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Shwayder Family Papers and Samsonite Corporation Records


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Abstract: The Shwayder family of Denver, Colorado, is best known for the luggage company Samsonite Corporation, which the family founded and operated. Isaac and Rachel Shwayder had migrated from Manchester, England to Colorado in 1881 and eventually settled in Denver. In 1910 their son, Jesse Shwayder, opened a small luggage factory in Denver with his father along with his brothers Mark, Maurice, Benjamin, and Solomon Shwayder. The company started as Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company, was later changed to Shwayder Brothers, Inc. and finally became Samsonite Corporation. In 1961 Jesse Shwayder’s son, King Shwayder, became president of the Samsonite Corporation, and the company continues to operate in the 21st century. The collection consists of materials containing Shwayder family history dating back to the late 19th century as well as information about the founding and development of the Samsonite Corporation through the 1970s.



Creator: Samsonite Corporation

Biographical/Organizational History: The Shwayder family of Denver, Colorado is best known for the luggage company Samsonite Corporation, which was founded and operated by the family over the course of the 20th century. The Denver Shwayders can be traced to Abraham Kobesky and Miriam Rachofsky of Poland, who married and later migrated to Manchester, England (where the name ''Kobesky'' was shortened to ''Kobey''). Their daughter Rachel Kobey married Isaac Shwayder, who had also migrated to Manchester from Eastern Europe. Rachel and Isaac Shwayder had 11 children: Solomon, Dora, Jesse, Raschelle, Mark, Gertrude, Florence, Maurice, Hannah, Benjamin, and Liebe. Isaac Shwayder first came to Central City, Colorado, in 1879 to find work, and after two years the rest of his family joined him. The Shwayders later moved to Nevadaville (Black Hawk), Colorado, and in 1888 they settled in Denver, where Isaac Shwayder owned a grocery store and later started a second-hand furniture business. The Shwayder children attended Franklin School and West High School in Denver, and Solomon Shwayder, the oldest brother, attended the University of Denver. In 1910 Jesse Shwayder opened a small luggage factory in Denver with his father, Isaac, and brothers, Mark, Maurice, Benjamin, and Solomon. The business became incorporated as the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company in 1912, and it eventually changed its name to Samsonite Corporation. Isaac Shwayder died of a stroke in 1916. Most of the Shwayder siblings held executive positions in the family business. In 1961 Jesse Shwayder’s son, King Shwayder, became president of the Samsonite Corporation.

Samsonite Corporation, the world-famous maker of luggage, started in Denver, Colorado, in 1910, when Jesse Shwayder opened a small luggage factory in Denver with his father, Isaac Shwayder, and brothers, Mark, Maurice, Benjamin, and Solomon Shwayder. The operation became incorporated as the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company in 1912 and counted many members of the Shwayder family among its employees. All of the Shwayder brothers held executive positions in the company in the 1920s: Jesse was the company's president, Mark Shwayder was in charge of sales, Maurice and Ben Shwayder were in charge of manufacturing, and Solomon Shwayder served as the company’s lawyer. Samson was the first trade name for the company’s luggage, and this was later changed to Samsonite. Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company started to diversify its product offerings in the 1930s by manufacturing folding furniture, and the company changed its name to Shwayder Brothers, Inc. in 1931. As sales increased throughout the 20th century, the company moved into gradually larger facilities in Denver, and at various stages in the business’ history, it opened additional plants in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arizona, Mexico, and Japan. In 1961 Jesse Shwayder’s son, King D. Shwayder, became president of the company, and in 1965 the Shwayder Brothers, Inc., changed its name to Samsonite Corporation. The corporation continues to operate in the 21st century.



Arrangement and Organization: The collection is arranged in four series:
1. Samsonite Corporation, 1910-circa 1974.
The series consists of materials associated with Samsonite Corporation and its history. Materials include two copies of the brochure, ''The Samsonite Story,'' a company history published by Samsonite Corporation, ''The Samsonite Sentinel,'' a one-page newspaper composite about the founding of the company, the book ''Jesse Shwayder and the Golden Rule'' created by Shwayder Bros, Inc., and Jessie Shwayder's Golden Rule Marble: a green glass marble with bronze-colored narrow strip around the marble, gap at ends, and stamped lettering reading ''Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.''

2. Family Histories and Genealogical Material, 1960-2002.
The series includes 20th-century materials detailing Shwayder family history. including two copies of the book ''The Tale of a Little Trunk and Other Stories'' by Hannah Shwayder Berry (1977 and 2002), a transcript of an oral history by Hannah Shwayder Berry (1981), a newspaper clipping of Hannah Shwayder Berry's story The 'pied piper' of West Colfax (1967), and a booklet describing the genealogy of the Shwayder family that includes family members born as early as 1876 and as late as 1943.

3. Shwayder Art Building, 1977.
The series contains University of Denver newspaper clippings describing the groundbreaking of the Shwayder Art Building, King Shwayder's and his family's involvement in the building's construction, and the Shwayder family's support of the university as a whole.

4. Isaac Shwayder Business Records, 1896-1898.
The series consists of two statements of assets and liabilities (1896 and 1898) that do not mention a specific company. The series represents the financial state of Issac Shwayder's business ventures near the end of the 19th century.



Separated Materials: None

Inclusive Dates: 1896-2002

Scope and Content: The collection consists of materials containing Shwayder Family history dating back to the late 19th century as well as information about the founding and development of the Samsonite Corporation through the 1970s. Materials include books, a notebook of genealogical information about the Shwayder family, brochures and other materials from the Samsonite Corporation, newspaper clippings about the family and the Shwayder Art Building erected at the University of Denver, publications by Hannah Shwayder Berry, and business records (19th century) of Isaac Shwayder.

Collection Number: B245

Size: 3.5 - linear feet, 1 flat box, 25x21x2 inches, and 1 video box, 16.5x8x5 inches

For more information about this collection and related collections, contact:
Jeanne Abrams
Director of Beck Archives
303-871-3016
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