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A lost Milwaukee gem

Title page of the Marquette Page a Day Book by Geo. Seelman and Sons
Title page of the Marquette Page a Day Book by Geo. Seelman and Sons
Elupah Photography

Back when I was in high school, I would purchase these page a day books and I’d use them as a journal. Each book measured 3-1/2 by 6 inches. They were bound in a nice brown faux leather. The front had several informational pages, like weights and measures, populations of American cities (Milwaukee’s 1960 population of 741,324 and 1970 population of 717,372), while the back few pages were for telephone numbers, addresses, and monthly cash accounts. But between them were the main reason I picked one of these little books up each year, a page for every day of the year, to be used as you pleased, a planner, reminder, or a daily journal.

After high school, I stopped picking them up, but for no reason other than I had joined the Navy and couldn’t find them any longer and I’ve never found an equivalent replacement. I now know why. These handy little books were published right here in Milwaukee. They were known as the “Marquette Page a Day Book and Daily Reminder” and were published annually by George Seelman and Sons Company. Curious, I did a little research.

Geo. Seelman and Sons was a bindery and stationary manufacturer that produced diaries, memorandum books, notebooks, blank books, metal ring binders (they held a patent for the loose leaf binder ring filed on February 5, 1943), loose-leaf notebooks, address books, and recipe books. They had filed a trademark their product name “Marquette” on February 18, 1957.

The company got its start in 1890 by George Seelman. The company began life as the Blank Book Company and its primary market was supplying banks with passbooks. Four generations of the Seelman family worked for the company as it produced beautiful, quality stationary products.

The business was located at 1127 N. 7th Street until the day it closed on April 10, 1987. They had a national reach and were doing $3.5 million in sales. Unfortunately, they could not compete with the cheaper products coming out of Asia. Their biggest client, F. W. Woolworth, which had accounted for nearly half of their business for over 50 years, abandoned Geo. Seelman and Sons for the more inexpensive Asian products.

When Geo. Seelman and Sons went out of business 70 employees lost their jobs, but more than that, America lost a quality stationary manufacturer.

Geo. Seelman and Sons had a sister company, the Milwaukee Envelope Manufacturing Company, which continued on until 2003 when it too went out of business, taking with it another 100 year segment of Milwaukee history.