Vulcan’s Centennial Celebration

1952-2aThe centennial celebration was one of the finest gala events — and certainly the best documented — that Vulcan ever put on. Following are some facts about the celebration:

  • The banquet took place on 31 January 1952. It was scheduled to coincide with the end of the AED (Associated Equipment Distributors) meeting in Chicago.
  • The celebration was held at the Sheraton Hotel, Grand Ballroom, Chicago, Illinois. It began at 6:00 pm, with cocktails, then the dinner, and after that the speeches.
  • Music for the event was provided by Shay Torrent, a well known organist for the Hammond Organ Company. Shay was a family friend of the Warringtons for many years. It was necessary to rent an organ with Leslie speaker for the occasion.
  • Each of the guests was furnished with complementary Old Gold cigarettes for the banquet. Smoking proved the undoing of the Warringtons, though: Chet Warrington died of emphysema nine years after the celebration, son Henry’s early retirement was forced in part by the same disease, as was his death at 69, and grandson Pem’s death at age 41 was also hastened by smoking.
  • Each of the guests was also given a leather portfolio as a momento of the occasion.
  • Just before the celebration, on 17 January 1952 there was a fire at the Vulcan plant.
  • The correspondence surrounding this event is a fascinating look at a world now gone. Here are some quotes from some of the guests, suppliers, Vulcan people, and others who participated in the event:
    • “We leave Washington on the Capital Limited at 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon…and on our arrival in Chicago the next morning, we will take a taxi…Bob is talking about flying back, but the air service is too uncertain at this time of year…I think I’ll stick to the old B&O.”
    • “…Mr. Fleming would be very appreciative if you would reserve a room and bath for him at the Sheraton as he prefers to have a room to himself rather than share it.”
    • “I was your shipping clerk at Milwaukee and Clinton fifty years ago [1902] when Mr. [Henry] Warrington Sr. was alive…Mr. Wm. Warrington had charge of the machine shop. I’ll say men really worked in those days his work was his soul…I wish you another hundred years but won’t be able to be here as I am eighty years now.” (G.C. Lind, Oak Park, IL)
    • “Illness as a result of an epidemic in this and many other cities in Ohio have prevented me from acknowledging before this receipt of a fine leather document case…”

Chet Warrington’s Keynote Speech
31 January 1952

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is a unique occasion which brings us together this evening. In the inception, I desire on behalf of all of us of the Vulcan Iron Works, to thank all of you for responding so readily to our humble efforts to make this occasion one which all will remember with pleasure. I am indeed happy that I am in a position to call together such a body of outstanding men. The occasion is somewhat of a story of one man from England, who came to this country, then to Chicago in 1847, worked hard and built a successful industry. We have heard such stories many times before. The one about the Detroit mechanic who put a nation on wheels. One about the brooding genius from Milan, Ohio who heated carbon filaments with electricity to produce the most brilliant illumination man had known. One about two bicycle mechanics of Dayton who were obsessed with the idea that man could fly.

We read them in school books, reread them in newspapers and magazines. We got a bit bored with success. Where, doubters asked, had it gotten us. We forgot too readily that these stories were the very fabric of America, a living history of events which built a great nation. We forget that they made us materially wealthy — that they furnished the means with which to nourish a precious heritage of liberty. They and countless others, before and after them, inspired and inspiring the precepts and philosophy of a great and growing era of free enterprise.

Construction equipment is a desperately ordinary factor to us today. Yet its discovery is probably one of the greatest in history. When some forgotten ancient found a sudden need for constructing bridges, in order that the warring legions might readily cross, his conception of pile driving gave man an added means to then expand his activities to the through parts unknown. The Greeks knew of this as did the Romans — the product of this effort was expensive even then and reserved to Conquerors, Kings and Potentates. Not until modern industry came along, demonstrating the virtues of power products, among them the Warrington-Vulcan pile hammer did the construction equipment industry fully realize the potentials ahead. With full realization of these factors and the few years of previous experience, Henry Warrington decided to definitely cast his lot and future in and with Chicago, deciding this could be most effectively done through the organization of a family company. This was immediately done and continued as an individual enterprise until his three sons had reached an age to materially assist, at which time he transferred the Vulcan Iron Works to a corporation. His conception of such an organization included specific essential attributes of the then young corporation — Character — Personality — Philosophy. He believed traits of character to be the property of the company — not its current management. Management is a transitory body at best, occupying but a short decade or two, in the long life of any corporation. A single management’s influence there is at best intermittent. Personality and philosophy of the Vulcan Iron Works itself therefore have been developed on this premise through three generations — and now are being carried forward to and by the fourth generation. If you will momentarily accept this precept, I think I can best tell you about the character, personality and philosophy of the Founder — Henry Warrington.

Environment and heredity it is said work strong and lasting effect on all lives. Let me go back for but a moment to the time in which the Vulcan Iron Works was born.

The needs and wants of the then restless Chicagoicans, in the small trading post on the shores of Lake Michigan, created a demand for commerce and trade. As a result this infant city became a Mecca for thoughtful men of foresight. In the beginning profits of the Vulcan Iron Works came from general and marine requirements. There was a new era dawning for the West and all ambitious men who had staked their future in the stability and progress of Chicago appeared to be on the threshold of success — save for one thing — Fire (1871). The results and details of this catastrophe are a matter of record and history in the annals of Chicago. However, this discouraging, yet challenging environment, only increase the original conceptions of Henry Warrington whose single purpose was that of contributing to the then economic stability and progress of the community, and his own family as well. Adversity during the early years of one’s life builds qualities of strength and perseverance. Bold temperament and spirit, dominant influence over the organization inculcated in his three sons, William, George and James, who were to follow him, became influences that left an indelible mark on, and in the making of the Character and Philosophy of the Vulcan Iron Works. I would be remiss in not mentioning them here.

And so we arrive at the commemoration of a century of manufacturing here in Chicago producing pile driving equipment and accessories. We are humble in our position today as being the largest exclusive manufacturer of such in the world today. The small factory on Milwaukee Avenue with its twenty employees survived and grew because it produced a better product. Every business lasts and grows by serving. Through these one hundred years four generations of the Warrington family have and are serving. We have served our customers as specialists in the development and economical production of high efficiency construction equipment. As such specialists we have contributed our share through the years to the evolution of the modern pile driver and extractor.

One hundred years is a long time, both in the span of human lives and of business. Every, or any business, which reaches that age owes its accomplishments not merely to sound management, but to people, forces and circumstances that have made such vitality and growth possible.

We have in mind tonight —

  • OUR EMPLOYEES — whose team work and harmonious relationship with management are outstanding.
  • OUR CUSTOMERS — in the vast construction industry including over one hundred distributors of construction equipment in the United States as well as many overseas representatives.
  • OUR SUPPLIERS — from whom we buy materials, machine tools, and the thousand of other things we need to operate our plant and produce for our customers.
  • THE COMMUNITY — in which our plant is located, that provides the workers we must have in times of peace and war.
  • THE BLESSINGS — of the country in which we live. Only in America with its free economy, free society, and unmatched standards of living can there be industries like ours.

To these we make humble acknowledgment on our one hundred anniversary, and because of them, we look with confidence into the next century of our history.


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