One hundred and fifty years ago, a young German immigrant, Frederick August Otto Schwarz, had a vision to establish a magical toy emporium that featured extraordinary, one-of-a-kind toys from all over the world, while creating a theatrical experience to showcase merchandise in a way that would bring it to life.
In 1856, Frederick, the youngest of three Schwarz brothers, emigrated to the U.S. from Germany, joining his brothers in Baltimore, Maryland. Six years later, the brothers opened ''Toy Bazaar,'' their first toy retailing business. Following the success of ''Toy Bazaar,'' Frederick moved to New York City in 1870 where he opened ''Schwarz Brothers – Importers,'' while his brothers operated separate toy stores in Baltimore and Boston. Driven by a love of toys and his vision to provide children with the most amazing products, Frederick stocked his store with exquisitely crafted playthings from Europe. Under his leadership, the business grew rapidly and became the destination for unique, high-quality toys.
Frederick opened a second New York City location in 1876 to meet increased demand and also issued his inaugural catalog for loyal clientele, creating one of the first mail order businesses in the country. Over the next 30 years, the store moved to larger, more prominent locations throughout New York City several times. By 1900, Frederick had renamed the store ''FAO Schwarz,'' and many considered him to be the largest toy dealer in the world.
After captivating children and adults alike for 50 years, Frederick August Otto Schwarz passed away in 1911, but his legacy lives on in his beloved brand and in the indelible mark he made on the toy industry.
Today, FAO Schwarz is not only the oldest toy store in the United States, but one of the oldest retail establishments of any kind. It has evolved from a toy store to a must-see tourist destination, and continues to be well-known for high-quality merchandise and timeless treasures. Throughout its 150 years, FAO Schwarz has carried on the tradition of serving as a stage to introduce new and exciting products to consumers.
A pop culture icon for generations, Frederick’s namesake store draws thousands of visitors each year who come to witness the magic and wonder of FAO Schwarz. Through the ages, it has been the subject of classic depictions of kids and kids-at-heart, including a 1930’s cartoon in The New Yorker and starring roles in countless major motion pictures – perhaps none more renowned than ''BIG'' in 1988, in which actors Tom Hanks and Robert Loggia dance on the store’s giant foot piano. Most recently, in 2011, the store was prominently featured in the first live action, 3D film dedicated to The Smurfs.
In 2009, FAO Schwarz was acquired by Toys''R''Us, Inc. the world’s leading dedicated toy and baby products retailer. Together, Toys''R''Us and FAO Schwarz have been delighting kids for over 200 years and the combination of these two marquee brands represents an unparalleled expertise in toy retailing.
Since 1862, FAO Schwarz has been synonymous with quality and innovation, offering an unparalleled selection of extraordinary toys that have enchanted generations of children. In 2012, FAO Schwarz is celebrating its 150th anniversary as one of the most cherished brands in the world with in-store events, commemorative product offerings and an enhanced website that together will showcase the storied history of this beloved brand.
FAO Schwarz Timeline
Frederick August Otto Schwarz emigrates to the U.S. from Germany, joining his two older brothers
Schwarz brothers open their first toy retailing business ''Toy Bazaar''
Frederick opens ''Schwarz Brothers – Importers'' at 765 Broadway in New York City
Frederick opened a second NYC location at 1159 Broadway.
Issued first mail order catalog for loyal clientele
Frederick consolidated the two NYC stores and moved to a large location at 42 East 14th Street, in the heart of Union Square
The store was renamed ''FAO Schwarz''
FAO Schwarz moves to an even larger location on 23rd Street
Steiff debuts the ''Teddy Bear''
FAO Schwarz moves to 303 Fifth Avenue
Frederick August Otto Schwarz passes away on May 17, 1911
FAO Schwarz moves to 745 Fifth Avenue, a location it would occupy for 55 years
Colorforms introduced at FAO Schwarz
FAO Schwarz celebrates 100th anniversary
FAO Schwarz is the first retailer to sell the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the U.S.
FAO Schwarz moves to 767 Fifth Avenue
The movie ''BIG,'' starring Tom Hanks, premieres, featuring FAO Schwarz’s giant ''foot'' piano
FAO Schwarz launches its website, www.fao.com
FAO Schweetz introduced
FAO Schwarz hosts launch of Furby
FAO Baby introduced
Toys''R''Us, Inc. acquires FAO Schwarz
FAO Schwarz celebrates 150th anniversary
FAO Schwarz moves from 767 Fifth Avenue to look for new flagship location
On February 11, 2012, Frederick August Otto Schwarz, founder and namesake of the famed toy retailer, was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame by the Toy Industry Association (TIA). The Toy Industry Hall of Fame was established in 1984 and has inducted 57 toy industry influencers, to date. Since its founding in 1862, FAO Schwarz has been guided by the principles imparted by Mr. Schwarz during his nearly 50-year career. His vision to establish a magical toy emporium has made his namesake store beloved in the toy industry, creating memories for generations of kids worldwide. Beyond offering unique, high-quality playthings, he changed the way people shopped for, and thought about toys.
''I have made toys my life study. It is a splendid issue, and aside from the commercial question, there is more solid satisfaction in dealing with childhood playthings, and in knowing the joy one is sending out into the hearts of the little ones, than in selling any other commodity in the world.''