For more than 50 years the name Wigglesworth has been prominent in the rebuilt machine tool industry. The family heritage opens at the turn of the century, and is in the real American Tradition.
By: Frank J. Tracy
Surplus Record – December 1951
During the past 50 years the rebuilding of surplus and used machine tools has become an important part of American industry, and it has developed in the finest of American traditions – begun principally through the efforts of one man who had an idea.
That man was Albert W. Wigglesworth, who when he died at 79 in March of 1950, was generally regarded as the “Father of Machine Tool Rebuilding.”
He had entered the field as a sales engineer for the Hill-Clarke Machinery Company in Chicago shortly after his graduation from Cornell University in 1895. With a degree in mechanical engineering, Mr. Wigglesworth was primarily interested in machinery design, conversion and application, which in the natural course of events directed his attention to machinery rebuilding and reconditioning. He found that the original accuracy could be restored if the machine was properly and thoroughly rebuilt. Furthermore that by reworking an aged casting there was much less possibility of misalignment due to warping.
When Mr. Wigglesworth was named vice president of Hill-Clarke Company in 1905, one of his first moves was to begin expanding the firm’s limited rebuilding facilities.
By 1917, after careful examination and planning, Hill-Clarke decided to concentrate on rebuilding. A plant covering 58,000 square feet designed especially for this work was erected on Chicago’s west side under the direction of Mr. Wigglesworth, who that year had been appointed president of the firm.
Thus was established the Wigglesworth tradition – a heritage devoted to providing the best possible machine tool performance through rebuilding, re-designing, and conversion. Because of the ensuing wars it has developed that the idea of rebuilding and preserving existing equipment has been very important to us all. For our strength is measured by the quantity and efficiency of our capital equipment.
Today this heritage is shared by second and third generation members of the Wigglesworth family. Three sons and a grandson of Albert W. Wigglesworth practice the steadfast business principles established by the founder of the family’s tradition.
One of the sons, Tom, has owned and operated the T.R. Wigglesworth Machinery Company in Cleveland for 15 years, while two other sons, Albert G., and Robert, are partners in the Wigglesworth Industrial Corporation, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
The Third Generation
A Grandson, James D. Wigglesworth, has been operating his own business, The J.D. Wigglesworth Machinery Company Chicago, since his discharge from the U.S. Air Force, following three years service in World War II. Many men in industry remember his father, also James, who until his death in 1936 was associated with Hill-Clark in Chicago. To get a firm groundwork for his career, young James went to work for Hill-Clark, later for T.R. Wigglesworth, Cleveland, and just before going into his own business, for Wigglesworth Machinery Company, Cambridge.
A sixth Wigglesworth, although not in the surplus machinery field, follows the Wigglesworth tradition. He is Richard A. Wigglesworth, brother of J.D. and nephew of Tom, A.G., and Robert who is sales representative in the Sacramento area for Porter-Cable Machine Company.
These Wigglesworths have inherited the pioneer spirit of their illustrious forbear, who during his fifty years in the machinery business put his inventive genius to work on more than twenty machine tool application designs. All of these innovations were patented and have been in wide use in the machine tool field, and included designs for various sizes of universal boring mills, radial drills, milling machines and turret lathes. His last patent, issued in 1944, featured the re-design of an obsolete grinder to work at extremely accurate limits with a finish measured in micro inches.
Another phase of Mr. Wigglesworth, business career involves his association with other inventors and skilled machine designers. In his early days as a Hill-Clarke sales engineer, he made frequent trips to Milwaukee, and old-timers there recall that he often brought his bicycle with him on the train to use in getting around the Milwaukee business districts.
Meets Kearney and Trecker
On one of these calls at the Kempsmith Milling Machine Company, he struck up an acquaintance with two young men – one a shop superintendent and the other a draftsman. Their names were E.J. Kearney and Theodore Trecker. They showed him their plans for a new line of milling machines with which they hoped to set up their own business. From time to time, in the years to come, Mr. Wigglesworth consulted with these two men on milling machine design and application.
Advice on Lathes
It was during this period that Mr. Wigglesworth became interested in the efforts of J.J. and Miles O’Brien, twin brothers who operated a machine shop at Ottawa, Illinois, manufacturing cream separators and hardware specialties. Mr. Wigglesworth encouraged the O’Briens to take over a closed plant in South Bend, Indiana, and then arranged to sell them enough machinery to make the Chicago milling machine line, a product of the Chicago Machine Tool Company. The latter firm soon contracted for all the machines produced, and the O’Briens adopted the firm name, South Bend Machine Tool Company.
The brothers had some ideas for an inexpensive lathe that could be used in all types of garages and machine shops, and frequently consulted Mr. Wigglesworth on their plans and progress. Since those days, of course, the firm has expanded and prospered, until today, as South Bend Lathe Works, it is probably one of the largest producers of lathes in the world.
The organizational process, which started fifty years ago in the rebuilding and reconditioning field, has undergone many changes and has made some notable advances. In the latter category are rebuilders, like the Wigglesworths, who set out to do a conscientious job in providing the buyer with the very best in machine tool performance.
In Auto Industry
A good example of this came up recently when a master mechanic from one of Cleveland’s large automotive plants visited the T.R. Wigglesworth Company in search of badly needed equipment. He mentioned that he was having difficulty in locating machines to grind extremely fine limits, the contour of an irregular tooth shape cam which was to be used in automobile transmissions. Since this work had to be done at a very fast pace it was decided that new machine tools would have to be purchased. However, the tools cost $18,000.00 a piece with delivery dates scheduled tentatively for one year.
Because so much time was being lost, their buyer had been scouring the surplus market for some equipment that could handle the assignment. The Wigglesworth firm showed the buyer a battery of Fellows gear slotters, which with some converting and reconditioning were made to do the exact job required. By replacing the cutter spindle with a high speed grinding spindle these machines, which were selling at $1,700 each, were quickly made ready for the plant. The first machine went into service within 30 days, and, when later twenty more machines were needed, Wigglesworth provided the majority of the units also.
Army Tank Work
Another accomplishment has been directly connected with the current war in Korea. In this instance the Wigglesworth Company may be able to be of invaluable assistance to the Army tank program. Tom Wigglesworth is particularly proud of this project and points to it as an excellent example of dealer assistance to the buyer.
He describes it this way: “One of our sales engineers was called in and shown a blue-print of a certain tank part which was needed to get this critical tank program started. Our man recalled a special type Sunstrand vertical contour miller which he thought might be able to do the job. Later, upon comparing the job requirements to the specifications of the machine, we found that the machine he has in mind had adequate range, and with certain cam changes it was practically made for the tank work. Four Sunstrands were delivered on short order, not only saving valuable time but a considerable sum for the taxpayer – and probably will save a few G.I. lives in Korea.”
There’s activity and progress in the eastern branch of the Wigglesworth family, too. The Wigglesworth Machinery Company of Cambridge is one of the leading machine tool distributors in the New England area. They represent such well-known builders as Monarch, Thompson, Cincinnati-Bickford, Minster and a number of others.
A few months ago, Albert and Robert Wigglesworth announced that their firm was forming a new corporation known as the Wigglesworth Industrial Corporation. The latter firm deals only in rebuilt and used equipment, while the former handles new machinery.
Observers were surprised when about 25 years ago, Albert Wigglesworth left Hill-Clarke Machinery Company, where his father was president, and opened his own business in Cambridge. Later Robert and Tom joined him. It was typical Wigglesworth tradition, though, and it was continued several years later when Tom Wigglesworth opened his firm in Cleveland, and still later when James opened his in Chicago.
Thus has half a century of Wigglesworth tradition in the machine tool industry unfolded. There are, obviously, more and greater years to come, for the mantle of responsibility and good workmanship fits well on the shoulders of present day Wigglesworths.