Charles Ilfeld opens a curio shop in Las Vegas, New Mexico. To learn more about Mr. Ilfeld, click HERE!
First of all, Charles Ilfeld, born in Homburg, Germany in 1847, arrives in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1865. Most importantly, there he joins the mercantile business of Elsberg and Amberg as a clerk. A few months later, he relocates to Taos to work for Adolph Letcher in his business as a trader and agent, primarily for Elsberg and Amberg. Consequently, by 1867 Taos is no longer a viable trade center and A. Letcher and Company moves to Las Vegas, New Mexico, where Charles Ilfeld becomes a partner in the firm. Finally, seven years later, Letcher sells his interest to Ilfeld, who changes the name of the business to Charles Ilfeld Company.
Most interestingly, Ilfeld’s business eventually grows into the largest mercantile firm in New Mexico, with sales of $25,000,000 at its peak in 1952. In addition, Max Nordhaus, Ilfeld’s brother-in-law, joined the company in 1886. Consequently, his expertise in finance led the company to expand, opening branch stores around the territory. Shifting focus from retail to wholesale distribution, the company closed most of its retail stores in 1907. Additionally, the wholesale business capitalized on the railways to buy and sell goods. For instance, wool is purchased from New Mexico ranchers and sells in eastern markets, where manufactured goods were bought for distribution back in New Mexico.
Most noteworthy “Wholesalers of everything” became the company motto. Branches and warehouses are built along railroad lines in Santa Rosa, Albuquerque, Magdalena, and Gallup. Nordhaus becomes company president in 1929 upon the death of Charles Ilfeld. The business operates until 1961, when increasing competition forces the decision to sell off assets. Finally, a new company forms at that time dealing solely in hardware. As a result, In 1970 the Charles Ilfeld Hardware Company liquidates, ending a century of Ilfeld merchandising in New Mexico.
From the guide to the Charles Ilfeld Company Records, 1865-1929, (University of New Mexico. Center for Southwest Research.)
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