Note: This article is reproduced from the Halloween Newsletter; BooNews by kind permission of Dawn and Lou Kroma.
The Beistle Company was founded in 1900 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania by Martin Luther Beistle. "M.L." began a company that grew to become one of today's largest American Halloween novelty producers.
M.L. gave birth to the company in the basement of his Pennsylvania home crafting decor for hotel lobbies with his wife and brother-in-law. In the beginning, Beistle lines consisted mainly of artificial plants and wooden products. M.L. kept his job as a calendar salesman while the company "got off it's feet". It was not long before he was able to purchase the company for whom he had worked.
The firm saw a brief setback during the financial collapse of 1907, and M.L. moved his company and family back to his home in south central Pennsylvania.
The company soon rallied however and moved quarters to a wagon shop owned by M.L.'s father-in-law. Beistle was able to move to yet another new headquarters in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania shortly thereafter.
M.L. made a shrewd business move in 1910, when he brought the technology to produce honeycombed tissue to the United States. This technology had formerly only been available in Europe and the Orient. He built and patented new machines for this process.
The new honeycombed tissue was a hit. Beistle rapidly expanded their production lines of paper decorations and the business thrived.
American paper products saw a surge in popularity during World War I when German goods were not available. The lack of imported goods proved most beneficial to American manufacturers. Beistle's production of party goods surged during the war years as did the firm's resources and employee base.
Beistle turned to the community for employees. The United States had not yet placed restrictions on the use of "home workers" for production. The extra income earned by home workers was welcomed by the farming community. Beistle, like most of it's German counterparts, existed for a time as a rural agricultural cottage industry.
Beistle's production of paper decorations came to a shuddering stop with the advent of World War II. This was the only period in the history of Beistle during which no decorative products were produced. Parachutes and water-tight shipment wrappings became the war era production focus.
Following World War II, Beistle resumed their regular lines and the company continues growth and expansion to this day.
Beistle has employed several "signatures" (trademarks) over the years, including the "Copyr. H.E. Luhrs" patent notice found on many items. (H.E. Luhrs was M.L.'s son-in-law, later to become the President of the company.)
Beistle is rightfully proud of it's accomplishments, innovation and history. Beistle maintains a full private archives of their products. C. Michelle Luhrs-Weist, Product Manager for the business proudly states that they have one of every items produced by their company. This archive, which is not open to the public, includes decorations, catalogs, games, party guides, calendars and more. Not many enterprises are able to make such a bold, obviously pride-filled statement.
Beistle continues to have strong family ties. Many of M.L.'s descendants, their spouses and their families remain in both management and work force positions. M.L. Beistle's great-grandson, Stephen F. Luhrs became President of the firm in 1990. His father, H. Ric, is Chairman of the Board.
This family tradition strengthens the company and propels it into the future. This means that the collector can look forward to enjoying quality Beistle products for many years to come!
(Ed. note: This article would not have been possible without the gracious assistance of C. Michelle Luhrs-Weist, who provided this information to an aspiring author.) This article was reprinted from the Halloween Newsletter BooNews.
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