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

Siegel Wilhite

Wm. Borror

Arthur Dietrich

Joe Vanderburg

Ed Riemenschneider

Thomas Campell

Dane L. Murphy

Norman Schuette

Cecil Jett

Phillip Davis

Henry Kindler

Homer Stephenson

Ira E. Wilson

Earl White

Marion Basso

Orville Pilkerton

William Arends

Adolph Mehlberg

Edgar Bishop

Clifford McCracken

Fred Andres

Lester Batty

Al Brandt

Leslie Carnahan

James Moore

John B. Reeder

Frank J. Sacha

James Thornton

Ammor Trunk

Leo Wilson

John Bowles

Twenty-six former employees now receive company pensions.

More than fifty Litchfield Plant employees served in the First World War and 11 saw service in World War II. Since Korea, three have been called to military service. Paul Fuchs, Willis Gates, and Wm. E. Haller gave their lives for their country.

Present employees participate in the company's non-contributory pension plan and a comprehensive group insurance, hospitalization, and medical care program. The employees also sponsor an approved credit union. Present officers are: Charles Kinder, president; James Moore, vice-president; Thomas Campbell, secretary, and G. M. Richards, treasurer. The credit union's board of directors includes: R. H. Finke, Raleigh Rundle, Marion Basso, Thomas Tibbs, and Arthur Dietrich.

Litchfield Plant employees are represented by an affiliate of the United Steel Workers of America, CIO. Roland Sawyer is local president and Dane Murphy and H. E. Elledge are recording and financial secretaries, respectively.

Plant employees also have a long record of participation in the civic and charitable activities of the community. At the present time Charles Hull is serving his third term as alderman and H. E. Elledge, his second.

The Litchfield Plant is a long-time member of a world-wide organization. American-Standard operates a total of 46 plants here and abroad. Twenty-seven of them are located in this country. The parent company operates eighteen plants which produce a full line of heating equipment and plumbing fixtures, as well as plumbing fittings, air conditioning units, steel kitchen cabinets and sandmolded magnesium castings.

In addition eleven plants are operated by the four American-Standard subsidiaries in this country, American Blower Corporation, C. F. Church Manufacturing Company, Detroit Controls Corporation and Kewanee-Ross Corporation. These companies manufacture a wide variety of products ranging from air handling equipment and gyrol fluid drives through plastics and temperature controls to commercial boilers. There are thirteen affiliated companies in ten foreign countries.

American-Standard maintains 28 sales offices in principal United States cities. Its products are distributed through a network of 1200 plumbing and heating wholesalers, who, in turn carry them to some 65,000 retailers. The company also has 58 branch houses, company owned and operated wholesale outlets. Research facilities are headquartered in modern and extensive laboratories in Louisville, Kentucky.

World-wide the Corporation has over 30.000 employees. The firm is proud of its long membership in the community and extends its best wishes to the City of Litchfield in this its hundredth birthday celebration.

Taken from Litchfield Centennial Book 1853-1953

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