Introduction to Aurora Industrial Companies of 20th Century

It was only a few decades ago when children understood the work of their parents more clearly than today. Until shifting from predominantly rural to city and suburban life, parents’ work was more around farm or home. For many who grew up in post World War II America, it was father who worked, despite all of World War II's Rosie the Riveter, just a few years before. Typically a father commuted by train to work or was away from home most of the day for work at an office or factory. With demands of school, sports, friends and play, many kids knew little of parent work. They often knew even less about the companies where parents worked. With all the talk then, just as today, about how the world was changing, few probably thought about change in terms of jobs, companies and business.

Aurora and Other Mid Size Cities in 1950’s and 1960’s

The 1950’s and 1960’s in Aurora, Illinois was similar to hundreds of mid size cities across the Midwest and country:

Despite these similarities, Aurora also differed from other cities across our country. For example, Aurora had:

In the 1950’s and into the 1960’s, it may have appeared as if the growing industrial and manufacturing predominance of firms in Aurora would never end, just as we may have thought it would last throughout the country. We certainly didn’t imagine that, in little more than a generation, much of Aurora's manufacturing might would be all swept away, as in Gone With the Wind, apparently leaving little more than the prairie as our equivalent of ‘the red earth of Tara’ and a base for the renovation and revival since.

As we look back from a new century, it may be fascinating to understand how rapidly much of this manufacturing predominance did shift, even though it was painful see at the time. We may also now gain insights on how Aurora evolved during these trying times to the leadership and power that can help us take advantages of opportunities and meet challenges in a century. In the process, we may come to better understand why we were the way we were long ago.

Aurora Employment in Manufacturing

One gauge of how important leading manufacturing firms were in Aurora around the 1950’s and 60’s is employment level. Since job counts are individuals rather than revenues or other impersonal statistics, they are easier to understand and compare over time. In 1963, a special report on Aurora by a Beacon News research affiliate portrayed Aurora with a population of 66,100, about 4% above the 1960 level. Census data from 1960 indicated nearly 27,500 employed, with manufacturing providing 11,360 jobs. This is about the same level as both the peak year of 1929 and the depression year of 1937. With 1960 output many times greater than either 1929 or 1937, the spectacular rise in productivity by 1960 becomes apparent. In 1960, two thirds of the jobs were in three sectors, with nearly 4,700 in machinery and 1,370 in each of furniture and heavy equipment.

At the same time, many Aurora manufacturing firms reached peak employment levels, estimated to be in range of:

1,400 Barber Greene
1,400 Austin-Western
1,000 Stephens Adamson
1,000 Thor Power Tool

1,000 All Steel
1,400 Lyon Metal
600 Richards Wilcox
500 Equipto
300 Durabilt

900 Stoner / Vendo / Lekro
500 Pines Engineering
500 Henry Pratt
400 Aurora Pump
350 R & M Kaufmann
300 American Well Works (Amwell) / Walker Process
300 Aurora Industries

Although some of these counts may include jobs outside Aurora, the large manufacturers such as Barber Greene, with plants elsewhere, would add another 1,000 or more jobs to these counts. Other significant manufacturing companies at the time, but with fewer employees were Processed Plastics and McKee Door. Up the Fox River, Burgess Norton had large operations in Geneva. Still further north were St. Charles Manufacturing and in Elgin a declining of Elgin Watch.

Catalyst: Early Companies and Resources of 1800's

Many factors accounted for the growth of Aurora industry in early years and through the 19th century. Around 1900, these became the explosive mix and catalyst that spawned and fueled the growth of the large manufacturing firms of the 20th century, which are profiled in Success: Profiles of Aurora Industrial firms Dominant through the 1950's.

Birth of Aurora and Industry 1834-1856

Before portraying individual firms and then assessing how they evolved in recent years, it is useful to understand how they came to be in Aurora, as well as why their output grew to power and influence far beyond.

Aurora began as many Illinois towns after the Blackhawk Wars resulted in tribal relocation west of the Mississippi in 1832. Federal troops from the East had been sent to fight, but by the time of their arrival, settlement and Indian movement West was mostly completed. However, the soldiers saw how open, rich and fertile the lands were. Many returned home and brought their families west to claim lands along the Fox, Rock, Illinois and other river systems, just as did Aurora’s founders.

Unlike previous migrations west, which had relied on the Ohio River and led to the great river towns like Cincinnati and St. Louis, these migrants mostly traversed the new Erie Canal and Great Lakes and walked west along Indian trails from Chicago. The economic center west of Chicago was Galena, where lead mines spurred some of Chicago’s original transportation routes west, helping Rockford and Elgin grow in the process.

Even though agriculture and dairy were the allures for many immigrants and provided the majority of output for decades to come, all the towns had a similar pattern of initial development. They located alongside a river, which could supply water and power to mills after dams were built. As in Aurora, sawmills were first, followed by gristmills for flour. Blacksmith shops were next and it was in an Aurora blacksmith shop that the first plow to successfully break the Illinois plains was made.

After the McCarty saw and gristmills in 1835, the first major factory in Aurora was established in 1837 as Joseph Stolp, Wood Carding and Cloth Dressing, eventually employing as many as 125 workers. Heavy woolen goods were manufactured from local sheep that thrived, before dairy became prominent up and down the Fox Valley.

By 1843, Mix & Hoyt Blackhawk Flour Mill was established, as well as the George McCollum and A. Woodworth Wagon and Carriage businesses. Woodworth’s blacksmith business grew into a carriage and wagon shop with his brother. Operating into the late 1850’s with up to 100 employees, it turned out nearly as 1,400 wagons and carriages in peak years. In 1856 William E. Carpenter added a third Aurora producer, as Woodworth declined and was assigned to Mix and Plum in 1859. Later Frazier became a leader in carts and carriages.

Burlington Railroad Yards from 1856

The single most important factor in Aurora’s rise to a steel fabricating powerhouse may have been the 1855 decision to locate the main railroad shops and yards of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q) in Aurora. By fall 1856, a round house as well as machine, paint, carpenter and car shops were operating in buildings that cost $120,000 plus machinery. A major expansion in 1868 grew out of Aurora’s $50,000 support and 30 acres of land to supplement the $100,000 commitment of CB&Q capital for additional shops.

By 1876, Aurora’s population had increased to 12,000 from 1,500 in 1850. By then, Aurora industrial plants still only employed less than 300 and a combined monthly payroll of less than $20,000. In contrast, the rail shops and yards had about 1,000 workers and a monthly payroll over $100,000.

These workers, skilled in use of heavy machinery for metal working, distinguished Aurora from other new and growing Midwest cities. They could provide a unique and needed skilled labor resource to fuel the rise of the first heavy industry firms in Aurora. A few years later, the rail strikes and the labor troubles of the 1880’s would provide skilled workers for the next generation of heavy industrial metal companies that grew and remained predominant to the 1960’s.

Aurora as Birthplace of Burlington Railroad

That the railroad yards were a dominant part of Aurora and it’s rapid growth since the 1850’s illustrates one of the unique aspects that decisively effected Aurora's manufacturing rise. The first railroad west from Chicago was not to Aurora, but to the Galena lead mines. That line ultimately became the Chicago Northwestern system. By 1850 it had reached Elgin. Aurorans realized the imperative of rail and rushed to build tracks north through Batavia and on to West Chicago, where they joined the Elgin Chicago line. This line was chartered as the Aurora Branch Railroad. It then built south west to Mendota. By 1856, When this railroad opened its Aurora yards, it also began absorbing less successful rail lines. Thus, Aurora is the birthplace of what has become the great Burlington Northern Santa Fe of today. Along with the Union Pacific, it is one of only two major surviving and thriving western railroads.

With initial focus on expanding west, it was not until 1864 that track was laid directly from Aurora to Chicago. It was along this line that Chicago’s western commuter suburbs developed. Not until a century later would new economic growth and industry shift from rail and in the process be hurtled north and west, spurred by a new era of transportation and infrastructure centered on O’Hare airport, tollways, interstate highways and new towns from cornfields.

Aurora Origins as Industrial Rather than Commuter Community

Even with the direct rail link from Aurora to Chicago, Aurora’s destiny was not to be the end of a commuter rail line to Chicago. Aurora would develop as a major manufacturing center, independent of both Chicago and of providing commuters to Chicago factories. The railroad would be critically important in bringing raw materials to Aurora factories as well as transporting finished products to market. Skills of workers and metalworking expertise from the rail shops would be an important catalyst for Aurora’s industrial rise. But the railroad would rely on other towns nearer Chicago than Aurora for its revenue from Chicago bound commuters

Aurora would also not develop dependent on a single company like the railroad, like Elgin was for a century on Elgin Watch. Aurora would also not be beholden a single large manufacturer, as Joliet became to Caterpillar, although Caterpillar would have a significant effect on Aurora industry when it opened an Aurora plant in the 1950’s. Instead, Aurora would grow through the founding and success of great and diversified industrial firms and factories that would prosper through the mid-20th century.

Industrial Aurora 1857-1900.

After initial companies were established and the rail yards brought industrial skills, Aurora’s pioneer industrial firms grew and evolved quickly after the 1857 incorporation as Aurora from the older town on the East side of the river and the newer West side. Consistent with the initiative Aurora showed in building a rail line and chartering a railroad, the city showed the same pioneer instincts in the late 1800’s when it became the world’s first community to use electric streetlights. Being in the forefront with streetlights helped prove the concept of providing inexpensive electricity for industrial development which Samuel Insull developed throughout Chicago area and Midwest in early 1900’s.

From Wool and Cotton Fiber to Apparel

The original saw and flour mills of Aurora were like those of many new frontier settlements. They only produced output for local needs. It was Stolp and his wool and carding operations that gave Aurora its first true factory, which served markets well beyond the local community with raw materials coming from local sheep.

By the 1870's, Hobbs cotton-batting factory was operating in Aurora, relying on raw material produced far from Aurora. After it was destroyed by fire in 1881, Aurora Cotton Mills was established by Hobbs and other owners. By 1908 employment reached 400 and would climb to about 700 at peak in a factory near New York Street bridge. In 1937, the Aurora Cotton Mills purchased Aurora Bleachery and at full capacity still employed about 500. Aurora Bleachery survives today as Aurora Textile Finishing Mills.

These early wool and cotton textile operations led to other textile based Aurora manufacturing, such as Aurora Garment, Sawyer Shirt, Chicago Aurora Tailoring, Charles Carnes and G.W. Eade and Co., all of which were organized in or moved to Aurora in the early 1900’s. Eade’s 1912 Percale Bungalow apron was the start of the cotton dress business. After relocating from Chicago to Aurora in 1926, R&M Kaufmann grew to be the largest U.S. dress manufacturer.

However, the best known of early Aurora apparel firms were three large corset factories. Ball’s Corset Factory started in 1883 and grew to the second largest corset producer employing over 600. During this rise, it became the main plant of the Chicago Corset Company. Later it was named Kabo before its operations were moved back to Chicago in 1906. Thor took over their Claim Street corset factory. In 1907, the Kabo Aurora manager organized International Corset, built an Aurora plant by 1912, which continued until 1952 with the LaCamille brand. As tastes changed, products evolved from corsets to other undergarments. The third corset producer was Aurora Corset. Founded in 1895, it still was producing under Henderson brand a half century later.

Introduction of Iron and Steel

Charles Hoyt had arrived in Aurora form Danbury, Massachusetts by way of Cleveland, Ohio. In addition to his 1843 Black Hawk Flour Mill, Hoyt opened a general store and helped finance Aurora Branch Railroad, hoping unsuccessfully to get a freight station on his West side of the Fox River. It was in his general store that Hoyt asked a little girl to sing a French song to another customer, a tall thin Abraham Lincoln. In 1856 Hoyt sold the general store and opened a machine shop. Hoyt’s Lincoln association emerged again. Hoyt’s mills, along with others drew power from a dam Stolp constructed. It was Hoyt who realized the complexity of who pays for dams and maintenance to provide water power on a publicly owned stream as well as who controls use of the power. For that, Hoyt hired Lincoln to represent the case in Chicago’s federal court.

Hoyt had begun with plant fiber with his original flour mill and moved to wood fiber in his machine shop before building the iron and steel lathes and other machinery to produce woodworking machinery. For this Hoyt needed some of the same labor skills that CB&Q relied on in their yards and shops. Hoyt may even have been the bridge between making metal machines to make wood products for the 19th century, to the much larger businesses of the 20th century that used metal machines to fabricate metal for heavy equipment and furnishings. Regardless, Hoyt survived from wood products of the 19th century to metal machine tool output of the 20th century, while other Aurora wood based manufacturers, such as carriage makers Frazier Road Cart and Carpenter Carriage vanished.

Why Industrial Aurora Rose to Greatness in 20th Century

There are several reasons for Aurora ‘s manufacturing explosion around the 1900’s that would propel it to a greater and more diversified industrial rise in coming decades than other cities.

1. Railroad Innovation and Resource Pool

2. Mesabi Iron and Indiana Steel

3. Entrepreneurs and Local Ownership

4. Economic Development Initiatives

5. Attractive Locale and Community

6. Industrial and Labor Relations

7.Company and Community Leadership

8. Skilled and Ambitious Immigrants and Families

Railroad Contribution to Industrial Growth

The extensive and efficient rail networks that had been developed as part of Chicago’s emergence as the nation’s rail and distribution was ready and anxious to move raw materials into Aurora factories and products from there to markets.. Aurora’s initiative that resulted in local control from the 1850 outset of Aurora Branch Railroad, and it’s initial growth west before establishing its own direct line to Chicago in 1864 aided in this rail efficiency and demonstrated the appreciation early Aurora leaders had of railroad potential. The rail yard and shop large skilled labor force couold provide new company recruits as well as an example of how to organize and manage metal fabricating operations. This was a resource most other cities did not have avilable to draw on as they grew and enocuraged new factories.

The long strike and rail yard labor problems in the late 1980’s occurred when other industries needing these similar skills were being established and growing in Aurora, partially because of available skilled labor. The rail yard labor problems provided an incentive for some workers to move from the uncertainty of ongoing employment in rail jobs. The rail jobs appeared less secure than in the past, while the new factories of local firms did not appear to face these same labor and management conflicts, which resulted in long strikes, lockouts or other job disruption.

Iron and Steel in the Midwest

And then there was steel. The rich iron ore of the Mesabi Range in Minnesota was discovered in 1887. Shipments on the Great Lakes began in 1892. By the early 1900’s, mammoth new steel mills rose along the sand dunes of Gary, Indiana. Their hearths provided raw materials for Aurora metal fabricating manufacturing, in addition to fueling motor vehicle, construction, heavy equipment and other industrial markets with a new metal for a new century. The elaborate Chicago area rail system moved steel to Aurora plants and then moved the factory outputs of heavy construction equipment, storage or office furnishings on to final markets throughout the country and beyond.

As recently as 1961, Aurorans at Northwestern watched the unending parade of ships from Burns Harbor, Indiana dumping giant boulders to form the outer boundary of Northwestern University’s Lake Michigan expansion and then barges of sand to create a new campus in Lake Michigan. This was all in preparation for construction of the last giant Indiana steel plant. By then the rich ores of the Mesabi were gone. Technology would extend the life of the mines with technology breakthroughs that made the lower grade and more complex taconite economic. About the same time, the plants of the Aurora metal fabricating firms, using the steel of these Indian mills, were reaching their peaks.

What happened after this peak will be analyzed after the profiles of the leading Aurora industrial firms in the Evolution section. However, before reviewing each firm, it is useful to understand a few other factors that account for Aurora’s dramatic growth to industrial leadership and diversity that outshone other cities.

Local Ownership and Ongoing Success in Early Industrial Firms

Stolp woolen operations and Hoyt Brothers are early examples of businesses, which grew and prospered for many years and were characterized by local founders, ownership and management. In 1869, the earliest of Aurora’s locally owned and controlled metal-based industries began operations as American Well Works. By 1890, they were the largest well sinking machinery firm in the country, and provided up to 200 jobs in their North Broadway Aurora factories. Love Brothers was another metal based industry, started in 1876 by two local brothers. Many cast iron manhole and drain covers bore the Love Bros. mark century throughout the country well into the 20th century.

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Some early industrial businesses that weren’t locally founded and without local ownership and control also contributed to Aurora’s early growth, but didn’t grow as rapidly or last as long as locally owned firms. For example, Aurora Watch was organized in 1863. Despite the Aurora name, it was Chicago controlled and headquarters weren’t moved to Aurora until 1885. Some obstacles were overcome, but within a few years the Aurora plant was abandoned and the firm was taken over by Hamilton Watch. A great watch industry would continue to thrive upriver in Elgin, but not in Aurora.

Aurora Piano was another early manufacturing business not fully local. It peaked in Aurora in the 1890’s, but declined with the emergence of player pianos and was gone by 1904. Aurora Silverplate dated from 1869, when it was a neighbor of Hoyt and embroiled in the ongoing water power controversy, of which Abraham Lincoln was part. Their fine quality silver products were marketed widely, but by 1919, they closed.

In the 1890’s, Rathbone Sard stove and Bell/Chicago/Kado Corset companies were attracted to Aurora in part with economic incentives. Even without local ownership and control, each added hundreds of factory jobs, but eventually relocated elsewhere, Rathbone within a few years.

Progress and Setbacks of Early Industrial Development

Despite disappointments in early efforts to lure ongoing industrial production to Aurora without local owners, there were also successes. In the 1890’s and early 1900’s, a dozen or more firms chose to start operations or move to Aurora and become Aurora based, with largely local ownership and control. They are the firms, which are individually profiled in the Company Profile section and rose to prominence in the 20th century. Many had metal fabrication as a common characteristic.

Some were outgrowths of manufacturers based in Chicago such as Webster , where Stephens Adamson founders had been employed. Others were Chicago founded, moved to Aurora and maintained local control and ownership, such as Lyon Metal. Aurora Metals began in 1899 processing the lead waste from a much larger smelting operation that became part of the large American Smelting and Refining (ASARCO) trust before discontinuing Aurora operations. Highlights of these and other prominent Aurora industrial firms, all predominantly locally owned, managed and controlled are summarized both in Company Profile and Evolution sections.

(Map of migration and years of firms to Aurora: Western, SA, Lyon, Chicago Corset, Rathbone, Lyon, Kaufmann)

Before summarizing individual firms, other milestones and factors which were more unique to Aurora in facilitating industrial growth highlighted to help further understand and appreciate the uniqueness of Aurora’s rapid and diversified industrial growth in the 20th century.

Economic Development Initiative in 1890’s

In the 1890’s, the Aurora Plan was the first economic development attempt to lure existing manufacturing to Aurora. Land originally from the rail yards was resold and the gains offered as incentives to factories to relocate to Aurora. Rathbone Sard from Albany, New York established an Aurora plant to manufacture cast iron Acorn brand stoves under this plan. But after several years of success, Aurora operations were closed and production transferred elsewhere. Chicago Corset built up Aurora manufacturing during this period, but by 1906 closed operations and returned to Chicago. Despite these disappointments, economic development promotion attracted others to evaluate Aurora as a plant and industrial location, including many of those individually profiled.

With the emerging success and growth of older firms as well as new firms, Aurora also had the ability to respond to and weather the long years of aftermath of the Panic of 1893 more effectively than other communities. It was during this period that Aurora committed to greatly expand the sewer and water systems, providing jobs as well as orders to local manufacturers, such as Love Brothers, whose logos are still seen on manhole and drain covers.

Location and Community Attractions

With Aurora’s distance from Chicago of nearly fifty miles, there was less incentive for residents to commute to jobs in Chicago than for closer communities. But the proximity to Chicago accounted for the excellent rail systems needed to both bring raw materials to Aurora factories and to distribute finished products cost effectively to markets far beyond Aurora.

More importantly, Aurora had both appealing and abundant land, which was being developed, into attractive neighborhoods for new arrivals attracted to Aurora by job availability in the new and growing industrial firms. Workers could reside near the factories and offices where they worked. A vibrant downtown business and retail center increased the attractiveness of Aurora, to residents as well as those who had settled on outlying farms.

With less overcrowding in congested neighborhoods than workers faced in large cities, Aurora was better able to absorb the greatly expanding inflow of European immigrants in the 1890’s and early 1900’s. Aurora residents had more space, better homes and an overall quality of life that was more appealing than in large cities. This was made possible by jobs the new and growing industrial and other business firms provided at wage levels that enabled workers to afford the advantages and benefits of living in Aurora. In addition, Aurora had more attractive communities with appealing school, park and cultural systems. Working closer to home as commuters in larger cities gave workers more time to enjoy family and community.

 

Industrial and Labor Relations

Before and after 1900, labor relations in many large city factories were subject to widespread unionization and demands to respond to worker needs. The long Chicago Pullman strike is only one of many examples of the often bitter divisions between labor and management in large city industries and factories. These pressures and threats were not as severe in Aurora. In 1902 the Valley Industrial Association was formed to counter threats to productivity and to prevent the often bitter labor and industrial relations experienced in larger cities.

Whether business philosophies dating from the organizing of the Republican Party in Aurora in 1854 had any effect on smoothing labor and management relations is unclear. However, the overall Republican outlook of Aurora and surrounding rural communities of the time probably contributed to a lowered level of confrontation and dissension between labor and management than in large and more Democratic influenced cities.

(Picture of Aurora looking east to First Congregational Church, Letter of Valley Industrial Agreement)

Local Ownership, Management and Civic Leadership

New locally owned industries were led by managers committed to the betterment of the Aurora community, to which both their business success and family well being was tied. Banks and other services were established to finance and support a growing industrial base. Businesses associated with the growing agriculture development arose, particularly in dairy, brewing and food processing.

Although agriculture based companies never grew to the prominence of Aurora’s 20th century industrial firms, they helped link Aurora’s urban population to the surrounding rural countryside and make Aurora an attractive market town for farmers as well as local residents. Schools, churches and other community institutions and clubs added to the appeal of Aurora both to new immigrants relocating from Chicago or further east and promoted integration with those who moved to Aurora in earlier years.

 

Skilled and Ambitious Immigrants

The final and most important factor, which fueled Aurora’s rise to industrial might around 1900, was immigration. Increasing numbers of ambitious and often skilled immigrants looked to escape the limitations, and often the discrimination they faced in European countries, and dreamed of the promised land of America. This and all the other unique aspects of Aurora combined to draw them to opportunities they came to find and value in Aurora. Without this combination of economic, social and geographic factors, combined with large numbers of new immigrants that were anxious to take advantage of both these factors and the job opportunities on which whey were based, Aurora would have been much less uniquely positioned to rise to industrial prominence in the 20th century.

With this overview and highlights of early industrial development, the highlights of individual firms are presented with the following industrial groupings.

Highlights of Aurora Industrial Firms Rise after 1900

Aurora manufacturing firms were leaders in several industries. Individual highlights of these firm histories are currently being developed for the Company Profile section. As part of this work, it would be particularly helpful to receive contributions from anyone who is familiar with the companies and has insights that would be of interest to others. The Company Profiles are designed to complement the more comprehensive individual company histories of many of the firms as well as encourageothers to add personal views or recollections of significant aspects of each company and its role in the Aurora community.

Heavy Construction Equipment

Heavy construction equipment in Aurora begins with the relocation of Western Wheel Scraper to Aurora in the 1870’s and how it became Austin Western. How Stephens Adamson founders met and worked with Webster manufacturing will be the prelude to Stephens Adamson. And the story of two young S-A entrepreneurs intent on building their own company will begin the story of Aurora’s third powerful construction equipment firm, Barber-Greene.

1877-1978 Austin Western

1901-1991 Stephens-Adamson

1916-1976 Barber Greene

Metal Office Equipment, Shelving, Storage

Aurora’s leadership in this industry begins with two entrepreneurs who founded Lyon Metal in Chicago and then in 1905 moved the company to Aurora. From this great start, we then pick up in 1912 with young entrepreneurs who left Lyon to form All Steel. Tom Dunham’s move from motorcycle sidecars to steel shelving in 1913 launched Equipto. Durabilt came next and other firms that complete this Aurora industrial sector such as Aurora Steel and Durand will be covered as they relate to larger Aurora manufactures of office quipment and storage systems.

1901-2005 Lyon Metal

1912-1993 All Steel

1913-1993 Equipto

1922-1952 Durabilt

Other Metal Based Firms

In other metal based Aurora Industries, American Well Woks dates from 1868. From AmWell in 1920, Aurora Pump emerged. More recently, Amwell was reunited with another offshoot, Walker Process. Richards Door Hangars and Wilcox Sweepers were united in 1910 and became Richards Wilcox. Aurora Metals was founded in 1899 and continues to this day. Thor's power began with bicycles and became prominent in motorcycles before discontinuing this line in 1918 to concentrate on pneumatic tools. Stoner vending and pin ball machines from 1933 were metal based but more akin to video games today than metal furnishings. And Pines Engineering emphasized capital equipment design and production rather than finished metal good sales.

1868- 2005 American Well Works, 1920-2005 Aurora Pump, 1945-2005 Walker Process

1870-2005 Richards Wilcox

1899- 2005 Aurora Metals

1903-1991 Thor Power Tool

1933-1965 Stoner Manufacturing

1940- 1970 Pines Engineering

Other Industrial Companies

R&M Kaufmann became Aurora’s and, for a few years, the country’s largest dress maker, continuing the textile and apparel tradition in Aurora dating from the Stolp’s woolen mills and through the large corset factories. McKee Door became Aurora’s largest specialized producer, serving the construction industry. Processed Plastics grew during the era of plastic and petrochemical dominance after World War II and after years of struggling against ever heightened foreign competition, appears to have reached its end in Aurora. Foreign competition also wreaked havoc with apparel production, both in Aurora and throughout the country. Even though Henry Pratt started with valves in 1901, it’s entry to Aurora was not until 1964 when they moved in to Equipto facilities at the time other Aurora Industrial firms were at or reaching their peaks.

1922-1992 R&M Kaufmann

1928-1992 McKee Door

1948- 2005 Processed Plastics

1964- 2005 Henry Pratt

 

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