The Golden Rule: the foundational strength of an American brand

August 19th, 2010

the Golden Rule marble100 years ago in 1910, Billy Kaufman’s great grandfather, Jesse Shwayder, founded an iconic American brand called Samsonite. Billy’s grandfather, Louis Degan, later brought Samsonite to Murfreesboro employing several Middle Tennesseans.

The quality of Samsonite’s products served a bustling nation on the move, and Jesse proudly built that company around an important core value: The Golden Rule.

Jesse shared this value by giving employees, vendors and even customers a marble made with the Golden Rule inscribed on a band encircling the marble. Jesse asked folks who received this special gift to consider the rule when making tough decisions.

On a small double-sided sheet of paper that came with each marble Jesse handed out was the following message.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." - New Testament, Matthew VII, 12 "We have found, for practical as well as moral reasons, the Golden Rule is the finest program we could adopt. The Golden Rule has more power than the atomic bomb. With its help, men still can work wonders." Jesse Shwayder Founder, Shwayder Tunk Mfg. Co. (Samsonite Corporation)

The Meaning of the Golden Rule Marble The Golden Rule marble, encircled with a band bearing the Golden Rule, was created by Jesse Shwayder as a symbol of the philosophy upon which he founded the Shwayder Trunk Mfg. Co. (Samsonite Corporation). Traditionally every new Samsonite employee receives a Golden Rule marble. Over the years this delicately inscribed sphere has served as a reminder not only to employees, but to customers and friends around the world of the universal doctrine, the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule is the basic religious concept of all the earth's great religions. Moses handed it down to the children of Israel. Christ proclaimed it to his followers throughout the world. Buddha, Confucius, and Aristotle have their basic teachings in the Golden Rule. If the Golden Rule ideal were adopted by the nations of the world, perhaps the one great hope of mankind would be realized: Peace on Earth and Good Will toward Men.

To this day, businesses and church groups like the United Methodist Men continue this tradition. This 1965 TIME Magazine article described how applying the Golden Rule in business paid off for Samsonite.

The world’s largest manufacturer of luggage is named after the Bible’s powerful Samson. Its president has a name to match: King David. The firm’s official corporate philosophy is the Bible’s Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”* All company officers and salesmen carry a marble encircled by a gold band on which the Golden Rule is printed, take it out for inspiration when they have a business decision to make.

This philosophical approach — wedded to some pragmatic business practices—has paid off handsomely for Denver’s Samsonite Corp. The firm now accounts for more than a quarter of all U.S. luggage sold, and its sales last year reached a record $55.9 million. Last week, as orders from vacation-bound Americans flooded into Denver, Samsonite raised its 1965 sales estimate from $60 million to $64 million.

100 years later, Jesse’s great-grandchildren keep these marbles as a reminder of the values that helped their family build an iconic global brand in pursuit of the American dream.

The Golden Rule helps good neighbors build strong communities and is a prominent family value of the Kaufman brothers and the Short Mountain Distillery.

  1. November 3rd, 2010 at 20:32 | #1

    Hi there, just browsing for information for my Samsonite site. Truly more information than you can imagine on the web. Not what I was looking for, but cool site. Cya later.

  2. Kokoe
    November 8th, 2010 at 13:53 | #2

    It’s great to read about the Golden Rule as a corporate tradition.

    The Golden Rule is also being used as the foundation for a global movement to unite people under the Charter for Compassion

    I hope that the work of Samsonite can find a place under this same umbrella of truth.

  3. Lacy
    February 28th, 2011 at 21:07 | #3

    In about 1978, I was working in my yard when I spotted something shiny in the dirt. I reached down and picked it up and it was one of these marbles.

    I kept it in a safe place but never knew its history until the onset of the internet.

    I love my blue “Do Unto Others” marble.Thank you for publishing it’s story.

    Thank you.

  4. March 17th, 2011 at 08:41 | #4

    You say the grandchildren are continuing the tradition. I was a friend of Ken Shwayder and have lost touch with him, and you help connect me with him again?

    I’m looking for a supplier of the original Samsonite marble, any help you can give would be appreciated.

  5. Sonny Covington
    July 11th, 2011 at 15:19 | #5 has the marbles. They have several diff3erent kind. The banded marbles are expensive and harder to find. Best of luck.

  1. January 24th, 2011 at 10:43 | #1
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