|Chicago Pneumatic "A brief history"|
At about the same time the Franklin and New York Compressor Company was formed and was manufacturing compressors in what is now Plant No. One, east of Thirteenth Street, the Grant Tool Works was formed, backed by local capital and managed by J.J. Grant, who came here from Cleveland. This plant engaged in the manufacture of ball making machines and Grant Turret Lathes. It may be of interest to know that this plant was operated in a manner entirely foreign to general machine shop practice, either at that time or at present. Expensive Turkish rugs were on the floor of the office, stained glass was used in some of the windows; all of the machine tools were painted in ivory white, every machine tool had a brass cuspidor for the workman and the mail boys were dressed in red uniforms with brass buttons, similar to bellhops in hotels in large cities.
This organization and its successor, in turn, encountered financial difficulties and were absorbed by the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company in 1907, which then operated the Plant as a separate and distinct Plant from Plant No. One, with a separate manager, separate organization and manufacturing an entirely different line of products. The air hoists, which are now made in the Cleveland Plant, were first manufactured here, also the first rock drills were manufactured here, though now are made in the Detroit Plant; and then the output of the Plant was devoted to the manufacture of Chicago Pneumatic "Giant" Trucks.
About 1914, the Truck Division was moved to the Plant at Chicago Heights, Illinois, and was maintained there until 1918, when it was sold and the manufacture of trucks was discontinued because it did not blend with other C.P.T. standard products.
Shortly after the beginning of the World War One in 1914, and until the Armistice was signed, Franklin Plant No. Two was engaged in the manufacture of shells for the Allies and later for our own Government, while Plant No. One continued the manufacture of air compressors.
In the meantime, during these years the company as a whole was growing, as was the Franklin Plant. The most notable development was that of the Simplate Inlet and Discharge Valves which were perfected in 1913 and 1914. These valves have been directly responsible for the rapid development of the present line of compressors and vacuum pumps, and mark the beginning of a plate valve epoch in compressor building. The Simplate Valve made high speeds practicable; eliminated valve gearing, and made possible a greater capacity for a given weight of machine than any previously known. All other compressor builders later adopted the plate type of valve.
Around 1912, the compressors fairly well established, the crying need in the field was for a prime mover that could drive these compressors; and the company then became engaged in the manufacture of the Horizontal two cycle, Semi Diesel Oil Engine. This engine was manufactured in a variety of sizes and combinations until 1925, when the patent rights to manufacture the Benz Diesel Engine were secured, which, up until that time had been manufactured in Germany. This has been a famous German engine, and was used in various racing cars in Europe. Another little known fact is that the Submarine Deutschland, that came across the Atlantic before America entered World War I was powered by two Benz Engines.
During this quarter of century, the company was put on a sound financial basis and since 1917, the growth of the company has been rapid, and the products have established a reputation that makes the company a factor in industry today. Expansion of the line of compressors continued at such rapid rate that shop conditions became too congested and expansion was necessary. Some additional ground was purchased at Plant Two and plans were drawn up for a modern machine shop, erecting and testing floor, offices, power plants, pattern shop, forge shop, heat treating room and store houses. The plant was rushed through to completion 1920, and the most modern machinery was installed at once, and in the same year, the whole shop and office force moved into the new plant. Plant One has since continued to operate as a plate shop and storage plant.
In addition to acquiring the Benz Engine in 1927, the company started the manufacture of Rotary Oil Well Drilling Equipment in which is familiarly known as the Rock Bit Department. The acquisition of these two new lines required additional floor space; and as a result, in 1927 and 1928m the Franklin Foundry and Franklin Manufacturing Company Plants were purchased and dismantled. An additional section was placed in the machine shop and the present foundry was built, equipped with the latest machinery available. The Heat Treat Department was considerably enlarged , this last rendered necessary because of the thorough heat treatment required by steels used in oil field work. This outlay of several million dollars resulted in a Rock Bit Department that is second to none, not only manufacturing the Cones for Drills, but also Surface Hole Bits, Reamers, Reamers Cutters, Tool Joints, and similar equipment.
In 1940 when war clouds were massing on the horizon, and it became necessary for America to act as the Arsenal of Democracy and as Franklin Plants' part in the program, it was decided to enter a new field; namely, the manufacture of aircraft engine accessories. As a subcontractor to the Packard Motor Car Company, who manufactured the famous Rolls-Royce engine used in the Hurricane, Spitfire, and Curtiss Wright Tomahawk planes which played a most important part in the war, the plant produced the supercharger controls and coolant pumps assembled on these airplane engines made by Packard.
This activity required another extension to the plant, and early in 1941 a new division, more commonly known as "The Pump" was added to the Franklin Plant. Production demands under this new program exceeded the facilities and the Pump Department extension was doubled and redoubled in 1943. This program alone required training several hundred young men and women to work to precision standards as required by Army Air Force inspections.
In the twenty years since the start of the Rock Bit Department, the design has changed many time; new designs come out two or three times yearly, requiring major changes in tooling. Formerly the cone was bored, teeth cut on the outside, heat-treated for forty-eight hours, assembled and shipped. Today, the above operations are performed, but in addition, the bores of the cone are then ground and fitted with Balls or Roller Bearings as near a precision fit as can be made, and every tooth is hard faced with a precision fit as can be made, and every tooth is hard faced with tungsten carbide, one of the hardest and most abrasive resisting materials known today. These Oil Well Drilling Tools which are used in prospecting for petroleum in all parts of the world are designed to serve individual drilling requirements from the softer formations to the extremely hard formations, in sizes ranging from 3 - 3/4" to 18" diameters.
The Diesel Engine business likewise has changed in the last twenty years, so that the engine the Plant builds today cannot be recognized as the same engine that was brought in from Germany, in 1927. The present CO line of Diesel Engines incorporates the latest developments in construction, improved design and combustion control for every Diesel power need. Engines are now built in various cylinder combinations and sizes 3 to 8 cylinders and from 85 to 1650 horsepower. CP diesels have proved themselves in a wide variety of applications such as the generation of electric power in municipally or privately owned central stations or in isolated plants, or in industrial plants driving machinery directly--cotton gins, flour mills, refrigeration compressors for ice making, cold storage and air conditioning pumps, pipeline compressors and numerous other applications.
In line with these other two divisions of the Plant's products, the compressors, both portable and stationary, have likewise been modernized. Today's designs are stream lined. They are operated at high speeds, have greater efficiency and less weight then ever before. The use of modern materials and methods of manufacture result in a sturdy, long life compressor built to operate for years in continuous service. Over forty types and more than seven hundred sizes are built regularly, in sizes ranging from 3 to 1750 horsepower and capacities range up 10,000 cubic feet per minute on two stage compressors and 20,000 cubic feet per minute on the single stage machines. All of the wide and varied uses of compressed air cannot be mentioned here, but scarcely an industry exists that does not use compressed air or gas in some manner. During World War II, compressor were used in the building of roads, cantonments, air fields, ships and dry docks for the Armed Services. In the arsenal of the world, C.P.T. compressors were used in the mining of raw materials in manufacturing munitions, making steel, aluminum, chemicals and petroleum products.
With its rapid growth throughout the years, the Franklin Plant today produces a large part of the world's compressor requirements. No small part of the effectiveness of the organization is due to the continued presence in it of department heads, plant managers, foreman, and employees who have grown with the business. Today the Franklin Plant employs 1150 men and women with a monthly payroll above $300,000.00. The floor space under roof occupied by both plants has grown to approximately 11 acres.
The Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company, bearing as it does, the name of one of our largest cities, has long been associated in the public's mind with that city. For several years headquarters were located in that city, but early in 1920 executive offices were moved to the Chicago Pneumatic Building located at 6 East 44th Street, New York, NY. In addition to the two plants here in Franklin, the Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company has manufacturing plants in Cleveland, Ohio , Detroit, Michigan, and Garfield, New Jersey, producing Electric and Pneumatic Tools and Rock Drills. At present, a new plant is under construction at Utica, New York.
The company in Canada is known as the Canadian Pneumatic Tool Co., and in England as the Consolidated Pneumatic Tool CO. The plant in Berlin, Germany, was destroyed by Allied bombs during the last war. As for Branch offices, Foreign Agencies and Representatives the sun never sets on them.