Together with 4 men, Chicago financer Byron L. Smith forms a company to manufacture and sell metal cutting tools ; In 1912, on the eve of world war 1 Chicago financier Byron L. Smith placed an ad seeking in investment opportunity for « a growing manufacturing business ». Four men answered : Frank W.England, Paul B. Goddard, Oscar T. Hogg and Carl G. Olson. Together, these forward-thinking businessmen formed a company to manufacture and sell metal- cutting tools In the following decades, the business grew steadily with the added production of transmissions, pumps, compressors and steering assemblies. Meanwhile, the use of plastics in the fasteners components and assemblies accounted for a growing portion of the company’s operations.
The company expands its original metal cutting tool products to include truck transmissions, pumps, and others items for America’s World War I effort. The genesis of Signode, which later joins ITW, begins with John (Jack) W.Leslie’s investment in a company that incorporates coil steel strap and seals for packaging containers and products. Experiments by the DeVilbiss family to combine an adjustable atomizer with a spray gun result in the development of spray finishing to apply paint. DeVilbis later becomes a significant portion of ITW’s business. Another business which will later be acquired by ITW is incorporated as Hobart Brothers Company by C.C.Hobbart and his sons, Edward A. and William H., to market a battery charger.
ITW engineers develop the Shakeproof tooth lockwasher, based on a design by Richard K.Hosking. The product is marketed by the Shakeproof Lockwasher Company, a separate entity from Illinois Tool Works. Hobart Brothers builds its first electric arc welder. Another future ITW welding operation is launched when Niels Miller recognizes a market for small, affordable arc welders to operate from household single-phase power. Using scrap sheet metal, core and coil materials, he hammers together his first AC welder in his basement.
Harold Byron Smith, grandson of Byron L.Smith, joins the company and later succeeds his father, Harold C., as president. Hobart Brothers produces its first coated electrodes and enters the welding filler metal business.
Harold Ransburg experiments with applying wire voltage in spray painting to reduce waste and improve even surface coating. Over time, his company grows its electrostatic painting capabilities before later being acquired by ITW.
ITW’s contributions during World War II include representation on the War Production Board and development of a new time-saving wafer cutter to rifle heavy artillery barrels. Led by Harold B.Smith, ITW first decentralizes its operations to better focus on specific markets- a strategy by company maintained today. The Shakeproof business moves from Chicago to Elgin, Illinois site which still serves as the unit’s US headquarters today and begins manufacturing plastic fasteners and components.
In order to expand success of Shakeproof ‘s plastic fastener and components lines beyond automotive applications, the Fastex operating unit is created to provide these products for other mass production industries. Two news operations are formed to provide major contributions for the general industrial and defense sectors.
The Licon division begins producing electric switches and related products, later growing and expanding to become ITW Switches. In addition, Spiroid, with its right-angle gear products, builds upon the company’s original hobs and milling cutter lines, eventually the company’s metal fabrication capabilities.
By its 50th anniversary, the company had been officially named Illinois Tool Works INC. and was soon listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Since then, ITW’s performance has been consistently strong, with each new decade significantly adding to the company’s growth. During the 1960s, ITW’s products developments for the construction industry led to its position as the only company in the world that produces fastening systems for wood, metal and concrete/masonry applications. Also during that decade, the beverage packaging industry was transformed with the invention of ITW’s Hi-Cone six-pack carrier ring.
ITW formally becomes Ilinois Tools Works INC. and is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, with a stock price of $26. ITW extends its global reach when German components manufacturer Ateco joins to provides Shakeproof and other products for European markets, and Australian company W.A Deutsher is acquired, furthering ITW’S reach into the region’s construction, industrial and packaging markets. The Hi-Cone operating unit is formed to market six-pack ring carriers for beverage manufacturers. Separating a portion of Shakeproof’s capabilities results in the formation of Buildex, which becomes a leading supplier for the construction industry.
The 1970s saw rapid growth of ITW’S manufacturing of components, fasteners, filters and assemblies for automotive companies around the world, along with new capabilities to provide sealants, sorbent materials and other specialty chemical products used in industrial maintenance. ITW furthers its capabilities to supply the automotive industry with its purchase of Chronomatic, which utilizes proprietary polymer technology on dashboard controls and other components.
As a result of Fastex’s continuing advancements in the use of plastics, the Deltar operating unit is formed to further increase ITW’s reach for supplying automotive components. ITW takes a major step in solidifying its ability to supply adhesives and epoxies for a variety of industrial applications with the acquisition of Devcon.
In the 1980s, ITW began to significantly increase its acquisition activity as the company nearly doubled its revenues with the purchase of Signode, a leading multinational manufacturer of metal and plastic strapping, stretch film, industrial tape, application equipment and related products. By the close of decade, ITW entered the finishing systems market with acquisition of companies providing liquid and powder application for conventional and electrostatic painting.
Dykem, Magnaflux, Mima, Minigrip, Norwood Marking, Paslode, Philadelphia Resins, Plastiglide, Ramset Corporation(with its Ransburg, Gema, Micro-poise and SIMCO businesses), Shippers Paper Products, Signode and SPIT are among more than three dozen acquisitions to serve existing and new markets. A portion of Fastex becomes the basis for the Nexus operating unit, which extends ITW’s role as a supplier of plastic products to a variety of consumer applications. ITW enters a number of joint ventures domestically and internationally, including the formation of Zip-Pak with Dow Chemical ( whose interest ITW later repurchases to combine the operation with its Minigrip business).
During the 1990s, acquisitions increased ITW’s presence in the important metal fabrication and welding markets. ITW also increased its reach in the consumer and industrial packaging markets with enhanced capabilities of case sealing, carton printing, decorating, protective shipping, shrink and stretch wrapping, and palletizing products and systems.
Included among approximately 100 worldwide acquisitions are Akron Standard, Anchor Fasteners and Stamping, CS Packaging, DeVilbiss/Volstatic, Dynatec, Hobart Brothers Company, Miller Group, Orgapack, Trans Tech, United Silicone and Vortec. ITW continues to enter joint ventures throughout the world, including Automated Label Systems which later becomes a wholly owned ITW business and is renamed Auto-Sleeves. The largest acquisition in ITW’s history is announced with the addition of Premark International, a manufacterer of commercial food equipment and laminated products. The company’s well-known brand names include Hobart, Wilsonart Vulcan and Traulsen.
ITW’s proven strategies of increasing market penetration with product innovation, extending current products to new industries and acquiring businesses that improve customers offerings provide the foundation for continued success in the 21st century. Thanks to the dedication of thousands of people at hundreds of business units are around the world who have made serving customers the basis of countless company-wide successes, ITW is well positioned to meet the challenges of the evolving global marketplace.