The story of Globe Wernicke begins with Henry Yeiser and the Globe Files Company. Founded in 1882, Yeiser quickly patented a number of impressive methods for storing various documents. His extensive experience in the realms of storage and furniture allowed him to spot a rising star in the industry.
Otto Wernicke patented his sectional bookcase system in 1892 while working in Minneapolis, MN. And by 1895 he was working on the idea full time at a new factory in Cedar Rapids, MI. In 1898 he was approached by Yeiser, who was enamored with the bookcase concept, and they negotiated a license agreement for the Globe Files Co to market the bookcases, before eventually buying the Wernicke Furniture Co outright in 1899, merging the two businesses into Globe Wernicke, and moving bookcase production to Norwood, OH.
The company’s renown and popularity spread for the next several years until the two partners had a falling out in 1902. The successful patent suit of Otto Wernicke not only opened the door for his new Macey Furniture Co, but also upwards of 20 competitors that began making sectional bookcases within only a few years.
After the Onslaught
While Globe Wernicke was still far and away the most popluar of these manufacturers, they had to go to enormous lengths to stay that way. They instituted a strategy of rapid innovation and aggressive expansion. Creating a wide assortment of styles, sizes, and specialty units that they quickly patented to stay one step ahead of their many immitators. The company also set up agent companies in Canada and Europe, the latter of which, Globe Wernicke LTD of London, sent elastic bookcases as far abroad as India.
By 1912 the company was at its height. Focused on public libraries and business clients in terms of marketing, but equally as popular with small storefront shops, government offices, and with lawyers to such an extent that they earned the nickname “Barrister Bookcases”. But by the 1930’s the golden era was over and elastic bookcase production had all but ended.