American Well Works - 1868 - Present
American Well Works may not date as far back as Don Quixote and his windmill tilting, but its American Advance windmill was introduced in 1873 became famous throughout our country, which also didn’t date back to Don Quixote. Mark and Mathew Chapman came to this country as boys from England. Two years after the Civil War they came to Aurora and opened a plumbing shop which laid the mains for the first gas company, which was organized by Col. Copley’s father.
The Chapman plumbing savings went into a pump manufacturing company in another Illinois town, which failed. Both returned to Aurora and started American Well Works on North Broadway in 1878, incorporating in 1881. Although Mathew still held many pump machinery patents, it was the financial and organizational genius that was key to success this time around. This led to American Well becoming one of the largest pump manufacturing firms in the world.
Along the way American Well pioneered development of the centrifugal pump and created the first turbine pumps. American followed an earlier era energy boom to Texas where it was their rotary drill that drilled the first gusher at Spindle Top. As years passed, more of their leadership was associated with innovation in engineering and commercial development of new pump technologies and sanitary processing equipment.
Several American Well leaders left in 1919 to found Aurora Pump. Rotary distributors were introduced and units dating back to the 1940’s are still in use. During the 1940’s bar screens, grit collection systems and clarification equipment was added to separate the proverbial liquid wheat from the chaff. A1945 ownership change at American Well led Chief Engineer Don Walker and Frank Voris to take engineers Doug Drier, Chet Obma, Al Nelson and John Sperry and found Walker Process.
In 1965 American Well merged with Bowser Company. Headquarters were at Bowser’s Indianapolis location, but manufacturing stayed in Aurora. By 1967 along came Keene who swallowed Bowser as part of their flow to the water treatment market. Operations were consolidated in Aurora as the Water Pollution Control Division of Keene. When McNish Corporation gulped down this division in 1984, the name became AMWELL. McNish’s pool by then also included the fluidity of ECI and National Hydro.
The expanding McNish waterworks grew in 1989 by adding Walker Process. This brought back into a single stream the American Well mainstream and offshoot tributaries, all under the McNish umbrella, except for one. Although left out in the rain without cover of the NcNish umbrella now sheltering both parent American Well and prodigal son Walker, the other prodigal Aurora Pump continues to swim well in its own stream, still in water business and still in Aurora.
Aurora Beacon News, Dave Hipp