On Father’s Day, it’s fitting that we honor our founding father, William Schlemmer, Sr.
Born in 1841, an age when many people were no strangers to hard work, Mr. Schlemmer was described as “an indefatigable worker, and a man of the highest possible character, whose habits were exemplary in the extreme, and whose business principles were beyond reproach.”
Schlemmer came alone to the U.S. from Germany as a young boy. Although he was not yet a teenager, his uncle brought him to work at his hardware store in the Bowery. Even at the tender age of 11, he proved to be hard-working and thrifty, sending half of his $2-a-week salary home to relatives.
As the business continued to enjoy success in the 1850s, it was not unusual for young Schlemmer to arrive at work by 5 a.m. and not leave till midnight. In 1857, he convinced a wealthy acquaintance, Albert Hammacher, to invest $5,000 in the company, strengthening its opportunities for growth.
Eventually, Mr. Schlemmer came to control the company, first buying out his uncle’s shares and by the early 1890’s, most of Hammacher’s. Reflecting his humble roots, the highest position Schlemmer held at the company was treasurer.
Mr. Schlemmer remained at the helm until 1914 when, at the age of 73, he passed the torch to his son, William F. Schlemmer. It was under the younger Schlemmer’s guidance that the company moved toward selling more luxury goods and unique gifts, as well as The Best, The Only and The Unexpected.
This June 15, we honor our founding father, “The Old Gentleman,” for his lofty, uncompromising standards of service and quality. He was a great example for fathers, and for us all.