Condensing a history of a family business that has been around since 1850 is not quite as easy as you might think! That has been my task over the past few months. Most ideas have been rejected by our very talented web designer as too long—too boring—too detailed. After a lot of thought, I reasoned that A. E. Schmidt is not about buildings we have occupied, or when people lived and died. It should be about people! Who were the people who built a pool manufacturing company strong enough to last 160 plus years from nothing? What were they like and what did they do to make their mark?
Ernst Schmidt (Founder)
Ernst immigrated from Celle Germany around 1848. St. Louis was an attractive place to settle at the time. It was a large city with a lot of opportunities! Ernst was a master craftsman and more importantly an ivory turner of high skill. Seeing the demand he quickly set up shop.
His shingle read:
Ernst Schmidt Ivory Turner and Dealer in Ivory Billiard Balls, Ten Pin Balls and Smoking Pipes
By all accounts his business was successful, he was a craftsman and thought like one. While he could speak English, most of his instructions were written on a chalkboard in German. He had very old world idea’s and proved it when he brought his son Oscar into the business at age five to learn the trade (a tradition that still continues today). It was very much a working man’s type of existence, much like a plumber, electrician or other trade. Very little thought was given to the future, and he was content to get a project, complete it and move on to the next part to make. That was all about to change!
Read on, most companies are doomed when the founder turns over the keys to the second generation—but Oscar would prove to be an exception to the rule!
Oscar Schmidt (Second Generation)
Oscar took the ivory turning business and expanded it to include woodworking. He apprenticed and learned how to build pool tables. Thanks to his talent the company began to expand into the manufacture and repair of pool tables. Oscar realized that bars were the perfect place for his type of sturdy pool tables and he also realized that those tables would need frequent repairs. The company began to grow under his direction and he began training his sons, Edwin and Ernest to put their own stamp on the business.
Edwin and Ernest Schmidt (Third Generation)
The third generation of Schmidt men were very diverse in their talents. Ed was a marketing and sales genius. Thanks to his creation of a mail-order catalog, the company began to grow once again. Ernie had his own special talents. The factory was where Ernie was most at home and he began designing new tables to add to the line. Both men realized the importance of owning their own building and created a separate family-owned real estate business. Thanks to the thriftiness instilled by their father and grandfather, the two brothers were able to survive the Great Depression.
Harold and Arthur Schmidt (Fourth Generation)
The fourth generation of the family relied on two of Ed’s sons to move the business forward. Harold and Arthur continued the family tradition of working weekends and summers for the business as they were growing up. Fortunately, these two brothers also had different areas that they were interested in. Harold was an excellent salesman and enjoyed being on the road developing the business. Art was more office-oriented although he was the person most responsible for bringing bumper pool to the United States. Art was also instrumental in supporting two major trade groups, The Billiard Congress of America and the Billiard and Bowling Institute of America. Eventually, Harold would move to Little Rock, Arkansas and start his own billiard retail business and Art would take the helm of A. E. Schmidt Company.
Kurt & Karen Schmidt (Fifth Generation)
The fifth generation was also brought up to love work. While all of Art’s children worked for the company at one time or another, it was Kurt who had the greatest passion for business. His gift is in the designing of tables and he expanded the line of tables the company manufactured and began establishing a nationwide dealer network. At this time he continues to lead the company. Harold’s children continue working at their Little Rock store and at a retail store in Columbia, Missouri.
Mike Schmidt, Stephanie Schmidt, & Rachel Schmidt (Sixth Generation)
The Sixth Generation is coming into their own within the company. All three of Kurt & Karens children now work full time at the company.
There are Schmidts Everywhere
Bob Schmidt, Harold’s son; and James Spangler, Art’s grandson, work in Little Rock and plan to keep Harold’s legacy alive and well. Since 1924, Jones Bros pool table has been an irreplaceable part of the billiards industry and continues to prosper under Bob and James care. Check out Jones Bros website here: www.jonesbrospooltables.com/
Fred Schmidt, Harold’s son, owner of Schmidt Billiards has a retail store in Columbia, MO and continues to provide the billiard’s expertise that has been passed down throughout the generations. Check out Schmidt Billiard’s website: www.schmidtbilliards.com
Ernst Schmidt – Founder
Oscar Schmidt – 2nd Generation
Ed Schmidt – 3rd Generation
Ernst Schmidt – 3rd Generation
Harold Schmidt – 4th Generation
Arthur Schmidt – 4th Generation