By Janet Dodrill
Schmitz-Horning Co., and mural and wall covering manufacturing and printing company, was founded around 1905 (or possibly earlier) in Cleveland, Ohio by Hugo Max Schmitz and William Horning (“Will” or “Bill”). They were artists and lithographers.
Hugo was born in Wisconsin and traveled to Cleveland in the late 1890s, joining the Art Club, and befriending (and even traveling with) several established area artists. He was a talented artist, and wanted to offer high quality art that was affordable for people’s homes, thus the idea of reproducible art murals and papers.
Hugo was acting president, and Mr. Horning sold his interest in the company around 1920.
Around 1926, Hugo’s son, Warren Reynolds Schmitz, came to work at the company as Vice President and worked in sales after graduating from Miami University of Ohio (where he excelled in Debate Club).
Hugo was my great-grandfather and Warren was my grandfather.
The company had longevity in its employees, and many had multiple family members who worked there. They printed on two of the largest chromolithographic custom presses in the world (a third one being in London), and oversized zinc plates had to be shipped from Germany. The color lithographs exceeded a 40″ x 80″ sheet size and were printed in oil-based inks on high quality paper and were fully washable.
It was most likely one of the top ten wall covering manufacturers in the country of its time, and Hugo Schmitz was considered and authority on the Frieze, a continuous pictorial wall mural, and published articles in Decorator and Architectural trade journals.
In 1938, Warren Schmitz became president of Schmitz-Horning, after a tragic automobile accident and death of Hugo, 72. Also killed was family friend Margaret A. Hale, 66, wife of the late George W. Hale, builder of Cleveland’s Alcazar Hotel. Hugo’s wife, Pauline “Queen” Reynolds Schmitz was injured but survived.
With Warren at the helm, he produced new patterns and product lines including scenic panoramics, working with several notable area artists, and developed sales and marketing materials including catalogs and small-scale wall scenics view books.
Warren Schmitz (“Bud”), ran the company until around 1960, and Schmitz-Horning Company closed. A bookkeeping document shows that a sale of S-H equipment to another local wallpaper firm occurred around 1964. A newspaper ad for the wall coverings sold through The May Company can be seen in The Plain Dealer in the 1964. Warren died at the age of 65 in 1970.