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Shwayder Family Papers and Samsonite Corporation Records

 Collection
Identifier: B245

Overview

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 D. Shwayder, became president of the Samsonite Corporation. The Shwayder family sold the company in 1973. 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 1973.

Dates

  • 1896-2002

Creator

Biographical / Historical

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. The Denver Shwayders can be traced to the Polish town of Suwalk and the Rittmaster and Rachofsky families. Abraham Rittmaster was the father of Joseph, Alexander and Dora. Alexander Rittmaster arrived in Central City, Colorado around 1860. He carried a large sack on his back with notions and dry goods up and down the mountains to supply the miners and their wives up at Blackhawk and Nevadaville. Moses Rachofsky married Dora Rittmaster and they raised sons Abraham, Levi, and Harry and daughter Miriam in Poland. Alexander Rittmaster prospered in Central City and in a few years opened a dry goods store there. He encouraged his nephew Abraham Rachofsky to come to Colorado and paid for his passage to New York. Abraham Rochofsky landed in New York in 1865 and earned enough money to relocate to Central City. Abraham took over the job of taking the sack of notions and supplies up and down the mountain sides. Alexander Rittmaster became wealthy and he and his family went back to New York. He sold the store and business to Abe Rachofsky who sent for his brothers Levi and Harry to help run the business in Central City. Miriam Rachofsky married Abraham Kobesky in Poland and settled Manchester, England around 1871 with children Rachel, Betsy, Mark, and David. Their sons Harris and Ben were born in Manchester and the last name was shortened to Kobey. Their daughter Rachel Kobey married Isaac Shwayder, who had also migrated to Manchester from Eastern Europe. Rachel Shwayder’s uncle, Abraham Rachofsky, encouraged and helped finance her husband’s emigration to Colorado. Isaac Shwayder first came to Central City, Colorado in 1879 and took over carrying the sack of supplies up and down the mountains. After two years, the rest of his family joined him in Black Hawk, Colorado. In 1888 they settled in Denver, where Isaac Shwayder owned a grocery store and later started a second-hand furniture business. The couple had 11 children and bought a six bedroom house at 637 Gallapago from St. Joseph Catholic Church. 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. 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 was the first trade name for the company’s luggage, and this was later changed to Samsonite. 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.

Extent

7.25 Linear Feet (4 containers)

1.35 Gigabytes

Scope and Contents

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.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in four series: 1. Samsonite Corporation, 1910-circa 1974. 2. Family Histories and Genealogical Material, 1900-2002. 3. Shwayder Art Building, 1977. 4. Isaac Shwayder Business Records, 1896-1898.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Allen D. Breck, May and July 1977; Hannah Shwayder Berry, June 1977, Samsonite Corporation, August 1977; Dorothy Kobey Berry, September 2005; and Gail A. Klapper, May 23, 2019.

Accruals

Further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

Related materials providing information about relatives of the Shwayder family may be found in the following collections: Dorothy ''Dokes'' Kobey Berry Papers (B100) and Ted & Jessie Shwayder Harsham Photograph Collection (B101).

General

Jeanne Abrams decided that this collection should be referred to as the Shwayder Family Papers and Samsonite Corporation Records rather than an intentional Collection, because most of the materials were donated by direct descendants of the Shwayder family or by Samsonite Corporation.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

Contact:
2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428