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.

The Soaring Spirit of Amelia Earhart

Bomber JacketWhen Amelia Earhart was born in Kansas on this day in 1897, no one dreamed that someday trans-Atlantic flight would be not just possible, but a commonplace activity. During Amelia’s childhood, the Wright Brothers made their historic powered flight at Kitty Hawk, NC, and soon after, aviation grew through the use of planes in World War I.

The young Amelia, with a tomboy’s heart, was no stranger to challenging conventions on how a lady ought to behave. She was known for climbing trees, “belly-slamming” her sled on a snowy hill and hunting vermin with a .22 rifle. She even kept a scrapbook of newspaper stories about successful women in male-oriented fields, including engineering, law and management.

Nevertheless, she initially chose a traditional woman’s career of the day, working as a nurse’s aide in a military hospital in Toronto. During the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic she contracted a severe case of pneumonia and chronic sinusitis, spending nearly a year recovering. It was during this time that she attended a flying exhibition. When a WWI flying ace put his plane in a dive from the sky toward Earhart and her friend, Amelia stood her ground. “I did not understand it at the time,” she said, “but I believe that little red airplane said something to me as it swished by.”

Two years later, Earhart took her first flight and it changed her life forever. Almost immediately, she started taking flying lessons and within six months saved enough money to buy her first plane.

Knowing that as a female, other aviators would be judging her, she also purchased a leather bomber jacket so that her appearance would suit the role. Feeling the new jacket needed to look well-worn, she slept in it a number of nights to more quickly break it in.

We’ve replicated The Amelia Earhart Flight Jacket in every detail. Made by the same company that supplies leather jackets to the U.S. Air Force, this coat is a variation of the classic A-1 jacket made famous by pilots in the era of open-air cockpits. Many A-1s had collars that buttoned around the neck, but Earhart’s version introduced a brass-zippered, full-neck collar with knit trim, and added a side entry pocket to the two traditional button-up patch pockets. The outer shell of supple lambskin leather has been vegetable-tanned to reveal its natural grain, while the wrists and waist are soft knit. This is no ordinary women’s bomber jacket…it celebrates an American heroine, too.

As Earhart became further renown as an accomplished aviator, she set many records and firsts, not the least of which was to be the first woman to pilot a plane across the Atlantic in 1928, and the first woman to do so on a solo flight in 1932.

Tragically, her career and her life came to an end in 1937 near the end of her attempt to be the first woman to fly around the world. On July 2 of that year, she and her navigator were due to land on Howland Island when overcast skies and intermittent rain showers made celestial navigation difficult. It is known that Earhart’s plane was running low on fuel. The U.S. Coast Guard ship supporting her flight was able to hear her radio transmissions, but apparently the pilot could not hear the ship. After one last transmission, Earhart was never heard from again, though it was not until January 5, 1939, that she officially was declared dead.

Recently, photos taken of Nikumaroro, an uninhabited atoll in the mid-Pacific, suggested that Earhart and her navigator may not have crashed into the ocean, but instead made an emergency landing on the flat coral atoll. A group of researchers from The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery continues to search for clues that could reveal Earhart’s final resting place. Was she wearing her beautiful bomber jacket on that final flight? That’s a mystery the world may never know.

Tune In To The Radio’s Beginnings

First-RadioToday it’s all about wireless. Indeed, it seems to be the very definition of our current society. In reality, the wireless concept first transformed lives over 100 years ago with the invention of the radio.

Several scientists, engineers and physicists can be credited with developments that eventually lead to the radio as we know it today. Many would say that Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi was the father of the device, and indeed he was the first person to demonstrate its success and use it commercially.

In the late 1890s, Nikola Tesla publicly demonstrated wireless communication devices and believed the technology could be used for power distribution in addition to communications. He was granted a number of patents, and quipped that when Marconi made the first trans-Atlantic radio transmission in 1901, he did it with 17 Tesla-held patents.

Thus began decades of legal battles over who held the patents for radio. Tesla’s patents were upheld by the courts in 1903, followed by a reversal in Marconi’s favor in 1904. Finally, in 1943 a Supreme Court ruling declared in favor of patents held by Tesla and others. The court noted that the decision had no bearing on Marconi’s claim of achieving the first radio transmission, but he could not claim the patents.

Regardless of the controversy on who truly invented the radio, upon Marconi’s death from a series of heart attacks in 1937, radio stations around the world observed two minutes of silence in his honor.

Today, of course, we follow prominent persons’ passings not just on the radio, but also on TV, the Internet and print media. Still, nothing beats the dependability of the radio for Best-Emergency-Radioportability and its ability to continue to operate after disasters such as tornadoes or wide-spread power outages.

Ensure you can receive radio broadcasts in any situation with The Best Emergency Radio. Along with a superior combination of sound quality, playback time and reception, The Best model’s superior features include an integrated LED flashlight, USB port for charging smartphones, mini-USB cable, and a built-in solar panel for supplemental power.

Even at 67, the Bikini Is Still Turning Heads

Louis-Réard-bikiniIn a man’s world of the 1940s, scientists engaged in a desperate race to create the biggest blast with the smallest amount of material. Its detonation would shake civilization to its core, challenging notions of morality and humanity. Hydrogen bombs and world mass destruction? No. The goal of these learned men with the precision and singularity of mind of nuclear scientists: create the world’s smallest beachwear, the bikini.

Women would no longer have to roll up their sleeves or their shorts on the beaches of Nice and San Tropez. In the mind of the 1940s engineer, man was doing womankind a serious favor: the elimination of tan lines. In trade, they would create a fine summer view.

French designer Jacques Heim first experimented with a two-piece design based on the French Polynesian “pareo”, a style of beach wrap. His design was the parent of the bikini, named Atome because it used the smallest particles of fabric to cover his models.

But it took the French automotive engineer turned fashion designer Louis Réard to create a media event. Monsieur Réard was no stranger to fashion, helping to run his mother‘s shoe shop Les Folies Bergères in Paris. Like any meticulous engineer of the day, he experimented with many suit designs before minimizing the elegant style to less than 30 square centimeters of spaghetti strap and fabric triangles cut high to show off the derrière and Venus’ best asset, the navel.

Monsieur Réard tested different names.  None satisfied his desire to create an explosive promotion. And then it detonated in his mind. He remembered the American bomb tests in 1946 at Bikini Atoll in the South Pacific. The Bikini name sounded exotic, feminine, and reminiscent of the French Polynesian islands.

The original bikini was made of cotton cloth with a splashy newspaper headline print, part of Réard’s clever promotion. He coupled this with the suit’s debut on this day in 1946 (It would take the more modest U.S. until the 1960s to allow this daring suit on our shores) at a beauty contest at Paris’s famous Piscine Molitar. Only the follies dancer Micheline Bernardini of the Casino de Paris had the daring and experience to smile proudly and model the suit for the event. All other models refused. Réard even had a skywriter advertise at his events, writing, “Plus petit que le maillot de bain le plus petit au monde!“ (Smaller than the world’s smallest bathing suit!)

Monsieur Réard stated that a two-piece bathing suit is not a bikini unless it can be pulled through a wedding ring. His design was so popular that his shop remained profitable in Paris until 1984.

Whether it’s a bikini, a t-back, a v-back, a c-back, a thong, or a nostalgic resurgence of the monokini, this summer sunglass-shielded eyes will gaze appreciatively while self-made models absorb the recommended daily allowance of ultraviolet energy. We can all thank science, thank the men in lab coats, and thank Monsieur Louis Réard for his hard work, his sense of promotion, and his French sensibility to create beauty out of weapons of mass destruction.

How The Ziegfeld Follies Changed Broadway Forever

The Little ShowThe Roaring 20s marked a time of social and political change in the U.S. As with most cultural transformations, the entertainment industry reflected these ground-breaking shifts in American society.

When the Ziegfeld Follies premiered its annual program at Manhattan’s New Amsterdam Theatre on this date in 1924, the production helped pave the way for a more modern era in Broadway entertainment. Creator Florenz Ziegfeld envisioned a show featuring light, yet sophisticated, entertainment for the summer season. A smashing success, the annual Ziegfeld Follies productions became the main event of the theater season and changed the Broadway musical forever.

Combining jazz, vaudeville-style acts and beautiful women wearing elaborate costumes, the Follies launched the careers of many big-name stars, including Barbara Stanwyck, Paulette Goddard, Gypsy Rose Lee, Josephine Baker and Marilyn Miller.

Another musical production of that era called The Little Show further satisfied theater-goers’ appetites for stylish entertainment. Debuting in 1929 at the Music Box Theater, the musical revue featured the songs of Arthur Schwartz and lyrics of Howard Dietz.

Dietz, who is often credited with creating MGM’s Leo the Lion mascot, may have had a penchant for unique gadgets. We have the distinction of inspiring a song in the show. A particularly witty ditty was titled Hammacher Schlemmer, I Love You, sung by none other than Fred Allen. This tribute enjoyed nationwide popularity.

Since its place in The Little Show in 1929, Hammacher Schlemmer has evolved from New York’s favorite, high-quality hardware store to purveyors worldwide of innovative, problem-solving products that meet the special needs of our customers…which really isn’t different at all from our hardware store beginnings back in Broadway’s younger days.

The Keys To Self Expression – The Manual Typewriter

Manual TypewriterA lot has changed in how we put words on paper since Christopher Latham Sholes patented the typewriter 145 years ago today. But in a world dominated by e-mail, multi-function printers, and Siri, manual typewriters remain surprisingly popular among collectors and users alike.

Dedicated manual typists maintain that their favorite typewriters, unlike computers, have unique personalities: different sounds, different feels. Stroking the keys of a typewriter takes a little bit more work, but is arguably more engaging than lightly tapping away at the PC.

Using a typewriter may not eliminate writer’s block, but it certainly can reduce distractions. There’s no e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter to tempt you away from your work.

Even Sholes might be surprised by the number of websites, not to mention a magazine and a virtual museum, dedicated to collecting vintage typewriters. Collectors can even call actor Tom Hanks one of their own. He has admitted to having over 200 manual typewriters in his collection.

Do you long to feel the rhythm of the keys as the words flow from your fingers? The Wordsmith’s Manual Typewriter recalls the thoughtful, well-written correspondence of yesteryear. Devoid of technological crutches such as spell-check and deletion, each of its 44 keys requires a firm, purposeful stroke for a steady click-clacking cadence that encourages the patient, considered sentiment of a wordsmith who thinks before writing.

Our typewriter even comes with a handy built-in carrying case. You’ll be the hit of your local coffee shop…and you won’t have to search for a plug.

Serving Our Country Again And Again.

As we salute the brave men and women who have helped preserve our freedom this Memorial Day, we pause to reflect on how our catalog aided the military through the major armed conflicts of the last century.

It began in 1904, just several years removed from the Spanish American War, when the U.S. Navy began using the Hammacher Schlemmer hardware catalog—with its exquisite line drawings of tools and hardware—as an equipment manual. (Remember, our company began as a hardware store in New York.) The Navy continued to rely on this reference through two World Wars, The Korean War, and most of the Vietnam War. In fact, a copy of our 1000-plus page hardbound hardware catalog resides in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection.

After WWI, we received a citation from the War Department (predecessor to today’s Department of Defense) praising our “…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.”

Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz Library

The Wizard of Oz has become a beloved classic in households worldwide. Everyone knows the story of Dorothy and her friends, and their magical adventure to find the Emerald City. But did you know the literary history of author L. Frank Baum’s signature work?

Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz LibraryThis is The Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz Library, a 14-volume collection reissued by historic publisher Charles Winthrope & Sons. Painstakingly recreating the intricate details of the first editions written in the first two decades of the 1900′s, this set includes original typeface, endpapers, and even typographical errors that were corrected for later printings. The original artwork by William Wallace Denslow and John R. Neill is intricately reproduced, complete with the brilliant full color and metallic inks that were hallmarks of the initial printings.

Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz LibraryA 15th book – Little Wizard Stories of Oz — a rare, rediscovered collection of short stories, has been added to the classic collection, all linen-case bound and ready to display with their 3-piece bookend set.  Dust jackets for each volume provide protection from airborne dirt while showing a panoramic scene of the Yellow Brick Road.

Reintroduce this classic adventure to your family today, in a way they’ve never experienced before. With The Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz Library from Hammacher Schlemmer.

The Exact Reproduction Wizard of Oz Library

The History of Hammacher Schlemmer

Friends, at Hammacher Schlemmer, we are proud of our long history.  For 164 years, we’ve been offering The Best, The Only, and The Unexpected to our customers.

We would like to invite you to a new feature on our web page that we’ve created to share this rich history with you: The History of Hammacher Schlemmer.  From our very beginning, as a hardware store in the Bowery district of New York City in 1848, to our first catalog in 1881, to today’s landmark store on New York’s E 57th St, we want you to be able to follow along on the journey we’ve taken to get to 2012.

Relive Hammacher’s milestones as well as those from U.S. History.  You’ll tour the evolution of our catalog, in addition to a century’s worth of  advertisements and published media reports. Plus, see a chronology of some of our most Unexpected products dating back to 1896!

Travel with us as we browse through highlights from our 164 years of history on these pages. We believe you’ll enjoy this trip down memory lane just as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together for you. We thank you for accompanying us on our journey through The History of Hammacher Schlemmer, and we look forward to offering you more of The Best, The Only, and The Unexpected, for centuries to come!

http://www.hammacher.com/History/