By Janet Dodrill
The Schmitz-Horning Co., a chromo-lithographic wallcovering firm, was in business 55 plus years, from 1905 to 1960. But the company may have started in 1903 as a litho poster production company and then developed their own line of wall murals, friezes, and scenic wall papers around 1905, branded San-Kro-Mura. They offered an attractive yet inexpensive product line, using oil-based non-fading color oil-based inks printed on high quality paper that was sanitary or fully-washable. Later as new scenics and panoramics designed, the brand Kro-mura was created.
They rented space at the Whitney Power Building or Power Block at E. 10th and Power Ave., between St. Clair and Rockwell, and later moved to their own building at 777 E. 82nd Street in Cleveland, near Gordon Park. In 1906 a patent was registered for the ‘Frieze’ by co-owners Hugo Max Schmitz and William Horning, along with their head salesperson, Warren R. Cox. The Frieze was a repeating continuous scene which surrounded the room at the top of the wall. In the early years it would take two years to complete the plates for a single scenic. The 43″ x 83″ hand-fed lithographic presses used were the largest in the world. The company custom built three, Schmitz-Horning had two, the other being in London, England. Zinc plates had to be shipped from Germany.
The company produced some of the largest wall maps in the industry.
Hugo Max Schmitz (1867-1938) (my great grandfather), co-owner, was an artist who came to Cleveland, in his 30s, in the late 1800s, and was from a large German family in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He married Pauline (Queen) M. Reynolds in 1902, who was a society lady. They lived in East Cleveland and later moved to University Heights, Ohio.
He was a member of Cleveland’s Art Club, with mostly German members, that met in City Hall. He traveled to Paris and Morocco, and perhaps to Morocco with other artists. In one of these paintings, he painted a cleaning girl from a New York City office building and won an award for it (either second place or honorable mention) at an exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our family has a couple of his original watercolors and oils, including a portrait he did of my great grandmother. They honeymooned in Venice, and a watercolor he did there became a wallpaper pattern called Venice. He was rated as one of the best litho-crayon artists in the industry.
William Horning, co-owner, sold his interest in the company to Hugo around 1920, but worked as a lithographer in Cleveland.
Warren R. Schmitz (1905-1970) (my grandfather), son of Hugo M. Schmitz, started working at the company after college around 1929 in sales and promotion, and designed sales brochures, books and displays and traveled to various dealers in the U.S. He ran the company after his father’s death in 1938 until it closed around 1960.
After time, the company produced small scale salesman samples of the wallpapers for sales calls. Prior to that they were taking long rolls on calls. The same high quality inks and papers were used on the smaller scale versions. Warren Schmitz modernized the product line, obtaining sketches from prominent artists. New sales promotion aids were printed in-house using a small Harris offset press. In the 1950s he appeared on the TV show ‘What’s My Line?’. The company was also featured on a radio segment called ‘On Location’ with young announcer Virgil Dominic, sponsored by The Illuminating Company.
Henry G. Keller (1869-1949) was a Cleveland School Artist and taught there. He designed the pattern, Chateau de Province, while in his prime. It was a French rural scenic, an included a chateau, native trees, and a fox hunt of equestrians with horses. It was 10 sections, each near 33″ x 72″.
Carl Fuchs designed Old South, believed in the 1940s, of plantation life in early America, including a steamboat and fox hunt. There were twelve sections, each 40″ x 80″ in repeat pattern.
Lou Ramacciato, began working at Schmitz-Horning after graduating from Cleveland Institute of Art in 1946, and later went on to work 28 years at the Cleveland Museum of Art restoring art and preparing gallery exhibits.
Glenn M. Shaw and Elsa Shaw had a studio in Lakewood and both worked commercially and taught. Elsa did some design work for them, though Glenn designed a number of patterns for the company, including 5 illustrated maps which were said to be accurate, the Old Canal set which depicts the Ohio and Erie Canal between Cleveland and Bath, Ohio, and Old Dominion which is a set of 7 panels. Each panel is 30” x 80” plus, could be trimmed at the desired height. He is known for painting murals in three post offices, in Canton, Warren, and Perrysburg, Ohio.
Paul A. Meunier was a litho artist, from Hunting Valley, who worked at the company for 11 years. Two other family members worked there, Ovid Meunier for 25 years and Laurence Meunier for 7-10 years. After leaving Schmitz-Horning, Paul became partner then owner at R.E. May, a plate-making company, that is still in existence today on E. 24th Street in Cleveland. I found an old brochure page on their website which shows Paul, and in another photo on the same page is a small-scale Schmitz-Horning western mural, called Wells Fargo. The Western Reserve Historical Society has a full size set of the pattern in their collection.
I found a still life watercolor by Paul Meunier on ETSY in 2011, and his name plate appeared on the back of the framing. He painted it in 1937, during the span of time when he worked at Schmitz-Horning. He wrote a book on the history of Gates Mills, Ohio, and there is an award in his name at the Gates Mills Art Show. I read that a painting of his was in the chamber room of their city hall. He enjoyed drawing, printmaking, and painting wildlife and horses.
Ed Sinz worked at the company for 35-40 years. We have Christmas cards, to my grandfather from the sculptor Walter Sinz around the 1940s, possibly Ed’s son or relation.
Here is a comprehensive list of known artists or litho artists that worked at the Schmitz-Horning Co., either on staff or assignment-based, as designer and/or litho artist.
Schmitz-Horning Co. Artists:
Anne Nolan (catalog Illustrator)
August Biehle (?)
D.E. Sutton (catalog Illustrator)
Elsa V. Shaw
Glenn M. Shaw
Henry G. Keller
Hugo M. Schmitz (Schmitz-Horning Co. co-founder)
Paul A. Meunier
William Horning (Schmitz-Horning Co. co-founder)
Posters and displays were printed for
Fred Dugar Co.
Fuller-Smith & Ross
H. Stief Company/Harvey G. Steif, Inc.
Lang, Fisher & Stashower
When I began to uncover material from the company in our family home, it sparked my interest. Starting with my first blog post about Schmitz-Horning in 2011, I began writing a series of blog posts, and started to receive many inquiries about the company and patterns. I hope to continue my research and produce a publication on it one day.
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