Bernard J. Dondorf was born in Frankfurt on 19th March, 1809, the son of Jewish immigrants. He worked for the printers C. Naumann before opening his own business in 1833. Initially this sold equipment for the printing industry as well as stationery and visiting cards, printing using lithographic printing techniques. As chromolithography took off, Dondorf diversified into the playing card business around 1840. Opening a new factory in 1871, Dondorf retired in July 1872, handing the business over to his sons, Carl and Paul, and his son in law, Jacob Fries.