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Throwback Thursday - History of Milwaukee

Throwback Thursday - History of Milwaukee
By Bill Dickson August 20, 2015 18466 Views

It’s a brand with a history that goes back to the end of World War I. When Henry Ford needed a lightweight power drill for his assembly, he went to this company. When its parent company was destroyed in a fire, many thought it would be the end. Instead, under the leadership if its founder, the company grew and prospered. Today, it’s a brand with an innovative reputation, tradition and a loyal following among many. This week, we look at the history of Milwaukee Tools from ToolPartsDirect.com!

The Beginning

In 1918, World War I began to wind down and automotive legend Henry Ford began looking for someone who could make a compact, lightweight ¼” power drill that was portable. Many drills in this era were, big bulky and heavy. Ford wanted something a little more manageable and also something any worker could use. A young Wisconsin manufacturer by the name of A.H. Petersen accepted the challenge and created a tool that would be famously known as the Hole-Shooter.

It revolutionized the power tool industry. It only weighed five pounds and was powered by a Westinghouse motor. It was the first power drill to be operated by only one hand and be powerful enough for heavy duty work. Ford loved it and ordered the tools. Four years later in 1922, Petersen joined with his friend and business partner Albert F. Seibert to create the A.H. Petersen Company and manufacturing facility. Sadly, only a year later, the A.H. Petersen Company was completely destroyed by a devastating fire. Thanks to this and a small recession, the A.H. Petersen Company went bankrupt and shut its doors.

From the Ashes

While many would have called it quits after the fire wiped out the Petersen Company, Albert Seibert decided to start from scratch and make another go of it. He bought the company’s remaining assets at auction and renamed the company the Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation. Seibert’s goal was to fully realize the sales potential of the hole-shooter, but first relied on tool repair to get his company on its feet.

As Milwaukee’s small Research and Development team began to gather information about certain tool’s weaknesses, they began to create their own tools that were built to last longer and had better performance than their predecessors or competitors. Eventually, the new and improved hole-shooter became a must have for metal and automotive workers.

Photo Courtesy of Milwaukee Tools

Even though the Depression affected a large swath of the country, Milwaukee Tools was able to weather this storm by switching its tools to government specification in 1930. It then switched its tools to naval standards. In 1935, the company developed a lightweight ¾” electric hammer drill to sink anchors into concrete. It became an immediate success in the general marketplace.

The War and Milwaukee Tools

During World War II, demand increased for heavy workload, lightweight power tools for wartime production. Milwaukee began working even harder to make sure their tools were powerful enough and could also be handled easily. Soon, the hole-shooter became vital to the production of military aircraft and ships in the US Navy.

Photo Courtesy of Milwaukee Tools

Post-War Boom

Milwaukee Tools was riding high after World War II and in 1949, Milwaukee created the first ½” right-angle drill. This allowed plumbers and electricians to drill holes into wood and steel in very tight spaces. That same year, Milwaukee also improved its angle grinders and sanders as well. They added a spring clutch which allowed a smoother running tool and very little recoil. This innovation was later added to the company’s circular saws as well.

In 1951, Milwaukee introduced the Sawzall Reciprocating Saw. It was the first portable hacksaw to have a reciprocating mechanism, making cuts even easier for automotive workers. Milwaukee eventually came out with different kinds of blades for their saw…increasing its versatility.

Photo Courtesy of Milwaukee

Throughout the 50s and 60s, Milwaukee continued to grow and prosper. Milwaukee’s founder Albert Seifert passed way in 1960. He was 81-years-old. In 1965, Milwaukee moved its headquarters to a 212,000 square foot facility in nearby Brookfield, Wisconsin. In the mid-1970s, the company was sold to Amstar.

Another Milwaukee staple was created in the 70s, the Hole Hawg. This was the first drill ever created for large hole drilling for studs and joists in home construction. Eventually, Milwaukee was the first American company to create a 4&½” angle grinder and improved the Magnum Hole Shooter. The company was sold again in 1986 to Merrill Lynch.

The Modern Era

The 1990s was a decade of change and Milwaukee was no different. In 1991, the company created the super sawzall reciprocating saw and was put on the market. The saw had a gear-protecting clutch and built-in counterbalance. The saw had even less vibration and was a powerful tool.

Photo Courtesy of Milwaukee

The company also expanded the line of its miter saws and cordless tools…all which can be powered by the same battery and battery charger system. Change is constant for Milwaukee Tools and in 1995, Milwaukee was sold to Swedish tool developer Atlas Copco.

At the turn of the millennium, Milwaukee became the first tool manufacturer to use a lithium-ion battery and it was introduced to their line of V28 cordless tools in 2005.

Photo Courtesy of Milwaukee Tools

2005 saw another change as Milwaukee Tools was sold to the Hong Kong based Techtronic Company. In 2008, Milwaukee developed its Ice Hardened strengthening technology, a cryogenic hardening process which lets Milwaukee’s products last up to 50% longer than other competitors.

Today, Milwaukee is an international brand that is as popular as it ever was. It continues to innovate and leave its mark on the power tool industry. While we can’t see into the future, it’s a good bet that Milwaukee will be there selling quality tools and researching new technologies to make the worker’s job much easier.

And that’s it for this edition of Throwback Thursday! Make sure you stop by next Thursday as we look at the history of another major tool brand! Thanks for stopping by Throwback Thursday! We’ll see you next week, from all the staff here at ToolPartsDirect.com!

Jul 28, 2015 9:22:09 PM