On an October night in 1866, a sixteen-year-old boy from Germany gathered his belongings, what little money he had, and boarded a Dutch sailing vessel bound for New York. After two long months, the ship was blown off course and arrived in Boston on Christmas Day. With only 50 cents in his pocket, Hermann Wenzel arrived in America.
During his voyage, Wenzel became fascinated with the big canvas sails which powered the boat and was asked by the crew to help repair the sails. Before long, Wenzel landed a job in Springfield, Massachusetts, working with a sailmaker and became interested in canvas awnings. He eventually moved to St. Louis, Missouri and started his awning business in 1887: H. Wenzel Tent & Duck Company.
The company struggled to make a profit in its early years, but with the help of his family, they pivoted from awnings and began manufacturing tents and tarpaulins. The agriculture boom at the beginning of the 20th century sparked large demand for their products as well as wagon covers. A sailmaker by trade, Wenzel knew heavy fabrics and experimented with sewing these fabrics to improve durability and performance without compromising quality for product. Since then, advances in materials and technology have made tents lighter and easier to assemble, but his vision and standard of quality remains to this day.