Paul Hammersmith was the son of Herman and Emma Hammersmith, both educated émigrés from Prussia. He was one of ten children raised on a farm in Naperville, Illinois. Although Paul wanted to be an artist, his father apprenticed him after high school to be a watchmaker and engraver.
At age 19 in 1876, his creative craft brought him to Milwaukee. Hammersmith went to work for Stanley and Camp Co. on Wisconsin Avenue and Broadway, and lived on Kane Place on Milwaukee's East side. In 1898, when the company closed, Paul went into business for himself and established The Hammersmith Engraving Company in the McGoech Building on East Michigan Street.
In 1917 he and his son Paul W. incorporated the business with Silas Kortmeyer, a printing manager, and the business became known as Hammersmith-Kortmeyer Company Engravers and Printers. His etchings were produced from sketches done on travels to New Orleans, Amsterdam, Boston, Cape Cod and Illinois. He also traveled to Jasper Park in the Canadian Rockies, but lost his sketchbook on this trip. In 1930, he took a family trip to Cuba and did a series of prints on Cuba.
Hammersmith was one of the founders of the Men's Sketch Club of Milwaukee, an organization still vital today, and was a member of the Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors in 1923. He was a prolific printmaker. Paul died at age 80 in the fall of 1937.