I. Early Days - "To such men as the late Grafton M. Acklin is the city of Toledo indebted for its prominence in the industrial world.." -The Story of the Maumee Valley, 1929.


A. Toledo, Ohio in 1911, A Backdrop

The story of Acklin Stamping, and really the story of Toledo's metal working industry, begins in 1911. The world was a radically different place in those days. Brand Whitlock, as Toledo's mayor, led a rapidly growing city of 170,000 people. Both, the city and the nation were on the cusp of incredible technological change. In 1911, horses still dominated transportation and the speed limit was a mere 8 miles per hour. However this was all about to change in the next several years with the arrival of affordable automobiles, brought to the market by a number of companies including Toledo's own Willys-Overland Motor Company.

Throughout the city there was an overriding sense of optimism and hope for the future. The fundamental ways people did things were changing rapidly as a result of technological innovations ranging from the airplane to the skyscraper. However, the realities of industrial life were hard for working class men and women. The organization of major unions for unskilled workers had yet to take any effective steps towards improving worker safety or working conditions. A large number of immigrants were arriving in Toledo from around the world, primarily from Ireland and Eastern Europe.

The world was becoming a busy, noisy place. Industry was quickly making Toledo one of the most prominent and important cities in the Midwest. The Libbey Glass Company's arrival in Toledo from Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1888 had given Toledo a solid lead in the glass industry. Toledo was a prime location for industry because of its proximity to natural resources and key midwestern markets like Chicago and Detroit. With the arrival of the Edward Ford Plate Glass Company (founded in 1898) and the Owens Bottle Machine Company (founded 1903), it soon became the center of the American glass industry. These companies revolutionized the glass industry by utilizing assembly line style techniques of mass production.

Henry Ford, working outside of Detroit, pioneered techniques of mass production in the manufacturing of the automobile. This quickly emerging industry sixty miles north became increasingly important to Toledo at the turn of the century. Already a leader in the production of bicycles, Toledo firms utilized many of the same parts in the production of automobiles. The Lozier-Pope Company introduced its first steam-powered automible -- "The Toledo" in 1900, but it was relatively lacking in both speed and power. The Pope Company's 1903 model, the "Pope-Toledo" was a more durable and popular automobile. Selling for about $3,000 (more than many people's annual salary), it was truly a luxury vehicle. In 1907, the Pope Company went bankrupt and remained in arrears for two years until it was purchased by John Willys in 1909. Willys paid off the debt and reorganized the company, forming the Willys-Overland Company, a firm that would later introduce the Jeep and the Wagoneer to the world.

Anassembly line was used by Henry Ford in order to mass-produce perfectly identical automobiles in his Detroit plants. This was a tremendous innovation, one that allowed Ford to produce automobiles at vastly cheaper prices than his competitor. The assembly line technique was quickly copied and utilized in production facilities around the world.

Each vehicle produced on an assembly line was made up of thousands of pieces of steel, each precisely shaped, which were then assembled in factories. These pieces of metal were created at metal stamping plants, and as the automobile industry began to grow, so did the metal stamping industry. The metal stamping industry essentially involves shaping sheets of metal into the precise shapes required by a wide variety of industries. Steel, an alloy of iron and carbon, is rolled into flat sheets at a mill and then shipped to a metal stamping plant. That sheet of metal is placed into the bed of a press and a large, carefully shaped object called a die, is then pushed under extremely high pressure onto the steel, forming it in some way. In order to create a finished and usable result from a sheet of raw steel, several different operations are performed on increasingly more precise presses.

There were two methods in which a company could fill its demands for these stamped metal parts-- either through the creation of an in-house department which would supply the company's entire needs, or through out-sourcing the parts to various "jobbing" concerns. In the Toledo area, three metal stamping companies arose in 1911 alone to meet the growing need, with many more following shortly thereafter.

Itis not surprising then, that in early 1911, when Grafton Acklin, nearing his 60th birthday, looked to the future, he decided to retire as President of the Toledo Machine and Tool company and open, with three of his sons, the Acklin Stamping Company. But in order to understand Grafton Acklin's vision it is important to understand the man himself, and his career which led up to the formation of this company.

Willys-Overland

 

 

 

The Spitzer Building, Madison and Huron, c. 1900.  Photo by Charles Mensing.  From Celebrating the City a pictorial essay exhibit exerpted on The Old West End Homepage.

The Spitzer Building, Madison and Huron, c. 1900.

 

 

 

Advertisement for the Pope Automobile Company, 1905. (acquired from Toledo's Attic Web Page)

Advertisement for the Pope Motor Company, 1905.

 

 

 

Press manufactured by the Toledo Machine and Tool Company, which Grafton Acklin headed before founding Acklin Stamping

Press manufactured by the Toledo Machine and Tool Company, c. 1911

 

 

 

Grafton Acklin, Founder of the Acklin Stamping Company.  Photo c. 1898

Grafton Acklin, founder, c. 1898.


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Last Updated: 1/3/12