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History of American Radiator

American Radiator Litchfield Illinois - Laying the Cornerstone ceremony
American Radiator Litchfield Illinois - Laying the Cornerstone ceremony

American Radiator and Standard Sanitary Corporation

FOR almost half of the hundred-year history of the City of Litchfield, the American Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corporation has been a citizen of the community.

The cornerstone of the firm's Litchfield Plant was laid in 1904 on a 28-acre tract of land bordering on what is now McKinley Avenue. Soon a core room, foundry, finishing room, warehouse, power house, office and laboratory with a total of 78,000 square feet of floor space, were erected for the production of cast iron radiators.

By the next year the plant was the largest employer in the community. Over 200 were at work and the annual payroll was $175,000.

Between 1905 and 1944 the plant produced only cast iron radiation and, in that period more than 150,000,000 square feet of this product was cast. Rococo, Peerless, Corto, and Arco radiators were shipped from Litchfield to all parts of the United States and South America. In the early years before the American Radiator Company built its European plants, large quantities were also exported to Europe.

Improvements in manufacturing processes and increased demand for the plant's products resulted in its doubling in size during this period. The plant was one of the first in this country to install a continuous automatic molding unit. This improvement, developed by American Radiator engineers, was completed in 1907.

During World War II the American-Standard Litchfield Plant was converted for the manufacture of sand-molded magnesium castings. The conversion meant practically rebuilding the interior of the plant and resulted in an additional 40,000 square feet under roof. A new melt room, office, laboratory and new locker rooms were added. The entire output of the plant was used by the Government for military aircraft. Peak employment of 535 was reached in 1945.

The plant was re-converted to the manufacture of radiators late in 1945. Production of sheet metal floor furnaces was added in 1947 and a 40,000 square foot warehouse was added in 1949. The plant was closed for about 20 months during 1949 and 1950 because of excess inventories.

After the outbreak of the Korean conflict, American-Standard again converted the plant to magnesium production for defense purposes. The first casting was poured on January 30, 1952.

While the original organization of the plant is much the same, the manufacturing space has more than tripled and the plant now occupies double its 1904 acreage. At the present time over 450 are employed and the annual payroll is now around $2,000,000. In 1953 as in 1905, the plant is the community's largest employer.

It is interesting to note that the average hourly wage today is approximately 15 times that paid in 1905. At the same time the work week has decreased from 60 to 40 hours.

The plant has remained under the same ownership since it began production. Originally built by the American Radiator Company, it became a part of the American-Standard organization in 1929. At that time American Radiator merged with the Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company, a leading producer of plumbing fixtures, to form the American Radiator & Standard Sanitary Corporation.

Litchfield Plant has had eight managers, many of them prominent in the life of the community. They are L. A. LeClercq, 1904-1906; George R. Corwin, 1906-1909; Henry L. Bergman, 1909-1914; Thomas Potts, 1915-1931; Walter I. Gross, 1931-1933; E. M. Benedict, 1933-1938; E. L. Grenagle, 1938-1953; and John R. Sieber, present manager.

Long-service records are the rule. Almost half of the present employees have ten or more years of company service. Included are V. R. Fellers, Herman Detmer and Henrv Bockewitz with 40 years' service. Fifty-eight others have been with the company more than 25 years. They are:

Clinton Fenton

Wm. J. Davis

Harry Yates

Harry Unterbrink

William Houlihan

Willard V. Eyman

Adolphus Bryant

James Barry

James Driscoll

Earl E. Ewing

H. E. Elledge

Albert Bohlen

James E. Badman

Mike Funk

Otto Harms

Joe Jolley

Wesley Cress

Raleigh Rundle

Aubrey Barrow

Ira K. Gonterman

Frank Beck

Walter L. Wilson

Wm. Cavanaugh

Ralph Cayce

Marvin Graham

Charles Hull

Charles Kinder