Category Archives: Culture

Pack Rats: Unleash Your Inner Neatnik!

Over a lifetime, it’s too easy to accumulate “stuff”. Favorite books, knick-knacks, old letters, financial statements…it all needs to go somewhere.

There’s even a day to recognize the human tendency to hang on to our things, whether they be sentimental souvenirs or important documents. This Sunday is National Pack Rat Day. For one day, you can embrace your inner hoarder. Come Monday, it’s time to get organized and clean out the excess. And we have some suggestions that can help.

86833_300x300Shelving is a convenient way to store books, objets d’art and all those unique gifts you’ve received through the years. Many bookshelves occupy substantial floor and wall space. But this space-saving vertical bookshelf stacks books flat on their covers, rather than upright on their pages, so it needs only 1.5 square feet of floor space to hold a four foot tower of texts.

12487_300x300Bills, forms, and other paperwork are less daunting when you have a dedicated space to work on and then dispatch all of it. This fold-away desk gives you a 30×20″ work surface, as well as shelves, file-holding compartments and a cork board to keep statements, notes and paperwork organized. When you’re done working, the desk folds to only 6″ and stores in an unobtrusive wall-hung cabinet. Thanks to its low profile, it makes an ideal and unique gift for a student or a city dweller in a small apartment.

84700_300x300Speaking of paperwork, financial records really have a way of piling up. The government has issued guidelines on how long various types of records should be kept and when they can be disposed. Of course, outdated documents should be shredded prior to disposal. This commercial-quality shredder was selected as The Best by the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute for its superior security and quiet operation. This shredder chews through 14 sheets of paper at one time, grinding it all into 1/4″ x 1/4″ unrecognizable confetti.

By focusing on the present and identifying the unique gifts of what is really important in your life, you can start to pare down your piles and embrace the joys of simplicity. You won’t be losing things, you’ll be gaining a cleaner, simpler life.

Celebrating a Century of Flying High

Exactly 100 years ago today, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics was established as a federal agency. An important predecessor to NASA, the purpose of NACA was to undertake, promote and institutionalize aeronautical research. The agency began just over a decade after the Wright brothers gave the world the unique gift of controlled human flight.

The agency was first created during World War I to coordinate war-related projects. The UK, France, Germany and Russia already had aeronautic committees and it was these agencies that served as models for the American agency. Through its years of research, NACA pioneered aeronautic innovations such as a series of airfoils that are still in use today.

NACA was dissolved on October 1, 1958, when NASA was launched to accelerate the U.S.’s progress in the space race with the Soviet Union.12629_300x300

Delve into all the historic moments of the U.S space program with this personalized book of New York Time articles. Procured from the archives of The Times, the book presents momentous highlights that span the beginnings of the “Space Race” from the first satellite to the potential of commercial space travel. The bound book is personalized with the recipient’s name, making it an ideal unique gift for any aficionado of space flight and exploration.

86424_300x300You can share your love of space with the kids or grandkids with this Pop-up Space Station. This pop-up tent serves as the interplanetary command post for young space explorers. The tent’s four tunnels evoke the sprawling modules of a space station and “dock” with openings in the tent’s walls.

86802_300x300And your small astronauts will marvel at this little remote-controlled astronaut, seemingly out for a spacewalk around the International Space Station. Twin rotors propel him for safe indoor flight. A pair of diode lights in the rocket backpack give the illusion this spaceman is controlling his weightless wandering himself, ideal for a moment of astral wanderlust.

Today, space exploration has moved beyond the efforts of government entities to the private sector. Only time will tell what successes will be met by SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and other aeronautic entrepreneurs.

Enjoy a Cold One with These Unique Gifts for Beer Lovers

With new microbreweries popping up around the country and a selection of craft beers blanketing beverage store shelves, this is a great time to consider some unique gifts for lager lovers and ale aficionados.84035_300x30086570_300x300

These chill-maintaining pilsner glasses keep beer chilled just above freezing for 30 minutes. The double-walled glasses have a viscous cooling liquid between both layers that freezes after one hour in a freezer. Forgot to chill down your six-pack? No problem, these the glasses can chill a room-temperature libation to 36° F in just 21/2 minutes.

A unique gift that’s ideal for the gentleman who believes form should always follow function, these cufflinks open bottles as easily as they secure French button cuffs. Made from polished stainless steel, they have rigid teeth for quickly lifting the cap from a bottle-conditioned Imperial Pale Ale.

This remote-controlled cooler can roll across a patio, rug, or kitchen floor to deliver a well-timed beverage to parched party guests. With room for six cans or bottles and ice, the 84433_300x300compact cooler rolls on four sturdy underside wheels up to 60′ from the host at the controls. This is an amusing and unique gift for the beer lover who thought he had everything.

This is truly a golden age for fans of fermented malt beverages. There’s a style of beer for every taste, and if ale’s what cures you, to that we deliver a hearty “Cheers!”

Finding the Keys to Musical Enjoyment

It’s time to tickle the ivories…September is National Piano Month! Hammacher Schlemmer has a long association with this ever-popular parlor instrument, harking back to our days as a hardware emporium.

In the early years of the 20th century, we were one of the country’s largest suppliers of piano parts, stocking almost everything that went into a piano except for the case. At one point, 20 boxcar loads a year went to one customer, Kimball Brothers—enough for 12,000 pianos.

In 1991, the National Piano Foundation appointed Schroeder from the comic strip Peanuts as the official spokesperson for National Piano Month. Schroeder’s mission is to encourage people of all ages to study and appreciate piano music. His unique gifts for playing a toy piano can be inspiration for all of us.

It’s never too late to learn, and if mastering piano is on your bucket list, The LearnThe Learn To Play Piano DVDs to Play Piano DVDs are a great way to get started. This 12-DVD collection of piano-playing tips and techniques is led by Scott Houston, the Emmy Award-winning host of the public television series The Piano Guy. Geared toward beginners (but with a wealth of insight for more experienced players), the series offers 22 hours of the “tips, cheap tricks, and professional secrets” Houston is famous for.

Another instructional tool is The Learn To Play Keyboard. This keyboard includes comprehensive instructional software lauded by The Wall Street Journal as “well-planned and effective.” Exclusive to Hammacher Schlemmer, the software contains over 400 lessons and more than 70 video demonstrations. The keyboard plugs into a computer, allowing the software to “listen” as you play, providing instant feedback. There’s a version for children, too.

For simply a toe-tapping good time, the world’s largest dance-on piano features a 28 sq. The World's Largest Toe Tap Pianoft. piano mat. A unique gift for would-be musicians, it allows budding virtuosos to compose their own music as they dance, jump, or run on the keys. Fourteen white and 10 black keys, almost two full octaves, produce individual tones or melodic harmonies. Musicians can record and instantly listen to their compositions through an integrated speaker.

In Peanuts, Schroeder had a unique gift that made him a virtuoso on a toy piano. But with a bit of practice, any of us can turn 88 keys into the key to musical enjoyment.

Hope Springs Eternal on Opening Day

11876_1000x1000Few other annual events are filled with as much fresh hope and promise as the start of a new baseball season. On Opening Day, every team has a clean slate and its fans have heady aspirations that this will be the year their boys go all the way.

Opening Day is a state of mind, and indeed retired shortstop Ozzie Smith this year started an online petition on wethepeople.com to urge the U.S. Government to declare the day a national holiday. If Opening Day does become a holiday, it may create another opportunity to shower friends and family with unique gifts.

For the New York Yankees fan, the ultimate unique gift may be a genuine piece of the House that Ruth Built. The Authentic Yankee Stadium Seats were removed from the stadium before it was razed, the very stadium where fans watched Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Derek Jeter and other iconic Bronx Bombers capture six World Series titles. The seats are available as pairs mounted to stand upright or as barstools, including a stool with 39 certified autographs.

The hardcore Yankee fan may also appreciate The Museum Quality 1/8 Scale 1961 Yankee Stadium. Meticulously researched, hand-built and hand-painted by artist Steve Wolf, whose stadium models are displayed in the Los Angeles Sports Museum, this amazing replica took nearly 3,000 hours to complete. This model faithfully replicates the stadium from more than 50 years ago, including period advertisements, six working light banks, and ticket windows.

Many a baseball fan has a bucket-list item to visit all the Major League ballparks. The Personalized Baseball Ballpark Map charts the stadiums you’ve visited and those you plan on seeing. The map lists all 59 ballparks that have hosted Major League Baseball teams since 1912. Color-coded pins and flags mark stadiums you’ve visited, your most recent conquest, your next destination, and your favorite stadium.

As the storied Joe DiMaggio said about the start of the season, “You always get a special kick on Opening Day, no matter how many you go through. You look forward to it like a birthday party when you’re a kid. You think something wonderful is going to happen.” And for those fans who know better, just wait till next year.

The Web at 25: an Invention with World-wide Impact

On this day 25 years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist, wrote a paper proposing a system of information management that eventually became the concept and architecture of the World Wide Web. Lee’s system was originally designed to help run a particle accelerator at the CERN facility in Switzerland.

Less than two years later, Lee made a unique gift to the world on Christmas Day 1990 by releasing the code to his system for free.

Although Lee’s system was not technically the same as the Internet – which is a series of rules and protocols—the Web as envisioned by Lee today allows ordinary users to access files hosted on other computers around the globe so that all of us can enjoy a virtually infinite amount of data. It is arguably the most important invention of the 20th Century.

A project by Pew Research shows that 87 percent of adults are regular users of the Internet. It has transformed the way we work, how we get our news, how and how frequently we communicate with other people, the way we care for our health, and of course, the way we shop for and purchase goods.

In keeping with our track record for innovation, in 1986 Hammacher Schlemmer became one of the first retailers to sell its products on the Internet, teaming up with CompuServe. The Internet certainly has transformed Hammacher Schlemmer, taking us from our one store in New York City to being at the fingertips of users everywhere. It makes available our selection of unique gifts—the Best, the Only and the Unexpected83791_1000x1000—to computer users at any time and any place.

The recent evolution of the Internet is mobile use, with Pew’s research reporting that 68 percent of American adults say they access the Internet at least occasionally on a cell phone or tablet. As the Internet continues to evolve, many experts think the next step is the “Internet of Things” connecting our appliances, vehicles, data and more, allowing devices to connect to and “talk” to each other.

And the Award Goes To…

82nd Annual Academy Awards - "Meet The Oscars" New YorkWhether you get your movies from a big screen, an Internet stream, or a red box, the Academy Awards remains the premiere event for fans and celebrity watchers alike. Over the years, Hammacher Schlemmer has been delighted to collaborate with a number of Academy Award winners in the making of their films.

For his 1972 movie Frenzy, legendary director Alfred Hitchcock, a stickler for details, required a knife as a prop in a key scene. Naturally, he sent for a set of Hammacher Schlemmer German stainless steel knives, for which we received a personal letter of thanks.

On another occasion, Hammacher Schlemmer’s New York store played a supporting role in the film of an Oscar-winning actor, albeit early in his career. In a scene from the 1990 movie Joe Versus the Volcano, the title character played by Tom Hanks is outfitted at our landmark Manhattan store before embarking on an exotic, life-altering trip. Despite a big budget and a star-laden cast, Joe was a box-office dud that received mixed reviews and not a single Academy Award nomination. Such are the vagaries of show business.

Beatles U.S. Invasion Like Nothing Before

1962_Extraordinary2On this day in 1964, Pan Am flight 101 from London, whose passengers included an up-and-coming band from Liverpool, touched down at New York’s JFK Airport at 1:20 p.m.  The Beatles arrival in the U.S. 50 years ago created pandemonium the likes of which had never been seen and ignited a musical revolution that came to be known as “The British Invasion”. Though we cannot say for certain whether John, George, Paul, or Ringo paid a visit to our Manhattan store during this trip, somehow the Boys learned of our “Nothing Box”—a small box with two rows of lights on its side that did nothing but flash in a random sequence until its battery ran out. (It was subsequently rechristened “The Something Box” to avoid confusion with a similarly named product.) This must have appealed to the Fab Four’s well-known dry sense of humor, because they purchased hundreds of Hammacher Schlemmer’s Nothing Boxes as gifts.

One generation removed, the 60’s-era Nothing Box bears scant resemblance to its modern descendent The Illumicube. IllumicubeThis clear acrylic cube has an array of 64 multi-colored LEDs that systematically flash in millions of different combinations, producing a mesmerizing light show. Many of our customers tell us they also use it as a nightlight. For those who prefer a multi-media experience, we recommend The Musical iPhone Illumisphere. Paired wirelessly to a smartphone, this geodesic dome plays music through its integrated speakers while multi-colored LEDs create a psychedelic light show in synch with your audio tracks. Sgt. Pepper’s anyone?

Beer Drinkers, Raise Your Mugs

ReinheitsgebotToday is “National Drink a Beer Day”, complementing Oktoberfest and many Harvest Fests held in towns and villages nationwide.

In the 1800s and until 1920, virtually every community in many areas of the country had at least one small brewery. Then came Prohibition and when that dark era ended in 1933, large, mass-market breweries dominated the industry. Today, there is an explosion in the craft beer market, with 2,347 microbreweries operating in the U.S. in 2012. The industry continues to grow at an estimated 15% annually.

In the northern regions of the U.S., roughly 35° north latitude and above, are found all the ingredients one needs to brew that secret homebrew recipe: barley and grain malts blessed by summer sun, choice backyard hops a group of friends may grow together as a collective effort, yeast cultured from a neighbor’s online college knowledge of amateur biochemistry, and coveted spring water from a local homestead well. These are the basic elements of a tasty brew, as dictated by Reinheitsgebot.

Until now, these small-scale efforts were mostly hit or miss. Now you can quell a thirsty crowd of friends and neighbors with gallons of freshly brewed gemütlichkeit from The Professional Microbrewery. Available exclusively from Hammacher Schlemmer, this automatic brewing system is the perfect scale for the home brewmeister or the beginning craft microbrewery. Used as a pilot brewery for professionals, restaurants and taverns, our system takes the guesswork out of brewing, decocting, sparging, pitching and aging beer.  Any brew is possible: from hearty ambers ales to light pilsners, porters and stouts.  Now you have a chance to make beers that win competitions and bring smiles to lovers of craft beer.

So raise your glass with a hearty “Prost!” and enjoy a craft-brew favorite for “National Drink a Beer Day”.

New York’s Gray Lady Celebrates Her Birthday

For 162 years, The New York Times has delivered the news to more people than any other local metropolitan newspaper.

new-york-times-birthdayThe paper was founded on this day in 1851 (three years after our business was established) as The New-York Daily Times by George Jones, a former banker, and Henry Jarvis Raymond. Raymond was both a journalist and a politician, a dual career that surely would be considered a conflict of interests today.

The very first front page ever published of this iconic paper exemplifies why its nickname is the Old Gray Lady. The vast majority of front pages from the life of the paper have been preserved for posterity. You can even get a copy of The New York Times’ front page from the day you were born, or any other date from 1934 to 2012. Your framed reproduction will be mounted in a wood frame and protected behind plexiglass. This beautiful memento also contains a circulated penny, nickel, dime and quarter from the year.

The New York Times was not the city’s first newspaper, but many of the others published up to that time were considered “class journals,” made up for particular classes of readers. Today, we might call that niche marketing. But the founders of the Times endeavored to present all the news of the day from all parts of the world, for everyone. The motto of the paper became “All the news that’s fit to print”. As readership has shifted to online content, the Times’ website uses the motto “All the news that’s fit to click.”

Even with the industry trend to online, the Times remains the third-largest circulation newspaper in the U.S. (behind The Wall Street Journal and USA Today).