(This document was sent to me, James Craig Burley, by Steve Spoonts of The Schoonmaker Company, later merged with PEI, in response to my query about the new location of this historical info, which used to be on the old company's web site. Note that it included some graphical elements that he didn't send along, which I felt could be fairly omitted, such as logos and the background color. Similary, I've removed links that identify materials I don't happen to have available; perhaps there's appropriate material available at the old or new web sites for the respective companies.)
We are constantly asked about the origin of the name of The Schoonmaker Company, so here's your answer along with a short history of the company.
James Yeaton Schoonmaker was born in Brooklyn, NY shortly before or right at 1900. "Schoonmaker" is of Dutch origin, and Jim always said it meant "gardenkeeper". He served in the Coast Guard in WWI, and it was there he began his career in what would become the "electronics" industry (the term "electronics" wasn't coined until at least WWII!). After the war, Jim loaded his clothes into a suitcase and went to Grand Central Station in NYC. He dumped his money on the ticket counter, asked where it would take him, and they handed him a train ticket to Dallas, Texas.
Once in Dallas he got a job in the radio department of Collum & Boren, then a department store (in the late '80's Collum & Boren, which had evolved into a sporting goods company, was acquired by Oshman's Sporting Goods and is known as that today). The Great Depression hit, and Jim (who had by then married and had an infant daughter) was forced to work in a gas station in order to provide for his family.
One day a travelling vendor salesman he'd met while working at Collum & Boren stopped in the station and ran into Jim. He offered Jim a full-commission job as a sales representative covering jobbers and dealers in Texas and Oklahoma, which Jim readily accepted. That company, Jim's first line as a manufacturer's representative, was General Dry Battery which today is Duracell, a little battery company you may have heard of! Jim thus launched his rep firm, the J. Y. Schoonmaker Company, in Dallas in 1933. The term "manufacturers' representative" had not been coined when Jim began performing that function in the early 1930's.
Jim acquired additional lines to represent (we still proudly represent Clarostat, which Jim began representing in 1933!), and the company continued to grow. Jim was involved in the day to day operations of the company until he suffered a disabling stroke in 1971 that forced his retirement. Jim eventually died in 1984.
In 1971 the management of the company was taken over by Jess Spoonts (
cogent.net). Jess [JCB: actually, his son Steve] is shown in the picture below. Jess had worked for Jim since 1956 in various sales and management capacities, and purchased the company from Jim Schoonmaker in 1973.
The company continued to grow under Jess' leadership as the electronic industry itself continued to grow, evolve and mature. As the industry changed, the company changed along with it.
Jess has been and still is very involved in the activities of the Electronic Representatives Association (ERA), an international trade association made up electronic rep firms. It is a little known fact outside the Association that Jim Schoonmaker and Jess Spoonts are the only two inductees of the ERA Hall of Fame that came from the same company. The Hall of Fame is the highest honor the ERA can bestow upon its members, and it is a very exclusive group.
Many people make the assumption that there is some kind of blood-relationship between Jim and Jess, probably because both last names are so unusual. There is none, however.
In 1997 the ownership of the company transitioned to Steve Spoonts, and that is when the name of the company changed from the J. Y. Schoonmaker Company to The Schoonmaker Company.
If you have any further questions about the company, Jim or Jess, feel free to send Steve Spoonts (
schoonmaker.com) an e-mail and we'll try to answer them for you.