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Buffalo Forge Company - History

Modified on 2010/07/17 20:25 by krucker Categorized as History, Manufacturer Information
THIS NEWCOMEN ADDRESS, dealing with the history of Buffalo Forge Company and its subsidiaries, was delivered at the “1952 Niagara Dinner” of The Newcomen Society of England, held at Buffalo, N.Y., U.S.A., on May 6, 1952. HENRY W. WENDT and EDGAR F. WENDT, the guests of honor, were introduced by CHARLES H. DIEFENDORF, President, The Marine Trust Company of Western New York, Buffalo; Vice-Chairman of the Niagara Committee, in American Newcomen. The dinner was presided over by BURTON L. GALE, JR., Vice-President, The Manufacturers & Traders Trust Company, Buffalo; Chairman of the Niagara Committee, in The Newcomen Society of England.

Buffalo Forge (1877 - 1952) World Wide Name in Industrial Equipment


My fellow members of Newcomen: It is a rare privilege to present not one but two of our honored Newcomen members and respected fellow-citizens. I feel that I have always known Harry and Edgar Wendt, and I cherish and deeply appreciate the close association and personal friendship which have extended through the years back to local school days. Similar expressions would be forthcoming from many who have felt the warmth of their friendliness.

But first—something of the institution which we honor also tonight. As its name implies, Buffalo Forge Company has been, through its seventy-five years, a local enterprise, not only keeping pace with but contributing greatly to the industrial growth of the City of Buffalo. Its founders and succeeding managements, to this day, have been Buffalonians and leaders in the industrial, cultural, and social development of this community.

Harry Wendt joined Buffalo Forge in its Buffalo plant in 1909. Two years later, receiving his degree in Mechanical Engineering at Cornell, Edgar became associated with Buffalo Steam Pump Company, a subsidiary, in North Tonawanda. The experience of both brothers in company operations was widespread and their progress continuous until, in 1929, following the death of their father, Henry Wendt, Harry became Chairman and Edgar became President. For forty-one years they have worked together as an unbeatable team. The marked progress of Buffalo Forge and subsidiaries, Canadian and American, during these years is well known. Today its products carry the name of Buffalo to almost every part of the globe.

While guiding this expansion, these two have never lost sight of a heritage bequeathed to them by their father—the will and determination to strive for the betterment of Buffalo. The extent to which both have given of their time and their means to this end is a matter of public pride.

Edgar’s counsel as a Trustee of the Community Chest and the Philharmonic Orchestra has been most valuable. The National Association of Manufacturers has been benefited through his work as Director and a National Vice-President.

Harry’s contributions include, among others: Chairman, first two Red Cross Campaigns during the Second World War; Director, Buffalo General Hospital and Vice-Chairman of its Capital Fund Campaign, in 1946; former Vice-President, Buffalo Chamber of Commerce; Director, Albright Art Gallery, and Past-Director, National Machine Tool Builders Association.

The financial acumen of the Wendt brothers is valued in the banking world as evidenced by Edgar’s Chairmanship of the Board of the Buffalo Branch, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and Harry’s presence on the Board of Directors of the Marine Trust Company of Western New York.

I am honored in presenting to you two of Buffalo’s first citizens, my life-long friends: EDGAR and HARRY WENDT.

'My fellow members of Newcomen: THE recognition which The Newcomen Society tonight is paying to Buffalo Forge Company is greatly appreciated by my brother and me and by our associates.

This tribute we recognize as particularly in memory of our father, Henry W. Wendt. This constructive man, a friend to all his employees, was a recognized leader in the industry for which he set a good example. He was kindly and wise; a good churchman, he enjoyed music and the theatre, dabbled in ward politics, enjoyed travel, liked people and people liked him.

He had the vision, ability, and energy to build wisely and well, from a small beginning to a company of widely diversified products, serving most industries in many parts of the world.

This is the Seventy-Fifth Anniversary of Buffalo Forge Company, into which, in 1878, William F. Wendt, and shortly thereafter Father came. Organized to manufacture a portable blacksmith forge with a geared lever-driven blower, the tiny company had no factory, but parts produced outside were assembled and shipped as the forges were sold.

William Wendt, with a long head for financial matters and a keen appreciation for values in advertising, pulled the little company through many tight spots, while his brother Henry, a practical foundryman and manufacturer, not only looked after that end of the business, but had the happy faculty of attracting and keeping able lieutenants. His friendly employee relations were the result of his own convictions rather than a matter of policy. Between them they kept the wheels turning and formed a team which worked well for the success of the company, and started a long history of expanding business, with steady employment and freedom from labor troubles.

By 1880, the business had grown to an extent that justified the purchase of a small building on the site of the present factory.

Seventy-two years ago, Broadway and Mortimer Street was a long way from downtown Buffalo. While the horse-drawn street cars provided a connecting link with the city, there were still farms on Broadway. However, there was already established nearby, a growing German-American neighborhood from which many skilled mechanics have come in the years since.

In addition to the blacksmith forges, a line of hand-operated blacksmith post drills was introduced. The lever-operated blower was changed to a geared crank-operated model and sales continued to climb. With the introduction of the geared hand blower for forges, the company manufactured some small belt-driven blowers and exhaust fans for industrial users. Industry was just beginning to discover air as a usable tool for many jobs. The sale of these industrial blowers grew rapidly, larger sizes were developed, and in the space of a very few years the industrial fan line had broadened to include ventilating fans, which were then becoming a necessity for theatres, schools, auditoriums, other public buildings, and for industry.

As our products called for more and more work with sheet metal, we developed for our own use, in the mid-’80’s, a line of lever-operated punches, shears, and bar-cutters. These tools proved so useful in our shop that they were added to our line of blacksmith tools, and structural shops were quick to adopt them.

As our shop began to work with heavier metals, our hand-operated punches and shears no longer had sufficient capacity. It was then decided to develop a completely new line of power punches, shears and bar-cutters, combination machines and bending rolls. Standard practice in the early part of the century called for very heavy cast iron frames for such machinery. The “Buffalo” line was developed with “Armor-Plate” steel frames, much stronger than cast iron and weighing only a fraction as much. In the early days of welding this was a radical step, and shop superintendents were wary of such an untried idea. To overcome this resistance, the company guaranteed the frames of the new “Armor-Plate” machines to be “Unbreakable Forever.” This astonishing guarantee broke down sales resistance rapidly. About twenty years ago the “Buffalo” steel plate frame was all-electrically welded so as to make it to all intents a single piece of practically indestructible steel plate.

With the development of the power metal working machines, complete lines of power drills were introduced. This placed us in the machine tool industry, from which we now receive a considerable volume of business.

In 1900, the business was incorporated with a capitalization of $500,000 which was increased to $1,000,000 in 1901. A market was pictured in South and Central America, not only for forges, drills and fans, but also for machinery for processing the principal crops of those lands—sugar, coffee and rice, and so The Geo. L. Squier Mfg. Co. of Buffalo was purchased in 1902. This organization had sold sugar machinery in South America, and the Wendt brothers proceeded to develop new equipment and expand markets. Squier salesmen were wide travellers; the “Squier” name became better known in all semi-tropical areas of the world.

Squier engineers have been responsible for some outstanding changes in the design of milling equipment in recent years. During the Second World War, of course, there was no chance to build non-priority milling equipment; but since 1946 this division of Buffalo Forge Company has again been active and is right now under contract for building and supplying all the machinery and equipment for two complete sugar factories in Venezuela.

Working with engineers of the Celanese Corporation, Squier several years ago developed an adaptation of the Squier Cane Mill to remove excess moisture from wood bark, a by-product of the paper industry. Pulp mills all over the world have been wasting millions of tons of bark from pulp logs because it was too wet to use as fuel. Now successfully operating at a number of mills, the Squier Bark Crusher will probably become one of our important products.

In 1904, when power plant fan work began to grow, and the infant air conditioning industry was developing, it was decided to add a line of pumps, and the Buffalo Steam Pump Company in North Tonawanda was purchased.

The product of this company was entirely steam pumps, but recognizing a growing trend, we began to develop lines of centrifugal pumps, and discontinued the steam pumps. These centrifugal pumps are of types widely used throughout the chemical and process industries, in air conditioning work, general industrial service, and particularly in paper mills. We also manufacture a number of very special pumps for naval and marine service.

In 1905, also, a Canadian company was formed at Montreal the Canadian Blower & Forge Company, Ltd., to manufacture similar lines for Canada and British possessions. This company enjoyed a healthy growth, and, in 1914, was moved to a modern new plant at Kitchener, to take care of the ever-growing Canadian industrial needs. In 1931, Canada Pumps, Ltd., was organized to same lines at Kitchener.

There had been several expansions of the original Buffalo plant; then, in 1906, adjacent land was bought and a new pattern shop, foundry, machine shop and storage buildings were erected. From forges to fans to machine tools, sugar machinery and pumps — a considerable expansion in twenty-six years! Sales continued to grow—sales representatives were located in principal cities in this country, in England, France, Italy, India, China and throughout the tropics.

As far back as 1895, the company had furnished fans and other equipment to be used in what was a forerunner of today’s modern air conditioning—the ventilating and cooling of the Auditorium Hotel in Chicago.

At about the same time, Buffalo Forge Company got interested in humidifying or dehumidifying the air in factories where humidity control was beginning to be important in maintaining product uniformity.

Among the early installations which functioned successfully for many years was one in a leading pharmaceutical plant, others in several textile mills, some cigar and cigarette plants. Cigarette production, then in its infancy, required air kept at exactly the right humidity. Early installations of “Buffalo” equipment demonstrated the economy of this operation, making possible today’s enormous production. The basic principles of air conditioning were to be found in these early installations of Buffalo Forge Company and account for the term, “Birthplace of Air Conditioning,” which engineers have attached to our name.

Air conditioning in the early days was mostly confined to industrial applications. It was relatively easy to sell a company a system which would improve its product, increase production and give uniformity. It was not until these positive advantages of air conditioning were demonstrated on numerous industrial jobs that people began to be interested in what is now the larger market, comfort conditioning.

Our company was greatly interested in the possibilities of hot weather cooling and gave close attention to this phase of the business. A number of engineers were engaged in designing the company’s standard lines, and in 1900 the company began to hire young graduates from engineering colleges to further develop the air end of the business.

The young company began to make considerable strides along engineering lines. It was the first to publish catalogs containing reliable performance figures on its products, giving consulting and industrial engineers the means, the tools for their work.

Among other firsts was the design of heating systems for industrial buildings by the use of scientific tables for heat losses with different types of building construction, previously estimated entirely by rule of thumb. A startling result of this was the sudden stop it put to having all available engineers running around the country when the first good cold weather came on, trying to make heating jobs perform to the satisfaction of the owners.

At the turn of the century, much present knowledge about air, its properties and characteristics, was still to be acquired. Research by “Buffalo” engineers was continuous; numerous facts were demonstrated, older theories were sometimes discarded in favor of provable laws. It was the beginning of the “Age of Engineers,” and we were fortunate that Father was quick to realize it. His investment in research began to show increasing values.

Among the new men employed then was Charles A. Booth, a native of Massachusetts and graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. Mr. Booth came with the company in July 1900, to work in the sales department. By 1907, his ability to manage was evident, and he was made general sales manager, later Vice-President. His influence has been felt, especially in product improvement and sales organization.

Shortly after my brother and I entered the company’s employ, clouds were gathering over Europe for the First World War. He went into production work at the Buffalo plant, while I went to Tonawanda for operational experience at the pump factory, while we were changing over from steam pumps to centrifugals.

Then, my brother went into purchasing, while I entered the Squier division to learn that business, and eventually became Sales Manager. At the end of the First World War, we both entered the general field of management.

At this point, because my brother and I are equally interested in our history, I would like to introduce our other speaker of the evening, my brother: HENRY W. WENDT.

My fellow members of Newcomen: It is indeed a pleasure to be with you tonight, on this most gratifying occasion, and to have an opportunity to highlight the story of the companies we represent. Without further preamble, I should like to continue our history, to bring it up to date.

A young man hired at about the turn of the Century was Willis H. Carrier, who, from 1902 to 1915, was Chief Engineer of the Buffalo Forge Company. About 1910, it was agreed that our engineers knew so much about air handling and conditioning that they could prepare a handbook on the subject, for the benefit of industrial engineers and contractors. Mr. Carrier was assigned to edit this book, which was published in 1914 under the title, Fan Engineering. The book, with six hundred pages of practical information, was an instant success. Thousands of copies sold without solicitation of any kind. Fan Engineering, now in preparation for its sixth edition, is the accepted handbook of the air industry; is used as a reference book in many colleges and is a necessity in the office of every industrial or consulting engineer.

Early in the development of air conditioning, Buffalo Forge Company formed the Carrier Air Conditioning Company of America, which contracted for complete installations built after its own designs. As this phase of the business continued to grow, it became evident that there was a place for air engineering and installation service separate from the manufacturer.

In 1915, Mr. Carrier and several other Buffalo Forge Company employees, by mutual and amiable agreement, formed the Carrier Engineering Corporation to engineer and install air conditioning systems. Buffalo Forge Company proceeded to concentrate its energies on the improvement and manufacture of blowers, ventilating, heating and air conditioning equipment.

The decision to remain in the manufacturing field only was a momentous one; while it meant the abandonment of a profitable segment of business, it guaranteed the good will of the growing number of ventilating and air conditioning contractors who could no longer consider Buffalo Forge Company a competitor. Today, with a tremendous number of firms engaged in the installation of air conditioning systems, Buffalo Forge Company is a welcome non-competitive supplier to all of them, including some manufacturers of equipment not making a complete line.

The relationship between Mr. Carrier’s company, now the Carrier Corporation, and Buffalo Forge Company has remained most friendly and we are happy to have worked with them in these thirty-seven years.

In 1916, William Wendt decided to retire, and Father purchased his interest, reorganized the company, and made stock available to the employees under favorable conditions.

We were then in the middle of the First World War and crowded with orders. However, the shifts resulting from the new setup were made successfully and resulted in a stronger organization. Father, the new President, relieved himself of some responsibilities and assumed others, with results which started the company on a new era of expansion. Father found it possible to do more general supervision, although he always had an amazing grasp of details. No policy change was conceivable without his comment, no product developed or deleted from our line without his tacit approval. Where employees were concerned, his office door was always open and he knew more about the circumstances of his men than most employers of his time. He gave full weight to the opinion of others, and if confident of their ability, was frequently willing to defer to them.

We have many second generation employees, some from the third generation. The average time that our employees have been with us is exceeded by very few plants in America. I say this with, I hope, pardonable pride, because in nearly three-quarters of a century we have had practically no labor troubles, hence few days have been lost from our usual busyness resulting from sales of our varied products. Today we believe we have the confidence and good will of our more than 2,100 employees.

Father was a Director of the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce. He was active in Masonic affairs, becoming a 32nd Degree Mason and Knight Templar, and a member of the Shrine. He greatly enjoyed this part of his life.

He was interested not only in his own company, but in the welfare of the fan industry as a whole. He was one of the founders of the National Association of Fan Manufacturers, and became its first president. This Association has done a remarkable job of standardizing classifications and ratings in the industry, and his early and vigorous interest in its aims earned him the affectionate title of Dean of the Heating and Ventilating Industry.

In 1929, Father was stricken with pneumonia and passed away after an illness of only a few days.

To say that we all miss him is an understatement. His leadership, so long depended upon, was of the type that made us follow enthusiastically. With his death, we lost a good friend and wise counselor. As Plutarch said about Pompey: “No man ever asked a favor with less offense, or conferred one with a better grace. When he gave, it was without assumption; when he received, it was with dignity and honor.”

In an election of officers held the year of his death, Edgar Wendt became President and Treasurer of Buffalo Forge Company; Charles A. Booth became Executive Vice-President; Herbert S. Whiting became Secretary; and I was elected Chairman of the Board.

Looking back over the years, there are some things which are worth comment.

For one thing, a number of men who started with the company in minor capacities have risen, either with the company or outside, to positions of importance. Charles Booth and Willis Carrier have already been mentioned. In addition, there is Tom Girdler of steel fame, who graduated from Lehigh to take his first position with Buffalo Forge Company and later represented us in our London office. There was William S. Knudson of General Motors, who worked for us for a time, and John A. VanDeventer, superintendent of our factory for several years, who later, as editor of The Iron Age, attained an international reputation. There have been many other men who have risen to responsible positions in industry since their “indoctrination” at Buffalo Forge Company.

“Buffalo Pumps” has been closely affiliated with the marine industry for most of its existence. During the First World War a major portion of this company’s output went on ships built by the Emergency Fleet Corporation. Many “Buffalo” pumps were built for battleships and cruisers which were scrapped by the Naval Disarmament Treaty of 1923. One survivor of that treaty was the aircraft carrier Lexington, in which “Buffalo” pumps were serving faithfully until she went down in the Battle of the Coral Sea.

From 1923 until 1933, while shipbuilding was at a low ebb, “Buffalo” engineers were occupied with research, development, and testing, so that when the U.S. Navy expansion program started in 1933, we were ready to meet Navy requirements. During the Second World War practically the entire output of the pump company was for naval vessels.

On September 3, 1942, Buffalo Pumps was awarded the Army-Navy “E” for excellence in production of much needed pumps for the Navy. Shortly afterwards, on December 7, 1942, Buffalo Forge Company received the first “E” for the manufacture of fans for the same branch of the service. During the Second World War, Buffalo Forge Company furnished to the U.S. Navy more than half of all ventilating fans required aboard the fighting ships, while Canadian Blower and Forge Company supplied a considerably greater proportion of those bought for the Canadian Navy and Maritime service.

We have been fortunate in having our regular products in such demand during both World Wars that these periods passed without the necessity of shifting to entirely new lines.

“Buffalo” has been a consistent believer in advertising and has practiced it accordingly. I have been told that the first use of colored pages in trade paper advertisements were our red inserts in The Iron Age in the 1890’s. We have long used export publications for world markets and, of course, many trade papers in particular fields.

Incidentally, our Canadian companies are enjoying an excellent market in the rapidly developing Canadian industry. Most of us here tonight are aware of the tremendous upsurge in every phase of industrial activity in Canada, and we anticipate no decline. Particularly in the pulp and paper field and in the chemical industries, our Canadian companies have made rapid progress. In precious metal and other mines, “Canadian” fans and pumps are widely used, and for much of the new industrial and commercial building north of the border we are supplying air conditioning, ventilating, heating and pumping equipment.

The expansion of industry during the past fifty years created many new applications for fans and blowers. By concentration of our engineering efforts on the industrial side of air handling, we have been able to satisfy many of the most important industrial users of such equipment.

Our air handling equipment has led us through the years into continually expanding markets. The most recent of these is industrial hygiene. Increasingly stringent laws, local, state and federal, now regulate the control of dust, fumes, smoke and other contaminants given off in industrial processes. Health of employees must be protected at the source of these contaminants, and residents of the area around a plant can no longer be annoyed by dust and fumes discharged from a stack or open windows. The proper control of contaminants has grown to be an important part of every plant operation. We have in recent years become very active in this work; a recent order for equipment to improve bad conditions and clean discharged air from one plant has run over half a million dollars.

We have been fortunate in participating in most of the new and improved processes introduced in the past twenty years; in the development of the paint spray business, in steel making, in the food industry, in radio and television manufacture, in the terrifically changing chemical and process industries, in the atomic energy developments, and many others.

The sales organization follows a general pattern which was set up around 1900. Graduates from the leading engineering schools are first given a thirty-week intensive course by our engineers in the selection and application of “Buffalo” products, a training which enables them to apply their technical education to best advantage. They then work in engineering department, test room, shop and sales office for two or three years, when they are given an opportunity either to remain in engineering, the home office sales force, or to enter the organization of one of our sales representatives. These representatives, located in principal cities, represent Buffalo Forge Company and Buffalo Pumps, Inc. In this way the sales organization is made up of men who are engineers first of all, grounded and experienced in the numberless applications of air moving and air conditioning in all branches of industry, and prepared to assist in its selection and use for existing fields and for new ones as they develop. A recent McGraw-Hill survey of customer acceptance shows Buffalo Forge Company as holding a leading position in the preference rating of those men in industry who have occasion to use and operate such equipment as we make.

In 1941, it was decided that stockholders would be best served if the stock were placed on the New York Stock Exchange. A reorganization was made at that time so that The Squier Corporation, Buffalo Pumps, Inc., and the Canadian Companies became wholly-owned subsidiaries of Buffalo Forge Company, and stock was offered to the public for the first time.

In the life span of our company and of many men here tonight, there has been an almost complete change in manufacturing and business practice. Nearly everything we use in our everyday life was unknown then. It is our hope that the traditions, the imprint of character, the marks of personality and the signs of optimism, which Father left with all of us, shall continue to guide our company through the even more interesting years which lie ahead.

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