Remembering Crisman Hardware

Tuesday, May 29, 2007 - by Harmon Jolley
Crisman Hardware letterhead.  Click to enlarge.
Crisman Hardware letterhead. Click to enlarge.

“Ed, when are you going to fix our roof?” asked his wife, Florence. “The last time that it rained, the water dripped through the ceiling onto our Zenith floor radio. The green electric tuning eye looked like that it was shedding tears. I was right in the middle of listening to my favorite radio show, “Secret Storm.” I had to use the goldfish bowl to catch the water. Poor little Midas almost floated right out of his home.”

“OK, OK; I’ll call a hardware store and go buy some nails, a hammer, and roofing, “said her husband, Ed. “Hand me the phone book. Hello? Is this the hardware store? Do you sell roofing? You do? The Anco brand and it’s available in many different colors? Well, do you have black? You do? Well, put some back for me, and I’ll be right down. How will I find your store? So, I just look for the sign with the big pocket knife? OK, I’ll be right down.”

Ed was on his way to Crisman Hardware, a well-known store in downtown Chattanooga for many years. Like the Ellis Restaurant with its animated neon frog sign, and the Town and Country Restaurant with its animated coach sign, Crisman Hardware beckoned customers with distinctive signage. In their case, it was a large pocket knife with the name “Crisman” on the handle.

The hardware shop was founded in 1904 by brothers B.A. and Oscar A. Crisman, who were natives of Winchester, TN. The store’s first address was 425 Market Street near present-day Buehler’s Market and Jack’s Alley.

Since those were the days of real horsepower, the Crismans sold horse collars and other components of harness. Area farmers came to Crisman’s for all of the implements of agriculture, including picks, rakes, and fencing. An old photograph of the store shows that the owners used some of the sidewalk to display their wares.

“Prominent Tennesseans 1796-1938” (Gillum) noted in a biography of B.A. Crisman that “he has one of the largest hardware stores in the South.” By 1938, Crisman Hardware was celebrating its twentieth year in a new, larger store at 511 Market Street. The trademark pocket knife sign moved with the store, and was featured on company letterhead.

The Crisman brothers returned some of the store’s profits to civic interests. Oscar Crisman established Camp Elklore in Franklin County, TN in memory of his son. B.A. Crisman endowed the Crisman Memorial Library at David Lipscomb University in Nashville. The building has since been renovated, and serves as the university’s administration building.

In 1961, Crisman’s merged with Ace Hardware, and moved to 116 North Market Street. Customers continued to come to the 500 block between Market and Broad for hardware, though. The building that housed Crisman’s was demolished for a new Sears Parkade, which allowed folks like the above-mentioned “Ed” to park the car and then shop for tools for various home fix-up projects.

If you have memories of Crisman Hardware, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

"Look for the Big Knife" was the slogan of Crisman Hardware.  Click to enlarge.
"Look for the Big Knife" was the slogan of Crisman Hardware. Click to enlarge.
- photo by courtesy Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library

Wayne Shearer’s World War II Memoir, Part 3: Off To North Georgia College!

McClung Museum Director To Retire

Chester Martin: Remembering The Dixie Group: Textiles And Floor Coverings In Chattanooga


(Editor’s Note: Dr. Wayne Shearer, 94, is a retired optometrist and retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force Reserve now living in Hixson. In his early 90s, he decided to sit down and write from ... (click for more)

Jeff Chapman, director of UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, will retire at the end of the 2019 spring semester after 29 years as the museum’s director. Under Mr. Chapman’s ... (click for more)

Just as Chattanooga had risen from near annihilation after the American Civil War, we were again in need of economic resuscitation following the conclusion of World War I, some 53 years later. ... (click for more)


Memories

Wayne Shearer’s World War II Memoir, Part 3: Off To North Georgia College!

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Wayne Shearer, 94, is a retired optometrist and retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force Reserve now living in Hixson. In his early 90s, he decided to sit down and write from memory and a few records he still possesses his recollections of going through Army Air Corps pilot training at several bases in the United States during World War II. A lifelong writer, ... (click for more)

McClung Museum Director To Retire

Jeff Chapman, director of UT’s McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture, will retire at the end of the 2019 spring semester after 29 years as the museum’s director. Under Mr. Chapman’s leadership, the McClung Museum has established itself as central to research, teaching and interdisciplinary programming at UT, officials said. The only museum on the university’s campus, ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Ooltewah Residents Ask Sewage Treatment Plant Go In Meigs County Instead; WWTA Says Growth To Be Stymied Without Plant

An overflow crowd of Ooltewah residents opposed to a sewage plant "in their back yard" recommended on Wednesday that it go further north, perhaps Meigs County where TVA is building a major power center. Officials of the Hamilton County Water and Wastewater Treatment Authority (WWTA) said Mahan Gap Road is the best location and least expensive. Without a new plant, development ... (click for more)

Earthquakes Hit Tennessee Valley Early Wednesday Morning

Two earthquakes happened early Wednesday morning just north of Chattanooga, awakening many early in the morning. The earthquakes registered at 4.4 and 3.3 magnitudes at 4:27 a.m. Some people felt them in North Chattanooga and Ooltewah. They were also felt as far away as Atlanta and Nashville. A St. Elmo woman told of the sewing machine that she uses as a night table by ... (click for more)

Opinion

Alstom And Tubman: A Tale Of Two Sites

The former Alstom industrial site on the riverfront and the former Harriett Tubman housing site in East Chattanooga both have a lot of redevelopment potential. And yet the city of Chattanooga seems to view them quite differently. Alstom is the fair-haired child; Tubman is the forgotten child. The Alstom area was recently designated as an "opportunity zone" in a new program ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: My Best Breakfast Ever

As I have grown older, I have grown more peculiar. I love having so many wonderful friends who I’ll see out in the mornings, all hail and hardy, but most of the time I enjoy having breakfast by myself. Hear me out: whether it is the Cracker Barrel, the Bluegrass Café or any number of other places I enjoy, most often there are delightful people who invite me to share their table ... (click for more)