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Samsonite Corporation (1910-1973)



The Shwayder family of Denver, Colorado is best known for what became the world-famous luggage company Samsonite Corporation, which was founded and operated by the Shwayder family. In 1910, Jesse Shwayder opened a small luggage factory in Denver with his father, Isaac, and brothers, Mark, Maurice, Benjamin, and Solomon. In the year before opening the factory, Jesse worked as a salesman for the Seward Luggage New York City. The business became incorporated as the Shwayder Trunk Manufacturing Company in 1912, and it eventually changed its name to Samsonite Corporation. All the Shwayder brothers held executive positions in the company in the 1920s. Jesse was the company's president, Mark Shwayder directed sales, Maurice and Ben Shwayder oversaw manufacturing, and Solomon Shwayder served as the company’s lawyer. Samson, after Jesse's favorite biblical hero, 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 Shwayders sold the Samsonite Corporation in 1973.

Found in 18 Collections and/or Records:

Box 1, 1861-circa 1998

 File — Box B112.01.0001: Series B112.01; Series B112.02; Series B112.03; Series B112.04; Series B112.05; Series B112.06 [Barcode: U186020742680]
Identifier: B112.02.0001

Colorado Jewish Business News- General History 1935-1937

Dates: Coverage: 1861-circa 1998

Box 4, 1940

 File — Box B245.0004: Series B245.01 [Barcode: U186022263543]
Identifier: B245.01.0004

Architectural drawing of Samsonite Industrial Relations Center, framed, circa 1940s.

Dates: 1940

Cabin Built by Maurice B. Shwayder, between 1940-1948

Identifier: B063.08.0033.0005.00002
Abstract Cabin in Colorado mountains that was built by Maurice B. Shwayder at his fishing camp. The cabin stands in front a mountain side with trees. Cars and a truck are parked by the cabin. When Maurice Shwayder died in 1948, his widow Ruth Shwayder donated 242 acres in the Colorado mountains to Congregation Emanual for use as a camp for Jewish children and it became the Shwayder Camp of Congregation Emanual. Maurice Shwayder helped found the Samonsite Luggage Company with his four brothers. He was...
Dates: between 1940-1948

Colorado Jewish Businesses, 1861-1979

Identifier: B112.02.0001.0002

File contains information on the history of Jewish businesses by Ken Bass (copy) covering the years from 1861 to 1979, as well as two copies of the Intermountain Jewish News, one from 1935 and one from 1937. The report by Ken Bass from 1979 is titled "The Story of Jewish Achievement" and covers "The Samsonite Story," "Star Bread Company's Story," "The Frankel Stationery Story," "The Central Electric Story," "The Guggenheim Story," and general "Observations."

Dates: Coverage: 1861-1979

From Peddlers to Merchant Princes: Early Colorado Jewish Entrepreneurs, 2006

Identifier: B230.03.0023.00005
Abstract Jews played a central role in the development of Colorado through their contributions to economic life and development. Denver's first mercantile store was opened by Jewish citizen Fred Salomon in 1859. Before long, stores run by Jewish merchants and their family members in search of work and wealth flourished on the main streets of most Colorado towns including, Denver, Central City, Leadville, Trinidad, and Fairplay. This film focuses on the lives of a number of early merchants, including...
Dates: 2006

Jesse Shwayder Formal Portrait, circa 1929

Identifier: B063.08.0031.0004.00001

Formal portrait of Jesse Shwayder standing with his hands in his pockets. In the early 1900s, Jesse Shwayder opened a small luggage factor in Denver with his father, Isaac, and brothers Mark, Maurice, Benjamin, and Solomon. Together they turned it into one of the largest luggage producers in America, the Samsonite Corporation.

Dates: circa 1929

Jesse Shwayder Holding Incendiary Bomb, circa 1940

Identifier: B063.01.0001.00014

Jesse Shwayder holds an incendiary bomb manufactured by Shwayder Brothers during World War II. From left to right: Emmet Heisler, Jesse Shwayder, seated, Louis Degen. Two of the men in the photograph are unidentified. The Shwayders founded the Samsonite Corporation.

Dates: circa 1940

Jesse Shwayder with Golden Rule Marbles, between 1960-1970

Identifier: B063.01.0001.00015

Jesse Shwayder sits at a desk with a set of Golden Rule Marbles. These marbles were often given away to employees of the Samsonite Corporation, as well as visitors to remind them of the Golden Rule.

Dates: between 1960-1970

Portrait of Jesse Shwayder, between 1960-1970

Identifier: B063.01.0001.00016

Portrait of Jesse Shwayder in the 1960's. The photograph was possibly taken on his 80th birthday. Jesse Shwayder and his brothers founded the Samsonite Corporation.

Dates: between 1960-1970

Portrait of Jesse Shwayder, between 1960-1970

Identifier: B063.01.0001.00017

Portrait of Jesse Shwayder standing behind a table with a bible in his right hand. Jesse Shwayder and his brothers founded the Samsonite Corporation.

Dates: between 1960-1970

Additional filters:

Archival Object 17
Collection 1
Jewish businesspeople 11
Colorado 10
Jews 10
Denver (Colo.) 8
Industrialists 5