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Shwayder Family Papers and Samsonite Corporation Records

 Collection
Identifier: B245

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.

Dates

  • 1896-2002

Creator

Extent

3.5 Linear Feet (1 flat box, 25x21x2 inches, and 1 video box, 16.5x8x5 inches)

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.

Biographical / Historical

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

The collection is arranged in four series:; 1. Samsonite Corporation, 1910-circa 1974.; 2. Family Histories and Genealogical Material, 1960-2002.; 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; and Dorothy Kobey Berry, September 2005.

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.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

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