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DeVilbiss Corporation Collection - MS 604

Introduction | Agency History | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory

 Introduction

The records of the DeVilbiss Corporation, Toledo, Ohio spans the period from around 1897 to 1988, including documents, photographs, and audiovisual materials.

The donation and transfer of these records to the Center for Archival Collections was arranged through the cooperation of Bradley Templeton of DeVilbiss Ransburg on June 26, 2000, with an addition of photographs from La-Z-Boy, Inc, in Monroe, Michigan in 2010. No restrictions exist on the use of this collection. Duplication is permitted for the purposes of preservation and research. The register was completed by Marilyn Levinson, Curator of Manuscripts in June 2000, with a revision in November 2010.

 Agency History

The origins of the DeVilbiss Corporation date back to 1888 when Toledo, Ohio physician Dr. Allen DeVilbiss developed a spray atomizer to provide an easier way to apply medicines to patients' throats. His invention was so successful that by 1890 he had retired from medical practice and established a company, DeVilbiss Manufacturing Company, to produce the atomizers in the old Lenk Winery on Toledo's north side.

There were other members of the family adept at invention, too, since Allen DeVilbiss' son, Allen, Jr. invented a springless, automatic scale in 1897, establishing the DeVilbiss Scale Company a few blocks from his father's company. A couple of years later he sold the scale company, and the name was changed to Toledo Scale. Dr. DeVilbiss' other son, Thomas, also was active in product development and in 1907, the younger DeVilbiss, an inventor in his own right, experimented with the spray gun. Thomas was also credited with adding perfumizers to the company's product line.

The booklet, "DeVilbiss Through the Years," indicated that the 1920s saw the real boom of the company as the company developed exhaust booths to control paint-saturated air as they expanded into the automobile industry. Mass production was beginning to evolve at this time and Thomas DeVilbiss' spray gun technology proved to be a revolutionary addition to the paint and lacquer coating applications on the furniture and automotive finishing assembly line. Spraying the lacquer reduced drying time to hours instead of weeks and the spraying of paint replaced hand brushing, helping to create new jobs and increase productivity in manufacturing.

By 1926 the company name changed to The DeVilbiss Company as their product lines continued to expand to include air compressors. When Thomas DeVilbiss died in 1928, Allen DeVilbiss Gutchess, grandson of Dr. Allen DeVilbiss, succeeded him as president of the company. Howard P. DeVilbiss, another third-generation member of the family, also joined the company at about this time.

During World War II the Company was involved in production of military products, including protective coatings for things ranging from helmets and planes to tanks. Research and development also continued, with the design of hosing meant to withstand high temperatures to spray plastic on ship hulls to retard barnacle growth. In 1944 Howard P. DeVilbiss, son of Thomas A. DeVilbiss, became president of the company, with Allen DeVilbiss Gutchess as Chairman of the Board.

As the company moved into the post-war years it continued to expand and diversify. The atomizer division began separate operation, moving to Somerset, Pennsylvania in 1951, where they expanded again in 1965. In 1951 DeVilbiss also acquired Globe Products Company, of Cleveland, a manufacturer of spray gun tips. In 1957 the company purchased the Newcomb-Detroit Company, a firm involved in the manufacture and installation of industrial finishing equipment, renaming it Newcomb-DeVilbiss. In 1958 this acquisition was consolidated with another company, the Peters-Dalton Division of Detroit Harvester to form a new wholly owned subsidiary, DeVilbiss Metal Fabricators. This subsidiary became a division of the company in 1960 and by 1966 it was operating a new plant near the Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

On January 1, 1970 the DeVilbiss Company was merged into Champion Spark Company. Prior to 1969 Champion had acquired 85.6% of the outstanding DeVilbiss common shares. Purchased by Illinois Tool Works in 1990, DeVilbiss continues to set the standard for spray finishing through its research and development, innovative product line, and commitment to customer service. Other diversified aspects of the original company product line continue the DeVilbiss name with such companies as DeVilbiss Air Power Co., and DeVilbiss Health Care unit of Sunrise Medical.

 Scope and Content

The DeVilbiss Corporation records consists of more than 50 linear feet of material related to the history and operation of the company as it existed in Toledo, Ohio from the turn of the 20th century until it was absorbed in mergers by larger corporations and lost its local characteristics. These records include minutes, correspondence, contracts, property records, audit, annual financial, and budget reports, stock related material including prospectus and annual reports, labor related files including contract negotiation materials, union agreements, grievances, benefit and retirement plans, printed material ranging from product catalogs and manuals to public relations files, scrapbooks of clippings, photographs, films, and engineering microfilm.

The series of proceedings are limited to the records of the Executive Committee but those cover a twenty year period covering the 1930s and 1940s which includes plant operations during both the Depression and the Second World War. The series of the more specialized Atomizer Executive Committee only spans three years, but deals in some detail with issues associated with a specific product. The same is true of the minutes of the DeVilbiss Employees' Association, which covers a longer period than either of the other series and deals with those issues related to the workforce.

Although the correspondence series are incomplete, they do present glimpses of a range of activities and time periods, including a very early letterpress book of Dr. Allan DeVilbiss, some general operational correspondence, and a small series dealing with the Employees Association. There is nothing involving upper level executives, or anything of an individual nature, however.

The largest series of materials in the legal documents record group is that of property deeds and statements of title, dating from 1896 to 1965. Not only did the DeVilbiss Corporation have real estate in Toledo, encompassing the land for the main plant as well as family holdings around the city, but there were also property assets in such places as Chicago as well. Other aspects of the legal operations of the Corporation can be seen in the files related to lawsuits. These dealt with such diverse things as patent infringement, contracts and licensing arrangements. In addition there were additional material related to the Federal Trade Commission files and Department of Justice Antitrust Division, appraisal and property records, union files, workmen's compensation files, contract and representative files, claims, and lawsuits.

Financial records of the DeVilbiss Corporation are represented in several difference series relating to both the European subsidiary companies Societe Anonyme de Vilbiss in Paris and Brussels, the domestic companies associated with DeVilbiss such as Howard Manufacturing, Ames-Brush, Ames-Bonner, Toledo Compressor Company, DeVilbiss Manufacturing Company, Ltd., Ontario, Canada, Williams Spray Equipment Co., and Poly-Arts Spray Shop, Inc., as well as various audit, annual financial, and budget reports of DeVilbiss. In addition, subject files of stockholders' reports and the published annual reports of the company also add significant financial information.

Among other subject files the material related to the DeVilbiss workforce is the most significant. Labor-related series range from 1920 to 1977 covering contract negotiation materials, foreman's meeting books, contract wage data (including gender comparisons), company union agreements, grievances, benefit and retirement plans, Affirmative Action handbooks, and Equal Employment Opportunity reports.

Additional information related to the individuals associated with DeVilbiss on all corporate levels can be found in the printed material. In addition to the formal annual reports there were also the various in-house publications put out by the company over the years, DeVilbiss Leadership, DeVilbiss News, and DeVilbiss Directions. Clippings and public relations files included background information as well as photographs of many individuals. The files also provided a glimpse at company history, developments related to the location of I-75, DeVilbiss projects and products through various catalogs and price lists, installation and maintenance guides, and sales literature.

The various graphic series associated with the DeVilbiss Corporation collection include photographic material with images of DeVilbiss Family members, company employees, plant buildings and construction, aerial shots, displays at domestic and international trade shows, equipment and machinery, and advertising copy/photos and artwork for trade publication and DeVilbiss News. Although of only specialized interest, there are also several reels of engineering microfilm of department drawings, standards, discontinued patterns, methods work sheets, time study observation sheets, with film sizes 16mm, 35mm, and 70mm, promotional, instructional, and documentary films of DeVilbiss equipment, specific projects, and occupational health/safety issues.

Overall, although the collection is weak in presenting any material from the upper management on a decision-making level, it is good in showing the progression of a manufacturing company with a unique product from a locally based family operation to multinational status. The presentation of the economic and product changes are well represented and enough attention is paid to the personnel involved in the process to give a reasonable picture of corporate life in the 20th century.

 Series Description

PROCEEDINGS

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MINUTES
1929-1947
Arranged chronologically
General minutes which include information about number of employees, average hourly earnings and total payroll, advertising expenses, inventories, and specific company actions

ATOMIZER EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE MINUTES
1926-1928
Arranged chronologically
Specific statement of policies and procedures in establishing the committee, minutes, reports, and recommendations related to atomizer production

NEWCOMB-DETROIT-DEVILBISS COMPANY REPORTS
1957-1958
Arranged chronologically
Interoffice memos and monthly progress reports

DEVILBISS EMPLOYEES' ASSOCIATON MINUTES
1916-1950
Arranged chronologically
Includes records of activities, booklets outlining insurance benefits, and formal plan and implementation of dissolution, with signed consent forms of Association members

CORRESPONDENCE

CORRESPONDENCE - GENERAL
1901-1902
Arranged chronologically
Letterpress book with general business correspondence, generally signed by Allan DeVilbiss

CORRESPONDENCE - GENERAL
1916-1948
Arranged chronologically
Business correspondence from an accordion file, including copies of licensing agreements and other contractual material

CORRESPONDENCE - BINKS MANUFACTURING CO.
1933-1935
Arranged chronologically
Correspondence related to a patent claim disputing use of an air nozzle for spray appliances of a specific design

CORRESPONDENCE - NEWCOMB-DEVILBISS
1958
Schedule of advertisements to be placed in various trade and industry publications

CORRESPONDENCE - EMPLOYEE ASSOCIATION
1937
Employee Association contract proposals

LEGAL DOCUMENTS

CONTRACTS
1957-1967
Miscellaneous correspondence files, claim, depositions, and forms related to contracts, patent claims, and insurance issues

DEEDS
1897-1965
Arranged chronologically
Warranty deeds and other mortgage and loan papers related to DeVilbiss property in Lucas County, with some in Chicago, Illinois

TITLES
1920-1965
Arranged by title number
Property titles, with legal description and small map, to land owned by DeVilbiss in Lucas County, Ohio

LAWSUITS
1958-1967
Material related to the Nippon Kogei Kogyo lawsuit, a dispute involving a licensing arrangement and related patents for the DeVilbiss Whirl-o-Miser and the NKK Cyclone, associated with a patent case between Binks Manufacturing

GOVERNMENT FILES
1957-1959
Federal Trade Commission files and Department of Justice Antitrust Division materials

MISCELLANEOUS TOPICAL
1952-1967
Appraisal and property records, union files, workmen's compensation files, contract and representative files, claims, and lawsuits

FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS

SUBSIDIARY COMPANIES - EUROPE
1929-1949
Reports, balance sheets, and correspondence of European subsidiary companies Societe Anonyme de Vilbiss in Paris and Brussels

SUBSIDIARY COMPANIES - DOMESTIC
1923-1930
Reports and financial statements of domestic subsidiary companies such as Howard Manufacturing, Ames-Brush, Ames-Bonner, Toledo Compressor Company, DeVilbiss Manufacturing Company, Ltd., Ontario, Canada, Williams Spray Equipment Co., and Poly-Arts Spray Shop, Inc

DEVILBISS COMPANY REPORTS
1913-1981
Various audit, annual financial, and budget reports of DeVilbiss and associated companies

SUBJECT FILES

STOCKHOLDERS MATERIAL
1903-1969
Stock record books, partnership agreements, statistical summaries, prospectus and stock exchange applications, and shareholders comments, including those related to the Champion Merger

INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS (J.W. HERRON)
1966-1980
Files related to the DeVilbiss International Business Advisory Group and subsidiaries in countries including Brazil, Canada, England, Germany, Japan, Latin America, and Mexico

LABOR FILES
1920-1977
Contract negotiation materials, foreman's meeting books, contract wage data (including gender comparisons), company union agreements, grievances, benefit and retirement plans, Affirmative Action handbooks, and Equal Employment Opportunity reports

PRINTED MATERIAL

BOOKLETS
1903-1987
Company publications (DeVilbiss Leadership, DeVilbiss News, DeVilbiss Directions), annual reports and proxy statements, catalogs and price lists, installation and maintenance guides, sales literature, and historical booklets

CLIPPINGS
1920-1978
Clippings on death of Thomas A. DeVilbiss, company history, developments related to the location of I-75

PUBLIC RELATIONS FILES
1920-1983
Publicity, clippings, and photo files related to DeVilbiss executives, projects, products, and history

SCRAPBOOKS AND SCRAPBOOK MATERIAL

SCRAPBOOKS
1916-1948
Toledo News-Bee Series: The Spray-Gun Known Round World Scrapbook, presentation of Army-Navy Production Award, collection of DeVilbiss parts and price lists, clippings on company basketball team, clippings on T.A. DeVilbiss, employee social event ticket stubs, programs, etc., and historical articles

MAPS, CHARTS, DIAGRAMS, GRAPHS, LISTS, ETC.

CHARTS
1949
Surveys of the utilities, including storm and sanitary sewers, at the DeVilbiss Plant site in Toledo. Located in separate metal storage tube

PHOTOGRAPHIC MATERIAL

PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTS
Circa 1900-1980
Arranged topically
Photographs of DeVilbiss Family members, company employees, plant buildings and construction, aerial shots, domestic and international trade shows, equipment and machinery, advertising copy/photos and artwork for trade publication and DeVilbiss News. Some material located in oversize boxes

ENGINEERING MICROFILM
n.d.
Microfilm of engineering department drawings, standards, discontinued patterns, methods work sheets, time study observation sheets, with film sizes 16mm, 35mm, and 70mm

MOTION PICTURE FILM
1951-1965, n.d.
Promotional, instructional, and documentary films of DeVilbiss equipment, specific projects, and occupational health/safety issues. Some oversize reels stored separately

VIDEOTAPE
Sept 22-23, 1987
Taped sessions of Air Compressor Focus Group

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