BASIC INTRODUCTION TO CONVEYORS
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE CONVEYOR INDUSTRY
The conveyor industry actually started about 80 years ago  in
the Minneapolis-St. Paul area by a group of men unloading wood
shingles from rail cars. The idea worked so well that part of the
group decided to relocate to a steel tube mill location and selected
Ellwood City Pennsylvania, the home of National Tube. This relocated
group called itself Mathews Gravity Conveyer Company with Rufus P.
Mathews as president.
The group that remained in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area also started
a conveyor company named Standard Conveyor Company.
A Mr. Offutt was superintendent of National Tube in Ellwood City,
Pennsylvania. At times, Mathews got into financial difficulty, and Mr.
Offutt bailed them out and received stock in the company. He also
secured employment for his son John in the Mathews engineering
department. Also, Mr. Offutt's daughter was married to the Ellwood
city bank president. Upon Mr. Offutt's death, John, his son, inherited
all of the Mathews stock his father owned.
After Rufus P. Mathews, F.E. Moore became president. Then came Bill
Dean, then Odd McLeary.
F.E. Moore set up Mailer-Searles in San Francisco as the west coast
manufacturer of Mathews Conveyors and built a new plant in Port Hope,
Ontario, Canada. Mailer-Searles sold the area west of the Mississippi
River and maintained offices in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, San
Francisco, Portland Oregon, and Seattle.
Mathews Chief Engineer, Norton Meyer, and Chief Draftsman, John Offutt
took Harry Harlick under their wings and taught him all about the
application of conveyors to industry.
In addition to Mathews, Mailer-Searles also acquired the
Standard-Knapp line of packaging machines.
Bill Dean was jealous of Bill Jaenicke, president of Mailer-Searles
because Jaenicke was offered the presidency of Mathews before Bill
Dean, but, Jaenicke refused, saying he had been born and raised in San
Francisco and did not care to relocate to Ellwood City.
Bill Dean decided to build a Mathews Plant in San Carlos and take the
Mathews line back. He also appointed P.W. (Joie) Brown as President of
Mathews-West Coast. The new plant had only 2 acres and quickly outgrew
the San Carlos facility. They purchased 80 acres in Chico and built a
new plant. P.W. Brown ultimately died of a heart attack and Bill
Peppard was appointed Vice-President and General Manager.
When Mathews took the line from Mailer-Searles, Bill Jaenicke obtained
the Alvey Conveyer line from Jack Alvey of St. Louis.
The Alvey Conveyor Company had started in the north barn of Anhuser-Busch
in St. Louis, furnishing all the conveyor for the brewery. When Alvey
solicited more work from other St. Louis breweries, he was politely
told to move.
Alvey eventually passed away and Jack Alvey and Bob Mayer bought the
company from his uncle's widow. Both Jack and Bob were standard
Conveyor sales people in New York and specialized in brewery
Meanwhile, Hartford-Empire, manufacturers of automatic blowmold glass
making equipment bought Standard-Knapp. It was suggested that Mailer-Searles
also sell to Hartford-Empire, later known as Emhart.
Bill Jaenicke later was told that Emhart was going to dissolve Mailer-Searles.
Emhart formed a separate Standard-Knapp office in San Mateo and Harry
Harlick was retained to finish up all outstanding Alvey business,
after which he went to work for FMC corporation in Riverside, CA.
Now, Odd McLeary was President of Mathews and arranged a sale of
Mathews to Rex-Chainbelt of Milwaukee Wisconsin. Rex also bought
Nordberg a rock crushing equipment manufacturer and changed their name
to Rexnord. The cost of Mathews to Rex was $9M with $25k per year
retirement to Odd for a period of 5 years. Mathews had $9M in the
bank, so the actual cost to Rex as zero.
FMC set aside $10M for the Riverside Division to get into the conveyor
business. Since they were furnishing practically all conveyor to the
citrus industry, they had a good start. The Riverside Division could
purchase a conveyor company or start one from scratch. The Riverside
Division also manufactured about 7 different product lines; the bulk
feed trucks which deliver cattle and chicken feed, egg machines which
automatically grade and package eggs for producers, along with juicers
and other equipment for citrus growers.
Also FMC purchased some Palletizer patents from an inventor in Los
Angeles. The rest of the patents were purchased by Lamson Corporation,
of Syracuse, New York. This caused a legal battle between FMC and
Lamson which nearly bankrupted Lamson. Both companies manufactured
FMC head office in San Jose discovered the Riverside Division was
diverting conveyor funds to other product lines and fired all product
managers and demoted the division manager Mr. Sid Boucher, the
conveyor sales manager Don Derricott was allowed to retire.
About the time Tom Loberg (Hytrol) designed the bale conveyor, Bill
Jaenicke also designed a variable speed bale conveyor to elevate bales
of hay to truck beds. E.W. Buschman (Buschman) was a Rapistan salesman
in Cincinnati when he decided to go into business for himself.
There was a wheel conveyor manufacturer in, I believe, Buffalo, New
York, who hired local housewives to assemble wheel conveyors at hours
they chose and paid minimum wages. Their profits were rock-bottom.
Mathews also used women to assemble wheel conveyors. They did a very
good job in Chico.