H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company

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H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company
Die-cast Manufacturing
Industry Die-cast
Genre Die-cast bearings
Fate Bankruptcy
Founded 1893
Founder Herbert H. Franklin (1866-1956)[1]
Defunct 1934
Headquarters Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York, United States
Area served
United States
Products Bearings
Automotive parts
Owner Herbert H. Franklin
Subsidiaries Franklin Automobile Company
Franklin Die-casting Company

H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company was founded in 1893 by industrialist Herbert H. Franklin in Syracuse, New York. The company specialized in machine die casting and made small parts such as gears and bearing caps.[2] It was the first company in the world in that enterprise.[3]

Franklin Manufacturing and its subsidiaries, except its aircraft engine branch, closed in 1934 due to bankruptcy.[2]


H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company - Die-cast bearing bushings in 1909

Herbert H. Franklin worked as a newspaper publisher, real estate agent and Columbia Bicycle shop owner in Coxsackie, New York. After he quit the publishing business in 1893, he relocated to Syracuse, New York.[3]

Franklin began his career in the metal die casting business (in fact, he invented the term) before establishing his automobile enterprise.[4]

Die-cast process[edit]

In 1886, at age 19, Franklin moved to Coxsackie, New York where he spent his early career as a newspaper editor for his uncle, who owned a newspaper and publishing company. Franklin remained in that capacity until 1892.[5]

By late 1892, Franklin became interested in die casting when Herbert G. Underwood of Yonkers, New York,[5] an employee of a valve company Franklin had helped to bring to Coxsackie, was experimenting with a "hydrostatic moulding process."[3] Not long after, Franklin quit the newspaper business, and relocated to Syracuse, New York.[6]

Franklin was presented with an opportunity to "buy" a patent for the process of die-casting and he jumped at the chance.[7] Later, he accurately predicted; "We are developing a process that will revolutionize the metal manufacturing business."[3]

Manufacturing company[edit]

By 1893, the money he earned from his many enterprises in Coxsackie supported him for almost a year and helped him launch the H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company which was the first machine die-casting enterprise in the world.[3] The company was incorporated on December 12, 1895.[8]

"Underwood first became the true and original first inventor of certain new and successful improvements in apparatus for ensuing metals not before known or used by others in this country. The patents, it is alleged, were assigned to Herbert H. Franklin on February 5, 1895 for a period of 17 years for the purpose of using and vending to others. On August 31, 1893, Underwood also became the inventor and discoverer of certain other new and useful improvements in methods and apparatus for casting and that they were assigned to Mr. Franklin on September 20, 1901 and again on August 1, 1902.[5]

H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company - Die-cast bearings produced in 1909

"I had been thinking of trying newspaper work in a larger place, like Syracuse, Rochester or Buffalo," Franklin later wrote, "Instead I formed a co-ownership arrangement with Underwood and came to Syracuse to introduce the process."[8]

Die-casting is the process of forcing metal into steel molds so that smooth casting are produced without machining.[9] H. H. Franklin launched commercial die-casting and was considered the "Godfather" of the process. He also pioneered the fabrication of aluminum.[10]

In the early days of the business, Franklin would use steel molds as opposed to the normal sand cast molds used in the process later on.[11]

He set up his business with Underwood, and moved into a small machine shop at 241 West Onondaga Street, near Onondaga Creek and close to the Smith Premier Typewriter Company plant. The first-marketed product was a match-striker, a plate with a hole or holes in it for fastening to the wall, and corrugations on it for the new friction matches or safety matches. "They were succeeding the old lucifers or sulphur matches."[8]

In the beginning, the company was a small operation. During 1895, the plant cost $15 a month to operate. Franklin, by then an experienced die-caster, would arrive at the shop at 6:00 am each morning to start the fires and get ready for the days work.[9]

Next he had a factory and casting shop in North Franklin Street where he stayed until 1900.[12]

Lipe shop[edit]

Franklin Manufacturing Company - Die-cast "sharpness and finish" - 1906

After several years in business, Underwood grew tired of the day-to-day business and instead wanted to work on perfecting the die-casting process. He sold his interest in the company to Franklin.[8] Later, in 1900, Franklin moved his company to the Lipe Shop, on the northeast corner of West Fayette Street and South Geddes Street (208 South Geddes Street).[12] "This was a famous center for mechanics, engaged in inventing and developing a wide range of devices."[8]

For a time, Howard Franklin, who was Franklin's brother worked for the company. He had set up the first shop which burned down and the company found space in the Lipe Shop.[8] While there, Franklin found himself in the middle of a business incubator. He formed associations with early business leaders, from many different fields, including; John Wilkinson, Alexander T. Brown, Charles E. Lipe, Albert Seymour, H. Winifield Chapin and James Pass who was president of Syracuse China.[12]

Babbitt bushings[edit]

During early 1909, the company concentrated their efforts on die-cast hard babbitt bushings for gasoline and other engines. The reason for the move was because so many manufacturers were producing engines, there was a huge demand. The bushings produced by the company were known for their rigidity due to the pressure used in the process when the cast was poured. The bushings had been in use since 1903 and about 7,000 cars had been fitted with them and they are said to give "universal satisfaction."[13]

Company officers[edit]

Preferred Stock - H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company, April 8, 1920[14]

In 1901, the board of directors for the H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company elected the following directors; Herbert H. Franklin, Alexander T. Brown, Willard C. Lipe, Henry K. Chadwick and Giles Heath Stilwell.[15]

At a subsequent meeting of the directors, the following officers were chosen; Alexander T. Brown, president; Willard C. Lipe, vice-president; Henry Knowles Chadwick, secretary; Herbert H. Franklin, treasurer and manager, and Giles Heath Stilwell, attorney.[15]

In April 1920, officers of the company were elected as follows;

  • Herbert H. Franklin, president
  • Giles H. Stilwell, vice-president
  • Frank A. Barton, secretary and treasurer

Directors were;

  • H. H. Franklin
  • Giles H. Stilwell - lawyer, from Lisle, New York
  • Frank A. Barton - married Franklin's sister, Mary Franklin
  • Alexander T. Brown - one of the inventors of the Smith premier typewriter and founder of Brown-Lipe gear company with W. C. Lipe
  • Willard C. Lipe - went on to found Brown-Lipe company in Syracuse, manufacturer of gears, along with A. T. Brown
  • E. H. Dunn
  • John Wilkinson - inventor of the Franklin air-cooled motor, chief engineer, promoted to vice-president in 1910[8]

Subsidiary and company failure[edit]

The die-casting business was split into a subsidiary called Franklin Die-Casting Corp. In 1926, Franklin Manufacturing "reabsorbed" the diecasting subsidiary and consequently, it also went under when the parent company failed.[8]

Franklin Manufacturing and Franklin Automobile were both declared bankrupt April 3, 1934, after reporting $2,088,000 in bank loans long overdue. For three years, Franklin "doggedly" fought off failure. He had "cajoled" his bankers into renewing bank loans equal three times the company's current assets. Despite all hopes, reorganization plans fell through and the company passed into bankruptcy and the hands of a receiver.[16] The aircraft engine subsidiary survived and was purchased by employees.


  1. ^ "Herbert H. Franklin". Find a Grave, New York. N.Y., 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-16. 
  2. ^ a b Automotive Industries, Volume 26. The Automobile Weekly, The Class Journal Company, New York. N.Y., June, 1912. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "From 'Main St.' - The H. H. Franklin Story, pg.17". Marcellus Weekly. Marcellus, New York. August 17, 1988. 
  4. ^ "1915 Franklin - Vintage - Jay Leno's Garage". NBC Corp, Inc., New York. N.Y., 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-23. 
  5. ^ a b c "Claims Infringement on its Patents". Syracuse Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. October 26, 1902. 
  6. ^ Rivette, Barbara S. (August 17, 1988). "Launching a Big Business". Chittenango-Bridgeport Times. Chittenango, New York. 
  7. ^ "1932-1934 Franklin V-12". HowStuffWorks, Inc., 2008-2010. Retrieved 2010-07-17. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Early, Frank J. "The Story of Herbert H. Franklin". The H. H. Franklin Club, Inc., Syracuse, N.Y., from Air Cooled News - Issue No. 10, July 1956. 
  9. ^ a b "Pioneer of Air-Cooled Auto, Franklin Still Boosts Idea". Capital Times. Madison, Wisconsin. July 26, 1931. 
  10. ^ "A Man and an Automobile - The Story of Herbert Franklin". Syracuse Herald-Journal. Syracuse, New York. April 19, 1956. 
  11. ^ "Inventions Built Industries Here". Syracuse Journal. Syracuse, New York. March 20, 1939. 
  12. ^ a b c "Syracuse to Share Auto Prosperity". Syracuse Herald. Syracuse, New York. January 13, 1928. 
  13. ^ The Horseless age: the automobile trade magazine, Volume 24. E. P. Ingersoll, New York, New York, 1909. Retrieved January 8, 2010. 
  14. ^ "Preferred Stock, H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company". Syracuse Journal. Syracuse, New York. April 8, 1920. 
  15. ^ a b "Elections". The Post-Standard. Syracuse, New York. January 27, 1901. 
  16. ^ "Business & Finance: Franklin Under". Time Inc., April 16, 1934. April 16, 1934. Retrieved 2010-07-17.