The Witte Hardware Company
In October, 1849 a retail and wholesale hardware business under the name of Schmieding and Wulfing was established by F.E. Schmieding and Charles Wulfing. Schmieding was Wulfing’s uncle. In 1856 Wulfing sold his interest in the hardware business to Schmieding. Charles Wulfing returned to St. Louis in 1857 and entered the wholesale grocery business with his two brothers-in-law, Henry Gildehaus and Charles B. Dieckriede. The original grocery business had been established by Charles Wulfing’s father, Gustavus Wulfing in 1842 and later succeeded by the firm of Wulfing and Gildehaus, then Gildehaus and Witte where it was mainly a retail establishment.
Otto H. Witte came to St. Louis in 1862 and entered the hardware firm of F.E. Schmieding and Co. in St. Louis, Missouri. Otto and his brother F.A. Witte later bought out that firm in 1873. The firm became F.A. Witte and Co. in 1874 and finally Witte Hardware Company in 1880. Otto H. Witte, president of the company was born in Wehdem, Germany, June 18, 1848. He graduated from the Gymnasium (High School for those going onto College) at Minden, Germany. Witte Hardware Company claims the date established as 1848.
In 1902, President and Secretary Otto H. Witte moved the company to 707 N 2nd Street where it continued doing business for the following 73 years. The company conducted an exclusive wholesale hardware business and was equipped with all the latest features, including electric elevators and a floor devoted to showroom samples.
The growth of the Witte Hardware Company was evidenced not alone by its extensions of buildings, but by its frequent increases in capital stock. Starting with a capital of $110,000, it increased until eventually reaching capital of $400,000. The company originally had two traveling salesman, and grew that number to fifty covering all of the Middle States, from Minnesota to Texas to the Pacific Coast.
The “Witte IXL Square” trade-mark was placed on only high quality hardware and was an indicator to retailers and consumers alike, a tool which bears this trade-mark is backed with a guarantee of satisfaction. You can still see remains of the large trademark painted on the south side of the building.
The Witte Building is a six-story building of brick construction laid with cement and is said to be the strongest building of its kind in St. Louis. Being built expressly for the business of the Witte Company, it was equipped with all the latest improvements to facilitate the handling of hardware in the proper manner, thus assuring to their customers quick shipments.
The Witte Colt Ledgers
The Witte Colt Ledgers were discovered about 20 years ago and when discovered, it was unknown to which firm they belonged as there were no labels on the outside of the three volumes to indicate original ownership. It was only through a request of a serial number lookup at Colt did we learn the firm to which they once belonged was Witte Hardware.