Hammacher Schlemmer

hammacher schlemmer

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Hammacher Schlemmer is a retailer and mail order dealer founded in 1848. They claim to be the oldest continuously published catalog in the United States, with annual catalog circulation exceeding 30 million.

Hammacher Schlemmer began as a hardware store specializing in hard-to-find tools in the Bowery district of New York City in 1848. Owned by sole proprietor William Tollner, it became one of the first national hardware stores.

In 1878, Hammacher & Co. was among the first companies to install a telephone in their store, as well as one of the original subscribers to the Bell Telephone Company Directory. Hammacher Schlemmer was also one of the first stores in the country to have electric lighting in the showroom. The store also offered the first home delivery service via automobile, at a time when there were only 600 ‘horseless carriages’ on the streets of New York City.

In 1912, Hammacher Schlemmer printed its largest catalog to date, spanning 1,112 pages. One hardbound edition is now housed in the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. By 1926, Hammacher Schlemmer moved once again, into its present location at 147 East 57th Street. This new location put the store in proximity to Manhattan’s most elegant residential neighborhoods. These new patrons wanted luxury items, so hardware was relegated to the basement and esoteric gadgetry and gizmos were added to the shelves.

The 1930s began Hammacher Schlemmer’s long history of showcasing new inventions in the pages of their catalog. Beginning with the first pop-up toaster and portable radio in 1930, Hammacher Schlemmer went on to garner a reputation for introducing products that were the first of their kind — oddities that went on to be regarded as household necessities.

In 1948, Hammacher Schlemmer celebrated its 100-year anniversary with the introduction of the first automatic steam iron and the amazing electric broom. After more than 100 years as a family-held business, Hammacher Schlemmer was sold in 1953 to a group of investors and eventually turned over to John Gerald.

In the 1960s, Hammacher Schlemmer offered products that had never been available for home purchase, including a regulation-sized bowling alley and restored London taxi cabs. However, the 1970s brought a return to the specialized gadgetry Hammacher is known for today.

In 1983, the Hammacher Schlemmer Institute was created as an independent but affiliated branch of the company, whose purpose is to comparatively test top-of-the-line products.

Later, in 1988, Hammacher Schlemmer became one of the first retailers to go on the Internet with CompuServe, the first major commercial online service in the United States. In 1995, America Online built Hammacher Schlemmer a store on the Internet. By 1998 Hammacher Schlemmer launched their own website, Hammacher.com.

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