Fred E. Schwab emigrated from Germany immediately prior to World War II and founded a series of successful plastics manufacturing businesses in southeast Michigan before retiring in 2002.
Fred Schwab was born in 1918 in Frankfurt, Germany. His father was a lawyer, judge, and businessman who sold rubber products across Germany. While in Frankfurt, Schwab worked at his father's rubber manufacturing business and at a dental laboratory where he learned to work with acrylic polymers. In 1937, his family insisted he leave Germany to live with an uncle in New York. Schwab's parents and brother later managed to escape Germany for England, though both his father and brother spent time in Buchenwald.
After moving to New York, Schwab managed to secure a loan from his uncle, to start a plastics business with Jack Frank in Detroit. Schwab & Frank initially made its name selling acrylic materials to dental supply manufacturers. Schwab & Frank later expanded the business to produce other kinds of plastics. They pioneered multi-color extrusion, polystyrene molding and cutting techniques, and processes for extruded coiling. They used these techniques to produce novelty items including jewelry, Christmas decor, and telephone cords. After being granted American citizenship, Schwab took a leave of absence from Schwab & Frank and joined the United States Army as a translator in 1943. During that time, he also married his wife, Marianne.
Following his return to Schwab and Frank, Schwab developed an increasing interest in the automotive industry. In 1952, he bought out his partner and founded Schwab Plastics, which focused on the production of automotive and industrial parts.
After facing substantial financial difficulties, Schwab Plastics was sold to the Lus-Trus Corporation in 1958, where Schwab served as the sales manager. After leaving Lus-Trus, Schwab helped found Group Four Sales to assist plastics manufacturers with both sales and technical matters.
Schwab was also influential in the founding of the Society of Plastics Engineers in 1942. In 1987, he was inducted into the Plastics Hall of Fame. He received an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in 1996 from Ferris State University in Michigan.