Stewart-Warner

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Stewart-Warner was a US manufacturer of vehicle instruments (a.k.a. gauges) and many other products.

History[edit]

The company was founded as Stewart & Clark Company in 1905 by John K. Stewart. Their speedometers were used in the Ford Model T. In 1912 John Stewart joined with Edgar Bassick to make vehicle instruments and horns. Bassick owned Alemite Co and Stewart had bought the Warner Instrument Company, thus the name was changed to Stewart-Warner Corporation. The company started in Chicago and built a manufacturing plant on Diversey Parkway. The building kept expanding and finally covered one-million square feet (93,000 m²) and six floors. At its peak S-W employed 6000 people at the Diversey complex.[1] They also made radios and refrigerators, among other products, and produced the ubiquitous "zerk" grease fitting, named after its inventor, associated with the company. In the last years of the company's Chicago factory, it owned a number of aging six-spindle Brown & Sharpe and New Britain screw machines.

Vacant Stewart-Warner Headquarters Building in Chicago 1990.
View of the back of the Stewart-Warner plant, looking south. To the left or east is the Chicago & North Western's Deering Yard. The track in the foreground going through the gate served Stewart-Warner. Today this area is all condos with a new street grid. 1990.

Stewart-Warner had other locations including at 2600 North Pulaski in Chicago and in later years a distribution center in Elgin, IL, located just south of I-90 and east of Rt. 25.[2] The Diversey Parkway complex was the site of both S-W's international headquarters and the "Instrument & Alemite" maufacturing operations. Alemite referred to S-W's line of lubricating stations while the Instruments name referred to speedometers and similar gauges. The front that faced Diversey was the location of corporate offices while to the rear was manufacturing with a warehouse south of Diversey. A large employee cafeteria was inside the main building which also included an underground garage for executives (including CEO Bennett Archambault who arrived each morning by limousine) with an entrance off Wolcott just north of Diversey. Corporate archives were housed in the basement below the main tower while executive offices were in the top floors of the tower. Stewart-Warner operated a free shuttle van service for employees who commuted by train to and from the Clybourn Metra (C&NW) station. In 1981 S-W experienced a labor strike at the Chicago operations.[3] The Elgin site was eventually taken over by Middleby Corporation.

The main Chicago plant and headquarters of Stewart-Warner along Diversey Parkway in Chicago were located in the Deering Industrial Area in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. As such S-W was served by both the Chicago & North Western Railroad on the north side and by both the Milwaukee Road and C&NW on the south end at the warehouse north of Clybourn and east of Wolcott. In later years S-W was served by only the C&NW off tracks along the east side of the S-W plant and parallel to the C&NW North Line.[4]

They also made heat exchangers starting in the 1940s under the "South Wind Division", but since then it became independent of its parent. Stewart-Warner ranked 95th among United States corporations in the value of World War II military production contracts.[5] The Stewart-Warner name is still in use but there is no corporate link to the original S-W, and the web site is hyphenated: http://www.stewart-warner.com/

Stewart-Warner was also a manufacturer and distributor of scoreboards, beginning in 1966. Scoreboards created and installed by Stewart-Warner during the '60s and 1970s included those at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York, Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, Exhibition Stadium in Toronto, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Anaheim Stadium, Arrowhead Stadium and Royals Stadium in Kansas City, Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey; McNichols Sports Arena and Mile High Stadium, both in Denver, Milwaukee County Stadium in Wisconsin, Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Veterans Stadium and the Spectrum in Philadelphia, Busch Stadium [St. Louis] and the Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. The latter featured the first videoscreen in a stadium or arena, the Telscreen. In the mid-1980s, Stewart-Warner's scoreboard division was sold off to another Chicago company, White Way Sign, which would take over maintenance, upgrading and replacement of most of these aforementioned scoreboards.

The last CEO of Stewart-Warner was Bennett Archambault who died in 1996. He was appointed president and CEO in 1954.[6]

On September 9, 1987, British Tire & Rubber BTR plc entered into an agreement [7] to purchase Stewart-Warner.[8] In 1989 new owner BTR decided to relocate operations to Juarez, Mexico and shut down the Chicago plant and offices which at the time still employed 700 workers.[9] BTR eventually spun off its Stewart-Warner instruments business to a company named Stewart Warner Instruments Corporation. In early 1998 Stewart-Warner Instruments Corporation was sold. Its instruments assets were later bought by Datcon Instrument Company (later renamed to Maxima Technologies), which sells some of its products under the Stewart-Warner brand.

For pictures of the Stewart-Warner buildings and the abandoned rail yards which used to serve it off the C&NW from 1990 see www.chicagoswitching.com and go to the "Deering Line North" section.

On April 25, 1993, a spectacular fire destroyed most of the empty S-W Chicago headquarters and factory buildings. What was left was demolished and replaced by upscale condominiums on the former S-W sites.[10]

Mid 1950's Stewart-Warner automotive instruments in "Hollywood" panel.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "A Plan for Stewart Warner Site," Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1993
  2. ^ The Milwaukee Road in Chicago; Book Published by the Milwaukee Road Historical Association, 2007, Special Publication Number 6
  3. ^ Ackland, Len (1981-03-25). "Union votes to end strike at Stewart". Chicago Tribune. p. 3, section 4 .
  4. ^ "The Chicago Files: Milwaukee Road's Deering Line;" Tom Burke author, Spring 2006 edition of The Milwaukee Railroader historical journal. Published by the Milwaukee Railroad Historical Association."
  5. ^ Peck, Merton J. & Scherer, Frederic M. The Weapons Acquisition Process: An Economic Analysis (1962) Harvard Business School p.619
  6. ^ Chicago Tribune Obituary
  7. ^ "Stewart-Warner, BTR Reach Merger Agreement:" AP News Archive (online)
  8. ^ "The Chicago Files: Milwaukee Road's Deering Line;" Tom Burke author, Spring 2006 edition of The Milwaukee Railroader historical journal. Published by the Milwaukee Railroad Historical Association."
  9. ^ "No Stewart-Warner Reprieve," Chicago Tribune; November 4, 1989
  10. ^ "The Chicago Files: Milwaukee Road's Deering Line;" Tom Burke author, Spring 2006 edition of The Milwaukee Railroader historical journal. Published by the Milwaukee Railroad Historical Association."

External links[edit]