Johnson Hardware Company
When F. A. Schneider founded Johnson Hardware in 1855, Franklin Pierce was President, Abe Lincoln was still practicing law in Illinois, and Omaha was a stopping point for provisioning wagon trains to head West on the long, arduous Oregon Trail. Johnson Hardware has hand-written ledgers to establish their pedigree as Omaha’s oldest business. Ledger prices show that a coffee mill could be purchased for fifty cents, a gold scale for one dollar, and an ox bow for thirty-five cents. Johnson Hardware outfitted the U. S. Cavalry at Ft. Omaha, as well as the Western Stage Coach Company and served as an essential hardware supplier to help set the Western telegraph lines in place. The Creighton brothers, Kountze brothers and Union Pacific are all early entries in their sales ledger. Steamships docked and loaded their hardware to transport material up the Missouri River to miners in the Black Hills and south to Kansas City and St. Louis.
An axe head, symbolic of early-day settlers and the long-standing trademark of Johnson Hardware, has hung outside since opening their doors in 1855. The axe head now hangs at 1201 Pacific, a reminder to all that Johnson built their reputation for stability, quality, and service, one day at a time. Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, two World Wars, Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War, Johnson Hardware has prospered. One cannot look at the Omaha skyline without seeing buildings constructed with Johnson doors and locks: Union Pacific, the OPPD Energy Plaza, Woodmen Tower, First National Bank, the ConAgra Campus, and the Omaha Convention Center, among many elite names.
With business booming in the mid-1980’s, Johnson Hardware expanded, acquiring an IBM computer to process an inventory database of 40,000-plus items that had become almost unmanageable. (Today’s inventory approaches 100,000 items.) Offices were opened in Lincoln and North Platte to better serve building contractors throughout Nebraska. Johnson Hardware has three divisions: the Contract Division focuses on commercial construction and architectural hardware such as hollow metal doors, locks and door accessories; the Wholesale Division, with a national presence, provides hardware to glass contractors, lumber yards, locksmiths, hotels and motels, distributors, and retail hardware dealers; and finally the Industrial Division, headquartered in Omaha, which provides power/hand tools, various anchoring/fastening systems and safety equipment in addition to the above mentioned architectural hardware.
In spite of the present-day era of competing hardware superstores, Johnson Hardware continues to prosper as a national, visionary leader in the architectural and security hardware business, selling and servicing a multitude of consumer, institutional and commercial customers. They have progressed from outfitting wagon trains and cavalry to retrofitting airports and controlled-access installations, providing high-tech security devices that utilize biometrics for fingerprints, palm readers, and retina scanners.