Curtis Mathes Corporation
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|Founder||George Curtis Mathes|
Number of employees
|Parent||Connor and Mathes (est 1919)|
Curtis Mathes Corporation is a North American electronics retailer based in Garland, Texas specializing in the sale of private label brand electronics and repair services. It manufactured its own brand of televisions in Athens, Texas until July 31, 1982; ten years later, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and reorganization which allowed it to stay in business and use future earnings to pay off creditors.
Known for its commercials touting its televisions as the "most expensive television set in America, and darn well worth it", the company was credited with introducing longer warranties to electronics retailing. 
The Curtis Mathes Corporation started in 1919 as Connor and Mathes, a manufacturer and retailer of automobile and tractor parts. By the late 1920s, the company moved into the air conditioning industry. It also manufactured wooden cabinets and eventually furniture, acquiring Hub Furniture in 1942. The leading product through the 30s and 40s were electrical fans, many styles built into custom cabinets and permanent-type window fans. In the early 50s the company added a "central" or "attic fan" to its inventory. It pulled air from all open windows into the attic where it also ventilated the attic making the house much cooler.
This concept worked fine and as compressors were commercially introduced in the late 40s, Curtis Mathes Fort Worth factory began making a wide variety of compressors that could be used in cars or buildings. Leonard L. Northrup, Jr. became one of the leading distributors of Curtis Mathes Products including developing and an add-on air conditioning unit first used in Cadillacs.
By the late-1940s the Curtis Mathes Company had branched into radios, having developed the large centerpiece radio for the living room to an artform. It was therefore logical that this approach would work in televisions as well.
The Curtis Mathes Corporation was founded in 1957 and shortly thereafter entered the television industry, founding plants in Tarrant and Dallas Counties and in Athens, Texas. Finally moving all most manufacturing to a huge Athens facility. From 1968 to 1988 it was the only fully American owned electronics firm and the only American Television manufacturer.
In the late 1960s, Leonard L. Northrup, Jr. bought a controlling interest in Donmark Corporation, a manufacturer of residential air conditioning and heating equipment from his lifelong friend Curtis Mathes, Sr. as Curtis Mathes moved toward electronics.
During the next few years Curtis Mathes worked to design a modular TV and modular TV parts and chassis, so that warranty service would involve quickly switching a part, tube, tuner or picture tube. These all had snap-in connectors and were held in place by brackets instead of solder or screws. He envisioned a TV that would never be plagued by costly repairs and early on started offering the 4-Year warranty on picture tube, parts and labor.
By the mid-70's and the advent of solid state, he had achieved results and the TV consisted of 11 parts: 7 circuit boards, a tuner, a picture tube and a transformer, plus the cabinet. A repairman carried all ten electronic parts in his truck and a repair call seldom lasted more than 20 minutes. In home the fee was $20.00; in the shop the service was free.
Curtis Mathes TVs that were used for rentals (such as Colortyme) were sometimes rebranded "Rutherford".
After Curtis Mathes Jr.
On June 2, 1983, its second chairman, George Curtis Mathes Jr, 54, was one of 23 passengers killed in the Air Canada Flight 797 fire. The company then began to decline, going from a peak of 5000 employees and seven manufacturing facilities to about 50 employees in 1988 when it was sold to Enhanced Electronics. At the time of this sale, it was the last remaining fully U.S.-owned electronics company.
In the late 1990s to early 2000s, the Curtis Mathes brand became an in-house brand for the KMart discount chain. As of late 2007, Curtis Mathes had re-emerged with products marketed at several discount retailers such as Wal-Mart, Sam's Club, Meijer and Target.