Friday, November 18, 2011

Blueprinting companies were once extremely profitable businesses: a look back in time

I’m a history buff and a nostalgia buff, and I’d like to thank John Scher Zeller, grandson of Max Scher, for sharing some of his grandfather’s balance sheets with me, so that I can share this, what I think is very interesting information, with visitors to Reprographics 101.

John’s grandfather, Max Scher, who was an immigrant, founded Max Scher Blueprints in 1922. Max Scher Blueprints was located in downtown Washington, DC.

Max, habitually prepared a balance sheet (assets and liabilities) at the beginning of each year; these balance sheets reflected his “net worth.” I would have liked to have been able to share Max Scher Blueprints’ income statements, but, unfortunately, those are not in John’s archives.

Let’s start with the balance sheet prepared in January 1923, which was not long after Max founded his blueprinting company. In this balance sheet, you will see a debt to C.F. Pease & Co. That company manufactured blueprinting machines. “Real” blueprinting machines, the ones that made blueprints using a wet-chemical process and that produced white lines on blue paper.

Financial Statement - 1923



Liberty Bonds


2nd Trust Notes


Dep on 16th St Apartment


Half-interest in 2 stores


Stock Investments


Blue Print Plant


Total Assets


Note to C.F. Pease & Co.


Note to Guaranty Savings Bank


Net Worth


According to, $12,770 in 1923 had the same buying power as $165,616 in 2011.

Okay, let’s now move forward to the year 1947. (That’s the year that John Scher Zeller was born (and the same year that I was born.)

By this time, Max’s balance sheet shows that he owns 909 12th Street, N.W. (Washington, DC). Apparently, it was sometime during 1939 when Max purchased 909 12th Street. When I first met John Scher Zeller back around 1977, Max Scher Blueprints was still located at 909 12th Street. [ABC Imaging’s first location (and its name, back then, was American Blueprinting Company), was only one block away, over on 11th Street, N.W., but the Falsafi’s (brothers Medi and Mir) did not found ABC until 1982.] John moved the business out of 909 12th Street when he and Gary Rowley (Rowley’s Blueprint Service) merged their companies; that merger happened in 1979. Note that, by 1947, Max Scher’s net worth, adjusted for inflation, had climbed to over $4 million!

Financial Statement - 1947



U.S. Government Bonds


Stock Investments


Property - Davenport St, NW, Wash, DC


Property - 909 12th St NW, Wash, DC


Blue Print Plant


Annuity, NY Life


Total Assets


Total Liabilities


Net Worth


According to, $418,126 in 1947 had the same buying power as $4,262,532 in 2011.

Although I don’t have Max Scher’s income statements, I did see some of them years ago, around the time that John and I first met. Max Scher Blueprints, as I recall, was an extremely profitable company. Those were back in the days when most blueprinting companies did only blueprinting. Xerox machines had not yet been invented. I don’t recall when “Photostat” machines first appeared in the marketplace, but I’m sure that Max Scher Blueprints added that service not long after Photostat machines came on the market. (John said, this morning via e-mail, that he thinks his grandfather first added Photostat machines sometime in the 1930’s). Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find any reprographics company that, pound-for-pound (percentage-wise), is as profitable as was Max Scher Blueprints was back then.

Here’s a link to the collection of Max Scher’s balance sheets:

And, here’s a link to Max Scher’s business card! (note that this was back when phone numbers had only four numbers and a prefix that was in letters, in this case, NA-3738. (The first family phone number I can remember was TU-1530; that’s from when I was 2 years old.)

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