Hammacher Schlemmer History
Hammacher Schlemmer is one of America's oldest and most respected mail order catalogs, and the holiday season is when they really shine. This document published by Hammacher Schlemer details the history of the company, complete with various products sold over their 140 year history.
Americas Longest Running Catalog Hammacher Schlemmer Offering the Best, the Only and the Unexpected since 1848 For 160 years, Hammacher Schlemmer has sought to offer unusual products not commonly available, products that perform better than all others, and products of the highest quality that are the only ones that do what they do. At Hammacher Schlemmer, we have always believed that the unusual should be exceptional, and the exceptional Alfred Hammacher (left) and William Schlemmer (right) should be the norm. For 160 years we have aimed at making progress and innovation our way of life. In 1878, we were among only 271 original subscribers to the New York City Bell Telephone Directory. In the early 1900s, when pianos were becoming the favored parlor instrument, we began selling piano parts. When there were only 600 “horseless” carriages in New York City, we opened the first auto parts department. Over the years, as customer needs evolved, so did our merchandise — from hard-to-find hardware to esoteric gadgetry, even The Genuine Lost In Space B-9 Robot — all for “the man who has everything.” Striving to preserve the beliefs founded in 1848, we at Hammacher Schlemmer have aspired to provide uncompromised quality and remain committed to the same level of service that, for 160 years, has led customers to return year after year; that’s why we offer our famous Lifetime Guarantee of Complete Satisfaction. Unless you’re completely satisfied with your purchase, we will gladly take it back — unconditionally. 160 Celebrating years of the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected Our original store in the Bowery opened its doors, when the great r ush for gold in California had just begun. New York was linked by telegraph to a Chicago that had not existed fifteen years prior. Manhattan Island was assessed at slightly more than sixty million dollars — a far cry from its current valuation of nearly $200 billion — and hucksters filled the streets announcing their wares with quaint little songs such as “My clams I want to sell today, the best of clams from Rockaway.” Instead of skyscrapers, church steeples towered above rooftops. America was still a young nation, building and expanding. As Americans built bridges and roads, they searched for a place to find exactly what they needed to ply their trade and Hammacher Schlemmer fit the bill. Carpenters and ironmongers frequented our hardware emporium to find gad tongs and floor hatchets. The Civil War increased demand for our specialty hardware, as Hammacher Schlemmer continued to supply Northern manufacturers. New York City was experiencing a severe coin shortage due to hoarding of both gold and silver, making it nearly impossible for retailers to make change for customers. In 1862 and ’63, the government allowed merchants to mint their own coins known as “rebellion tokens” or “copperheads.” The coins were made out of copper, brass, copper nickel or lead, with Hammacher’s tokens, of course, being made out of copper — the best quality available. 1848 600 on the streets of New York City. Two years later, Hammacher Schlemmer would move uptown — where New York’s first reservoir once stood — to more spacious quarters. 1914 As World War I swept across Europe, Hammacher Schlemmer’s international renown had grown to the point where, recognizing the vast variety and quality of Hammacher Schlemmer products, the Czar of Russia purchased one of every tool in our catalog. Four years later, after the war had ended, Hammacher Schlemmer was commended for its service to munitions factories throughout the war. 1862 The year in which the first transatlantic call was made between London and New York and Gertrude Ederle of New York became the first woman to swim the English Channel, Hammacher Schlemmer moved to its present location at 147 East 57th Street. Three years earlier, after the Yankees, led by MVP Babe Ruth, won the first of their 26 World Series Championships, we celebrated our 75th Anniversary and the milestone of stocking over 100,000 different products — the largest inventory of hardware on the East coast. The 1920s and their optimism were manifested in the sophistication that found its center in New York, or Gotham as those “in the know” called it. By 1929, Hammacher Schlemmer had become known as an entertaining place to shop and, as a result, became the inspiration for a Broadway tune. Written by Howard Dietz and sung by Fred Allen, Hammacher Schlemmer, I Love You consisted of such phrases as: “Hammacher Schlemmer, I love you/ you’re like a sweetheart to me. / Hammacher Schlemmer, above you, / No other firm e’er could be.” The year the Apollo Theater opens in Harlem, Hammacher Schlemmer introduced the first electric food processor — the Waring Blender. Fred Waring of the popular music group Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians, created the blender in order to make food for his wife, who, due to a doctor prescribed “ulcer diet”, could only eat mashed foods. 1926 1929 1878 1896 Only two years after Central Park was completed and five years before the Brooklyn Bridge first opened, Hammacher Schlemmer was among the original 271 subscribers listed in the New York City Bell Telephone System. At the same time the first modern Olympic Games opened in Athens and the first Ford vehicle ever developed — the Ford Quadricycle — rolled off the assembly line, Hammacher Schlemmer was among the first retailers in the country to have electric lights and telephones installed in the showroom. The year Theodore Roosevelt became the first American President to ride in an automobile, Hammacher Schlemmer opened the first auto parts department and offered the first home delivery service by automobile, or “horseless” carriage when there were fewer than 1934 1902 1848 Hammacher Schlemmer opens in the Bowery district of New York City as a hardware store specializing in hard-to-find tools and parts. 1923 Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates its 75th Anniversary. 1896 Hammacher Schlemmer is one of the first stores in the country to have electric lighting in its showroom. 1948 1930 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Pop-Up Toaster and Portable Radio. Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates 100 years and introduces the first Automatic Steam Iron and Amazing Electric Broom. 1848 1878 1870 1880 1890 1900 1920 1930 1940 1950 1955 The first Electric Toothbrush is introduced by Hammacher Schlemmer. Hammacher Schlemmer is one of the original subscribers in the New York City Bell Telephone Directory — although our name was misspelled. 1904 Hammacher Schlemmer moves to new headquarters down the street. 1934 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Electric Dry Shaver and the Waring Blender. 1926 Hammacher Schlemmer moves to its present location at 147 East 57th Street. The same year as the groundbreaking for the United Nations Headquarters and Henry Miller’s publication of Death of a Salesmen, Hammacher Schlemmer celebrated its 100th Anniversary as well as the introduction of the first Automatic Steam Iron and the Amazing Electric Broom. Hello, Dolly! opened at New York City’s St. James Theater, the Beatles first album in the United States was released, and Hammacher Schlemmer sold 24 revamped London Taxi Cabs for $1, 895 each. Four years later, Hammacher Schlemmer would introduce the first “Telephone Valet” — now known as an answering machine — and the Radarange Microwave. The same year that The Ed Sullivan Show aired its final episode, Apollo 15 astronauts David Scott and James Irwin became the first to ride in a lunar rover, 40,000 people attended the Concert for Bangladesh in New York City, and Walt Disney World opened in Florida, Hammacher Schlemmer introduced the first cordless telephone — the “Rovafone.” In 1983, the musical Annie was performed for the last time after 2,377 shows at the Uris Theater on Broadway, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space, and Hammacher Schlemmer established the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute for testing products — the first of which was a cordless phone. This independent, but affiliated branch of the company continues to conduct research, administer side-by-side tests, and rate products in order to make customers’ shopping decision easier by showcasing the highest quality products available. When customers purchase an item with a “Best” designation, they have our guarantee that it has been thoroughly tested to be the “Best” in its class. 1948 1964 The same year that record cold temperatures hit the eastern United States, the New York Rangers won their first Stanley Cup Championship in 54 years, and Woodstock ’94 celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock, began in Saugerties, New York, Hammacher Schlemmer was the oldest retailer selected to exhibit at Disney’s Innoventions Hall at Epcot. The New York Yankees swept the San Diego Padres, ending their record-setting 114-win season as World Series Champions and Hammacher Schlemmer celebrated its 150th Anniversary. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani renamed the block on 57th Street between Lexington and 3rd Avenue “Hammacher Schlemmer Way” in recognition. 1994 1998 1971 1983 As iPods and iPhones sweep through the electronics market, Earth Hour is celebrated in countries around the world, and Beijing hosts the Olympic Games, Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the World’s Smallest Humanoid Robot and celebrates 160 years of providing customers with “the Best, the Only and the Unexpected.” 2008 1974 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the portable computer. 1983 Hammacher Schlemmer unveils the World’s Smallest, Lightest Pocket Television. 2005 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the LP to CD Recorder Stereo System. 1971 1967 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the videocassette recorder. The cordless telephone or “Rovafone” is available at Hammacher Schlemmer. 1976 Hammacher Schlemmer sells the first Cuisinart Food Processor. 1994 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Integrated Caller ID & Answering Machine. 2008 Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates 160 years of innovation. 1960 1968 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first “Telephone Valet” — now known as an answering machine — and the Radarange Microwave. 1970 1973 Hammacher Schlemmer offers the first “Mr. Coffee” coffee machine. 1980 1990 1998 Hammacher Schlemmer celebrates its 150th Anniversary and introduces the first Portable DVD Player with LCD Screen 2000 2008 2006 Hammacher Schlemmer introduces the first Carbon Chassis Velocipede Cabinet Knobs to Solar-Powered Golf Carts: Changing with the Times Now considered by many to be a “renowned purveyor of gadgetry and elegant gifts,” Hammacher Schlemmer has come a long way from its beginnings as a hardware store selling hard-to-find tools in the Bowery district of New York. Over the years, as merchandise changed from hardware to modern gadgets, we have sought to maintain a reputation for providing products that are “sine qua non” for the discriminating customer. When Hammacher Schlemmer opened in 1848, our customers came in search of swags, saw bummers, and pin punches. No unique or exotic items filled the shelves, just high quality tools and equipment. By the early 1900s, Hammacher Schlemmer began selling parts for automobiles when there were only 600 “horseless carriages” in all of New York. As Hammacher Schlemmer moved into our present location, a twelve-story building located on East 57th Street in Midtown Manhattan, consumer needs had evolved and Americans had a growing desire for finer things. As a result, we began to fill our velvet-lined mahogany cabinets not with nails and hinges, but with luxury items and gadgetry for “the man who has everything.” According to the Wall Street Journal, it is this “independent spirit” that makes Hammacher Schlemmer “stand out from every other retailer in America.” Over the years, we at Hammacher Schlemmer have been fortunate to serve royalty, heads of state, celebrities, captains of industry and even inventors — including Queen Elizabeth II, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the King of Morocco, Jacque Chirac, John F. Kennedy, and Howard Hughes. Katherine Hepburn turned to Hammacher Schlemmer for a table high enough to accommodate her long legs. Franklin Roosevelt liked Hammacher’s jelly molds. Richard Nixon sought our motorized revolving coat racks. The Beatles purchased hundreds of Hammacher’s “Nothing Boxes” — they did nothing but flash lights in a random sequence. It was from the cabinets at Hammacher Schlemmer that Isaac Singer selected the parts to construct his first sewing machine and Alexander Calder found piano wire for his famous mobiles. Today the store resembles a museum with only a single version of each item gracing the shelves. However, different from most museums, we invite our customers to test our wares, whether it’s The Core Muscle Balance Board Trainer or The Home Video Poker Machine. For more than 160 years, Hammacher Schlemmer has sought to entertain, delight, and serve customers, always striving to keep a consistent focus on its products, while looking to provide the next unique item for our customers. We thank our customers for their support and pledge to remain true to our philosophy of providing the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected as we enter what we hope will be our next 160 years.