Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vanished manufacturers: Dole Valve Company, Morton Grove, Illinois

Above, an old radiator valve I had with some tractor stuff.  Below, the patents stamped on it.

The earliest one is from 1945 and was awarded to Sergius Vernet, an interesting guy who first invented the wax thermostatic element in 1936, receiving a U.S. patent for the device two years later.  It's now used in a wide variety of applications.

The Dole Valve Company was founded by Andrew Dole in 1923 in Morton Grove, Illinois, a Chicago suburb. (Andrew Dole was also a director of the William Wrigley Company and chairman of the Hooker Glass and Paint Manufacturing Company.  Hooker provided Mr. Wrigley with the mixing vats he first used to make his chewing gum.) The Dole company was one of the first to produce Vernet's automotive thermostat:

Life, November 1937

The company became a powerhouse, manufacturing appliances, instruments, valves, and plumbing & heating equipment.  

The Canadian side of the company was established in Oakville, Ontario in 1959. In 1963, with annual sales of $22 million, the US parent company was bought by the Eaton Corporation, which also bought the famous lock-making company of Yale & Towne, becoming Eaton Yale & Towne in 1965.  Dover was made a division of the larger company. In 1968, the original plant in Morton Grove was shut down, putting 400 employees out of work.  Production was moved to other locations in Indiana and Illinois.  One of the Illinois plants, in Hanover ("Best little village by a dam site"), was a converted woolen mill that had been originally built in 1864, becoming the largest woolen mill east of Chicago after further expansion in 1921.

When Eaton took it over, it became Valve & Control Plant No. 2, employing 700 people, mostly women.  There they made solenoid valves for use in dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines.   In 1997, it was sold to Robertshaw Industrial Products (aka Invensys Controls). As American major appliance manufacturers faltered (Maytag, out of Newton, Iowa, went belly up and was bought by Whirlpool in 2006), the workforce dwindled. In 2015, with the plant now owned by Robertshaw, the remaining 100 employees lost their jobs when the company moved production to Mexico.  (According to a 2014 article in Prairie Advocate, "The company cited the reason for the plant closures as part of its initiatives to optimize its manufacturing footprint, leverage its investments and enhance its competitiveness."  Huh?)

The Dole Valve name continues today as a brand, but I can't determine who owns the name.  It doesn't pop up on the Eaton site.

No comments: