Always in the Forefront
Al Guden, Chairman of the Board of H. A. Guden Co., Inc., is the third generation of his family to head the company. Over the years, the business has grown throughout a colorful history of individual accomplishment, and customer relationships that have lasted through some of the best of times and trying times of American business.
H. A. Guden Co., Inc. was founded in 1920 with a location at 225 Canal Street in downtown New York City. It was formed as a break-off from the Foster Merriam Co. of Meriden, Connecticut, where H. A. Guden had followed his father, Charles Guden, as New York Sales Manager. Edwin Guden, H. A.'s brother, also worked for the firm as a local sales representative.
In an unusual display of business insight and integrity, Foster Merriam "celebrated" its 100th birthday by paying all its bills and closing its doors. Management felt they were unable to compete with the new corporations entering the field. Their line had been basically furniture hardware, hinges and casters.
The new H. A. Guden Co. purchased the foundry and patterns from the old corporation. H. A. Guden became president and held the position until his death in 1973.
The very first year of operation, the company had to face the financial depression of 1921. Another challenge came from the unexpectedly rapid technology shift from the phonograph to the radio. H. A. Guden supplied hardware to makers of phonographs, and, in a period of three weeks, the company took on approximately $50,000 in bad debts -- a huge amount of money in those depressed times. Many of the phonograph companies, unable to pay their bills, sent phonographs in lieu of cash.
As Jack's son Al recalls his father saying, "For many months, your grandmother bartered phonographs for food, coal and ice."
In 1934, Jack Guden, armed with his new Mechanical Engineering degree from Brooklyn Polytechnic (now Polytechnic University), entered the business world, in the depths of the Great Depression. Jack's first job was as an engineer at the Robbins Conveyor Company. He later founded his own company, and, starting in 1938, also worked part time for the family business until he joined the Navy at the outbreak of World War II.
After the War, Jack returned to H. A. Guden Co., Inc. He learned every phase of the business, progressing from shipping through sales and management until taking the reins in 1973. Jack became the pivotal figure between his father H. A. and his son Al, who survives Jack today. "I've been fortunate to always be in the forefront of changes in our business," Al recalls his father saying. "We've covered it all, from phonographs to radios, television sets, furniture and toilet seats to a variety of technical, electronic, automotive and other hinge applications. Guden hinges have been on every NASA mission to the Moon and even allowed the Lunar Rover 'moon buggy' to unfold."
Jack Guden's personal life was equally as interesting as his business career. In the 1930's he was a member of the New York National Guard's 101st Calvary, the last mounted unit on the East Coast. As an engineer, he built Navy destroyers and served as a planning and production officer in the Canal Zone. He once said, "It was a beautiful place when I was down there. The tallest building in Panama City was a two-story frame structure. Now it looks like Manhattan."
Today, Al Guden continues in his forefathers' footsteps, providing continuity and leadership as H. A. Guden continues to grow, evolve and serve our customers.