Vernal Equinox Brings Promise of Rainy Days Ahead

At last, Spring is here! Well, so says the calendar. The Vernal Equinox occurs today at 12:57 p.m. Eastern Time. With more chilly temperatures and even some snow in the forecast for several areas of the country, it seems Spring may not have gotten the memo.1955_Catalog

Despite Mother Nature’s stubbornness, it’s a certainty that soon we will get true Spring weather, including our share of April showers. We’ll obligingly help you prepare with a selection of umbrellas that make a unique gift for yourself or for anyone you want to see kept warm and dry.

A Hammacher Schlemmer exclusive is The World’s Smallest Automatic Umbrella. This little umbrella was designed in Portland, Oregon, where they know rain. Carried inconspicuously in a purse or trouser pocket, this is the smallest umbrella available with a canopy that opens and closes with the push of a button. Only 8″ long when closed, the umbrella instantly deploys its generous 40″ diameter canopy when a button on its handle is pressed.

Spring weather also brings the promise of gusty winds. The Wind Defying Packable Umbrella—another Hammacher Schlemmer exclusive—resists gusts up to 35 mph that turn traditional umbrellas inside-out. Its patented overlapping vent system disperses wind through eight reinforced slits in the canopy to eliminate inversion while shielding you from precipitation.

Looking for a unique gift for a pet owner? The Canine’s Raincoat protects dogs like an umbrella from head to tail. Made with a water-repellant nylon exterior and lined with soft fleece for snuggly, warm comfort, the raincoat has a removable transparent hood that keeps a dog’s head dry without obstructing its ears.

Yes, that rainy Spring weather will soon be upon us, but it won’t be long before we’re telling you about unique gifts for gardeners and unusual gifts for enjoying the great outdoors!

Happy 175th, Mr. Hammacher.

1839_HS_HistoryTomorrow marks the 175th birthday of the man who lent his name to our company almost 150 years ago. On February 16, 1839 Albert Hammacher was born in Leichlingen, a farming community in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. As the story goes, in 1859 Mr. Hammacher was introduced to Charles Tollner, owner of a thriving New York City hardware store, by one of its employees and a fellow countryman, William Schlemmer. Mr. Hammacher was prevailed upon to invest $5,000 in the business, which was apparently enough to warrant the company to rename itself C. Tollner and A. Hammacher. (How the 20-year-old came into such a large sum—almost $150,000 in today’s money—remains a mystery.)

Two years later, Mr. Tollner left the business, prompting another name change, to A. Hammacher, and it remained so until 1867. That year Mr. Schlemmer and several others were admitted as partners, resulting in the addition of “& Co.” By 1883, Mr. Schlemmer had acquired a majority of the business and the company’s name became the familiar-and-fun-to-pronounce moniker we are known by today, Hammacher Schlemmer & Co. From all indications, although he was listed as a vice president, Mr. Hammacher, who also owned a hardware business in Germany, did not take an active role in the company’s day-to-day operations. In 1899, he left the business and was replaced by William Schlemmer’s son, William F. Schlemmer. Mr. Hammacher eventually returned to Germany where he lived his final days, passing away on January 12, 1912. But his name, like the company, endures.

A Token of History

If you bought or received a gift card last Christmas, you’re in good company. While the appeal of gift cards shows no sign of abating—they’ve been the most popular gift for seven years running—it brings to mind a troubled time in U.S. history when retailers experimented with another alternate currency.Hammacher-Money-Front Hammacher-Money-Back

At the height of the Civil War, the hoarding of gold and silver made coins so scarce that most merchants were unable to provide change to their customers. In response, in 1862 private businesses began to mint their own coins that patrons could exchange for store credit, much like gift cards are used today. Millions of these coins, known as “rebellion tokens”, were minted in hundreds of different designs, often featuring a patriotic message or an image of the proprietor.

Typical of Hammacher Schlemmer’s understated philosophy, our copper tokens were stamped with only our name and address and the word “Hardware” on the obverse; the reverse featured the words “not one cent” and the die striker’s name, Louis Roloff, within a closed circle of laurel branches.

Production of tokens ceased in June of 1864 when Congress passed the law that made the minting of non-government issued coins a federal crime. However, it is not illegal to own the tokens. It is estimated that about a million tokens survived of the 25 million produced, and a rare example in good condition can easily fetch hundreds of dollars from an avid exonumist.

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).

The Transcontinental Railroad : When Rails Linked The Nation

Transcontinental Railroad Gold Spike

Mega-engineering projects have always united our nation and brightened our future. The Erie and Panama Canals, the transatlantic cable, the interstate highway system, and the space program are just a few examples of these visionary endeavors.

In 1862, President Lincoln believed the creation of the Transcontinental Railroad would bind our nation after the Civil War and create economic prosperity. This great project was completed seven years later, on this day in 1869.

The Transcontinental project is just one facet of our nation’s growth on rails. The History of American Trains is the 24-documentary set of DVDs that explores the power and importance of American trains, from the golden age of locomotives to modern-day superliners.

The sweat and muscle for the Transcontinental Railroad was provided by 20,000 laborers: blasters, drillers, gandy gangs, spikers, and shakers plowed through dizzying mountain passes and deep swamps to open inaccessible lands on the prairie for plows and cattlemen. The mountains were now open to mine gold and silver, making railroad barons rich men. Carpenters, draftsmen and engineers laid down gravel bed, sleepers, and rails to the sing and ping of 9-lb. sledges. The famous spike maul of John Henry fame later competed with steam drills and air hammers. Each mile of track used about 40,000 spikes!

The rail companies Central Pacific from the west and the Union Pacific from the east were forced by Congress to link up at Promontory Point, Utah, partially to get the lucrative Salt Lake City mining business. With raucous celebration, there was a great preponderance of champagne and libation.  One gold spike from California, one of silver from Nevada and Arizona iron were spiked to a tie of California laurel wood. In spite of the magnitude of the ceremony, the railroad’s actual completion didn’t occur until a few months later in Comanche, Colorado. At last, the railroad reduced the journey across the continent from about six months to four days.

Dignitaries from the Central Pacific railway were transported to the ceremony in a Jupiter wood-burning locomotive. We’ve captured the essence of this iron horse with The Holiday Tradition Train. This working locomotive provides a festive holiday display of motion, sound, light, and color. Made by Bachmann, known for its high-quality model trains for over 40 years, this G-scale train has a working headlight, puffs smoke, and makes a “chuffing” sound. The 20-piece track creates an oval that surrounds even the fullest of Christmas trees. Your family will appreciate the beauty and nostalgia of America’s early railroads for years to come.

The Smithsonian Institution: The Nation’s Attic

Hammacher Schlemmer SmithsonianMany artifacts of American memorabilia are found in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC: Archie Bunker’s chair, Dorothy’s ruby slippers…and a hard-bound copy of the 1912 edition of the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog. At 1,112 pages, this is the catalog that established us as the most complete source for hardware on the East Coast.

Founded on this day in 1846, the Institution has been nicknamed “the nation’s attic” for its eclectic collection of 137 million items. Overall, the Smithsonian is a group of museums, research centers and a zoo administered entirely by the U.S. government.

Some of the earliest items amassed for the collections of the Institution, which was known as the United States National Museum at the time, were scientific apparatus for demonstration purposes. A few years later, the Institution made a major purchase of fine arts prints, along with the addition of plant and animal specimens collected during the United States Exploring Expedition of 1838-1842. The historical items in the museum expanded quickly, with one of the most notable acquisitions Abe Lincoln’s famous top hat, worn to the Ford Theater the night of his assassination.

Among the most famous items found in the Smithsonian is the Hope Diamond. The Institution also holds in its collection many items whose value is sentimental, including both the first teddy bear, made in 1903 in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt, and Sesame Street’s Kermit the Frog. A more recent item to join the Smithsonian, acquired this June, is professional skateboarder Tony Hawk’s first skateboard.

Hammacher Schlemmer is extremely honored to be housed in the Institution that was established “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge” and to have our place in American history.

Channeling The Champion Swimmers Of Yore

Athletic training has come a long way since the early 20th century. Considering advances in conditioning, nutrition and psychological strategies, the feats of athletes nearly 100 years ago are all that more amazing.

When gertrude-ederleGertrude Ederle became the first woman to swim the English Channel on this day in 1926, she completed an extraordinary achievement many “experts” claimed no female could do. What’s more, she did it faster than any male swimmer of the time.

Ederle, known to her friends and family as Trudy, stepped ashore on the English coast 14 hours, 31 minutes after beginning her swim from Cape Gris-Nez, France, smashing the previous record of 16 hours, 33 minutes. More than 2 million people lined the streets of New York City to greet Trudy with a ticker-tape parade when she returned to the U.S. In 1924, Trudy went on to medal in three events at the Olympic Games in Paris.

As amazing as her record time was in its day, in 2006 her time was sliced nearly in half by the current women’s world record holder. Yvetta Hlavacova of the Czech Republic who swam the Channel in 7 hours, 25 minutes.

Needless to say, consistent and frequent training is a key factor in athletic performance. While we can’t promise Olympic medals, The Swimmer’s Treadmill is the swimming pool that allows you to practice laps in a space no larger than an SUV. The pool sets up in garages, backyards, basements, or rec rooms. It uses a harness that wraps around a swimmer’s waist and a flexible elastic tether that suspends swimmers in the water, providing varying resistance–stronger strokes and kicks yield more resistance.

The swimmer’s comfort is also important to getting the most out of a training session. The Photochromatic Swimphotochromic-swim-goggles Goggles have tinted lenses that automatically brighten or darken in response to changing lighting conditions. The photochromatic lenses, common in sunglasses but unique in swim goggles, quickly darken in bright sunlight or harsh fluorescents but lighten in dimmer conditions or when the sun hides behind a cloud.

Some of us may prefer to be on the water than in the water. The English Channel Pedal Boat is the water craft that set a Guinness World Record for the fastest pedal-powered crossing of the English Channel. Possessing superior nautical qualities that enabled navigation through the Channel’s notoriously inhospitable waters, its ballasted keel provides superior stability in windy conditions for up to three passengers.

Or perhaps you’re one to sit poolside with a good book. For you, we have The Turkish Cotton Chaise Lounge Cover. This is the lounge cover made of the same superior cotton as the renowned Hammacher Schlemmer Turkish robe. Imported from Turkey’s Denizli region, a global textile center renowned for producing cotton with exceptionally long-staple fibers, the terry fabric is uncommonly soft, plush, and readily absorbs moisture. The cover provides a sumptuous resting place, while you watch the would-be record-breakers wear themselves out in the pool.

Motoring the Globe in a New-fangled Way

It may come as no surprise that Hammacher Schlemmer was an early supporter of the drive toward the car culture. In 1902, when there were fewer than 600 cars in New York City and no gas stations, we introduced the first Auto Parts Department, selling parts and tools for the “horseless carriage” including a Motorist Touring Kit, which allowed drivers to fix a flat or blown gasket.

This was the age of the polished brass automobile—works of the machinist’s art and craft—years before “King Henry” punched out black tin Lizzies. These speed machines gleamed seductively with seats padded and sprung by coach builders, and looked much like The Stirling Engine 1900 Mercedes. In these bold, crazy days there were no helmets, no roll bar, and no air bags. Seatbelts? Paah! But now people had the speed to move and explore the planet.

To promote the future of the automobile, The New York Times challenged the French newspaper Le Matin to the most daunting race of the day: New York to Paris. Many thought this an impossible act of lunacy. Was the technology up to the ordeal? Were men brave and adventurous enough to stand up to the journey? It was the space program of the day.

It was winter, February 12th and a gold pistol shot marked the start of The Great 1908 New York to Paris automobile race. Six teams left New York. In the rural countryside, there were no snow plows and most roads were mud, gravel or dirt; asphalt wasn’t invented until 1910. Drivers had no benefit of The Stuck in Snow Extrication Kit.

The race promoters had the novel idea that the Bering Strait would be frozen and the cars could drive over it with tire chains like a land bridge. Melting ice made the whole notion impossible and was abandoned. The machines were shipped by sea first to Alaska and later back to Seattle and on to Japan.

The American auto in the race, piloted by George Schuster, was the sturdy and dashing Thomas Flyer, of the Thomas Motor Company, in Buffalo, NY. The Flyer had no enclosed cockpit, only overstuffed front and rear tonneau seats. There wasn’t even a windshield. All supplies and provisions had to be tied to the running boards or stored in foot wells. Planks were lashed to the sides to be used as traction boards on muddy permafrost roads. The cars were powered by 40-60 horsepower low compression 4-cylinder engines. Top speeds ranged from 40 to 70 mph.

Food was scarce along the way. No maps existed for many remote sections of the globe. A homemade sextant and brass compass were used to navigate through Siberia and Mongolia.

Three teams finished the race: the French, the Germans, and Schuster’s American Thomas Flyer, with Schuster the only competitor to complete the entire 22,000-mile journey. Even though the German team made it to Paris first, they took shortcuts along the way and didn’t follow the route. The French judges penalized them and declared Schuster’s American team the winner on this day, 105 years ago.

More than a century later, Schuster’s feat has never been equaled. The famous race heralded the start of a new era in transportation, but perhaps it’s time to recreate the race with today’s electric cars. The 120 MPH electric car would be our favored entrant. It can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 4.0 seconds to a top speed of 120 mph in one gear with no shifting thanks to its two electric motors.

If you prefer to travel solo, look at The Electric One Person Car. This electric, highway-legal, three-wheeled, single passenger vehicle combines the functionality of an electric car with the maneuverability and scale of a motorcycle. With a range of 30 miles per charge, it operates with zero emissions and uses less than half the energy of even today’s most efficient hybrid vehicles.

How Hammacher Schlemmer Supported Those Who Served

Hammacher SchlemmerBy the time World War I, or the Great War as it was known before the second World War, began on this day in 1914, Hammacher Schlemmer had already been a supplier to the U.S. military for a decade.

In 1904, the U.S. Navy began using our catalog as an equipment manual – a relationship that endured for 67 years. It’s no surprise that we were able to supply the Navy with their needs…by 1912, we stocked over 100,000 items, the largest inventory of hardware on the East Coast. Our full catalog spanned 1,112 pages. To this day, one hardbound edition of that catalog remains housed in the Smithsonian Museum’s permanent collection.

In 1918, after the war had ended, Hammacher Schlemmer was commended for its service to munitions factories during the war. Our firm received a citation that read: “The War Department of the United States of America recognizes in this award for distinguished service the loyalty, energy and efficiency in the performance of the war work by which Hammacher Schlemmer Co. added materially in obtaining victory for the arms of the United States of America in the war with the Imperial German Government and the Imperial and Royal Austro-Hungarian Government.”

A handful of years after the Great War ended, we moved to a new location (where our store still is today) on 57th St. in New York. Our new home put us closer to some of the city’s most well-heeled residents. They had an appetite for more luxury items, so our offerings began to expand from hardware to include The Best as well as The Unexpected.

Even today, we carry items that are currently used by the U.S. military. For example, The Military Mosquito Countermeasure is used by military personnel abroad and has been proven to be up to 98% effective in repelling mosquitoes in field tests conducted by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

We’ve weathered a lot of changes in society and around the country since World War I, but as we mark our 165th year in business, Hammacher Schlemmer remains committed to bringing you quality and innovative products that solve problems and bring enjoyment to your life.

A Crime with a Rhyme Leads to Hard Time

The robbers of today just don’t have style…at least not compared to the infamous Black Bart.

Charles Earl Bowles, known more commonly as Black Bart, held up over two dozen Wells Fargo stagecoaches in northern California between 1875 and 1883. He was very successful, making off with thousands of dollars a year.

What really sealed his notoriety, however, were the bits of poetry he left behind after two of his crimes. Thanks to these verses, he was forever known in history as having a higher level of style and sophistication than the average bandit. One of his poems, left behind at the site of a holdup in late July 1878 read:

“Here I lay me down to sleep To wait the coming morrow, Perhaps success, perhaps defeat, And everlasting sorrow. Let come what will, I’ll try it on, My condition can’t be worse; And if there’s money in that box ‘Tis munny in my purse.”

After several more successful heists, his career came to a halt after a Wells Fargo stagecoach robbery on this day in 1883. The strongbox holding the precious Wells Fargo cargo has been bolted to the coach’s wooden floor. It took Black Bart time to remove the security box. During this time, the stagecoach driver was Security Mailboxable to get a rifle from a nearby hunter and fired shots at Black Bart. He missed. The hunter reached the scene, took his rifle back and fired shots that found their target, wounding Black Bart as he ran for his escape.

If not for the that locked and bolted security mailbox, he likely would have gotten away with this heist. What lesson can be learned from this event? In the tradition of Black Bart, let’s explore the idea in verse:

Waiting for a supply of checks
can turn us into nervous wrecks,
or fearing a mail-ordered gift
becomes the prize a thief will lift.
When it comes to mail, no need to worry.
We have the answer, in a hurry.
For checks, Rx, credit cards and more
The Deadbolt Mailbox has a locking door!

This is the steel locking security mailbox that prevents theft by storing mail inside a dead-bolted vault. The 14-gauge, powder-coated steel mailbox’s door locks with two steel dead bolts and is only accessible when the correct code (one to eight digits) is entered on the electronic keypad.

Our security mailbox thwarts thieves from pilfering a box of checks, your mail-order prescriptions, birthday cards with cash from Aunt Sally and more.

What thwarted Black Bart 130 years ago was the bullet that injured his hand. Although he fled the scene, he left behind a handkerchief that bore a laundry marking. Investigators eventually traced the marking to a laundry in San Francisco, where they were able to identify the handkerchief as belonging to Black Bart. The outlaw was convicted and sentenced to six years in San Quentin prison.

While Black Bart targeted stagecoaches, today’s robbers prefer non-moving targets; according to recent FBI statistics, a burglary occurs every 14.4 seconds. That’s why we also offer other innovative ways to secure your valuables inside your home, to keep vital documents dry and safe in a flood, and even to deter thieves while you frolic outdoors.

The Digital Combination Lock Hotel Safe uses the same digital combination lock sought by hotels worldwide for securing guests’ valuables. The Waterproof Bolt Down Safe remains 100% waterproof—even when fully submerged—and bolts to a floor for optimal safekeeping of sensitive belongings. The Alarm Sounding Beach Safe sounds a piercing alarm when its security cable is cut, so you can store your valuables and enjoy the beach or pool without worry.