George Schultz, glue gun inventor; at 82

George Schultz got the idea that eventually made his fortune when he saw shoe workers applying scalding glue from a pot. George Schultz got the idea that eventually made his fortune when he saw shoe workers applying scalding glue from a pot.
By J.M. Lawrence
Globe Correspondent / December 15, 2008
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In the late 1940s, Boston native George Schultz saw the burned and bandaged fingers of workers at a Haverhill shoe factory and had an idea that helped make him a multimillionaire.

Mr. Schultz watched the shoemakers burn themselves while dipping hot glue from a pot. He invented the first industrial glue gun, known as the Polygun, and founded Industrial Shoe Machinery in Boston in 1954. He sold the company to 3M in 1973 for more than $3.8 million.

"He was a brilliant man," said his friend Albert Leon Horn of Houston, Miss., who met Mr. Schultz when their families toured the country with a Blue Bird motor coach club. "He was somebody you would enjoy being around. We were real friends."

Mr. Schultz, of Brookline, died Nov. 18 after a heart attack outside a diner in Brighton. He was 82.

A native of Dorchester, he was the youngest of nine children born to Lithuanian immigrants. His father worked as a carpenter.

In 1943, Mr. Schultz graduated from the Dorchester High School for Boys and joined the Navy.

After World War II, he went to night school, studying engineering at Northeastern University. He dreamed of attending MIT, where he had been wait-listed for two years amid the many returning servicemen headed to college. He found a bride and went to work instead, his family said.

He met Frances Shaller at a Temple Mishkan Tefila dance. He later told his daughters that he had spotted Frances on the dance floor because, at 5 feet 10 inches, she was the tallest girl in the room.

Mr. Schultz was more than 6 feet tall and needed a date for an upcoming reunion of his prewar pals. Frances went out with him, but later rebuffed his first marriage proposals. "He had to work at it a little bit," said daughter Deborah LeClair of Needham.

The couple had little money and got married on a weeknight to save on the ceremony, relatives said.

In 1948, Mr. Schultz started a business as a steam engineer with $300 worth of tools. He mostly fixed pressing machines used by tailors. He visited his father-in-law's shoe factory, where he saw female workers waving scalding steam kettles over fabric to make shoes. He created a steam gun for them and later invented the glue gun.

He opened his shoe factory, ISM, which was on Gaston Street in Roxbury from the 1950s until the early 1970s.

Mr. Schultz's company held more than 50 patents for machinery designs. He fitted old machines with air cylinders to make them easier to operate for workers who had crooked backs and rounded shoulders from years of labor, relatives said.

In 1958, Mr. Schultz built his car from a kit sold by Colt Motors. He made the frame and had the exterior fabricated out of fiberglass by a boat manufacturer.

"He just decided, 'I'm going to make a car," said daughter Beth Klarman, of Brookline. "It was so lightweight, if he parked and didn't do a good job, he would pick up the car and move it."

After his daughters were born, Mr. Schultz bought a house near Nantasket Beach, where he enjoyed fishing. Mr. Schultz held weekly lobster parties and paved his front and side yards to allow more visitor parking.

In later years, Mr. Schultz and his wife lived in Boca Raton, Fla., and enjoyed traveling with the Blue Bird Motor Coach Club. They once raced back to Boston from Alaska for the birth of a grandchild.

Bill Watson of Hope, Ark., recalled motor home trips with the Schultzes in the 1980s. The drivers kept in touch on the road with CB radios. They often relied on Mr. Schultz to put a stalled motor home back on the road.

Watson recalled a Christmas road trip through Texas, where the Blue Bird owners stopped at a farm for a quail feast on their way to see the Rose Parade.

"We had a service, and I prepared a Christian service and a Jewish service," Watson said. "George was so appreciative of that because he was the only Jewish man there. He was so gracious in his nature about things like that."

He said Mr. Schultz gave him a mezuzah, a small parchment containing Hebrew verses, to put at his door in Arkansas "for good luck." "I treasure it because he gave it to me. He was a wonderful guy," he said.

Mr. Schultz and his wife stopped traveling when Frances became ill. She died in January. They were married 60 years.

Mr. Schultz, who also enjoyed fishing, golfing, and watching the Red Sox, spent recent years making hand-cut clocks for his family in his workshop. "He loved to know how things worked," his daughter Beth said.

In addition to his daughters, Mr. Schultz leaves a sister, Bertha Britt of Boston; another daughter, Ruth Ransom of Broken Arrow, Okla.; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

Services have been held. Burial was in Sharon Memorial Park.

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