The History of ITW
During its 100 years of existence, ITW's recipe for success has
been focused on creating value-added products for key customers around
the world. We do this by growing our business and making acquisitions
that provide additional product solutions to our customers. We invite
you to learn more about the history of our company.
In 1912, on the eve of World War I, Chicago financier Byron L. Smith
placed an ad seeking an investment opportunity for “a growing
manufacturing business.” Four men answered: Frank W. England,
Paul B. Goddard, Oscar T. Hogg and Carl G. Olson. Together, these
forward-thinking businessmen formed a company to manufacture and sell
The company expands its original metal cutting tool products to include
truck transmissions, pumps and other items for America’s
World War I effort.
The genesis of Signode, which later joins ITW, begins with John (Jack)
W. Leslie’s investment in a company that incorporates coil
steel strap and seals for packaging containers and products.
The DeVilbiss family works diligently to combine an adjustable atomizer
with a spray gun. Their innovation results in the development of spray
finishing for the application of paint. DeVilbiss later becomes a
significant portion of ITW’s business.
C.C. Hobart and his sons, Edward A. and William H., incorporate Hobart
Brothers Company, another business that will later be acquired by ITW.
Initially, the company will market a battery charger.
ITW engineers develop the Shakeproof twisted tooth lockwasher, based on
a design originated by Richard K. Hosking.
Hobart Brothers builds its first electric arc welder.
Another future ITW welding operation is launched when Niels Miller
recognizes a market for small, affordable arc welders that operate from
household single-phase power. Using scrap sheet metal, core and coil
materials, he hammers together his first AC welder in his basement.
Harold Byron Smith, grandson of Byron L. Smith, joins the company and
later succeeds his father, Harold C., as president.
Hobart Brothers produces its first coated electrodes and enters the
welding filler metal business.
Harold Ransburg experiments with applying high voltage in spray
painting to reduce waste and improve even surface coating. Over time,
his company grows its electrostatic painting capabilities before being
acquired by ITW.
ITW’s contributions during WWII include representation on the
War Production Board and development of a new timesaving wafer cutter
to rifle heavy artillery barrels.
Led by Harold B. Smith, ITW first decentralizes its operations to
better focus on specific markets—a strategy the company
The Shakeproof business moves its offices from Chicago to Elgin,
Illinois. The Elgin site still serves as the unit’s U.S.
headquarters today. In its new location, Shakeproof begins
manufacturing plastic fasteners and components.
In order to expand success of Shakeproof’s plastic fastener
and components lines beyond automotive applications, the Fastex
operating unit is created to develop these products for other mass
Two new operations are formed to provide major contributions to the
general industrial and defense sectors. The Licon division begins
production of electric switches and related products, which grows and
expands to become ITW Switches. In addition, Spiroid, known for its
right-angle gear product, builds upon the company’s original
hobs and milling cutter lines to expand the company’s metal
By its 50th anniversary, the company has been officially named Illinois
Tool Works (ITW) and is listed shortly thereafter on the New York Stock
Exchange with an initial stock price of $26. Since then,
ITW’s performance has been consistently strong—each
new decade has added significantly to the company’s growth.
Fueled by its product developments for the construction industry, ITW
became the only company in the world to produce fastening systems for
wood, metal and concrete/masonry applications.
Concurrently, the beverage packaging industry was transformed when the
new Hi-Cone operating unit invents the six-pack ring carrier.
ITW extends its global reach when German components manufacturer Ateco
and Australian company W.A. Deutsher are acquired. Ateco joins to
provide Shakeproof and other products to European markets, and W.A.
Deutsher furthers ITW’s reach into the region’s
construction, industrial and packaging markets.
Diversifying a portion of Shakeproof’s capabilities results
in the formation of Buildex, a new business unit that becomes a leading
supplier for the construction industry.
The 1970s saw rapid growth of ITW’s manufacturing of
components, fasteners, filters and assemblies for automotive companies
around the world, along with new capabilities to provide sealants,
sorbent materials and other specialty chemical products used in
ITW acquires Chronomatic, which utilizes proprietary polymer technology
on dashboard controls and other components, to further its capabilities
aimed at the automotive industry.
As a result of Fastex’s continuing advancements in the use of
plastics, the Deltar operating unit is formed to augment
ITW’s capacity to supply automotive components.
With the acquisition of Devcon, ITW takes a major step to solidify its
ability to supply adhesives and epoxies for a variety of industrial
In the 1980s, ITW began to increase significantly its acquisition
activity and extend its reach. More than three dozen acquisitions
serving both existing and new markets were made, including Dykem,
Magnaflux, Mima, Minigrip, Norwood Marking, Paslode, Philadelphia
Resins, Plastiglide, Ransburg Corporation (with its Gema, Micro-Poise and SIMCO
businesses), Shippers Paper Products, Signode and SPIT.
The company nearly doubled its revenues with the purchase of Signode, a
leading multinational manufacturer of metal and plastic strapping,
stretch film, industrial tape, application equipment and related
products. By the close of the decade, ITW entered the finishing systems
market with acquisitions of companies that provide liquid and powder
applications for conventional and electrostatic painting.
A portion of Fastex becomes the basis for the new Nexus operating unit,
which extends ITW’s role as a supplier of plastic products to
a variety of consumer applications.
ITW enters a number of joint ventures domestically and internationally,
including the formation of Zip-Pak with Dow Chemical. ITW later
repurchases Dow’s interest in order to combine Zip-Pak with
the Minigrip business.)
During the 1990s, acquisitions increased ITW’s presence in
the important metal fabrication and welding markets. ITW also increased
its reach in the consumer and industrial packaging markets with
enhanced capabilities in case sealing, carton printing, decorating,
protective shipping, shrink and stretch wrapping and palletizing
products and systems. Approximately 100 worldwide acquisitions were
made during this time, including Akron Standard, Anchor Fasteners and
Stampings, CS Packaging, DeVilbiss/Volstatic, Dynatec, Hobart Brothers
Company, Miller Group, Orgapack, Trans Tech, United Silicone and
The acquisition of Premark International, a manufacturer of commercial
food equipment and laminate products, marks the largest acquisitions in
ITW’s history. Premark’s well-known brand names
include Hobart, Wilsonart, Vulcan and Traulsen.
ITW’s proven strategies of increasing market penetration with
product innovations, extending current products to new industries and
acquiring businesses that improve customer offerings provide the
foundation for continued success in the 21st century.
Celebrating its 100-year anniversary in 2012, ITW (NYSE: ITW) is a Fortune
200 global diversified industrial manufacturer of value-added consumables
and specialty equipment with related service businesses. The company focuses
on profitable growth and strong returns across worldwide platforms and businesses.
These businesses serve local customers and markets around the globe, with a
significant presence in developed as well as emerging markets. ITW's revenues
totaled $17.8 billion in 2011, with more than half of these revenues generated
outside of the United States.