Workshop of the World

stories of industry in & around Philadelphia

Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company, 1948
11000 East Roosevelt Boulevard, Philadelphia PA
(at Haldeman Avenue)

Irving Kosmin, Workshop of the World (Oliver Evans Press, 1990).

The Yale & Towne Manufacturing Company was formed in Stamford, Connecticut in 1868 when Linus Yale, Jr. and Henry R. Towne (who had worked for William Sellers & Company, machine tool makers in Philadelphia) formed the Yale Lock Manufacturing Company. Towne was only twenty-four when they began together and three months later, Yale died. Originally, the company manufactured locks but in 1878, it began making chain blocks, hoists, and later cranes and testing machines. Two years later, crane production was organized into a separate department; Towne eventually sold the department to the Brown Hoisting Machine Company of Cleveland, Ohio in 1894. 1
 
In 1882, Towne undertook the building of Emery Testing Machines, used in materials testing; however, he sold that branch of the company to William Sellers & Company only five years later. In 1889, Towne purchased the rights to Thomas A. Weston's Triplex Block, a variation on Weston’s differential pulley block, which he invented in 1854. In 1920, Yale & Towne acquired C.W. Hunt, manufacturer of industrial platform trucks. Within the next three years, the company redesigned the entire line.
 
The company moved this division to Philadelphia in 1931; they set up shop in Bridesburg. Two years later, it acquired the Walker Vehicle Company, manufacturers of electric trucks and electric automobiles.
2 In 1938, Yale & Towne introduced the first electric sit-down fork-lift truck. 3
 
Yale & Towne relocated its facilities to a newly constructed plant on Roosevelt Boulevard in 1948. Two years later, they added LP gas, gasoline, and diesel-powered trucks to its line. The company was acquired by Eaton Manufacturing Company in 1963 and the merger produced Eaton Yale & Towne, Inc.
4 In association with Sumitomo of Japan, the company began the production for worldwide distribution of LP- and gasoline-powered trucks in 1973. In 1984, the company, reformed as the Yale Materials Handling Corporation and moved its headquarters from Philadelphia to Flemington, NJ; component production is in Lenoir, NC, and component assembly is in Greenville, NC.
 
At present, the building is occupied by Grabill Aerospace Company, a subsidiary of Heinz Company.

1  Dictionary of American Biography, Vol. 9, (1935-36).
2  A subsidiary of Walker was the Automatic Transportation Company, oldest manufacturer of electric-powered materials handling equipment in the country; one of their products was baggage handlers.
3  Interview with Richard C. Laatsch, Principal Engineer, Industrial Design, (September 28, 1989).
4  Laatsch, (September 28, 1989).


Update May 2007 (by Harry Kyriakodis):
RDK Capital, a Cleveland-based investment limited partnership, acquired the Heintz—not "Heinz"—Corporation from the insolvent Grabill Corporation of Chicago in 1990. (It was Grabill that had owned Heintz, not the other way around.) But the Heintz subsidiary went bankrupt in 1993, following declining orders for its jet engine parts and a downturn in its repair business. Even before then, a shopping center had been built on the part of the Yale & Towne site facing Roosevelt Boulevard. However, most of the factory is still there, with part of it being used for an office park and a school. The plant's distinctive smokestack, with "YALE" painted on the side, still stands tall.