Geiger Bros. History

Mount Hope Avenue
Lewiston, Maine 04240

Telephone: (207) 755-2001
Fax: (207) 755-2422

Private Company
Founded: 1878
Employees: 438
Sales: $119 million (2002)
NAIC: 323110 Commercial Lithographic Printing; 323119 Other Commercial Printing; 323121 Tradebinding and Related Works; 424920 Book, Periodical and Newspaper Merchant Wholesalers

Company Perspectives:

Our company is a family business that embraces all stakeholders. We help our customers market, promote, and motivate through the manufacture and distribution of the promotional products and marketing services we provide. We sell nationwide to businesses of all sizes through sales persons, printed catalogs, the Internet.

Key Dates:

Andrew and Jacob Geiger open Geiger Bros., a one-room print shop in Newark, New Jersey.
Jacob Geiger is killed in an automobile accident and Andrew retires. Jacob's sons, Frank and Charles Geiger, purchase company.
Frank's son Raymond becomes editor of Farmers' Almanac after obtaining licensing rights to the franchise that had been founded in 1818.
Ray Geiger and wife Ann buy the rights to the Farmers' Almanac.
Geiger Bros. moves from New Jersey to Lewiston, Maine.
Ray Geiger's sons Gene and Peter join the family business, becoming the fourth generation to lead the company.
Ann Geiger becomes sole owner of Almanac Publishing Co. and its trademark.
President George Bush names Ann Geiger the 618th Point of Light to honor the company's community and charitable involvement with Montello Elementary School.
Ray Geiger dies; Peter Geiger assumes the editorship of the Farmers' Almanac.
Geiger celebrates its 125th anniversary.

Company History:

Geiger Bros., founded in 1878, is the largest privately held company in promotional advertising and the largest manufacturer of time planners in the United States. Managed by its fourth generation of siblings, Geiger manufactures, supplies, and distributes calendars, diaries, executive gifts, and specialty advertising products. Geiger offers over 25,000 promotional items from more than 5,000 suppliers through its independent sales force in over 20 offices in the United States and Puerto Rico as well as online catalogs. Geiger's major corporate clients include Aramark, ACE Insurance, Warner Bros. Home Video, Boy Scouts of America, Princess Cruises, and Mattel. Geiger has a wholly owned direct mail promotional company called Crestline and also owns GeigerDonnelly Marketing LLC, a promotion agency based in Boston, Massachusetts, that services large accounts. Since 1935, Geiger has been the exclusive distributor of the venerable Farmers' Almanac, a publication that dates back to 1818 and is the second oldest almanac in the United States. The Farmers' Almanac has a readership of 1.2 million through retail store sales and 4.5 million through promotional business giveaways.

19th Century Roots

In 1878, brothers Andrew and Jacob Geiger, having learned the print craft from their father Andrew, Sr., opened a small print shop in Newark, New Jersey. The brothers expanded their business through their pioneering efforts in specialty advertising, selling paper fans, calendars, and other paper novelty items to businesses for promotional purposes.

In 1902, Frank Geiger, Jacob's oldest son, founded the Frank A. Geiger Calendar Company, and his brother Charles joined that company in 1904. In 1907, after stewarding Geiger Bros. for 29 years, Jacob was killed in an automobile accident. Following his brother's tragic death, Andrew announced he would retire. Frank and Charles Geiger then purchased the company from their mother and Uncle Andrew, combining the two companies. Frank became company president and remained in that role until 1944.

During the second-generation tenure in the 1920s, the company greatly increased its commercial calendars business, achieving sales to position Geiger as one of the largest business calendar manufacturers in the United States. During this time period, the company also acquired H.B. Hardenburg Company and Walker Longfellow Company, two of the earliest manufacturing firms of diaries and date books in the United States.

Family Ownership Extends to Third Generation

In 1930, Frank Geiger's son Francis (Frank) joined the family business full time after graduating from Georgetown University. Two years later, in 1932, Frank's brother Raymond (Ray) joined the company after completing his degree in philosophy from Notre Dame University. Frank focused on growing Geiger's specialty advertising market by adding such goodwill products as yardsticks, pens, badges, and ashtrays. Ray looked to the Farmers' Almanac, a longstanding almanac that was first published in 1818, as a way to grow the business. In 1935, Ray secured a licensing agreement with the Almanac Publishing Company to publish and sell the Farmers' Almanac and became editor that year, a position he would fill until 1994. As a public relations giveaway that was not sold through retail channels, the Almanac was a natural addition to the company's other products.

The Farmers' Almanac: An American Tradition Takes Root

Not to be confused with the New Hampshire-based Old Farmer's Almanac, which was first published in 1792, the Farmers' Almanac dates back to 1818, when it was founded by David Young and Jacob Mann. Young, a mathematician, followed in the tradition of Benjamin Franklin, whose popular Poor Richard's Almanack first appeared in 1732. Keeping with Franklin's use of the label Philom, derived from the Greek philomath (meaning "lover of learning"), Young applied the term to himself as editor, a tradition that has continued throughout the Farmers' Almanac's history.

While the Almanac is a compendium of humor, household hints and recipes, verses, nostalgia, trivia, and more, many readers turn to it for the weather predictions. As the first editor of the Farmers' Almanac, Young developed a formula for predicting the weather two years in advance--a formula that is based on sunspots, the position of planets, and tidal action--that has been a closely guarded secret passed on through the generations. Upon Young's death in 1852, the editorship of the Farmers' Almanac passed to Samuel Hart Wright, an astronomer who calculated the weather predictions. Berlin Hart Wright succeeded his father as editor and calculator in 1875 and remained prognosticator through the early 1930s. Hart's son-in-law, Roland E. Hart, assumed the duties of prognosticator until the mid-1950s, when astronomer and schoolteacher Harry K. Buie assumed the role. After Buie's death in 1980, his widow stepped in to calculate the predictions and was then succeeded by scientist and astronomer Kenneth Franklin. Beginning in 1982, in order to guard the secret weather formula, the Almanac's forecaster became known only under the pseudonym Caleb Weatherbee. When the Almanac debuted, farmers relied heavily on its weather predictions, since there were no meteorologists at the time. While farmers and gardeners still turn to the Almanac's forecasts, modern readers more often survey the predictions to plan weddings and other outdoor events. Although there are some detractors who question the accuracy of the weather forecasts, the company maintains that the predictions have shown a 75 to 85 percent accuracy.

"The King of Cornography" Reigns

As editor of the Farmers' Almanac, Ray Geiger infused his brand of wry wit and a "high moral tone" to the Almanac's content of homespun lore, inspirational thoughts, recipes, gags, puzzles, aphorisms, time-saving hints, and trivia. One Canadian writer dubbed him "the King of Cornography," to which Ray responded, "I'd rather be corny than porny." When Ray began as editor in 1935, the Almanac had a circulation of 86,000.

During World War II, brothers Frank and Ray both joined the armed services. While serving in the South Pacific for three years, Ray continued to edit the Almanac, even after he was wounded in the Philippines in 1944. On his way to the field hospital, Ray stated in an interview, "As I was carried off on a stretcher I checked for two things--my dogtags and almanac material." Upon Ray's return in 1945 and Frank's in 1946, they were prepared to be the third generation to lead the family business with Ray as president and Frank as vice-president of sales. While sales of the Almanac had remained flat throughout the first decade of Geiger ownership, following the war the company won a large New York insurance company account. With a single order of 115,000 copies, circulation literally doubled overnight.

Ray met his future wife, Ann Hueber, after she commented to him: "I think your recipes and household hints are horrible." Taking the schoolteacher's words to heart, Ray devoted more attention to the haphazard collection of unscreened recipes included in the Almanac. The couple wed in 1948. Ann became co-editor of the Almanac and tested each recipe in her kitchen and each household hint in her home. In 1949, Ray and Ann acquired the rights to the Farmers' Almanac and continued its noncommercial distribution through businesses such as banks, insurance companies, and feed companies, among other outlets.

In 1951, as Ray assumed full leadership of the company as president, the cramped quarters of the Newark facility and the poor business climate there prompted him to look elsewhere to locate company headquarters. Geiger chose Lewiston, Maine, because he felt that Maine's predominantly rural character befitted the Almanac and believed he would find a strong, willing workforce there. In 1955, the company moved to its new 60,000-square-foot facility where Geiger employed 85 people and earned $1.2 million in sales that year. In 1961, the company added 20,000 square feet, and in 1969 it built a two-story office building. As the physical layout of the Geiger facilities expanded, sales grew steadily, doubling every six years.

Throughout his long tenure as company president and editor of the Almanac, Ray enthusiastically championed, with varying degrees of success, numerous pet causes. In the 1975 edition of the Almanac, Ray launched his first campaign. Directed at the United States Postal Service, Geiger decried the post office's decision to remove the community name on the postmark in favor of the more efficient state abbreviation and first three zip code digits. He asserted, "Efficient it undoubtedly is, but romantic it isn't--'OK740' is a far cry from the 'Broken Arrow, Okla.' of yorn." Through the national attention of his efforts, the U.S. Postal Service did, in fact, reinstate the city postmark. Other campaigns Ray waged included a pro-hug crusade in which he urged "Hugs Not Drugs," the elimination of the penny (to be supplanted by a "bit" worth 121/2 cents), the abolishment of the nine-digit zip code, the discontinuation of the dollar bill (to be replaced by a dollar coin called the Columbus Dollar), moving the date of Thanksgiving to the second Monday in October to correspond more closely with the fall harvest, changing the national anthem to "America the Beautiful," and adding colors other than green to American currency.

Geiger Promotional and Specialty Advertising Prospers

Circulation of the Almanac continued to rise, from 86,000 in 1935 to two million in 1955 to 6.25 million by 1980. A tireless promoter of the Almanac, Ray traveled extensively to give newspaper, radio, and television interviews. His devotion to promoting the Almanac brought increased sales to Geiger's specialty advertising, the much more lucrative side of Geiger's business. By 1971, Geiger had reached $10 million in sales, only 10 percent of which came from the Almanac. In 1979, with $18 million in annual sales, the Almanac garnered less than 10 percent of those sales. By 1980, the core of Geiger's business came from its success supplying 35,000 customers with specialty items. Customers ranged from small business owners to such giants as Eli Lilly, Avon, General Foods, and Westinghouse. By 1986, Geiger, with 16 offices and subsidiaries in seven states, was the fifth largest specialty advertising company in the United States. Sales had reached $38 million, with the Almanac representing only 10 percent of manufactured-product sales. The company distinguished itself in the industry by acting as both a distributor and manufacturer of its specialty items, with 73.3 percent of 1986 sales generated from distribution and 26.7 percent generated from manufactured products.

Ray's eldest son Gene, who was made president of the firm, attributed the company's success to its treatment of its sales representatives. As he noted in an article in the Portland Press Herald in 1987, "Our customers are our sales representatives. By consistently doing a good job they are taking care of our needs. We have created a climate enabling them to succeed." Another key to Geiger's success has been in the company's approach to acquisitions. Since the 1960s, Geiger has actively worked to acquire key manufacturing and distribution firms in the specialty advertising industry. With most acquisitions, Geiger operated the acquired firm under its original name. Gene maintained, "We try not to run roughshod over people." He further asserted that through this approach "very few acquisitions over the years have gone bad."

After suffering from a stroke in 1985, Ray was unable to embark on his annual promotional tour. At that point, Geiger estimated he had given 18,000 interviews. Ray's son Peter took his father's place on the promotional tour, although Ray continued as editor of the Almanac. By 1990, Geiger was the third largest promotional advertising company in the United States. Still very active in the company, Ray demonstrated his flair for flamboyant promotion in 1990 when he staged his own funeral for his 80th birthday. He invited family, friends, and employees to attend the unveiling of his tombstone at Mount Hope Cemetery overlooking the Geiger plant. As he greeted the 400 mourners, he intoned, "Friends, I am delighted and really quite excited that you came to this rather grave event." He also noted, "Well, when you buy a tombstone for $4,500 you should get some enjoyment out of it while you can."

The Torch Passes to the Fourth Generation

Ray Geiger died April 1, 1994, but his legacy is carried on through two of his five children. Peter, who serves as executive vice-president of Geiger, is also the editor of the Farmers' Almanac, having worked with his father on the publication for 15 years. With the 1995 edition, the first edition with Peter as editor, the Almanac became available on the retail market through bookstore and newsstand sales. The primary outlet of sales, however, continued to be businesses that purchased the Almanac as a promotional giveaway. Following his father's lead, Peter has raised campaigns of his own in the pages of the Almanac, including writing a "Patient's Bill of Rights" to combat doctors who routinely keep patients waiting and a call to change the date of traditional Halloween festivities to the last Saturday in October in order to promote a more family-oriented holiday.

Gene and Peter Geiger have steadily expanded the company and solidified its standing as an industry leader. When they joined Geiger in 1973, annual sales stood at $8 million, and the company had a sales force of approximately 75. In 2002, Geiger sales totaled $119 million, with over 400 sales representatives. The Farmers' Almanac, which is sold through the company's Time By Design division, represents 14 percent of that division's sale but only 0.9 percent of overall company sales. While the core of the company's business is through the marketing and distribution of promotional products, Geiger also distinguishes itself as a manufacturer. As Gene asserts on the company web site, "During the last 30 years, we developed a capacity and capability for making world-class, quality planners, diaries and calendars. In our category, we have no U.S. competitors, only European and Asian ones. We have survived and prospered because we have consistently invested in ourselves--people, equipment and product development--and have sought new markets both within our industry and beyond."

Principal Subsidiaries: Crestline; GeigerDonnelly Marketing LLC.

Principal Competitors: Old Farmer's Almanac.

Further Reading:

  • "Almanac Editor Stages Own Funeral," Portland Press Herald, December 8, 1990, p. 3C.
  • "Almanac Publisher's Push Lost to Stroke," Portland Press Herald, September 18, 1985, p. 9.
  • Austin, Phyllis, "Old Almanac Takes Poke at Pollution," Portland Evening Express, September 20, 1971, pp. 1, 12.
  • "Farmers' Almanac: Get out Parka, Shovel," USA Today, August 8, 2002.
  • Gabriel, Angela, "Geiger Buys Holt," Business Journal--Serving Phoenix and the Valley of the Sun, January 21, 2000, p. 14.
  • "Geiger Bros. Buy Bandrich of Puerto Rico," Portland Press Herald, August 12, 1972, p. 2.
  • "Geiger Bros. Purchases NYC Firm," Portland Press Herald, January 9, 1980, p. 17.
  • Harkavy, Jerry, "Farmers' Almanac Pushing $1 Coin," Portland Evening Express, September 12, 1989, p. 34.
  • ------, "Farmers' Almanac Would Retrieve Friendly Postmark," Portland Press Herald, September 25, 1974, p. 3.
  • ------, "Geiger's Still 'Popping Corn,'" Portland Evening Express, September 28, 1983, p. 30.
  • ------, "Hugging Definitely 'In,'" Portland Evening Express, September 7, 1984, p. 44.
  • Kinnicutt, Michael T., "King of Cornography," Down East, November 1980, pp. 49-52, 79-82.
  • ------, "Oh, Say Will You Choose?," Portland Evening Express, September 5, 1986, p. 8.
  • Lukas, Paul, "The Farmers' Almanac Is Chock Full of Facts and Still Thriving in the Age of the Net," Fortune, June 25, 2001.
  • Morrison, Kenneth H., "147 Years Old, Lewiston-Edited Almanac Producing Offspring Now," Portland Sunday Telegram, September 26, 1965, p. 18A.
  • Naujeck, Jeanne A., "Farmers' Almanac Signs on as 'Opry' Sponsor," Tennessean, July 18, 2003, p. E1.
  • Scanlin, Mike, "The Calendar--An Industry All Its Own," Portland Press Herald, January 5, 1973, p. 17.
  • Smith, Jeff, "A Down-Home Big Business," Maine Sunday Telegram, March 22, 1987, pp. 1C, 3C.
  • Stevens, Emery, "Publishers Girding to Wage 'Battle of Almanacs'," Portland Press Herald, February 9, 1979, pp. 1, 8.
  • "Tired of Waiting?," Trustee, October 1996, p. 6.
  • "What's in a Name?," Portland Evening Express, April 20, 1982, p. 5.

Source: International Directory of Company Histories, Vol.60. St. James Press, 2004.