American Brass Company - Formation of American Brass Co.

Formation of American Brass Co.

The American Brass Company was formed on June 7, 1893, as a holding company for six brass manufacturing companies: Plume & Atwood Manufacturing Company; Benedict & Burnham Manufacturing Company; Waterbury Brass Company; Scoville Manufacturing Company; Holmes, Booth and Haydens; and Coe Brass Manufacturing Company. Disagreements over which companies would manufacture which goods delayed formal incorporation until March 1, 1899. All the firms except for the Waterbury Brass Company and the Coe Brass Manufacturing Company withdrew from the new corporation. But the Ansonia Brass and Battery Company joined the new firm in their place. American Brass began operation on December 14, 1899. There were about 10,000 brass workers in the United States in 1900, and half of them worked for American Brass. Benedict & Burnham and Holmes, Booth and Haydens became part of American Brass in 1901. By 1909, American Brass manufactured two-thirds of all the brass in the United States, consumed one-third of all copper produced in the country, and was the largest fabricator of nonferrous metals in the world.

But the company failed to eliminate duplication in its manufacturing plants, and its administration remained decentralized. Until 1922, American Brass was one of the few companies whose structure consisted of autonomous businesses. Scovill Manufacturing, Inc., the next largest brass manufacturer, was able to expand its market share significantly as American Brass lagged. Despite its managerial challengers, American Brass was still a highly innovative company. It developed and patented a process for constructing hollow and ventilated busses from rectangular copper bars. The company also developed numerous new and unique metallurgical processes and alloys.

On January 1, 1912, the companies held by American Brass were dissolved and all of the firm's divisions began operating under the name of the American Brass Company. The company also expanded, taking over the Chicago Brass Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin; Waterbury Brass Goods Corporation; and the Ansonian Land and Water Power Company. In June 1917, American Brass bought the Buffalo Copper and Brass Rolling Mills, the largest independent brass rolling mill in the country (one which employed 5,000 people). The company had 70 mills in 1917. During World War I, American Brass employed 16,000 workers and produced 1 billion tons of material. In 1921, the company was the victim of a major embezzlement scandal, after a cashier in the headquarters office absconded with $100,000 in cash and fled to Italy to avoid prosecution.

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