History of Schwaab, Inc.
The Schwaab story begins with Andrew Schwaab, founder of Schwaab, Inc., born in New York in 1853. He moved to Milwaukee as a young boy and went to work as a storekeeper for his uncle's furniture store on Milwaukee's south side. Andrew Schwaab was one of five children of Jacon and Gertrude Schwaab. The five are (left to right from top) Gertrude, Betha, Theodore, Andrew and George.In 1946, general supervision of the company passed to the two eldest Schwaab grandchildren, George A. Mayer and John A. S. Lane, who, together with their mothers, served as the company's board of directors. In 1955, R. Daniel Nettesheim joined Schwaab and shortly thereafter was appointed general manager of the company.
In 1881, Andrew founded the Northwestern Stamp Company in Milwaukee and added two branches — one in St. Paul where his brother George was manager and one in Chicago with brother Theodore managing. Finding it difficult to operate in three locations, the two branches were sold and operations consolidated in Milwaukee.
On May 8, 1888, the company incorporated and changed its name to Schwaab Stamp and Seal Company. Andrew successfully continued and expanded the business until he died on April 19, 1911. From 1911 to 1946, interest remained in the Schwaab family. Berthold Fueger was General Manager for those 35 years which encompassed the difficult years of the Great Depression and two world wars. He died in 1946.
In 1960 Schwaab moved its plant to its current location on West Burleigh Street in Wauwatosa. A new addition was constructed in 1970.
Upon the deaths of Andrew's daughters, ownership of the company passed to their sons, John A. S. Lane, William N. Lane, George A. Mayer and Richard S. Mayer. By 1970, these four were taking an active hand in supervising the business as Schwaab's Board of Directors.
Over the years, Schwaab purchased several smaller companies in the marking device field. There came to be a total of four corporations under the Schwaab roof: the Schwaab Stamp and Seal Company, the Schwaab Engraving Company, the Schwaab Label Company, and the Schwaab Rubber Art Company. On January 1, 1973, the four corporations were combined into one — the Schwaab Stamp and Seal Company. A few months later, the company's name was changed to Schwaab, Inc.
Since 1997, Schwaab has made a series of strategic acquisitions including Mastermark (Seattle), Mohawk Stamp (Chicago), AWT (Los Angeles), GB Products (San Francisco), FRS Spectra (Fresno) and Classic Impressions (Atlanta and Little Rock).
Today, over 130 years later, Schwaab, Inc. ownership continues to remain solely among the descendants of Andrew Schwaab and their families. Schwaab’s current Board of Directors includes Richard Schwaab Mayer (grandson of Andrew Schwaab), George L. Mayer (great grandson of Andrew Schwaab) and Sarah Noble Lane Starrett (great granddaughter of Andrew Schwaab).
The pictures below show some of the first locations of the company. On the left, Andrew Schwaab is pictured in front of the third location of his business, a location he took over in the 1890s. On the right was the home of Schwaab Stamp and Seal Co. for 54 years after a tragic fire occured at the previous site in 1903. It stood on the southwest corner of North Water and East Michigan Streets.
While rubber stamps were among the first products produced by Andrew Schwaab’s company, the variety of products crafted over the years is astounding. A major portion of Schwaab’s early business was in the metal engraving area where highly skilled engravers fashioned unique badges of all kinds. One early catalogue of souvenir badges advertised all sorts of novelties such as watch fobs, watch charms, pocket pieces, ash trays, key rings, dies, stamps, stencils, police and fire department badges, metal signs, and more!
Coins for the 1904 World Fair in St. Louis were made at Schwaab as were countless other tokens commemorating any imaginable event, from the Third Annual Cowboys Convention in Haskell, Texas, in 1898, to the Presidential inauguration of S. Grover Cleveland in 1893, to the commemoration of the first sheet of steel rolled in Waukesha, Wisconsin.
Many of the major products made in the 1880s that are still sold today include stamp racks and holders, inks, ink pads, dating and numbering stamps, notary and corporate seals, dies, tags, and badges. Schwaab stopped regular production of badges, tokens and medals in the 1950s Some of these pieces live on in museums, vaults and private collections as a tribute to their fine craftsmanship, dedication and skill. During World War II, Schwaab made stencils for the U.S. Army and Navy. Later it made signature stamps for athletes, including boxer Muhammad Ali, and entertainers such as Liberace, born in West Allis.
In 1958 Schwaab Stamp and Seal entered into negotiations with S.C. Johnson and Son, Inc., of Racine, a mood which radically changed the course of the company’s sales. Johnson Wax had developed and patented a new product, called Porelon. The product could be used to manufacture stamps which required no ink pad. Porelon was a combination of ink and plastic that would not dry out, produced about 25,000 imprints, and came in different colors. That is where Schwaab earned a national presence. Today we have several pre-inked and self-inking stamps.
The products of Schwaab, Inc., have been largely dictated by an ever-changing marking device industry and the changing trends of the times. Schwaab’s strength has been its flexibility and commitment to quality merchandise coupled with prompt, personal service. Ubiquitous stamping devices have become the company’s main business. There are about 2,500 stamp makers in the United States and Schwaab is one of the biggest, having five manufacturing plants in total and national account sales that sell to numerous Fortune 500 companies throughout the nation. Besides rubber stamps, the company makes embossers, name badges, business cards and other products. Even with Internet-based sales, it still has salespeople who make door-to-door calls on clients such as banks and law offices. Today, Schwaab is considered a specialist in custom marking and identity products. Virtually every product produced is unique because it is made-to-order. Schwaab, Inc., has expanded its product line to include exclusive products, like ExcelMark flash and self-inking stamps, which provide savings and quality unsurpassed in the industry. Schwaab also continues to pursue eco-friendly products and processes, and has adopted new technologies that allow for digital and laser printing of all sorts of products and materials.