When the Schatz family brought their business of making ball bearings to Poughkeepsie in the early 20th century, they probably didn’t know what sort of impact they would leave on this community. The business started out in a small, one story factory with 75 employees and grew to a large complex with over 1,000 employees at its height. In fact, it was hard to find someone who didn’t know someone who worked for Schatz. By the mid-20th century the company had contracts with some of the biggest names in business including Ford Motor Company. During World War II; Schatz, like many other companies in the area, was pumping out products for the war effort.
Here in the Local History department we have an entire collection of Schatz related material including images taken of the inside of the factory during its height in the 1940’s and several ledgers filled with scraps of newspaper articles concerning the company’s employees. A lot of the scraps that were saved are of Schatz’s sports teams that played baseball and basketball in local tournaments against other corporations like IBM and Western Publishing. What’s neat about these scrap books (that date from the early 1900s) is that someone at the company took the time to include important events beyond the company, everything from local fires, to robberies, to the death of President Roosevelt. These books are like time capsules that give us a look back at the company’s place in a particular era.
Schatz was not entirely without issue. There were at least two major strikes, one in 1946, and another that lasted 15 months beginning in 1967. With overseas competition taking a bite out of the market, it became very hard for Schatz to keep up. By the 1970’s their major contracts with NAPA auto parts and Ford, were lost, and the company filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1980. Hundreds of employees were laid off beginning that year and within a few months, the factory complex closed all together. Though a rebirth of the company has taken place since then, the original factory complex sits mostly abandoned today. You can see it just off of Fairview Avenue.