Vintage Musical Instrument Cases
The History of
The Geib Musical Instrument Case Company
by Steve Kirtley
Preface: Geib, Inc. is one of the legendary names in vintage musical instrument cases. Behind their quality products is a fascinating story of a successful American manufacturing company that was built by the hard work and integrity of the Geib family. I am grateful to the following members of the Geib family for contributing their personal recollections and some rare photos to complement my own research: John Geib, grandson of founder Charles A. Geib and a longtime employee of the company, Jeff Geib, great grandson of Charles A. Geib; Jerry Bowers, grandson of Nicholas V. Geib and a longtime employee, and finally Jerry's son, Greg Bowers.
The Geib & Schaefer Company, 1906 (1)
The man on the right is Charles A. Geib, the older gentleman next to him is Jacob U. Schaefer. Standing next to Jacob is his daughter Mary.
Identifying the location of this building was a bit of a conundrum. A 951 street number is not mentioned in any of the historic accounts or company advertisements. The Thomas Poole article below says that in 1902 G&S erected a 2,500 square foot, one-story factory at 1757 Central Park Avenue, and the next year they added a second story to the building. Here we have a photo of a two story factory in the right time period but with the wrong street number. How do we reconcile these facts? The answer is that in 1909 Chicago undertook a renumbering of streets throughout the city. Thus 951 North Central Park Ave. became 1757 North Central Park Ave. This original 1902 location continued as a production facility throughout most of the company's history.
(1) Photos courtesy of Greg Bowers
The Geib & Shaefer Factory Shop Floor, 1906 (1)
This is an extremely rare view of the inside of an early instrument case factory, showing the workers at their stations. On the left, the ladies are sewing canvas cases at a table of sewing machines powered by a "line shaft" which is being belt-driven from an external steam or gasoline engine. Watch your skirts ladies! The pipes from the ceiling are gas lights. To the right are a pile of wooden violin case carcasses, ready for covering with Keratol imitation leather. At the top of the pile of unfinished cases is a completed case that appears to be the right size for a gramophone. Just behind that are two large floor-standing rivet machines, operated by foot pedal to install case hardware with spit rivets. If you look carefully you can spot Jacob Shaefer and Charles Geib at the far end of the room. Jacob's daughter Mary is on the far right, and the young man just behind her is possibly her brother William C. Schaefer. This view is probably the second floor of the building above. The office pictured below would have been on the first floor at the front of the building, and behind the office was probably the woodworking department where the wooden case carcasses were produced. The woodworking department would have had a similar belt-driven "line shaft" powering saws, sanders, and other machinery.
The Offices of the Geib & Schaefer Company, 1906 (1)
Left to right is Charles A. Geib on the phone, Mary (Marie) T. Shaefer, Jacob U. Schaefer, Nicholas V. Geib with a Trumpet Case. Charles and Jacob are founding partners. Nicholas (brother of Charles) joined as a partner in 1906. Mary is the daughter of Jacob and future wife of Nicholas.
Geib & Schaefer Canvas & Leather Cases
The canvas and leather cases produced by Geib & Schaefer were not soft "gig bags". They were actually relatively sturdy. It's true they had less protection than the later hard shell cases, but they generally offered more protection than today's chipboard cases. They were reinforced with "strawboard" which is stiffer than cardboard. G&S did not put an identifying brand on their early products, so we are unable to positively identify existing examples.
Canvas Case from 1917 Gibson Catalog. Quite possibly a G&S brand.
Description of G&S Canvas Case: We use a very heavy grade of strawboard covered with a fine quality canvas, heavy fleeced lined, edges are bound with Keratol, leather handle and trimmings.
Leather Case, showing the end-opening mechanism typical of both leather and canvas cases of the period
Note: This is an M&W brand case, but G&S cases would have used the same sort of design. Today these cases are often disparaged with the nick name "bottom dumpers" but when new they offered fairly good protection. At the turn of the century a leather case was considered the best possible quality.
A "Faultless" case from the 1917 Gibson catalog, most likely a Geib & Schaefer
Here's Gibson's description of their "Faultless" case: body of case is three-ply, cross-grained veneer, covered with black seal art-leather and moulded to fit the instrument. Opens full length like a violin case. Lined throughout and padded. Fine quality velvet or velour plush lining. Nickel plated trimmings, lock and key. Collapsible handle. String and pick pocket moulded in case.
Early G&S hard shell cases did not yet have the oval stamp on the bottom but usually can be identified by the diamond design on the lid of the accessory pocket.
The newly invented "hard shell" case
The description of the new "Faultless" case seems quite ordinary to us, but in the early 1900's it was a radical new design. About 1904 we see the introduction of this new type of construction for cases of fretted instruments and orchestral instruments. It is a side-opening hard shell case molded of wood veneer plys, covered with Keratol imitation leather, lined with plush, and closed with spring catches. It appeared positively modern compared to the canvas or leather end-opening cases and the black wooden "coffin" cases which had preceded them. Some features of the hard shell case had been evolving in violin cases for a decade or two. Now finally all the components were available to make the hard shell case possible: inexpensive rotary-cut veneer, Keratol covering, and spring catches. It soon became the new standard for high-end cases. Leather prices were rising in the early 1900's and by 1917 Gibson announced they had eliminated the leather cases from their catalog. This new style construction was probably pioneered by M&W (Maulbetsch & Whitemore), a New Jersey competitor. M&W supplied many of Gibson's cases in the early 1900's, but Geib & Schaefer quickly began producing quality hard shell cases. By the time M&W sold out to Felsberg in 1920, G&S was supplying many if not most of Gibson's cases and would continue to do so until well after WWII.
Chronology of the Company
1899 - Geib & Schaefer Company Established
The Geib & Schaefer Company, also known as G&S Co. was founded by Jacob U. Schaefer and Charles A. Geib, in Chicago, Illinois. With six employees in an 800 square foot facility they manufacture canvas cases and leather cases for guitars and mandolins. (Thomas Poole) The address was 1739 Hancock Avenue, which has been renamed Drake Ave. and is two blocks east of the later location at 1757 North Central Park Ave.
Note: Thomas Poole reports a founding date of 1900 but G&S advertisements state "Established 1899."
May 22, 1900
Charles A. Geib marries Elizabeth Schaefer, daughter of Jacob U. Schaefer.
G&S builds a 2500 square foot factory at 1757 Central Park Avenue, and continues subsequent enlargements in the following years. (Thomas Poole) The 1918 version of the building still exists at this site, though abandoned. See the photo further down.
The partnership adds Jacob's son William C. Schaefer and Charles' brother Nicholas Victor Geib. By 1916 Charles and Nicholas Geib have married daughters of Jacob U. Schaefer. (Thomas Poole)
1916 - Founding member Jacob Schaefer dies
3635 Cortland St., Chicago, Il, Home of Jacob U. Schaefer
Located about 3 blocks from the factory at 1757 N. Central Park Ave.
Factory has 27,000 square feet of space and more than 100 employees. Geib & Schaefer is claimed to be the largest case manufacturer in the United States and probably the world. (Thomas Poole)
Note: This is the square footage of the existing factory building at 1751-57 N. Central Park Ave. See photo below.
The Thomas Poole article provides valuable insights into the personalities of the Geib & Schaefer Company. Charles Geib, with only three years of formal schooling had the work-ethic, intelligence and ambition to start a new company at age 23. Three years earlier he had left the family farm in rural Wisconsin with it's limited opportunities and moved 100 miles south to the big city of Chicago to work at his brother-in-law's company. (See Martin Weick Mfg. Co. below.) There he apparently met Jacob Schaefer and became engaged to his daughter Elizabeth. Jacob's 20 years of work at the Pullman Company probably indicates he was the financial investor in the new G&S Company while Charles provided energy and leadership. A few years later Charles' younger brother Nic joined the firm and married Jacob's other daughter, Mary. So, this truly was a close-knit family business, and that probably was the primary strength that took them through the challenges over the years ahead.
The Martin Weick Manufacturing Company (Martin Weick Mfg Co.)
Note: A little background on The Martin Weick Manufacturing Company mentioned in the Thomas Poole article. In 1890 Martin Weick married Susan Geib,(2) who was the daughter of Peter Geib and older sister to Charles and Nic Geib. In 1895 he established The Martin Weick Manufacturing Company, which was the first case company in Chicago.(3) This means that Charles A. Geib got his start in case building by working at his brother-in-law's company, as did Jacob U. Schaefer and his son William C. Schaefer. Martin Weick has been mentioned as a "satchel maker" which probably refers to sheet music cases as well as instrument cases.
(3) This is unattributed internet information
Note: Subsequently, The Weick Mfg. Co. is acquired by Paragon Manufacturing Co. and continues on until the crash of 1929, but there is no further mention of Martin Weick's involvement.
The Geib & Schaefer Factory
The old G&S factory building is still standing as of 2013. The last additions were completed by 1918. This was the main Geib production facility until 1968.
Geib & Schaefer Company Factory Building,
Completed 1918, 1751-57 N. Central Park, Chicago, Illinois
(Images courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org )
An aerial view of 1751-57 N. Central Park Ave., showing evidence of enlargements over the years. The red rectangle is the original 1902 building
The elevated Bloomingdale Rail Line can be seen running along the bottom of this photo. It was built as a ground-level line in 1874 but neighborhood pressure finally forced it to be rebuilt as an elevated rail line in 1915. It would be safe to assume that the bold signage on the 1906 factory photo below was also repeated on the opposite side of the building where it would be seen by all passing trains.
Comparison of 1906 Photo and 1918 Building
Here's a view of the 1906 factory photo superimposed on a flipped view the existing building completed in 1918. The 25 foot-wide entrance of the existing building is exactly the width of the original 1902 structure. The two photos were taken from slightly different angles but the similarities of the dimensions and windows placement are obvious. The building that stands today has received a new brick facade and numerous additions to the side and rear. The red outline would have been the area of the original building after the second story was added in 1903. In the 1906 photo the area to the right would have been the empty portion of the property that is now occupied by later additions. On the opposite side of the building to the left would have been W. Bloomingdale Ave. and the Bloomingdale rail line. Why does the 1906 photo have wood siding but the newer building has brick? Look closely at the interior walls of the shop floor photo at the beginning of the story. The 1902 building was built of brick with decorative wood siding applied, a common style for industrial buildings of that day in Chicago. During later enlargements the wood was stripped off.
The Geib plaque (and corporate seal) from the old factory, courtesy of Jeff Geib
1922 - Founding member Charles A. Geib dies, December 18, 1921
1923 - William C. Schaeffer leaves to start new company, G&S completes new factory
The location of William Schaeffer's new factory is about a quarter mile down the street from the house of his father, Jacob Schaefer, and half a mile from the G&S factory. Nothing more has been found about this company or Shabro cases. It could have been a short-lived venture, or it's possible they didn't brand their cases or advertise in the trade press.
Here is another conundrum. A new factory is being built in 1923, but exactly what is the location? The article above makes it sound like they're adding onto the headquarters building at 1753 N. Central Park Ave., but that's not possible. In 1918 that building was already 27,000 square feet, which is the size of the building that is still standing there today, and there's no more room on that lot. The article below says that the "old factory" at 711 Central Park Avenue is being "practically demolished" and a new 45,000 square foot building built in its place. So, this 1923 factory was being built at a different location than the headquarters. The location can't be 711 "North" Central Park Ave. as that is the middle of a residential block. Also, 711 "South" Central Park is likewise occupied be some large old apartment buildings and seems unlikely to be a factory location. (There is no possibility of a 711 other than 711 North or 711 South.) However, if 711 was a number from prior to the 1909 street number change (perhaps still being used in 1923?) it equates today to approximately 1378 N. Central Park Ave., which is a large triangular lot about half a mile south of headquarters and next to the railroad tracks. There is also evidence of old footings of a large building. Could this have been the location of the 1923 building? If so, it seems likely that the 1930's depression-era downturn in business led to this building being abandoned and later destroyed.
Possible Location of 1923 Geib Factory at "711 Central Park Ave."
This is about one half mile south of Geib headquarters
(Due to street renumbering this is approximately 1378 N. Central Park Ave. today)
Note: Clarence Geib mentioned in this article is the oldest son of founder Charles A. Geib
1924 - New factory building, introduction of KantKrak cases
Home of Nicholas V. Geib, 451 Greenfield St., Chicago, Il
Geib & Schaefer Locations of Interest
(This neighborhood is about 5 miles northwest of the downtown Chicago Loop)
1. 1739 Hancock Avenue (now renamed Drake Ave.) Original site of Geib & Schaefer from 1899 to 1902
2. 1751-57 N. Central Park Ave. (was renumbered from 951 in 1909) The Geib & Schaefer factory from 1902 to 1977
3. 3635 Cortland St., Home of Jacob U. Schaefer, co-founder of Geib & Schaefer
4. North Springfield and Cortland, site of Schaefer Company, founded in 1922 by William C. Shaefer, son of Jacob Schaefer
5. 3700 W. North Ave., Geib headquarters and factory from 1967 to 1977
6. "711" Central Park Ave., possible location of 1923 factory building, current street numbering is 1378 N. Central Park Ave.
7. 451 Greenfield St., home of Nicholas V. Geib. Not on this map but about 3.5 miles west of 1757 N. Central Park Ave.
A G&S Masterkraft Case for the Legendary Gibson F-5 Lloyd Loar Mandolin
1925 - New Catalog
Kant Krack cases were made of a composite material which included sizing and rosin, among other ingredients. The mixture, along with layers of burlap reinforcement, was placed in two-part metal molds which were heated over a gas flame to cure the material. Needless to say, the room where Kank Krak cases were being baked is said to have been like stepping into a sauna. The first Kant Krak cases that were produced were for French Horns, then came other orchestral instruments, violins, and even guitars.(4) Kant Krack cases were light and strong, sort of the high-tech "carbon fiber" cases of the day.
(4) Jerry Bowers
A late 1930's DuraBilt branded case made with the Kant Krack process.
The technology allows gently rounded forms. A worn spot shows the burlap structure
1927 - New Catalog
Geib & Schaefer Ad, 1927 Music Trade Review
An Excellent Example of a Pre-War Geib & Schaefer Case
This Was Their Top-of-the-Line MasterKraft Brand
March 1927 - Nicholas V. Geib is President, Ambrose Geib is Secretary of Geib & Schaefer
Nicholas V. Geib (1906)
Nicholas V. Geib, had assumed the management of the business when his brother Charles A Geib had died in 1921. Charles's will had placed his estate in the control a group of trustees. In March 1927 Ambrose Geib, son of Charles Geib, bought two thirds of the stock from his late father's estate. The agreement was for Ambrose to put part of the money down and make payments on the remainder. Nic Geib co-signed the note for his nephew Ambrose. The same month the Music Trade Review names N.V. Geib as company president and Ambrose Geib as Secretary of the company. These two have a very close working relationship throughout the years.
Somewhere about this time Ambrose expressed an interest in buying the majority of the company from Nic. The timing is not quite certain but it may have been in the 1930's after Ambrose finished paying off the stock purchase from the estate. Nic owned two thirds of the company and Ambrose owned one third. They had a handshake agreement. Ambrose said "I have a third of the company, and you have two thirds now." "When I get enough money I'll buy you out or at least I'll buy a majority." At that time everything was done with a handshake. But a few years later the company started doing great. (This was probably after the Depression was over.) When the agreed upon time came Ambrose had enough money put aside but the deal never happened. Nic, as smart as he was, realized "I've got a gold mine here; I'm not going give it up." So it stayed that way throughout the years. Nic Senior was president and two thirds owner, and Ambrose was a one third owner.(5)
(5) John Geib
The 1918 Thomas Poole story states that Nicholas V. Geib was founder of the veneer molds, fibre, and woodworking departments of Geib & Schaefer. John Geib, son of Ambrose confirms that "Nic Geib loved the mill room, that was his baby." "He loved the wood work. "He loved to walk through there every day and talk to the workman, talk to the foreman and see things made. "He didn't get involved himself with this hands but he was in there every day. "Most of the time he was down there from 8:30 to 4:00. "One of the reasons he was down there was that his wife wouldn't let him smoke at home. "He liked to smoke cigars and he couldn't smoke in his house but down there in the mill room he could, so he spent a lot of time there."
Ambrose's title as company secretary would imply a role of providing legal guidance, but the description of his actual duties is sounds more like a Chief Operating Officer (COO). John Geib recalls his father's involvement in the business, saying: "Ambrose was the one who planned production for the whole company." "He would meet with the department foremen and review production, check with the office on sales each day. "He would also go out on the road, get new customers and see old customers. "He had a lunch time almost every day with someone from the Harmony company or Kay, Sears or Wards or a vendor. "Anybody like that he would take out to lunch to keep business going. "So he was a very important part of the company."
"The foremen just loved Ambrose." "He would walk around the shop and talk to all the employees. "He would actually join in and work if he saw a need. "He would look over and say to the foreman 'You've got a vacant sewing machine there' and the foreman would say 'I've got that guy sick today.' "Ambrose would jump right on a machine and start sewing soft shell cases. "He did different things like that in all the departments. "He just loved to communicate with the people and treated them 100%."
"Ambrose was known to help out people who were having hard times or needed a job." "He might give them a hand out, or say 'I've got a job down at the shop come and see me.' "And he would hire them whether the company needed them or not. "He would help anyone. "Sometimes he got suckered. "But he would say 'You just can't let people waste away like that, you've got to find them employment, to make them proud of what they're doing.'"
"One of the reasons why everybody respected Ambrose so much was his high moral values." "He would take a bunch of customers out or go to a convention, and if someone would start telling a smut story or a dirty story he would get up and leave. "He would tell them 'I don't care if I lose the business, I do not communicate this way.' "And he was so well respected for this; that where ever he went people just understood this and treated him with utmost respect."
1928 - New Trademarks: Com-Po, Challenge and Durabilt
1929 - Puritan Cases and Dul-C-Ton Phonographs
(Last known advertisement of Geib Phonographs is in 1947)
A Tradeshow Display of Geib Phonographs, probably late 1940's
1930 - Megaphones
Music Trade Review 1930
Advertisement from 1930 Music Trade Review*
1934 - New Case Styles
Starting in 1934 Geib & Schaefer built special cases for top-of-the-line Gibson Super 400, Super J-200, and L-5 guitars. The cases were covered with brown leather, and newly available chemical dyes made possible a bright magenta silk plush lining. After World War II Gibson was to specify these colors for Gibson-branded cases that were produced by both Geib and Lifton. In the 1950's the color scheme became most closely associated with Lifton as they also used similar colors for Lifton-badged cases sold to the general trade.
1936 Gibson L-5
1936 Gibson Super 400
1938 Super J-200
Geib & Schaefer "Red Line" and "Tweed" cases are produced from approximately the mid-1930's to the early 1940's.
1937 - Geib Inc. replaces Geib & Schaefer
By 1937 - Cases are being stamped "GEIB Inc.", also the Geib medallion begins to be seen on some cases. The reason for the incorporation is not known. It had been about ten years since Nicholas and Ambrose Geib had become joint owners of the company, with Nic owning two thirds and Ambrose owning one third. It had been many years since any Schaefer's were involved in ownership or management of the company, so it made sense to shorten the name to Geib when incorporating.
1939 - Published use of "Geib, Inc."
July 1939 - Music Trade Review contains published advertisements using the company name: Geib Inc.
A Geib Tweed Chipboard Case, ca. 1939
Marked with oval stamp "Geib, Inc. Puritan Trademark" on the bottom and "G" embossed on latch
The 1939 Montgomery Wards Catalog below shows an identical case. It's very probable that these are all Geib cases.
Geib produced cases for many instrument manufacturers which were built to their specifications.
The 1938 National catalog above says the tweed covering was selected for use on National Cases.
Below is an identical case for a National steel guitar that is marked "Geib"
Instrument manufacturers that Geib was known to build for include: Gibson, National, Olds, King and many others.
Late 1930's through 1940's Geib builds cases for guitar amplifiers, including Gibson amps. These have the metallic Geib medallion.
1942-45: War Time Production
The company was quite busy during the war years. During the duration of World War II many factories curtailed normal production and substituted military contract work that was suited to the factory's equipment and labor force. Geib had sewing machines that were used to make cardboard cases. They were able to repurpose those capabilities to sew small canvas goods for the army. Geib did continue to produce instrument cases as well during this time.
1942 Shovel Cover, made by Geib, Inc.
1944 M1 Carbine Magazine Pouch, made by Geib, Inc.
1947 - Nicholas J. Geib, Yachtsman
Nicholas J. Geib, son of Nicholas V. Geib, has a 40 foot yacht built. Over the next several years he wins many races on the Great Lakes and participates in the annual Miami to Havana yacht races.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,862342,00.html#ixzz1sAm6xvjH
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,862342,00.html#ixzz1sAlveGo1
Note: Nicholas J. Geib, born 1917, is the son of Nicholas V. Geib.
1948- New Economo Trademark Registered
1964 Wholesale Catalog - with Geib "Economo" Cases
An example of a Geib "Economo" Case
The Geib Factory Workforce in Action
Cutting Materials for Cases
Building Guitar Cases
Applying Keratol Covering
Operating Riveting Machine to Install Hardware
Workers at the Riveter
Preparing Linings for Installation in Cases
Installing Plush Lining in Violin Cases
1951 - Nic J. Geib, is Vice President of Geib, Inc.
Nic J. Geib
Although Nicolas J. Geib was named vice president of the company, he really wasn't a business man at heart. His father, Nicholas V. Geib, had raised him indulgently. He was an accomplished sportsman who excelled in horsemanship and sailing. He was said to be a near-concert-quality pianist.(6) He was an outstanding yachtsman and won many trophies, but his sailing adventures took him away from the business for three or four months at a time. His Uncle Ambrose had tried to coach him on the importance of maintaining relationships with the various customers but he didn't seem too interested.(7)
(6) Jerry Bowers
(7) John Geib
Ambrose Geib Faces Health Issues
Ambrose Geib had been company secretary of Geib since 1927. John Geib, recalls his father's struggle with health problems. "In the mid 1950's Ambrose began to experience some physical problems. "He went to one of the foreman and said 'Pete I've been walking along and I kept going to the left and going to the right.' "'It's like I've been drinking.' "Pete said, 'Put some chalk on your feet and make your regular gait down there and let me see if I can follow it.' "And he couldn't. He said 'Something's wrong here', so he went to the doctor. "The doctor said, 'well we don't know what's wrong with you.' "'You might have what's called Multiple Scleroses but there's no cure for it, so you just have to make the best of it.' "So Ambrose went off to the Spears Chiropractic Council of Denver Colorado, who dealt with this area. "As soon as the family doctor heard that he was going to a chiropractor they wouldn't talk to him anymore, because chiropractors and regular medicine didn't get along."
"Ambrose had a masseuse come to his house four times a week to exercise him, work his legs and keep his muscle tone. "That's the only thing that kept him going for the next 20 years was his therapy. "Although his body was gradually deteriorating he continued to actively run the company over the years. "He was there every single day of the week, five days a week. "He had a driver, a male nurse actually, who would bring him down and put him on a couch in his office and the different foremen would come in and he would talk to them about production, how many cases they were producing a day. "Then he'd get hold of the office and find out what the sales were each day. "He would sit there and his driver would go down and get different customers, and he would talk to customers. "His mind was completely sharp, just his body completely deteriorated. "He would stay there three quarters of a day, and then his driver would take him back home."
The Changing Workforce
John Geib recalls the changes in the workforce over the years: "In the early 1950's there was still an older group of workers at Geib that just loved working there." "They took a lot of pride in what they produced. "They would get on each other if they saw something that wasn't perfect. "They'd bring it back to another person and say 'you didn't do this right; you don't want this going out looking like this.'" "And that lasted probably until the early 1960's when most of them were gone. "The demographics of the area were changing as people moved out to the suburbs and new immigrants came in. "At first there were a bunch of 'Southern boys' who came in and joined the workforce. "Then there was an influx of Cubans and then Puerto Rican's; and Geib started to employ them. "They were decent workers but not dependable. "They would show up two or three days and miss a day or two. "Especially after payday on Friday, you wouldn't see them Monday. "So it was quite different, and attitudes had changed. "They were just in it to make a buck; to survive.
"But management had good relationships with these newer workers. "Nic V. Geib had a great disposition, and always treated everyone the same, from department heads to the workers. "When he was walking around the factory he would greet each person. "In the later years we had a lot of Puerto Rican's and Cuban's working and he would go up to each one of them and say hi to them and talk with them. "He was a very cheerful person. "He was very good to people."
As the 1950's continued fewer Geib-branded cases are seen. The company had been producing cases for Gibson since it's founding in 1906, as well as many other instrument manufacturers. In the postwar era these instrument manufacturers began asking for their own branding on the cases instead of Geib. As a result it can be difficult to be sure of the builder of these cases. Here's an example. This Gibson-branded case has tan exterior and pink plush interior; colors usually associated with Lifton cases. If not for the Geib medallion it would be identified as a Lifton, since it was built to Gibson specifications.
1952 Gibson Les Paul case made by Geib, Inc.
John Geib, son of Ambrose Geib, began working part-time for Geib, Inc. in 1952. He went into military service in 1954. When he got out in 1956 he returned to employment at Geib and remain there until he left in 1975. Ambrose had intentions for his son to take over the business one day, so he had John learn everything. He started in the boiler room and learned how to run that, and then every facet of the company: the mill room, the shipping room, upstairs in the hard shell case department, even lining, covering, stapling, riveting; then sewing over in the Economo department where they made the cardboard cases. There wasn't a job that he didn't do. He didn't like it at the time, but his Dad said "You start at the bottom because when you talk to people you've got to know what you're talking about." And of course, he was later grateful for having had all those experiences. Eventually he took on the responsibility of overseeing production of the various departments: making sure material was ordered, communicating back and forth with the foremen downstairs and the foreman of the other two departments.
Note: John Geib has provided many of the personal details regarding Ambrose, Nicholas V. Geib and Nicholas J. Geib that appear in this story.
Jerry Bowers (Geib)
Jerry was the grandson of Nicholas V. Geib. His mother Elizabeth and his Uncle Nicholas J. Geib were both children of N.V. Geib. Around 1951 Jerry Bowers returned home from service in the Korean War and went to work for Geib. During the next several years Jerry got his engineering degree by attending night school in Chicago while working at Geib.
Jerry Bowers (Geib) working on the Fleetwood yacht
Costa Mesa Plant Established
A Geib plant was established in Southern California around 1951, in the city of Costa Mesa. It was in the small industrial district at the western end of the city, although the exact location is not known. This plant produced chipboard cases and served as a distribution point for cases built in Chicago. The operation was originally run by the man who had built the Fleetwood yacht for Nicolas J. Geib. Presumably their friendship led him to get this opportunity but apparently it wasn't going well, so within a few years Nic V. Geib sent Jerry Bowers out to run things. The operation was closed in approximately 1959 and Jerry Bowers returned to Chicago.
1959- Geib Pioneers Vacuum-Formed Instrument Cases: Vac-A-Bond
Geib, Inc. was the first instrument case manufacturer to produce vacuum-formed plastic cases. Nicholas J. Geib was approached by U.S. Rubber who had a material called Royalite which they had been promoting heavily. It was an ABS sheet plastic which was suitable for vacuum-forming. A long list of products had already been produced from this material, ranging from storage bins to Harley-Davidson fenders and saddlebags. A 1952 Royalite ad shows a tackle box with an aluminum valance, and a 1958 Royalite catalog cover shows suitcases produced of Royalite. These were similar applications, but clearly Geib was the first to apply the technology to musical instrument cases and pioneered the use of a foam insert.
Nic V. Geib came up with the name Vac-A-Bond and assigned Jerry Bowers to develop the production technology. Jerry developed fiberglass molds and a vacuum system, as well as the urethane foam insert. No one had used a foam liner in a case before. Jerry said "When we first made Vac-A-Bond cases we took an instrument, just the body of the instrument, and submerged it in urethane foam and pulled it out, covered the foam with plush and used that to line the case. "I developed the aluminum extrusions for the valance around the lip of the case and lid and also specified the locks and hinges to fit over the valance, and it became a real strong case. "You could run over those things with a light vehicle and not hurt them."
When asked if they ever had problems with foam in vacuum-formed cases Jerry said "Well, you know that was a slurry mix of foam and you had to vent it properly. "Otherwise after you got everything done and a customer put an instrument in the case it would start screwing up the instrument. "But we solved that problem with proper venting."
Geib trademarked the "Vac-A-Bond" brand, and they appeared in the Olds horn company's 1960 price list and the 1962 catalog. Vac-A-Bond cases were produced for orchestral instruments including: trumpet, coronet, trombone, French horn, clarinet, baritone, and violin. The only customer for the Vac-A-Bond cases seems to be Olds and CMI, who owned Olds. Geib produced prototypes of Vac-A-Bond rifle cases but didn't get orders that would allow them to go into production. The Vac-A-Bond horn cases continued to be produced until the demise of the company, and the final sale of Geib, Inc. assets in 1977 included equipment for urethane foam operation and vacuum system.
1952 Ad for Royalite
1958 Royalite Catalog
1960's - Ongoing Business Activity
In the 1960's Geib was hiring employees and purchased a new plant.
John Geib recalls, "We did a lot of those wooden plush-lined guitar cases for Martin." "The biggest item we had was those Economo cases for Gibson. "We were shipping out 1,000 to 1,500 cases a day, and three quarters of that was going to Gibson. "Gibson also had our hard shell cases but the biggest was the Econo cases, that cheap one. "In the mid-1960s we got so busy that we started a night shift, and I ran the night shift. "And we were producing anywhere from 1,000 to 1,200 Economo cases a day, and at night time we were doing anywhere from 400 to 500 cases a night with a small crew. "So our sales were just jumping up. "We hit a million dollars in sales and my Dad, Ambrose, just went bananas. This was in the mid-1960.
In the post-war era probably two thirds of the cases were built to order directly for the instrument manufacturers, and about one third sold through distributors to retailers. By this time the instrument manufacturers wanted their brand name on the case, so the only cases with the Geib name were the one's sold directly through jobbers to music stores or to Sears and Wards.
Geib had always made some cases for items other than musical instruments. In the very early days of the G&S Company they made leather cases for thermos bottles, a prestigious high-tech item of the day. This was before branding was being applied to cases, so it's not possible to confirm that particular antique thermos cases are Geib-produced. They had also sold phonographs throughout the years; building the cases and installing purchased mechanisms. The phonograph production stopped in the mid-to-late 1950's. They were sold mainly through Sears and Wards. Also in the post-war era Geib had built rifle cases for Browning and Winchester. These cases always had the rifle manufacturer's name and were never Geib branded. So, again, it's impossible to confirm that particular rifle cases were made by Geib.
1966 - Nicholas V. Geib Dies
Nic V. Geib was born on June 5, 1880 and died September 1966 at 86 years old. He had remained in control of the company until his health began to fail in the early 1960's. Not long before his death his son, Nicholas J. Geib, who had been Vice President since 1951, took over leadership of the company as President.
Estate Sale of Nicholas V. Geib, brother of co-founder Charles Geib. Nicholas had become a partner in 1906.
1967 - New Location on North Avenue
Under the leadership of Nic Geib Jr., the company purchased a large building about one quarter mile south of the existing headquarters.
John Geib recalled the expansion to 3704 North Avenue. "It was a huge multi-story building." "I believe the electrical work alone was $150-200,000 dollars to bring it up to code so we could do the work we needed. "He poured so much money into there, and it was twice or three times the amount of space that we needed. "And once we got in there of course we moved out of the Central Park Ave. location into the new building, as soon as it was ready. "We vacated or sold the Central Park Ave. building at that time." (From the employment ads above, we can see that the move had still not happened in February 1968.) "So his cash flow was down the drain, and then we hit a kind of a recession there. "We owed so much money. "He had also spent a lot of money on a beautiful home and a new yacht, and in the end it contributed to everything going belly up."
Attempt to Purchase Ess & Ess Music Case Co.
Another decision that Nic Jr. had made was to purchase the Ess & Ess Music Case Co. located in Brooklyn, NY. (The exact date for this is uncertain, but it was obviously in the mid-1960's) The Ess & Ess company had been established in 1950 and the original owner had passed away in 1964. Nic's idea was to regionalize the Geib company and have the Ess & Ess plant provide Geib cases for the East Coast. Apparently this deal was short-lived, or perhaps didn't even go through, as the son of the original owner continued to run the Ess & Ess company until it ultimately closed in 1984.
1973 - Nicholas J. Geib, Launches a New Yacht
Nic J. Geib has a new "Fleetwood" yacht built and hosts a gala party to celebrate the launch. Another example of extravagant spending while Geib, Inc. is going broke.
The New Fleetwood Yacht
1975 - Ambrose Geib Dies
John Geib stayed with the company out of loyalty to his father, Ambrose. He said "I could see the writing on the wall." "My Dad was getting pretty bad, he only had a short time left. "I told him, 'Sell your third interest to Nic, he is willing to buy it.' I said 'get out of here.' 'This company's going to go down the drain.' "Of course, my Dad, from the old school, says 'No, we'll keep it, I know you can bring the business back son.' "I only stayed there the last several years because of him. "After he passed away in 1975 I said, 'We're moving out of here'" "I was married and had nine kids at the time. "We moved up to Wisconsin and bought a business up there." "I left less than two years before the end."
1976 - The Demise of Geib, Inc.
The failure of Geib, Inc. must be attributed to a combination of factors. One could fault the leadership of Nicholas J. Geib, who hadn't shown the business sense of his father or his Uncle Ambrose. The second contributing cause was the death of Ambrose Geib, who had been an important driving force behind Geib's success for the previous five decades. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, was the extremely challenging economic times. There was an energy crisis; inflation, interest rates and unemployment were all rising. By 1976 many Chicago musical instrument manufacturers had gone out of business. These had included some of Geib's largest customers such as Kay and Harmony. Geib's orders had slowed to a crawl, and combined with their shortage of cash, it became impossible for the business to continue. Production at Geib, Inc. ceased in late 1976. The final sale of assets took place on August 7, 1977. As of 2013 the 1751 North Central Park Ave. plant is still standing but abandoned, and the 3700 W. North Ave. building was demolished sometime before 1988.
Aug 7, 1977 - Chicago Tribune
Sale of the assets of GEIB, INC., WEDNESDAY 3704 W. NORTH AVE, AUG. 17th 11 AM CHICAGO ILL, $175,000.00 OF MUSICAL INSTRUMENT CASES
Note: Slitter Rewinder is to slit and rewind jumbo rolls of material into small rolls with required width. The primary use would have been to prepare materials for chipboard case production. Sewing machines also would have been used for production of chipboard cases. Urethane foam and vacuum system indicates production of ABS plastic vacuum-formed cases.
1978 - Nicholas J. Geib Dies
Nicholas J. Geib is the son of Nicholas V. Geib, who in turn was the brother of co-founder Charles Geib.
Geib & Schaefer Identification
The earliest Geib & Schaefer canvas and leather cases don't have branding identification, so unfortunately it's impossible to positively attribute individual cases to G&S. The early hard shell cases can be identified by a diamond design on the lid of the accessory pocket. Sometime in the late Teen's they began impressing an oval trademark stamp into the bottom center of the case. It may be missing on some chipboard cases, but present on others. The stamp can be very faint and hard to read or even to locate. Sometimes it is necessary to take a rubbing in order to read the brand identification.
A single diamond on the lid of the accessory pocket is a distinguishing mark of Geib & Schaefer cases. (A double diamond indicates a Harptone case.) Of course, there are plenty of Geib cases without a diamond, but with other distinguishing marks. The diamond can still be seen into the 1950's on some cases.
Soon after the change of the company name to Geib, Inc., a Geib medallion begins to appears inside some cases. The medallion can be found on the top or bottom of the pocket lid, the side of the pocket facing the instrument body, or sometimes elsewhere on the case interior. At first the medallion says only "GEIB, Chicago." Later versions also include the trademark, such as "MasterKraft." The stamp imprint continued to be used concurrently for a while. Other identifying marks include a "G" or "Geib" imprinted on the case hardware.
A Summary of G&S TRADEMARKS:
Cases are all the name implies. We use a very heavy grade of strawboard covered with a fine quality canvas, heavy fleeced lined, edges are bound with Keratol, leather handle and trimmings.
G&S Co. Com-Po
trademark (introduced Nov. 24, 1928)
Constructed by our patented process to compete with imported cases. Made of special composition material. Covered with waterproof material, nickel clasps and leather handle, pebbled grain covering.
G&S Co. CHALLENGE
trademark (introduced Nov. 24, 1928)
An inexpensive side-opening case, defying all competition. Made of laminated Chipboard, covered with waterproof material, nicely grained, Keratol bound edges, chain stitched, leather handle, nickel clasps.
G&S Co. UTILITY
Constructed for rough wear, made of heady Chipboard, reinforced sides, covered with waterproof Keratol top and bottom, edges reinforced with leather, double sewed, locked stitch. Impossible to unravel, making a rigid case.
G&S Co. DuraBilt
trade mark (introduced October 1928)
Constructed over our KantKrack process, molded into perfect designs, is seamless and very durable, but less expensive than our regular KantKrack. DuraBilt Cases are always uniform. (In spite of this marketing description, many cases stamped DuraBilt seem to be wood veneer construction rather than the KantKrack process.)
Three-Ply Veneer, thoroughly seasoned basswood shaped in the most artistic designs, a construction of durability, covered with the very best Keratols in beautiful grains of Seal and Walrus. Our MasterKraft Cases are in a class of their own.
G&S Co. KantKrack
trademark (introduced in 1923/24)
A Geib & Schaefer original method - made by our special patented process and may be claimed as a composition material. KantKrack Cases are made of several thicknesses of fabric treated with certain chemicals and baked into shape under high pressure. The result is a seamless, practically unbreakable Case which far surpasses the veneer Case in neatness and general durability. It is impossible to speak too highly of the KantKrack line.
G&S Co. Puritan (introduced 1929)
Geib Economo trademark (introduced 1948)
Geib Vac-A-Bond trademark, (introduced late 1950's?) seen in cases for violins, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, French horn, etc. Examples have Geib medallion, aluminum valance, and either medium brown exterior with rust velvet interior, or black exterior with red velvet interior.
D = DUVETINE LINED (a soft napped flannel fabric)
V = VELVET LINED (short dense pile)
P = PLUSH LINED (longer pile, Rayon)
P = SILK PLUSH (probably an even longer Rayon pile with "silky" qualities)
Possible example of "Plush" vs. "Silk Plush"
The Current Status of the Geib Brand
There is a "Geib Case Co., Inc." which is incorporated in the State of New York as a foreign business corporation. It does not produce products under that name. This means the Geib name is not currently available for use. The Martin Guitar company has cases built by TLK which are Martin branded and are unofficially referred to as "Geib Style" cases. They are somewhat reminiscent of prewar Geib cases, but are not intended to be faithful reproductions.
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