Chemex: “Coffeemaker Without Parts” at Mama’s Treasures Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, inventor of the Chemex Coffeemaker, ran a one man operation. Until his death in 1962, there was never another salesman for Chemex.
News-Antique.com - Oct 31,2008 - Dr. Peter Schlumbohm, inventor of the Chemex Coffeemaker, ran a one man operation. Until his death in 1962, there was never another salesman for Chemex. Burt Sloan, a New York sales representative, recalls asking to represent the Chemex line...”When I asked for
the line, he readily agreed until I asked how much commission it paid. His voice thundered back to me... Commission? I never pay a commission! You have the honor of handling Chemex.”
Born in Kiel, Germany, he was educated to be a chemist and immigrated to America in 1939. In 1960 he published a booklet and described how he came to invent Chemex:
“ The success of the Chemex coffeemaker is riding on the Bauhaus style...namely, a table must be a table, a chair must be a chair....When, in 1938, the personal desire for coffee came up (I had been a tea drinker) my aspect simply was: A coffeemaker must make coffee and then I applied my knowledge of physics and chemistry.... I was forced into this venture. .. I had no plans for it’s commercial exploitation....in 1941 financial circumstances obliged me to take a look at my new patent for the
coffeemaker...Within a week I had sold half an interest in it for $5000 and planned to license it (I later purchased the half interest back at a very high price). Practically every famous appliance maker in the country turned it down.
During my discussion with those potential licensees I had studied their products, their carload mentality, and their limitations. For the first time I realized the merit of my
invention....in 1941, I designed the quart sized model....I coined the mark Chemex....and formed Chemex Corporation.” The finished product was made for him by Pyrex of the Corning Glass Company. He showed it to the housewares buyer at Macy’s who said it wasn’t a coffeemaker “because it didn’t look like one.” Dr. Schlumbohm prevailed upon the buyer to take it home and try it. The next morning he got a phone call, “Okay Doc, we’ll run an ad on May 24th.” Macy’s sold fifty-four the first week.
About that time he got a letter from Corning telling him that unless he had an A-5 Priority Rating from the War Production Board, they could no longer supply him. In his pamphlet he describes his plight and solution as follows:
“ That seemed the end....I wrote President Roosevelt about our plight, heading the letter with “Minima rex non curat,” ( a king does not bother with details), “President curat et minima,” (a president cares even about details). The Latin pun probably did it. Three days later the phone rang. “This is the WPB. Are you Dr. ___I can’t pronounce your name?” He replied “Yes.” “Well you have a ****of a nerve to bother the President with your **** coffeemaker....But it seems to be a ******good coffeemaker. What rating do you need?” He replied, “A-5.” “ Well, you have it. Good Luck.”