated by our name in large type. "Your... more

1962

By 1962, Dominic Tampone was made president of Hammacher Schlemmer - bringing with him a focus on mixing the practical along with the whimsical... more

On October 28, 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis ends with Soviet Union leader Nikita Khrushchev announcing that he has ordered the removal of Soviet missile... more

Hammacher Schlemmer and its New York Store begin selling the first Home Bowling Alley and the "Nothing Box" (subsequently rechristened "The Something Box"... more

The cover of our Fall catalog pictures a variety of convenient beverage-making small appliances. With the exception of the front cover, this issue is notable... more

1964

New First Lady Claudia "Ladybird" Johnson calls in Hammacher Schlemmer to redecorate the White House closets, following a precedent of Presidential customers.

On January 20, 1964, Meet the Beatles!, the first Beatles album in the United States, is released. Within weeks, The "Fab Four" vault to the #1 spot... more

In keeping with our reputation for offering "...interesting, exciting, or glamorous things", Hammacher Schlemmer imports and refurbishes London Taxi Cabs... more

"This, like most of our imaginative merchandise, is as much fun as it is practical?typically Hammacher Schlemmer; so much so that we use one, ourselves... more

1968

In 1968, Hammacher Schlemmer introduces America to the first "Telephone Valet" - now commonly known as an answering machine - and the Radarange... more

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated while standing on his hotel balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, inciting riots... more

A hostess could not only purchase fine cookware, dinnerware, and silver serving platters from Hammacher Schlemmer, but also a gourmet meal itself... more

In a September 1968 profile in Merchandising Week, Dominic Tampone describes the typical Hammacher Schlemmer item, "it's brand new ... it could be too... more

The front cover of our Spring catalog features our Irish stickproof cookware. Specially made with a "uniquely formulated cast iron core with a bonded-white... more

1973

Hammacher Schlemmer marks 125 years of innovation by introducing a wave of product offerings that had never been available for home purchase: the Rovaphone... more

On May 3, 1973, the Sears Tower in Chicago is completed, becoming the world's tallest building - a distinction it will hold until 1998. The 108-story... more

The Electric Closet organizes clothing and accessories on a revolving lazy susan type mechanism. The device operates via hand switch or foot pedal so "you... more

Our 125th anniversary edition features an assortment of unique kitchen and entertaining products from a "provision cabinet" with clear plastic containers to... more

1977

Another one of Hammacher Schlemmer?s "firsts," the Cuisinart food processor makes its way into our catalog and onto the shelves of our New York store... more

Atari, Inc. introduces the Atari 2600 video game console to the public, popularizing home video game play through the use of interchangeable cartridge... more

We introduce Natures Environment, a personal haven that "reproduces Mother Nature's elements to induce complete relaxation and rejuvenation... more

n a May profile by The Wall Street Journal, Hammacher Schlemmer is lauded as a visionary retail store for "its ability to spot new gadgets before... more

In 1977, Hammacher Schlemmer prints its first full-color product catalog. The cover depicts The Tahiti Bar (flanked by our ever-present mischievous gnomes)... more

1983

In 1983, the J. Roderick MacArthur, CEO of Hammacher Schlemmer, establishes the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute - an independent... more

The same year that Sally Ride becomes the first American woman in space, on board the Space Shuttle Challenger, Michael Jackson performs the dance... more

Hammacher Schlemmer unveils the World's Smallest, Lightest Pocket Television. The television displays images on a 23/4-inch diagonal LCD screen instead... more

A New York Times article describes how we overhauled our New York store to refocus our efforts on "The Best, The Only, and The Unexpected". We closed six... more

Our Fall Catalog is the first to include ratings from the newly established Hammacher Schlemmer Institute. Using an "enstar" rating system (a blue seven-point star)... more

1986

Living up to its reputation as an innovator, Hammacher Schlemmer teams up with CompuServe to sell products online, becoming one of the first retailers to go... more

On January 28, Space Shuttle Challenger disintegrates 73 seconds after launch, the entire crew of seven astronauts perishing, including schoolteacher... more

The Official New York Santa Claus Suit is identical in every detail to the one worn by Mr. Kringle in the New York City Thanksgiving Day Parade. Custom made... more

The helpful gnomes, Hammacher and Schlemmer, are back again on our catalog cover, in this case, serving as unpaid models. Rather than giving one... more

1991

Hammacher Schlemmer joins a select group of retailers when it becomes a charter member in SkyMall, a specialty catalog that is inserted into the seat back... more

Led by regular season MVP and scoring leader Michael Jordan, the Chicago Bulls defeat the Los Angeles Lakers of Magic Johnson four games to one... more

This self-propelled pool cleaning robot uses six microchips with a total of 128 preprogrammed movement patterns to autonomously scrub, vacuum.. more

The cover of our Late Spring catalog featured a replica of a Cody box kite, a manned kite designed for military use during WWI by flamboyant aviation pioneer Samuel... more

1994

Hammacher Schlemmer opens an exhibit at Disney's Innoventions pavilion at Epcot Theme Park. The pavilion is focused on technological advancements and... more

On June 15, the classic film, The Lion King, is released in theaters, becoming the highest-grossing film of 1994. The movie becomes the highest-grossing... more

In the same year Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Integrated Caller ID And Answering Machine, The Four-Person Hovercraft makes its appearance... more

The cover of our Fall catalog features The 3-D Stereoscopic Cypermaxx Home Virtual Reality, a video gaming accessory that "completely involves you... more

1998

Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates its 150th Anniversary. In honor and recognition of the company's longevity and history, New York City Mayor... more

The film "Titanic", a fictionalized account of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, dominates the 70th Academy Awards. Nominated for... more

Imported from Europe exclusively for Hammacher Schlemmer, The Only Gravity Defying Rotating Globe is not only suspended mid-air, but it spins... more

The cover of our 150th anniversary catalog is graced by The Bertazzon Venetian Carousel, a full-size fully-functional carousel that seats twenty... more

2003

With electronics, memorabilia, apparel and toys gracing its catalog and the shelves of its New York Store, Hammacher Schlemmer once again expands its product... more

In October, the supersonic jet Concorde completes its final North American flight before the fleet is permanently grounded. Flying at twice the speed of sound... more

The Oval Office Chair was made by the furniture maker who custom crafted office seating for eight different presidents (Franklin D. Roosevelt purportedly... more

In a departure from our traditional cover presentation, the 2003 Holiday Preview catalog features a cartoon that playfully acknowledges our well-deserved... more

2005

With the web-based side of Hammacher becoming such a productive aspect of the company - with online sales increasing at a rate of 30% each year... more

On February 15, 2005, the Internet site, YouTube, goes online. The video-sharing website, created by three former PayPal employees, allows... more

Available only from Hammacher Schlemmer, this fully animatronic remote-controlled version of Robby, the robot from the from the classic... more

The cover of our holiday catalog featured The Voice Activated R2-D2, a motorized replica of the headstrong little "droid" from the iconic Star Wars films... more

2008

In 2008, Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates 160 years of Innovation and providing customers with "the Best, the Only and the Unexpected"... more

On June 3rd, Barack Obama secures the 2008 U.S. Democratic Party presidential nomination becoming the first African-American presumptive presidential... more

Hammacher Schlemmer introduces The Personalized Whac-A-Mole Game, the familiar arcade game that replaces the standard mole heads with... more

This is a newspaper ad for The Only Stainless Steel Wallet that we introduced in 2008. The only billfold available woven from flexible stainless steel fabric... more

Our Holiday Preview Catalog pictured The Classic Storefront Rocket Ride on its front cover. An authentic unit refurbished to its original state, this classic rocket... more

2011

Hammacher Schlemmer publishes its first catalog specifically for the United Kingdom. The 56-page catalog introduces Britons to to our selection of the... more

On October 5, Steve Jobs, co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple, Inc., lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. Jobs' introduction of the of the Macintosh... more

In February, we introduced The Light Cycle, an illuminated, street-legal motorcycle inspired by the computer-animated cycle from the 2010 film... more

In a spoof of the movie Return of The Jedi by the animated television series Family Guy, Luke (Chris Griffin) steals Yoda's credit card and immediately calls... more

Our Mid-Summer Supplement features The 20 Foot Animatronic Triceratops, a motion-sensing replica of the 67-million-year-old Cretaceous creature... more

2012

In the same year that Hammacher Schlemmer unveils a redesigned web site featuring dramatic home page images, we introduce The Classic Manual... more

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years since her ascension to the throne of England. She has the distinction of being the... more

Hammacher Schlemmer offers a genuine WWII era PT Boat. One of only 12 remaining in the world, the 66 year-old Patrol Torpedo Boat has been updated with modern... more

On the television series Mad Men, a hotshot prospective copywriter displays a Hammacher Schlemmer ad in his portfolio to demonstrate his creativity.

In March, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog cover features The Killer Whale Submarine, a watercraft that looks and behaves like a real orca... more

2013

In November, Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates its 165th anniversary by unveiling a completely new interior at its landmark Manhattan store. Built for us in 1926... more

On May 10, the final piece of the spire is placed atop One World Trade Center (formerly know as the Freedom Tower) making it the tallest building...more

Hammacher Schlemmer offers a handcrafted boat with a hot tub for six built into its deck. An integrated diesel-powered boiler heats the tub's water...more

The unveiling of our New York store attracts a bevy of celebrities, media representatives, and dignitaries who join us for a gala celebration...more

In June, the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog cover features The Golf Cart Hovercraft, a vehicle that glides over sand traps and water hazards... more

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