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Title Partners in Creating. The First Century of K+E 1867/1967.
Object Name Pamphlet
Catalog Number 2009.006.0022.01
Collection Keuffel & Esser Company Collection
Credit Museum Collections. Gift of a friend of the Museum.
Scope & Content Partners in Creating. The First Century of K+E [Keuffel & Esser] 1867/1967.

Text file only of pages 15 to 25;

see primary record 2009.006.0022 for full description and text of beginning to page 15.
see archives 2009.006.0022.02 for text of pages 26 to 30
see archives 2009.006.0022.03 for text of pages 31 to end
(The text in notes is broken into sections due to online database format limitations.)

A history of the Keuffel & Esser Company on its centennial including the establishment in 1880 in Hoboken of offices and factory. (It ceased Hoboken operations circa 1968-1969.)
Notes Archives 2009.006.0022.01
Partners in Creating /The First Century of K+E 1867/1967
text of pages 15 to 25 only.

see archives 2009.006.0022.02 for text of pages 26 to 30
see archives 2009.006.0022.03 for text of pages 31 to end


page 15

Moving Out

As various problems were solved, the firm of Keuffel & Esser kept breaking new ground, figuratively and literally. Like the original factory in Hoboken, the four-story headquarters office at 127 Fulton Street in a few years proved too small. K&E was growing in every way: in sales, manufacturing, breadth of product line, and number of employees. Its name was known all over the United States and in Europe.

The partners had brought their enterprise a long way from the original little room, four flights up, in the old building on Nassau Street. To administer what was now a national and even international business required space for a sizeable office force.

At the insistence of William Keuffel, the company in 1892 took a bold step. It entirely reconstructed the four-story headquarters building at 127 Fulton Street and enlarged it to eight stories. The size of the new headquarters dismayed the more conservative executives. There was ample space for several times the number of employees the company had that year. William Keuffel cheerfully built for future needs—yet even his optimism underestimated the developments to follow. In the same year, 1892, it was necessary to add two floors to the manufacturing building in Hoboken.

Meanwhile, expansion also took place geographically. The first branch office began operations in Chicago, 1891; a second opened in St. Louis in 1894; and in 1900 K&E reached the Pacific with a branch in San Francisco. Again it was necessary to enlarge the manufacturing departments—they had to be considered in the plural by this time—with two additional factory buildings and the simultaneous conversion of an old iron works nearby.

With branches established from coast to coast, manufacturing departments steadily broadening their scope, a widening sphere of business reaching even overseas -— the first K&E catalog in Spanish had appeared in 1892 — both partners might have rested from the increasing demands on their enterprise. They had trained able and hard-working successors who already were taking many responsibilities. W. L. E. Keuffel, a second cousin of William, supervised manufacturing; and both W. G. Keuffel and Carl M. Bernegau, William's son and son-in-law, were active in the business. Hermann Esser retired in 1902 to enjoy a leisurely old age. William Keuffel remained, if anything, more active than ever. His vigor was soon tested.

On December 8, 1905, fire broke out in buildings the company had taken over from a former iron works on Adams Street. Fire companies, called in even from Jersey City, could not save the old wooden buildings. William Keuffel reacted to this misfortune as if to an opportunity: why not rebuild the destroyed part of the factory far larger than it had been, using the most

[uncaptioned photo lower right of ruins of Hoboken factory ruins after fire]


page 16

advanced type of construction, reinforced concrete? It had been tried in only eleven buildings in the United States, but French engineers had achieved many successes with it.

Construction was still proceeding when fire again struck part of K&E. The first tremblors of a violent earthquake rocked San Francisco before dawn of April 18, 1906. Three days of fire and destruction left 700 dead and four-and-a-half square miles of the city destroyed, including the K&E branch office. A new San Francisco quickly rose from the ashes, however, and with it the K&E branch was soon rebuilt.

At almost the same time, in 1907, the new concrete, fireproof buildings in Hoboken were completed. They provided 152,500 square feet of additional floor space, room enough for many manufacturing operations as well as the general office, which had outgrown even the eight stories at 127 Fulton Street. K&E now had the best and largest factories in the world for manufacturing engineering and drafting instruments and supplies.

William Keuffel lived until 1908. His firm was thriving; it was contributing to technical and industrial progress wherever American engineers were at work. Admiral Peary used a K&E transit to survey the North Pole. Other products would be used in the vast construction required to cut a canal through the Isthmus of Panama. Unrest in Europe, however, threatened the growing prosperity of the new industrial society that had transformed both Europe and the United States since 1867. World War I was in the making, yet America still depended to a large degree on the craft secrets of the Old World. K&E would soon be called on by the United States Government to manufacture precision instrumentation in prodigious quantities.


[uncaptioned photo top left of construction of new fireproof Hoboken offices and factory - the West building]


[caption photo lower right]

Admiral Peary and the K&E transit he used to survey the North Pole. (The instrument is now preserved in the Smithsonian Institution.)


page 17

A National Emergency

In the summer of 1911, the National Bureau of Standards in Washington acquired a new research assistant in the field of optics. He was Carl W. Keuffel, the elder son of W. L. E. Keuffel. Carl Keuffel was fresh from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, where he had graduated in mechanical engineering. He had come to the Bureau to do research while taking graduate studies in optics and mathematics at the Johns Hopkins University.

The Bureau, in those years, just before the First World War, was an extremely busy and sometimes worried organization. It was the only government agency with responsibilities reaching across the entire field of pure and applied science. It seemed to be the only agency equipped to advise the government about scientific and technical needs that might affect the national interest.

One area in particular worried its Chief, Dr. Samuel W. Stratton. Before coming to the Bureau, he had done research on light at the University of Chicago. No one knew better than he that the United States depended on European manufacturers for the entire supply of high-grade optical glass. What would happen should anything cut off that supply? Almost at once, the country would face shortages of optical equipment essential for scientific, technical and military uses.

When Carl Keuffel left the Bureau in 1913 to work at K&E, he retained his interest in optics. He also kept in mind Dr. Stratton's concern about developing sophisticated optical-glass technology in the United States. To create it would mean rediscovering the most tightly guarded trade secrets of German optical instrument makers. It meant, further, developing completely new formulae and equipment for using American sands and


[caption photo upper right]

World War I . . . technology began to gain momentum.


clays, which differed chemically from those available in Europe. The clays were important, because they would furnish new material for high-temperature crucibles. The sands, of course, would provide the glass melt.

K&E already was making optical equipment for the U.S. Navy. More than ninety-five percent of the periscopes for American submarines came from K&E. When Carl Keuffel returned to Hoboken, the factory was also turning out eighty torpedo directors for the Navy, plus four more for the Argentine Navy. Carl Keuffel at once took a hand in the optical design of these specialized instruments.

By the Fall of 1914, Europe was at war, and Dr. Stratton decided the U.S. could wait no longer to start optical glass manufacture. He ordered furnaces and


page 18

apparatus for experimental glass manufacture at the Bureau of Standards Laboratories in Pittsburgh. Within a year, data from the experiments were flowing to pilot facilities at a number of companies, including K&E. Carl Keuffel was assigned the responsibility for K&E's effort, and on January 4, 1916, achieved a successful melt. Reviewing the optical glass projects of this period, the office of the U.S. Navy Chief of Ordnance later commented in an official document:

"... optical glass was made by Keuffel & Esser in quantities sufficient to supply their own needs. Much credit is due Mr. Carl Keuffel, who, on his own initiative, and before we entered the war, erected a glass melting furnace, made suitable products, and produced some glass of good quality without outside help."

K&E, in fact, was already a leading manufacturer of specialized optical instruments in this critical period of the United States war effort. The war was perhaps the first in history to feel the impact of the world's new technologies. Every type of "hardware" — the tank, the long-range siege gun, the submarine, the torpedo, the high-speed surface vessel, the airplane, and the anti-aircraft gun—required new instruments for control, sighting, and navigation. Intricate optical instruments had to be designed and made virtually on a moment's notice. K&E was designing and manufacturing new optical equipment for the armed forces at such a rapid rate that there was scarcely time to keep engineering drawings up to date.

Every branch of the armed forces needed new optical instruments. The Corps of Engineers needed new types of transits. The new meteorological service, indispensable to the infant Air Corps, needed special theodolites for tracking weather balloons. The Navy needed new navigational and fire control devices. Bombardment aircraft had to be equipped with bomb sights to cope with the intricacies of airspeed, wind velocity, air resistance, and gravitation. Anti-aircraft batteries needed height and direction finders. Trench warfare created a need for periscopic observation equipment. Complex artillery firing required more precise fire-control instruments than had been known before.

K&E furnished many optical devices to fill these requirements. Before the war ended, K&E's optical department was turning out a variety of instruments needed by the Army and Navy. In addition to range finders, telescopes, gun sights, periscopes, and sextants, K&E designed and built a highly precise bench photometer for measuring the percentage of light transmission of telescopes. It was used by optical inspectors to check


[caption photo upper left]

Fragment of the first optical glass melt.


[caption photo middle right]

Gunner's quadrant for the United States Navy.


page 19

[caption photo upper left]

Periscopes for the U.S.S. Wyoming, 1910.


the quality of military instruments, and afterward continued in service in the K&E research and development laboratories.

In addition, at the request of the government, K&E began manufacturing ships' binnacles. Torpedoes were taking a heavy toll of shipping, and hundreds of new cargo vessels were needed to maintain the Allies' supply line across the Atlantic. K&E produced 1,050 ships' binnacles between April, 1915, and November, 1919.

Optical devices and ships' binnacles were not the only critical need for precision instruments that faced American industry during the war. The country also depended heavily on German and Swiss manufacturers for superior drafting instruments. K&E, of course, had long been a leading importer, as well as a manufacturer, of drawing instruments. The war abruptly cut off the European supply.

To fill the gap quickly with high-quality instruments, K&E developed a design that permitted machine tools to substitute for many traditional hand-craft operations. The instruments had tubular shanks instead of flat or rectangular ones; the shape was functional, strong, and suited to machining by automatic screw machines. The result was the well-known minusa® — standing for "made in U.S.A." — line of instruments. Minusa instruments averted serious production bottlenecks in industrial drafting rooms during the war years.

Twenty-five years later, in a still greater crisis, the style and the name would be revived to keep the nation's wartime engineers supplied with high-quality drawing instruments.


[caption photo bottom right]

Ship's telescopes for the Argentine navy, 1911.


page [20]

The Pace Quickens

All at once, after the Armistice, the world was changed. In place of headlines about the Western Front, deadly flu, and starvation in Eastern Europe, newspapers gave their readers the latest about the flapper, low life in speakeasies and highflying in the market, Gay Paree and Boca Raton, the boyish bob, College Humor and being "smart." In later years, these symbolized a time remembered as the Era of Wonderful Nonsense by people who had to face unemployment, industrial turmoil, and the renewed threat of war.

Throughout the twenties, the lessons learned in an atmosphere of crisis were to be applied to non-military instruments. As a result of wartime experiences, K&E became one of the most advanced and inventive instrument makers in the world. This led to one of the most important devices in surveying instrument design, the internal focusing telescope. Internal focusing greatly reduced the chances that dust, the greatest enemy of fine optical instruments, might penetrate where it could harm internal surfaces. It quickly became a standard design feature for transit and theodolite telescopes.

The twenties were not all froth and glitter. Away from Broadway, Hollywood, and the front page, in offices and industrial plants, another revolution was taking place. As industry grew more complex, manufacturing became more and more a science. Equally important, manufactured goods had to be marketed according to plans developed from facts and figures, rather than hunches and guesses.

At K&E, these trends led to greater emphasis on sales management. A network of branches and dealers in all the principal cities of the United States and Canada had been largely completed before the war, during the presidency of William G. Keuffel, who succeeded his father, W. J. D. Keuffel in 1908. The growth of the sales organization also reflected the joint influence of Karl Keller and Carl M. Bernegau, two sons-in-law of W. J. D. Keuffel who made outstanding contributions to the growth of K&E in the years after World War I.

The two men formed a remarkable team. Their gifts in administration, organization, and sales development were greatly needed. The list of K&E products soared after the war. It included more than five thousand items before 1930; just to catalog them required hundreds of closely printed pages. The customers who bought these products had to be served in every county and township of the U.S., as well as Canada, Latin America, and other countries abroad.

To assure efficient distribution of the thousands of specialized K&E products to even more thousands of engineers, surveyors, draftsmen, map-makers, scientists, and technicians — each with his individual requirements — required a vast effort of sales administration and training. Growth required capital, and prudent planning, with provision always in mind for a "rainy day" if it should ever arrive.


[caption for four photos across bottom of page]

In the 1920's K&E became an increasingly sophisticated instrument maker, producing such advanced devices as (left to right) lensometers, magnifying stereoscopes, hand range finding telemeters and color analyzers.


page 21

Progress Despite the Depression

The great market crash of 1929 started a shock wave that hit K&E as hard as other companies. For a while, business came to a standstill. Fortunately for the company, its financial policies had been prudent; there were reserves to maintain vitality even in what amounted to a state of suspended animation for many months. K&E's management used these resources to retain the many employees with years of service, and kept them busy as usual. One result was that the inventory of surveying instruments grew at an alarming rate. By 1933, it began to seem that K&E already had in its warehouse all the surveying equipment the country would ever need.

And then, in 1934, federal public works programs began to prime the pumps of industry. To everybody's surprise, the K&E factory was soon working again at capacity. It even became necessary to rent additional production space nearby.

The depression years also marked a period of development in the allied fields of drafting and reproduction materials. K&E had from the start carried an extensive line of drafting supplies. And, when blueprints replaced manual "tracings" as a means of duplicating drawings, the company had devoted a great deal of attention to this new technique. The fifth floor at 127 Fulton Street had housed a large department for making blueprints.

In those days a blueprint was commonly made by placing a sheet of sensitized paper beneath a drawing on translucent paper, then clamping the two in a large wooden frame and exposing them to sunlight. On sunny days, K&E employees would roll blueprinting frames out on to special outdoor racks for exposure to the sun. On cloudy days, there were no blueprints made.

Soon, however the arc light was beginning to substitute for sunlight. And the electric blueprinting machine made its entrance, printing from paper fed on continuous rolls. And K&E had transferred its blueprint manufacturing to Hoboken. Early production methods were slow and cumbersome, requiring the sensitized solutions to be brushed over the paper surface by hand. K&E soon introduced machinery to coat the paper, and also improved the chemical composition of the coatings.

This was the beginning of a long term program, continuing to the present, to develop better drafting and

[uncaptioned photo upper left of man selling apples on street during the Great Depression]


page [22]

captions from page 23 for photo illustrations:
Early methods of producing drafting and reproduction material were crude and time consuming. Today, coating machines apply sophisticated surfaces at thousands of yards an hour.


page 23

reproduction materials with special properties imparted by chemical coatings. K&E has become a sophisticated leader in coating technology, starting from its early days in blueprinting.

One of the major R&D discoveries in coating technology was to emerge from the K&E labs in the thirties. Until that time, the so-called "prepared" tracing papers had serious drawbacks. Unlike natural paper, which was translucent because of its thinness and fibrous structure, prepared tracing paper was made translucent by the application of oils or waxes. These transparentizing media gave the paper more light transmitting properties than any natural paper, but at a cost. The oils and waxes had an annoying habit of leaking out of the paper completely or turning yellow and opaque, making the drawing virtually impossible to reproduce.

[uncaptioned illustration of package label: K&E Albanene Stablilized Tracing Paper]

In 1936, K&E put an end to these problems with the introduction of Albanene® prepared tracing paper. This was a fine-quality, 100-per cent rag paper, coated with a special kind of transparentizing medium. Not an oil or wax, it was a synthetic resin that remained inert with the passing of time, stoutly refusing to oxidize, turn yellow, or migrate. The thirty-one years since the introduction of albanene tracing paper have seen it become the world's most widely used prepared paper, the standard by which all other papers are compared.

Other significant product lines were also introduced in the thirties, as the new emphasis on research began to pay dividends. Perhaps one of the most famous has been Leroy® lettering and symbol equipment, a technique for producing perfectly uniform, readable lettering using a simple stylus and scriber. Leroy equipment, because of its essential simplicity and versatility, has seen world-wide usage. K&E has a template library which covers virtually every modern language.

Another breakthrough to come out of the research labs in the depression era was the Photact® line of photographic reproduction materials. These silver-halide products were tailored to the specific needs of industrial reproduction.

Diazo reproduction, today the engineering profession's number one reproduction method, also became an important K&E endeavor during this period. K&E launched the first of many achievements in diazo technology with its Helios® and Onyx® lines. Later to come were new high speed emulsions, audiovisual materials, and a variety of diazo products matched to the complex needs of modern industry.

None of these achievements was accidental. Each was the fruit of research, based on a growing awareness that science was becoming the essential ingredient in engineering discovery. By the mid-1930's K&E had several different chemical laboratories carrying on testing and research activities. In 1935 the labs were combined, moved to larger quarters, and furnished with the most advanced equipment obtainable. The success of this policy was marked by the rapid advances in coating and reproduction technology that soon followed.


[captions for illustrations on page [22]]

Early methods of producing drafting and reproduction material were crude and time consuming. Today, coating machines apply sophisticated surfaces at thousands of yards an hour.


page 24

Another War

Pearl Harbor swept away every operation at K&E into a crash program — in one instance, quite literally. An early wartime project was to design a range finder for the Sherman tank. Without warning, one such mechanical monster came clanking up from the Frankford Arsenal one day and stood chugging quietly in front of a supplementary building where military work was being done. The structure had no entrance large enough for this steel giant, but the tank captain had a solution; his General Sherman punched its own entrance through the wall.

In the first months of war, there was great concern about possible air raids. "Remember Pearl Harbor" was more than the title of a popular war tune as far as the military services were concerned. To prepare for the worst, a buffer wall of foot-thick masonry was put up in front of the windows that lighted the K&E telephone switchboard room. It was hoped that this wall, ten feet high, would protect the telephone nerve center from blast and debris if a bomb landed in the street outside. Another precaution was to paint a broad brown stripe up the side of the K building and across its roof. The stripe was intended to look from the air like a street, so that the K&E plant would not be identified.

The war-time demand for K&E products was unprecedented. Slide rules and drawing instruments, in particular, seemed to be needed by every engineer and draftsman in the country. Colleges and schools were


[caption for photo and inset photo at top of page]

Recovered from the sunken U.S.S. Arizona, this "Pearl Harbor slide rule" symbolized K&E war effort.


page 25

ordering double and triple the quantity of rules they had ordered in previous years. The Army and Navy soon set up accelerated training programs which increased the demand even further.

The immediate demand for high-grade rules could be met because K&E had a large stock of seasoned mahogany blanks and was able to put production on two and three shifts. To meet the temporary training need, K&E greatly increased production of beginners' slide rules. Eventually the War Production Board took over the allocation of K&E's entire production of slide rules.

To a large extent, drawing instruments and surveying instruments also required emergency production measures. K&E was the only manufacturer able to move quickly into production of high-grade drawing instruments. The Minusa® drawings and specifications of a quarter-century before were still in the company's files. They enabled production to get under way smoothly in 1939. The demand was so great, however, that a supplementary line, Mercury® drawing instruments, also was manufactured in Chicago. The first Mercury sample sets went out to K&E branches on March 25,1941.

A great many special surveying instruments and similar devices also had to be made quickly. Interferometers, collimators, balloon theodolites, anti-aircraft gunsights, magnifying telescopes, bomb sight telescopes, drift meters, planimeters, and peep sights, as well as components and engineering assistance furnished to other government contractors, kept K&E engineers and craftsmen at work night and day. Every minute counted. To shorten the time required for meals, the Navy took over an area in one wing of a rented building and installed a cafeteria for K&E employees working on military projects. Lunch-periods were cut from an hour to 30 minutes.

Eight months after Pearl Harbor, K&E celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary. The occasion was marked by a simple ceremony during the noon hour at which every employee was presented with a twenty-five dollar war bond. Then everybody went back to work.

By the war's end, K&E had received the Army-Navy "E" award seven times for excellence and efficiency in production. Only 13 other plants, out of more than 85,000 engaged in war production, won the "E" as many times. Only five percent received the award even once.

After V-J Day, there was still no time to rest. K&E became involved in new technology on a broader and deeper scale than anyone might have predicted. New challenges and new opportunities, created in war-time, opened the prospect of greater growth for the company than ever before in its history.


[caption photo lower right]

K&E wins an Army-Navy "E" award — one of seven the company received during World War II.


see archives 2009.006.0022.02 for text of pages 26 to 30
see archives 2009.006.0022.03 for text of pages 31 to end
People Keuffel, W.J.D.
Keuffel, W.G.
Keuffel, Carl W.
Keller, Karl
Bernegau, Carl M.
Busch, Alfred E.
Date 1967-1967
Year Range from 1967.0
Year Range to 1967.0
Search Terms Keuffel & Esser Co.
K & E
Third St.
Adams St.
Classification Buildings
Business & Commerce