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Walker-Turner General Timeline

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Modified on 2008/06/10 03:01 by joewells Categorized as History, Manufacturer Information

1927-1929

Within this time frame Walker-Turner is founded by Ernest T. Walker (d. July 5, 1976) and William Brewer Turner in Jersey City, New Jersey. Walker-Turner's earliest known patent application (Feb 21, 1931) states that Walker-Turner is a Corporation of New York. (Google Patents, Patent number 1819800)

Their initial line of tools were small, inexpensive, light-weight machines designed for home workshops of the time. These machines were primarily sold through department stores. It appears that these early machines that were sold through Sears, Roebuck were not re-badged as later machines would be.

The catalog for Walker-Turner's 1935 models states on its back cover “Many who look through this catalog will recall the first DRIVER TOOLS which were announced some seven years ago.” This “seven years ago” calculation may have been based either on the model year of 1935, or the 1934 copyright date of that catalog.

Also, the 1932 Driver Line catalog from S. S. Kresge states that “Within the past three years, this line has developed ...”.

1931

Walker-Turner donates $500 to the Red Cross for drought relief. (New York Times, Jan 29, 1931)

On Feb 17, 1931 the Plainfield, New Jersey Chamber of Commerce announced that Walker-Turner had purchased “the Rushmore Plant at South Ave. and Berckman St.” at 639 South Avenue. (Plainfield Courier-News, Jan 30, 1957)

“One of the largest plants in Plainfield, formerly occupied by the Bosch Magneto Company, has been bought by the Walker-Turner Company, Inc., tool manufacturers, of Jersey City. The property, 302 by 200 feet, is at the southwest corner of South Avenue and Beekman (sic) Street.
“The four buildings on the site include a three-story concrete structure 275 by 180 feet, a one-story warehouse, a one-story foundry and another one-story building. The new owner will spend about $30,000 to alter the plant, according to J. I. Kislak, Inc., the broker. About 200 persons will be employed.
“The broker also arranged a $52,500 first mortgage for the buyer.” (New York Times, Feb 18, 1931)

The move from Jersey City to Plainfield would follow shortly.

1934

Introduction of the 500, 700, and 900 series machine lines. The 500 line included the smallest and lightest of these new machines, but these were still more substantial than the previous Driver Line machines.

1936

First 1100 series machines introduced – TA1150 table saw and BN1125 band saw.

Walker-Turner expands with the purchase of the Rivoli Silk Hosiery plant at 768 North Avenue. This adds about 33,000 sq feet and would become their shipping department. (New York Times, Sept 10, 1936)

1938

Walker-Turner begins its direct geared motor drive machines - MJ744 & MJ917 jig saws, TA990 & TA1162 table saws, and S980 shaper.

1939

An Art Deco redesign is applied to many of the 700, 900, and 1100 series machines.

Drill presses come to the fore as Walker-Turner begins to offer custom multi-headed setups for production work.

Some machines begin to get "serial" numbers. These serial numbers are more akin to model numbers than a consecutive machine-specific designation. There is no reliably structured format to these numbers, other than the final two digits often designate the year that the model began production (rather than the year that the machine was manufactured). (Walker-Turner Serial Numbers Service Bulletin)

1940

Much of the 1939 Art Deco redesign is discarded. The 900 and 1100 series bandsaws alone retain the '39 design.

Walker-Turner's first radial arm saw is introduced, the RA1100.

The 1940 catalog is the last in the OWWM collection to display 500 series machines. They are absent from the 1942 catalog.

A fire causes "considerable damage" to the South Avenue plant. (Plainfield Courier-News, Jan 30, 1957)

After organizing behind the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (a C.I.O. union), lack of progress in contract negotiations leads to a five-week long strike. The strike, most notably, delays a shipment of some 300 drill presses to Great Britain for use in making shells for the war effort. The strike begins Oct 23 and continues to Nov 26. The German Blitz is already in progress at this point, beginning in early September. Ernest Walker (vice president at this time) describes this shipment as “so important to Britain's armament they had been given priority over all other shipments out of New York harbor.” (New York Times, Oct 24 and Nov 27, 1940)

1941

A second fire causes additional damage to the South Avenue plant. (Plainfield Courier-News, Jan 30, 1957)

1942

Walker-Turner introduces its first Radial Arm Drill Press, the RD-1170.

In April the National War Labor Board intervenes to prevent a work stoppage and to halt the collapse of the UERMW local founded in 1940. The UERMW local officials had agreed to a tacit no-strike pledge, which eroded the local's negotiating leverage. Rank-and-file demands for a wage increase led to increasing unrest through late 1941. A quarter of the membership left the union and half of those that remained were delinquent with their dues. The NWLB's ruling compelled the delinquent members to rejoin, forbade coercion of employees by the union, as well as provided for a wage increase.

It is possible that the no-strike pledge was initiated by Communist-supporting members of the local's leadership. It has been supposed that after Germany's invasion of Russia in June, 1941, that these elements were focused on continuing production at the plant regardless of labor disaffection. (New York Times, April 11 and 12, 1942; Lichtenstein, Nelson Labor's War at Home: The CIO in World War II)

1942-1945

During the years of the United States' involvement in World War II, much of Walker-Turner's production capacity was focused on the war effort. Catalogs and other documentation from this period may be scarce. Due to paper shortages, some model years may not have had catalogs printed at all and other years likely saw limited print runs.

Walker-Turner's first 20" drill press, the D-1100 is introduced during this time frame.

1948

Walker-Turner is sold to Milwaukee machine tool maker Kearney & Trecker and becomes "Walker-Turner Division of Kearney & Trecker". Production continues at Walker-Turner's existing facilities in Plainfield. (Plainfield Courier-News, Jan 30, 1957)

1950

In April new serial numbers are brought into use. These new serials are formatted YYMSQD where YY is the year of manufacture, M is the type of machine, S is the specific model of machine, Q is the quarter of the year of manufacture, and D notes deviation from the standard model. For example, 52DA2A is a standard (52DA2A) single-spindle (52DA2A) 15" drill press (52DA2A) that was built in the 2nd quarter (52DA2A) of 1952 (52DA2A) (Walker-Turner Serial Numbers Service Bulletin)

1952

A new plant is constructed at 900 South Avenue in Plainfield. (Plainfield Courier-News, Jan 30, 1957)

1956

Kearney & Trecker sells Walker-Turner to Rockwell. Production continues in Plainfield. (Plainfield Courier-News. May 2, 1956)

1957

Rockwell ceases production in Plainfield and closes all former Walker-Turner facilities. Production of Walker-Turner badged machines moves to Bellefontaine, Ohio and Tupelo, Mississippi. (Plainfield Courier-News. January 30, 1957)

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