Many of the digital “objects” in the collection are a compilation of multiple physical documents found fastened together in old boxes. One such example is a collection of correspondence between A. Schwab and their one-time neighbor on Beale St., Piggly Wiggly. On April 9, 1924, A. Schwab replied to Piggly Wiggly with a decision regarding whether Piggly Wiggly’s lease would be renewed or not. Find the document that shows Schwab’s rather succinct answer.
One of the subjects reflected in the archival material is employment. The collection includes employment records from the time of the Great Depression. Box 1 from 1938 includes numerous applications for employment at A. Schwab. The applications often list past job experience and give us an idea of what salaries were like from that time. To see an example of some of the salaries received, find the application submitted by Dora Wilshire, whose past experiences includes positions in both Little Rock and Memphis.
A. Schwab’s reach went far beyond Beale Street. Customers desiring products from Schwab would mail an “order blank” to the store, listing the name of the product or “article” they wished to purchase. The form allowed you to specify quantity, size, color, and preferred method of delivery, among other details. Find an example of one of these order forms that includes the following requested items: 1 Ladies Umbrella, 2 Boys Belts, and 1 Straw Sailor hat, size 6 ½.
One element of Schwab’s business was the sale of music, specifically vinyl records. Through correspondence with both customers and record labels, the items in the collection give us a window into what people were buying and listening to at the time. For example, 100 years ago in 1923, Cameo Records and Schwab corresponded about the company’s new “Lincoln Records” line. Find the Lincoln Records catalog that includes both a dance and a vocal version of the song, “You Know You Belong to Somebody Else (So Why Don't You Leave Me Alone)”.
Shoes were a big inventory item for the store, as evidenced by the many invoices from shoe companies all over the country. One such company in Chicago specialized in infant and child prewelts, and sheep wool slippers for adults and children. This company sent an invoice of $7.71 for 9 pairs of sample footwear, in 1938.
For generations, A. Schwab had its own line of soaps, called Schwab's Nature Creams. In order to patent Schwab’s Nature Creams, the store was required to submit a collection of documents to the Commissioner of Patents (Washington, D.C. Department of the Interior). This correspondence details the written exchanges in the summer of 1924 that enabled Schwab to register and sell their soap line.
In 1923 and 1924, as A. Schwab was busy building their new record department, they sought input and propositions from numerous record companies. To one ‘flawless’ record company in Brooklyn, a one-sentence request was all that Schwab asked.
Long before email, mail was used for every type of correspondence. In a September 1939 letter from a publishing company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the publisher sent an apology letter to A. Schwab and explained the delay in fulfilling an order for 12 copies of a book - an order that “echoes” an earlier June 1939 order for the same title.
Before modern furnaces and HVAC technologies, coal was burned to supply heat and energy to large homes and businesses. A. Schwab was a major seller of coal to Memphis and the Mid-South, as shown by this 1938 series of delivery receipts from the Electric Coal Co., Inc.
Abraham Schwab maintained ownership of the store in his name until his death on May 25, 1923. At the time of his passing, ownership transferred into the name of his wife, Sarah. To avoid any confusion or concern, the store sent correspondence to business partners ensuring that the company would continue in the name A. SCHWAB. Find the letter from June 1923 that explicitly clarifies "management will remain exactly the same as it has been in the past, that is under the personal supervision of Sam Schwab, Elias Schwab and Leo Schwab, sons of the deceased.”
Over the years, A. Schwab adopted a saying, “if you can’t find it at Schwab’s, you’re better off without it.” As the term “general store” would suggest, you can find all manner of products. However, one particular item loomed large above the rest - literally. This article of clothing, originally designed for farmwork and fishing, gained popularity during the first half of the twentieth century, and A. Schwab was known as the retailer for the world’s largest pair! In fact, you can still find this item in the store today!
To complete your scavenger hunt, visit the A. Schwab General Store at 163 Beale St. and snap a selfie with this oversized item. While you’re there, spend some time exploring the store. We think you’ll have a great time overall!
Share your photo with us to claim your prize. There are two ways to complete the scavenger hunt:
- Share your photo on Instagram as a post or a story and tag us! Be sure to include the tags @digmemphishistory, @storyboardmemphis, and @aschwabofficial to let us know you've found the item and completed the hunt.
- Don't have Instagram? No problem! If you don't have an Instagram account, or if your account is private, you can still share your photo with us by using the upload option on this web page.
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