Illfelder Importing Co., 131 E. 23rd St. at Lexington Ave. (2002)

The Illfelder Importing Co. that moved to 131 East 23rd St. in 1938 dated back to Berolzheimer, Illfelder & Co., pencils, at 97 William St. in 1861.

Leopold Illfelder, with Daniel Berolzheimer, had founded the Vera-Bleistift-Fabrik (pencil factory) in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany in 1856, and the New York business became their USA branch in 1861. By this time Daniel Berolzheimer (died 1858) had been replaced by his son, Heinrich Berolzheimer (1836-1906).

Leopold Illfelder and Bernard (often spelled Bernhard) Illfelder, along with Heinrich Berolzheimer (he called himself Henry Berolzheimer in the U. S.), were variously involved with pencils, stationery, and importing (mostly at 60 John St. in lower Manhattan) throughout the 1860s and 1870s. Around 1870 the name, Berolzheimer, Illfelder & Co., was shortened to B. Illfelder & Co.

Around this time they were joined by Max Illfelder (1854-1943) (son of Leopold or Bernard?) so that there were three Illfelders until around 1890 when Bernard dropped out (died?).

In 1882 Heinrich Berolzheimer took over the pencil manufacturing factory of B. Illfelder and re-named it the Eagle Pencil Co.

B. Illfelder & Co. around 1890 moved to 524 Broadway and in 1895 to 97 Bleecker St. where they were located until 1917. At around the turn of the century B. Illfelder began a specialty of importing toys from Europe, particularly dolls. Many antique dealers, etc. on the internet refer to Illfelder as a major importer of dolls from European makers.

In the mid-1920s the principals at B. Illfelder were Lewis Levy, Moses B. Schmidt, and Franz Illfelder. Franz Bernard Illfelder (1888-1960) was Max Illfelder's son. The Illfelders seem not to have established permanent homes in New York. Franz Illfelder, for instance, appears in both the 1910 and 1920 US Censuses, but each time as a boarder in somebody else's home. He did, however, become a naturalized citizen, and registered for the World War I draft in 1917 while working as a "Buyer B. Illfelder & Co. 29 Union Square, NY City." A photograph dated 1928 by Percy Loomis Sperr (1890-1964) in the Digital Collections at the New York Public Library shows a sign reading B. Illfelder & Co / Imported Domestic / Dolls / Toys / Fancy Goods on the building at 29 Union Square West (southwest corner 16th St.).

In the early 1930s the name changed to Illfelder Importing, dropping the B. The Illfelder Importing Co. was located here at 131 E. 23rd St. from 1938 to 1968/69. They continued in business some years after (until the late 1980s).

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