NOCSIA members toured the Empire Plow factory on East 65th Street in Cleveland on Tuesday March 23, 2010.
Empire Plow began manufacturing farm implements in Georgia in 1840. The company relocated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania before the Civil War. In the 1890’s Republic Steel offered incentives for Empire Plow to relocate to the current location in Cleveland.
From the early 1900’s until 1978 the company was owned by the Haas family. During World War II, the company manufactured moveable airplane landing fields. In the early 1970’s Empire began manufacturing tines for roto tillers, and today commands a 50% share of the single ended tine market. The product line currently includes approximately 800 parts covering all tillage tool applications except moldboard plows and plowshares. It is now part of McKay/Empire/Weise Industries.
We toured the original 1890’s building and the subsequent additions. View the building history as overlays in Google Earth here.
Here is a timeline of the company based on articles in the Plain Dealer and Cleveland Press:
- 1840 – Empire Plow founded in Georgia
- Before the civil war – moved to Pittsburgh (mentioned as 1888 in one newspaper article)
- 1890 – Moved to current location on Roland Avenue (at E65th St) in Cleveland
- 1891 – First appeared in Cleveland Directory. President listed as E.S. Hartman
- 1900 – Company taken over by Isaac Haas. Owned by Haas family for much of the 20th Century. Empire distributes ground-engaging sweeps throughout the world.
- 1905 – Major fire destroys factory – written up by the National Fire Protection Organization because of failure of improperly installed wireglass windows and framing.
- 1922 – Walter Haas begins work for Empire Plow. His father, Isaac owns the firm
- 1930 – Walter Haas buys controlling interest in Empire, was President until 1968
- 1932 – Roger M. Kyes hired as Vice President of Empire Plow while still in his 30’s, credited with Empire Plow’s recovery during the depression.
- 1939 – Roger M. Kyes leaves Empire Plow for Harry Ferguson Inc , later General Motors and US Deputy Secretary of Defense.
- 1940 – Brick and steel factory addition costs $40,000.
- WWII – perfects process for making steel airstrip landing mats using only five strokes on stamping presses compared to 44 strokes conventionally. Produces 180 tons of landing mats every 10 hours.
- 1950’s – in addition to soil engaging products, Empire produces grader blades for highway equipment and guard rails for roads (including the Pennsylvania Turnpike)
- 1968 – Walter Haas’ son-in-law Robert Rawson becomes President
- 1977 – Walter M. Haas dies – His obituary calls him a theater leader, having founded the Cleveland Playhouse, and performed in its plays. He was also a past president and board member of Karamu House.