American Manufacturing Hall of Fame Announces 2015 Inductees
New Haven Companies join Bridgeport for the first time
For immediate release:
Contact: Anson Smith (203)-332-5229
BRIDGEPORT – The American Manufacturing Hall of Fame announced their 2015 class of inductees in a press event at Housatonic Community College on Friday, July 17th.
Inducted in the October 8, 2015 ceremony at the Trumbull Marriott will be:
- A.C. Gilbert Company
- Brewster & Co
- Bridgeport Brass Company
- Moore Tool Company
- SARGENT Manufacturing Company
- Wheeler & Wilson
For the first time three companies from New Haven joined what had been a Bridgeport monopoly. The Gilbert, Brewster and Sargent companies were or are all New Haven based. The announcement was made by Ellen Tower, the chair of the Hall’s Resource Development Committee and a member of the Steering Committee, which created and runs the Hall. Representatives from Sargent and Moore were in attendance to hear the announcement. The American Manufacturing Hall of Fame is run under the auspices of the Housatonic Community College Foundation.
Nostalgia and manufacturing passion was clearly in the room. Mayor Bill Finch recalled his father’s 36 year career in manufacturing at Bullard Co. in unprepared remarks. “Manufacturing is in our DNA,” he said. Finch cited advanced manufacturing as a driving force in his economic development plan to remake the city. Finch pointed out his omnipresent “BGreen” initiative suit label pins are made in the US by Schwerdtle Stamp, a local company that began in 1879.
HCC President Paul Broadie II gave the latest statistics for the 2015 class of HCC’s Advanced Manufacturing Center, who graduated from the certificate program in May. Broadie announced they had graduated 37 students and placed nearly 95% in full time manufacturing jobs in the area. Seven graduates are women. The announcement was met with enthusiastic applause. “This program is about hope,” said Broadie. “And in some cases, this program is helping end the cycle of poverty.” Broadie gave the example of a young woman who was making $9.50 in a big box retail position and graduated the program. She is now making $22 per hour. He cited another example of a graduate who was able to purchase a house at 26 years-old and cited the program as the reason.
HCC President Paul Broadie II ended his remarks by stressing the need for strong partnerships between the school, the HCC Foundation, the Hall, the HCC Advanced Manufacturing Center and the city. He frequently referred to a theme of life-long education and the need to create opportunities for members of the community to come to the school, get educated and get full time jobs.
AMC Interim Director Rich Dupont went into more details about the future of the center. He explained the center will begin a Phase II and expand to 50 students next year and will begin a program with local area tech schools. The program will standardize training between the high schools and the college in order to allow high school students to get a jump on advanced manufacturing education. The key component of the program is that the high school students will receive full college credit hours for their work in high school and the center will be able to certify students faster and place more in jobs more quickly. Further expansion is planned with more cooperation across the state. A spirited panel discussion followed, moderated by HCC Foundation President Christopher P. McCormack. Members of the panel were Dupont, State Senator Tony Hwang (129th District,) Lindy Lee Gold from the state Economic and Community Development office and Kathy Saint, President of Schwerdtle Stamp. Among other things that were discussed was the looming state budget deficit, the proposed unitary tax on corporations, the importance of creating legislation specifically for companies under 50 employees and the need for common sense manufacturing laws to draw manufacturers to the state.
Simultaneous to the announcement event, approximately 30 5th – 8th graders from Bridgeport, Trumbull, Ansonia, Fairfield, Weston and Easton were in other rooms at HCC at the Hall of Fame’s annual “Learn & Earn” Kid’s Fest. The fest is a free one day “camp” that shows the students the possibilities in a manufacturing or related field career. The camp is run by the Advanced Manufacturing Center’s Kimberly Wood and the students are instructed by the AMC staff. The students make three projects by hand to learn basic manufacturing principles. By far the most popular was the “confetti launcher” which demonstrates multiple principles of physics and has the predictable result of large amounts of confetti being blasted into the air.
The special guest speaker for the students during lunch was Dominique Bukovan. Ms. Bukovan is a senior in college pursuing an engineering and business degree with a law minor. Ms. Bukovan spoke about the opportunities in engineering, especially for women and also mentioned that a manufacturing career does not hinder other career paths, citing her legal minor and a growing career as a model in addition to her other interests.
The students then attend an “Expo” with actual manufacturers to better learn how things are made and what companies are in their area. 10 manufacturers participated.
The students fill out a survey at the end of the camp so improvements may be made every year. The Hall is considering expanding the camp to one or two weeks in the future.
For more information about the American Manufacturing Hall of Fame, please contact Dan Wisneski at
Thumbnail histories of the inducted companies:
Bridgeport Brass was an independent company in Bridgeport from 1865-1961.The company was originally known for producing a kerosene lamp which provided a safer source of illumination than the lard and candles that had been used up to this point. As the needs of the country changed, the company changed its product line to meet those needs – from a kerosene bicycle lamp to telephonic and telegraphic lines to overhead trolley wire and multiple other products made from brass. Records indicate more patents for new processes than any similar organization.
During WWII, they were a major arms producer and developed an aerosol spray used in jungles to destroy disease-carrying insects.
The management team were leaders in the local, regional and national business community. In 1949, CEO Herman Steinkraus served as the President of the U. S. Chamber of Commerce.
The company was purchased in 1961 by National Distillers and Chemical Company which changed its name to Quantum Chemical.
WHEELER & WILSON
The Wheeler & Wilson Manufacturing Company was established in 1853 to produce industrial sewing machines with specific capabilities such as heavy tailoring, leather work shirts, collars, cuffs, boot work and corsets. The automatic buttonhole machine produced 100 buttonholes in an hour. They also produced a machine for family sewing. The Company won numerous awards for their product. Mr. Wheeler was recognized as a “Purveyor to the Imperial Royal Court” of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.
The company increased their producing capacity from 20,000 machines in 1858 to a high point of 128,526 machines in 1871. It employed 6,000 to 7,000 peoples on its seven acre manufacturing facility including the design of new models.
Mr. Wheeler was a local and business leader serving in the State Legislature and on numerous boards.
Mr. Wheeler died in 1893 and the company was purchased by its competitor Singer, in 1905. Singer opened a factory in Bridgeport in 1907, continued to expand and was once the world’s leading producer of sewing machines. Singer is now part of SVP Worldwide which also owns Pfaff and Husqvarna Viking Brands.
MOORE TOOL COMPANY, INC.
Moore Tool Company began business in 1924 as a tool and die company. It is a global company with operations in Bridgeport and other locations outside of Connecticut. In 1930, the company developed a new type of jig borer that would provide the ability to work to much closer tolerances than any machine currently in use. The company has continued to build a global business based on its ability to provide ever increasing accuracy in the tool building industry. It has grown though a commitment to meeting the customer’s needs and a determination to build machines that meet the needs of the precision manufacturing sector.
The American Machinist magazine, in 1974, awarded company founder Richard F. Moore the prestigious AM Award describing him as the man who “gave the world’s industry an additional decimal place of accuracy!”
Mr. Moore trained others to use the principles and craft necessary to build high precision equipment to the standards known as “Moore quality.”
In 1994, Moore Tool and Moore Special tool AG (European subsidiary) were acquired and became part of PMT group. Moore Nanotechnology Systems, LLC is a stand-alone operating subsidiary of Moore Tool and a stand-alone operating company of the PMT Group.
BREWSTER & CO.
Throughout its history, the name Brewster was associated with the finest carriages and automobile bodies that money could buy. From the start of the company by James Brewster in 1809, to the sale of its assets in 1937 to John Inskip, the company led the industry with its quality of design and workmanship. It had factories in New Haven and Bridgeport, CT as well as opulent showrooms and warehouses in New York City. Their individual automobile designs were favored by the Rockefellers, the Ascots, J.P. Morgan and other major public figures.
In 1882, the company had $436,000 in sales. At a 2004 dollar valuation that would be equal to 21 million dollars in sales!
Rolls Royce bought the company in 1925, after the two companies had been collaborating for many years. Rolls Royce continued to use the Brewster bodies on its chassis.
The A. C. Gilbert Company was an American toy company, once one of the largest toy companies in the world. It is best known for introducing the Erector Set. Gilbert was founded in 1909 in Westville, Connecticut, by Alfred Carlton Gilbert, originally as a company providing supplies for magic shows. A. C. Gilbert made chemistry sets in various sizes as well as similar sets for the budding scientist, adding investigations into radioactivity in the 1950s with a kit featuring a Geiger counter. They began making microscope kits in 1934. In 1938, Gilbert purchased American Flyer, a struggling manufacturer of toy trains. Gilbert re-designed the entire product line. During the World War II period, the company produced equipment for military aircraft. After the war ended, Gilbert went back to producing toys.
Gilbert was the largest employer in New Haven from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, employing more than 5,000 in three shifts at its Sound Street Manufacturing facility. In the late 1930s, the company expanded to produce home products and small appliances including mixers, milk shake machines, toasters, stoves and ovens, and washers.
The Gilbert Company struggled after the death of its founder in 1961, was sold and the company was never profitable under its new ownership. By 1967, Gilbert was out of business. Erector was sold to Gabriel Industries and moved production from Erector Square in New Haven, Connecticut, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. American Flyer was sold to Lionel.
The Gabriel Company continued to use the brand name on its Erector Set and microscope products, a practice that subsequent owners of the Erector brand have continued. Lionel also uses the brand name on its American Flyer products, along with the old Gilbert catchphrase, "Developed at the Gilbert Hall of Science", on its product packaging.
SARGENT MANUFACTURING COMPANY
SARGENT Manufacturing Company, an ASSA ABLOY Group company, was founded in the early 1800s and is a leading manufacturer of architectural hardware and locking products for new and retrofit applications. SARGENT products are installed in many types of buildings, including commercial, healthcare, industrial and educational, and are “key” to the security of them all.
Joseph Bradford Sargent and his two brothers operated a wholesale hardware business in New York City, and in 1857 obtained an interest in one of their suppliers, the Peck and Walter Manufacturing Company of New Britain, CT. This company was the predecessor to the present SARGENT Manufacturing Company.
Seven years later, in 1864, they moved the factory to New Haven to be closer to the sea for shipping purposes and the delivery of raw materials, and incorporated under the laws of Connecticut as SARGENT & Co... By 1914, the SARGENT product catalog listed some 60,000 different items, making it one of the largest hardware manufacturing plants in the United States.
During World Wars I and II, much of the plant’s production capacity was converted from hardware manufacturing to the production of items needed for the war effort. During the war women began staffing factories like SARGENT in greater and greater numbers. By the time WWII ended, nearly 40% of SARGENT’s jobs were held by women, compared with just 10% at the outset of the wars.
During the post-war era SARGENT narrowed the company’s product offerings. Always known as a high quality manufacturer of locks and door-related mechanisms, the decision was reached to concentrate more on that niche. This focus gave rise to the development of many lock-related engineering firsts including one design which marked the first major improvement in pin-tumbler lock construction in over one hundred years.
In the company’s 101st year of operation in New Haven, SARGENT & Company moved to the space on Sargent Drive. The “new” plant occupies a one-story structure on a 30-acre site with 300,000 square feet of available floor area.
In 1967, the Sargent family and company stockholders began a period of ownership by various financial groups, lasting until January of 1996 when ASSA ABLOY AB acquired SARGENT and several of its "sister" companies. ASSA ABLOY, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, is the world’s leading lock group.