Thursday, October 9, 2014

Making airplane wing panels, Giddings & Lewis, 1950's

The World Book Encyclopedia.  Chicago:  Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1958.
Giddings & Lewis once ranked as the 4th largest producer of machine tools in the world.  It traces its history back to John Bonnell, who established a machine shop in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in 1859.  Over the next few decades, the business changed hands a number of times, adding a gray iron foundry in 1866 and being re-named the Novelty Iron Works.  Eventually, it became DeGroat, Giddings & Lewis, and specialized in steam engines, becoming just Giddings & Lewis in 1895.  The company became increasingly involved in the production of machine tools, including 17- and 19-inch lathes.  The company did well with war contracts during both World Wars, and entered the aircraft parts business during the 1950's.  The Seventies was a rough decade, though, especially with the collapse of Rolls-Royce in England, which drastically reduced orders from Giddings & Lewis customers. The company spiralled downward until bought by a Canadian firm in 1982, which managed to turn it around.  In 1991, Giddings & Lewis bought the much larger machine tool company of Cross & Trecker of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 1997, the former Harnischfeger Industries made a hostile takeover attempt for the company in 1997, but Giddings & Lewis turned to a German company, Thyssen Krupp, to thwart the takeover.  In 2003, the company closed a foundry that had operated for more than a century.  MAG Americas acquired Giddings & Lewis in 2006, shortly after MAG Americas was formed.  Still, the company slowly declined, from more than 1000 employees in the 1990's to 260 in 2013, when MAG Americas (and Giddings & Lewis) was acquired by the French industrial conglomorate, Paris-based Fives Group.

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