Friday, June 20, 2014

BernzOmatic: Not just propane torches!

A BernzOmatic socket?  Made in Japan.

And a wrench--made in Taiwan with a "Lifetime guarantee"!

The company dates back to 1876 when Otto Bernz established a business under his own name in Newark, New Jersey to sell plumbers' tools, furnaces and the "Always Reliable" gasoline torch. 



According to the company's website, in the 1940's the firm moved to Rochester, New York and changed its name to BernzOmatic but it wasn't until the 1950's that the first propane cylinders were developed.  I'm not sure how accurate this is, as an old propane torch instruction booklet in my possession still indicates the company name as the Otto Bernz Company.

Certainly, by the mid 1950's, the name had changed, as the pictures of the old shipping box below attest:

(Interesting that in 1956 it was permissible to ship propane cylinders through the mail.  Note that the company also had a Canadian branch out of Toronto.)

The propane torch kits used to come in metal cases, which are still great for holding other tools and parts (unlike the plastic cases that eventually replaced them):

The company's product line eventually expanded to include cookstoves, lanterns and portable heaters.

In the 1960's, the product line was increased still further to include hand tools such as wrenches, adjustable wrenches, pliers and socket sets.  

Products also included the "BernzCutter" designed by Anthony Goss in London, England in 1968 (U.S. Patent Des. 213,000), introduced to the market in the 1969 and priced to sell for only a couple of bucks.

September 1969
A larger premises was required, and the company bought the former BirdsEye plant in Medina in 1969, eventually moving all production and offices to that location by 1979.  Newell Rubbermaid bought the company in 1982, refocussing it on hand torches.  A brief attempt was made to outsource production to China, but quality problems ended this experiment. In 2011, BernzOmatic was bought by Worthington Cylinders.

1 comment:

Graham Clayton said...

A propane torch made by a person with the surname Bernz :-)