f/8 and Be There
Fred Lynch

Bahn Bros. Hardware - Est. 1860

Posted Friday, March 21, 2014, at 12:00 AM

Jan. 28, 1960 Southeast Missourian

Bahn Brothers 100th Anniversary

Bahn Brothers Hardware Store, located at 10 North Main, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and L.J. Bahn of that company was honored Wednesday at a meeting of the Missouri Retail Hardware Association at the Chase Hotel in St. Louis.

The hardware store was founded in 1860 in a building that was north of the present location on Main, by George W. Bahn, the present operator's father, and Bernard Bahn, his uncle. At the beginning of the business, George and Bernard Bahn also manufactured muzzle loading rifles, as well as selling hardware. Both were gunsmiths.

L.J. Bahn says that there is still one of the old rifles in the store, and he has heard of several people in this part of the country who have the old weapons. Later, Mr. George Bahn took over the complete control of the business.

In 1890, the present building was built by the company, and it has been located there since. After George Bahn's death, the store was taken over by W.C. Bahn, who has since passed away. E.L. Bahn, who has retired, and L.J. Bahn who is operating the company, and has been connected with the store since 1910.

Feb. 2, 1962 Southeast Missourian

Bahn Store Will Move to Spanish

After about five or six weeks the Bahn Bros. hardware store plans to move to 24 and 26 North Spanish Street. The quarters at 10 North Main are to be vacated in connection with the expansion of the Montgomery Ward store.

James. D. Chenoweth of the hardware company said new tile flooring, new ceiling and other improvements are to be made at the building on North Spanish before the move is made. The building is owned by the Juden estate.

[The business ceased operations later in 1962.]


Chris Bahn provides the following information of the Bahn brothers:

Brothers Bernhard and Georg Wilhelm (GW) Bahn migrated to America, from Germany, in 1854 and 1859, respectively. A short time after Bernhard opened a hardware and Gun Smithing business in Cape Girardeau, MO, his much-younger brother, G.W., arrived. G.W. traveled to Rock Island, IL, where he learned the gun-smithing trade at the federal arsenal, before coming back to Cape to work with his brother. When the two of them formed a partnership to produce muzzle-loading, ball and cap rifles, the name "B. Bahn and Bro, Cape Girardeau, MO” became the logo stamped atop the barrels of their rifles, and their accompanying store was Bahn Brothers Hardware.

Based on a combination of information passed down within the Bahn families, old newspaper recaps, and research of online and courthouse records, their business chronology is as follows:

  • Bernhard Bahn opened the shop 1857-1860 at or near 1011 Broadway at Harmony.
  • Bernhard and G.W. Bahn partnership of B. Bahn & Brother formed in 1860.
  • In the 1860-62 timeframe, the firm moved the gun and hardware business to a small, 2-story brick building at 40 North Main.
  • In 1876-78, the firm re-located to 34-36 North Main.
  • In 1890-91, the partnership was dissolved and G.W. Bahn opened a hardware store, still calling it Bahn Brothers Hardware, at 10-12-14 North Main. No history exists as to the reason for this separation by the brothers. We believe the manufacturing of guns ceased when the partnership dissolved.
  • Bernhard continued in the hardware business at the 34-36 N. Main location until his death in 1907, at which time his son, Judge Rudolf (Rudie) Bahn ran that store until its closing in 1910 due to Rudie’s other business interests. According to a large ad in the Daily Republican Newspaper of 2-10-1910, the closing-out sale of Bernhard Bahn’s shop was to begin 03 December 1910. Another such announcement appeared in that paper’s 12-2-1910 edition, announcing the selling-out of his stock.
  • G.W. ran his Bahn Brothers Hardware Store until the early 1900’s when two of his sons [William Christian (W.C.), and G.W. Jr] bought him out. Then for the remainder of the 20th century (until closing in 1963), brothers W.C., Emil Lawrence and Leon J. Bahn took it over.
  • In 1962, to allow for expansion of the neighboring Montgomery Ward Store, the Bahn Brothers Hardware was moved briefly from 10-14 N. Main Street, one block further west to 24-26 N. Spanish Street in a building owed by the Juden Estate. It then ceased operations later that year. Leon J. Bahn was then the proprietor (brother W.C. Bahn was deceased, and Emil L. Bahn had retired).
  • NOTE: Another account suggests Bernhard didn’t discontinue his rifle business until his death in 1907 (no known documentation exists, nor are there any known Bahn rifles bearing any logo other than “B. Bahn & Bro”).
  • Recaps about the business include articles in the Southeast Missourian newspaper dated 1-28-1960 (which claims to be the 100th anniversary) and 2-2-1962.

During the peak of the Bahn Brothers gun-making success, approximately 15-20 gunsmiths worked in the shop, crafting and assembling rifles. The company purchased unfinished stocks made of walnut, maple and other quality hardwoods, and carved and finished the stocks and fore-stocks. The barrels were purchased from Remington, which were then finely bored for accuracy, on a boring machine, by the gunsmiths. Locks with trigger-mechanisms were purchased from eastern companies, with the Leman Co. of Lancaster, PA, appearing to be most heavily used as supplier. Several written and verbal accounts attested these to be among the most accurate guns in the Midwest, and owners frequently won shooting contests (beef, turkey and ham being the prizes) typically held behind local taverns.

Toward the end of the 19th century the Bahn Brothers could no longer compete with the Winchester and Remington rifles so they turned their focus to hardware. We’re told that around 1904-1905, they would put large barrels out in front of the store filled with Bahn rifles and a sign that read “Take Your pick -- $5.00 each”. As late as the 1940s, barrels of stock blanks and boxes of ball-and-cap mechanisms were known to turn-up in the hardware store warehouse. In fact, one rather unfortunate tale is told by a grandson of G.W. (Dr. Charles Bahn) that as a boy he (Charles) was told by his father (W.C. Bahn) to “fetch a large box of rifle stocks from the attic of the Hardware Store and burn them”, which Charles recalls doing.

Anyone interested in further information or clarifications may contact Chris Bahn, at cb28@sbcglobal.net.


Be the first to post a comment