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  • Beloit Corporationtraces its beginnings to the year 1~5~ whenOrson E. Merrill came to Beloit from Vermontand sfiarted a foundry at 637 Third Street.

    Within the year he took in a partner,George Houston, and the firm becameknown as The Merrill and Houston IronWorks. its principal produce was a waterwheel developed by George Houston, butthe firm also could supply horseshoe nails,iron and steel castings, saws, augers,spokes and a variety of iron products.

    Orson Merrill's brother, Sereno T.Merrill, owned the Rock River Paper MillCompany, situated close to Merrill andHouston, on the Rock River. In '~~3~it1Sereno Merrill asked his brother to makeparts for his paper machine, which hadbeen bought in New England. The partswere highly satisfactory, and other localpaper mills soon were ordering parts fromMerrill and Houston. The quality wasgood, and the parts did not have to comeall the way from the East as before. By9ti(i;~ Merrill and Houston was producingcomplete paper machines, building four inthat year and several each year thereafter,along with the water wheels and other ironproducts.

    Ownership of the company changedseveral times in the next 20 years, andfinally management difficulties resulted inreceivership in 1~~2. To pay off creditors,operations were continued, however, and14 paper machines were built in that year,eight in 'i ~it~3 and five in 184.

    Finally on January 7 of 1885, the assetsof the company were sold at auction. Asuccessful bid of $20,000 for part of theplant and for the real and personal proper-ty was made by J.D. Rexford of Janesvilleon behalf of the creditors.

    Then in July four employees of Merrilland Houston associated themselves toform a new corporation, and Beloit Iron

    Works was in business. The new companyleased from Rexford most of the propertyhe had purchased, and operations recom-menced.

    Organizer and president of Beloit IronWorks was Fred Messer, who had beensuperintendent at Merrill and Houston.Alonzo Aldrich, who had been draftsman,became secretary; William H. Grinnell,lathe operator, became treasurer; andNoble 1. Ross, former boss erector, becamesuperintendent. The newly organizedcompany had 10 employees beside theworking officers, and it managed to getnearly X20,000 in sales that first year.

    Though there were no orders for papermachines until 9881, orders for parts andother products were so good that byOctober of `i ~t36, 48 persons wereemployed. By 1889 about 100 men wereworking and the officers were able to buyall the properly of the old Merrill andHouston works. The company prospered.Beloit Iron Work advertised it could builda paper machine every 30 days. But mis-fortune struck unexpectedly in Septemberof 18~~ when Fred Messer died of pneu-monia at the age of 40. Alonzo Aldrich,then 31 years old, succeeded him as pres-ident.

    Growth continued as the company builtcomplete machines, rebuilds and parts forpaper mills in the Midwest, Canada and asfar away as Texas. In 191 the companymade the first complete Yankee machineever built in the United States. In ~~3~3 itwas invited to build and install a papermachine at the Chicago World's Fair, theColumbian Exposition. The machine oper-ated at the fair with a full crew andreceived the United States Columbian

    Award fora "very high standard of work-manship and productiveness."

    Demand for paper was growing rapidlyin this period, paper mills were prospering,more machines and rebuilds were beingordered, and the machines themselveswere larger. The first machines made inBeloit had been as small as 30 inches wide,but in the 1850s machines wider than 100inches were being designed. So the com-pany had to undertake an expansion pro-gram. More land was acquired on the westside of Rock River spreading out from theisland chat had been part of the originalMerrill and Houston property. In 18J6 anew foundry was built as well as newmachine shops and offices. The most mod-ern equipment was installed, able to han-dle the larger castings now required.Buildings were of brick and glass, muchbetter than the wooden buildings theyreplaced, and heated too. In this yearabout 150 men were employed, workingon paper machines that sold for $25,000to $30,000 each.

    Technology was changing rapidly. Goodquality paper could be produced onmachines that ran much faster than before.In ~i9f~0 a Beloit cylinder machine wouldproduce about 75 feet of paper perminute; fourdrinier machines were making400 to 500 feet per minute. In `iy90 acylinder machine was designed for 300feet per minute and a fourdrinier machinefor 600.

    Buyers of Beloit paper machines beforethe turn of the century were generallycompanies in the Great Lakes region, butin ~$~7 a machine was shipped to Japan,and two went to China in 990a. Beloit hadbecome well-known in the industry, bothnationally and internationally, in part prob-ably because of the machine at theColumbian Exposition.

    As the first years in the 20eh century

  • passed, though demand for paper wasgrowing, machinery builders had leanyears as well as good When BeloiYs shopswere not busy, time and money were spenton improving facilities to be ready for thenext surge of others. Improvement indesign of the paper machine were alwaysimportant. Beloit machines continued tobreak records in speed as well as produc-tion. With the team of outstanding men hehired and promoted over the years, AlonzoAldrich kept the company in the forefrontof the industry.

    One of the bright young men he hiredwas Elbert H. Neese, just 30 years old,who was vice-presidenC and sales managerof a competitive machine builder, and hus-band of Laura, Mr. Aldrich's only child.Elbert Neese, who already had 13 yearsexperience in the industry, quickly becamea strong factor in the management of thecompany, and with his help BeloitIron Works increased sales rapidly. In 1916when he came, sales were at their recordup to that time; in the next 15 years theygrew eight-fold.

    Because of this surge in sales, and sincepaper machines were being built everwider, again there was a need for rapidexpansion of facilities. The machine shopwas enlarged and tools were updated sothey could make machines wider than the160 inches possible before. Employmentreached a peak of 550 in the year ~i~;3CB.Money was spent on design improvement,to increase the speed of production and toimprove product quality. Beloit led theindustry and became known for superiormachines with the most advanced design.And the company worked with its cus-tomers closely, to know their needs and tohelp solve their individual problems.

    Alonzo Aldrich died in 1931 and wassucceeded as president by Elbert Neese,

    Sr. Neese was faced wieh the worst year ofthe Great Depression. Orders for completemachines were non-existent, and partsand repair orders were scarce. The workforce was reduced to 180. A slight upturnoccurred in 1g33, and gradual recoverytook place the folowing years until 9937employment reached a temporary 640.

    In 19~6'i Beloit Iron Works turned partof its production to war materials, buildingmachine tools needed for war production.By ~ ~~2 nearly 100% of its capacity wasbeing used for crankpin-turning lathes,boring mills and powder mills. During thenext three years the company built nearly100 78 ton Corvette engines for the U.S.Maritime Commission. The .Iron Worksreceived the Army-Navy "E" for ExcellenceAward in November of 1943 and threetimes thereafter.

    It was during the war period that theNational Labor Relations Board ordered anelection, and the International Associationof Machinists, A.F of L. was recognized asbargaining agent for the machine shopemployees, the first union to be recog-nized by the Iron Works.

    To handle the pent-up demand for largepaper machines in the years following thewar, capacity was added, land wasacquired, the tail race which had separat-ed the island was filled in, and new build-ings and modern machine tools put intooperation. Beloit paper machines weresoon breaking records for speed and pro-duction. In ~i J~IY a tissue machine was fur-nished which ran 2,800 feet per minute.The world's largest cylinder machine wasinstalled to produce board at a speed ofover 500 feet per minute. By '&~.ra~ the firsttissue machine was designed for a speed of3,000 feet per minute.

    The work force was growing rapidlyduring this prosperous period. There were

    about 1,000 employees in 1946; 1,300 in~i~~7; and 1,450 in 1949. Employmentreached 1,690 in 1952, the year in whichElbert Neese, Sr. became chairman andHarry C. Moore, who had started work atBeloit in 1J37, became president.

    Harry Moore, dynamic and charismaticlike Mr. Neese, also shared his keen.inter-est in expanding sales. The companyspread its wings with the opening in 1~~~of a sales office in Paris to promote Beloitmachines throughout the world. Duringthe 19~~s, as much as a fifth of all ship-ments were to foreign countries.A West Coast sales office was opened in

    Portland, Oregon, followed by one inMobile, Alabama. Purchase of the foundryand machine shop facilities of theDowningtown Manufacturing Company inPennsylvania in iJ55 was the first of aseries of acquisitions to increase produc-tion and to diversify. Next was a factory inItaly; then E. D. Jones &Sons Company inPittsfield, Massachusetts, in y958. Beloitmachines were soon being manufacturedin England, Japan and Spain in productionfacilities owned or licensed by Beloit.

    Important in the development of thecompany were the establishment of aresearch facility in Beloit in 1955 and the1961 completion of a Research Center inRockton, Illinois, a few miles from theBeloit plant. Beloit was enabled to focus itsability to innovate and to further enhanceits technological leadership.

    Elbert H. Neese participated in the ded-ication of the new Res