The Timeless Magic of FAO Schwarz: Journey Into an Iconic Toy Store

For over 160 years, FAO Schwarz has captivated the hearts of children and adults alike with its enchanting toy stores. From its humble beginnings in Baltimore to its current status as a beloved global brand, FAO Schwarz has evolved while maintaining its essence. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the rich history of this iconic toy store and explore its transformation over the years.

Early Years (1869-1920)

German immigrant Frederick August Otto Schwarz founded FAO Schwarz in Baltimore in 1869. Initially a small toy store, it quickly gained popularity for its unique and diverse offerings. By the early 1900s, Schwarz expanded to New York City, opening a flagship store on Broadway. The store’s early success stemmed from its focus on quality, innovation, and customer experience.

The Schwarz name, however, did not just stop with FAO – the son Gustav also founded several toy stores (GA Schwarz) with the following addresses compiled from various advertising cards over the decades:

1006 Chestnut St., Philadelphia
42 E. Fourteenth St., New York
497 & 499 Washington St., Boston
211 W. Baltimore St., Baltimore

G. A. Schwarz, Toy and Fancy Emporium, 1006 Chestnut St., Philada., circa 1864/1866 – New York Public Library Digital Collection

The Golden Age (1920-1960)

During the mid-20th century, FAO Schwarz solidified its position as a premier toy destination. Its flagship store became a tourist attraction, featuring elaborate window displays and in-store demonstrations. The store introduced iconic toys like the yo-yo and Erector Sets, cementing its reputation for offering more than just toys – it offered experiences.

Expansion and Challenges (1960-2000)

FAO Schwarz expanded across the United States, opening stores in major cities. However, the rise of big-box retailers and online competition posed significant challenges. Adapting to these changes, the company embraced e-commerce and diversified its product lines.

Modern Era (2000-Present)

In 2009, FAO Schwarz closed its flagship store due to rising rents. Many feared the end of an era, but the brand’s resilience prevailed. In 2018, a new flagship store opened in Manhattan, blending traditional charm with modern elements. The brand has expanded globally, maintaining storefronts in pop-up stores, airports, and large retail locations. They also have an online store with exclusive FAO-branded toys for sale.

Special Invitation Cards and Advertisements for FAO Schwarz

Circa 1880 FAO Schwarz advertisement. Importer of German, French, and English toys.

FAO Schwarz Labels on Marklin Toys

An FAO Schwarz label on a Marklin 00 HS 700 box dating ca. 1936/37
Marklin Gauge 1 freight car with special FAO Schwarz stamping on canvas sold by Bertoia Auctions.
Marklin Gauge 1 “red cab” loco reportedly sold by FAO Schwarz. FAO likely special ordered thees from Marklin. Several variations are known to exist.
FAO Schwarz starburst logo sticker found on an early Marklin set box lid
George Brown wagon made for G.A. Schwarz around 1880.
Circa 1910 Marklin car Gauge 1 stamped with FAO Schwarz.

FAO Showrooms

Playthings magazine November, 1910. Large Marklin boats can be seen on the top displays.


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