BY MARCI LAEHR TENUTA
photo by Jim Slosiarek
RACINE The Racine company which produced many of the world's first household appliances was honored Thursday night in the grand opening of the Hamilton Beach Company sesquicentennial exhibit at the Racine Heritage Museum.
Blenders, sewing machines, mixers, vacuums, toasters and irons are just a few of the products Hamilton Beach made available to the world.
“You could argue that here in Racine was the birthplace of household appliances," said Dick Posey, president and CEO of today's Hamilton Beach-Proctor Silex Company based in Glen Allen, Va., who attended the opening.
Louis Hamilton and Chester Beach both began working with Fred Osius at U.S. Standard Electric Works in 1907. A few years later the trio left Standard Electric to form their own manufacturing company, the Hamilton Beach Company.
With themselves as the company's three employees, Osius, Hamilton and Beach occupied the second floor of the Fred Greene Manufacturing Company at Douglas Avenue and Prospect Street.
The invention of a fractional horsepower motor by Beach revolutionized the small motor business. The new motor had an increased speed and could turn on both direct and alternating currents.
This invention led Hamilton Beach to become a giant in the household appliance market. The company produced coffee makers, electric frying pans, electric knives, irons, floor polishers, meat grinders, washing machines and even a vibrating massager.
“When we look back, we are humbled by the socioeconomic developments of these products," said Posey.
The first product Hamilton and Beach sold was the “Sew E-Z" sewing machine produced in 1912.
That next year Hamilton and Beach left the company that bared their names to form Wisconsin Electric. They began to manufacture small electric power tools. In 1929 the company was renamed the Dumore Company, and thrived in Racine for many years.
Hamilton Beach moved to a new factory on Rapids Drive in 1915. By the next year, the company employed more than 400 people.
Osius stayed with Hamilton Beach and operated the company until 1923 when he sold it to Scovill Manufacturing. This is when Hamilton Beach began to thrive. The company was soon one of the largest manufacturers of household appliances in the country.
In February 1968 Hamilton Beach moved out of Racine in search of cheaper labor, but Posey said the company's traditions have not been forgotten.
“Today the tradition lives on," said Posey. “We continue to improve on products first manufactured in Racine."
Today, Hamilton Beach-Proctor Silex employs more than 4,500 and is one of the country's leading manufactures of household appliances.
“We are totally committed to innovation," said Posey. “Just as Louis Hamilton and Chester Beach were."
Posey is a former resident of Racine. He lived in the city for 23 years while he was an employee of S.C. Johnson Wax.
The Racine Heritage Museum, 701 Main St., is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.