Frederick August Otto Schwarz

Schwarz left his home in Germany for the United States and established an iconic retail brand that transformed the way retailers connected with consumers.

Vital Stats

Born 1836 in Herford, Germany

Died 1911 in New York City

On the Move

Emigrated from Germany to the United States in 1856, where he joined his older brothers in Baltimore, Maryland.

Worked at a stationery store in Baltimore and created window displays from the toys sent to the store as promotional items.

Left the stationary business and joined his brothers in opening their first toy retail operation, Toy Bazaar, in 1862.

An Independent Thinker

Schwarz moved to NYC in 1870 to open his own toy store, Schwarz Brothers Importers, on Broadway. The store specialized in imported toys from Europe, including Germany’s Steiff Bear.

Schwarz was among the first to hire a Santa for in-store appearances during the 1875 holiday season, and to develop a mail-order catalogue to support store sales in 1876. Schwarz in 1880.

Schwarz Brothers Importers was renamed FAO Schwarz in 1880.

Down But Not Out

FAO Schwarz expanded to 40 stores during the height of the brand’s popularity.

Its impact on popular culture is evident through its presence in television and films, including Big in 1988, Annie in 1999, Toy Story 3 in 2010, The Smurfs in 2011, an episode of The Simpson in 2019, and others.

FAO Schwarz filed for bankruptcy in 2003 and stores closed. Multiple owners, including Toys “R” Us, took a run at the brand before it was purchased by ThreeSixty Group in 2016. The Hong Kong-based brand management firm established a new FAO Schwarz store at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan.

Airport outlets and pop-up locations allow customers everywhere a chance to experience this iconic New York City brand.


Frederick August Otto Schwarz was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2012.

The FAO Schwarz Family Foundation was established in 1990 to support college graduates interested in establishing careers as social impact leaders.