As one of the nation’s oldest industrial manufacturing companies, Fairbanks Scales has consistently maintained a solid reputation of providing top quality products and service since 1830.
An Early Partnership Builds Foundations
It all began with two brothers, Thaddeus and Erastus Fairbanks. Thaddeus, a mechanic and builder, was a wagonmaker by trade. Full of new ideas for inventions, he built a foundry in 1823 to manufacture two of his inventions—the cast iron plow and a stove.
In 1824, Erastus joined Thaddeus’ lucrative business. The two brothers formed the E & T Fairbanks Company in St. Johnsbury, Vermont. Once in business together, the two brothers realized that the current weighing system yielded inaccurate results. So, Thaddeus decided to invent a new, more dependable weighing machine.
Innovation Found in the Form of Levers
Through an arrangement of levers, Thaddeus Fairbanks was able to tremendously reduce the amount of weight needed to counter-balance a load. Not completely satisfied with his invention, he took it a step further. He dug a pit for the levers, placing the platform level with the ground. This modification ended the task of having to hoist the entire load.
In his first design, Thaddeus rested a platform on two long levers which were connected to a steelyard, upon which the counterbalance was placed. Although achieving accurate weighing results, Thaddeus was troubled by the instability of the design.
On the morning he was to leave St. Johnsbury for the test marketing of the scale, he discovered a solution to his dilemma. By adding two short levers to his long ones, he established support points at all four corners of the platform. Now his scale was not only accurate, but very stable.
In 1830, Thaddeus built his first real scale and applied for a patent. The new scale was a hit. Before the design was finalized, customers were already placing orders. It looked like the opportune time for the business to expand.
Fairbanks Plays Major Role in Industrialization
While the Fairbanks brothers were building the foundations of Fairbanks Scales, the United States was stepping into the Industrial Age and on its way to becoming the strongest industrial nation in the world.
The E & T Fairbanks Company played an integral role in the emerging world giant. By the time of the Civil War, Fairbanks’ scales were the best known American product in the world. Erastus and Thaddeus were now joined by their younger brother, Joseph. With just $4,000 and 10 employees, the company was making scales, plows and stoves.
E & T Fairbanks & Company offices were soon opened in the cities of Boston and New York. In the meantime, Fairbanks’ scales were also being sold throughout Europe. Thaddeus had the foresight to sell manufacturing rights to H. Poole and Sons in England in the 1830s, thus creating an international marketing niche.
In 1846, trade began in China. Two years later, Joseph Fairbanks began selling scales to Cuba. By 1860, the Vermont-based company was selling scales throughout the Caribbean, South America, India and Russia. In fact, European sales grew to such an extent that Fairbanks established a facility in Budapest to assemble scales.
Following the end of the Civil War in 1865, the United States continued to prosper and grow—so did E & T Fairbanks & Company. Within two years of the war’s end, Fairbanks was turning out 4,000 scales a month and meeting the needs of the expanding worldwide demand.
Buyers knew they could count on Fairbanks-a company respected for its accuracy, dependability and longevity—to deliver the best product available. For instance, when the U.S. Post Office unexpectedly ordered 3,000 postal scales in various capacities, E & T Fairbanks & Company filled the order in just eight days.
1882, Design Improvements Increase Patent Holdings
By 1882, more than 80,000 Fairbanks scales were being produced annually. By 1897, the company held 113 patents for improvements and inventions in weighing. Fairbanks offered its customers 2,000 standard model scales, yet made as many as 10,000 different models and custom systems.
1916 – 1958, Mergers and Aquistions Bring Experience to Fairbanks
In 1916, Charles Hosmer Morse, a Fairbanks employee, acquired control of the company. Then in 1927, the Fairbanks office in New York became part of the Fairbanks-Morse company, giving Fairbanks-Morse complete control over the manufacturing and distribution of Fairbanks Scales. During this time the Fairbanks-Morse company produced not only scales but diesel engines, electric engines and pumps for industrial use. In 1958, Fairbanks-Morse merged with Penn-Texas and was renamed Fairbanks-Whitney.
1966, 1975 – New Manufacturing Facility Built
A modern manufacturing plant replaced the deteriorating facilities in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, in 1966. And in 1975, a new factory was built in Meridian, Mississippi, producing a variety of products designed for heavy capacity weighing.
1988 – New Ownership Marks Recent Evolution of Fairbanks
It was in 1988 that Fairbanks came under the current management of F.A. “Bill” Norden, president and major stockholder of Fairbanks Scales. He headed a group which acquired the company from Colt Industries.
With new leadership came more changes. Finance, marketing and executive offices were moved from St. Johnsbury to the more central location of Kansas City, Missouri.
1999 to Today
In 1999, F.A. Norden was named Chairman of the Board and his son, Richard Norden, became Fairbanks’ President and COO.
Today, Fairbanks has more than 500 employees nationwide and maintains service centers, authorized distributors and sales offices in 49 states and more than 25 countries. Selling everything from precision and bench scales to heavy capacity truck scales and railroad track scales, Fairbanks continues to stand at the leading edge of weighing technology.
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