Case Manufacturing Corporation

Typed by Rita Millis from a history originally done about 1955 - 14 August 2000

The Case Manufacturing Corporation, formerly a part of W. A. Case and Son Manufacturing Company and originally the Zwermann Company, was founded by the late Carl H. Zwermann in 1919.

Dr. G. F. Schmidt of Robinson learned of Mr. Zwermann's desire to build such a plant while visiting Mrs. Schmidt's family in Newark, Ohio, where the Zwermanns were living at that time. He discussed the matter with Mr. Zwermann and then Mr. J. S. Abbott and the men of the Robinson Chamber of Commerce. As a result in April of 1919, O. G. Olwin, Secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, received a letter from Mr. Zwermann in which he expressed his desire to build a plant for the manufacture of vitreous china sanitary ware. This plant would be constructed on a unit plan to allow for expansion in the future. Many sites had been considered by Mr. Zwermann; but Robinson was chosen because of certain advantages: it had suitable railroad connections, it was centrally located in the United States for handling incoming raw materials and outgoing finished ware, it was near a fuel supply and it was removed from labor trouble centers. Raw materials needed were mainly--silica, obtainable from Ottawa, Illinois; feldspar from Tennessee and South Dakota; and clays, mostly from England with some from Kentucky and Tennessee. The Chamber of Commerce sent Charles Olwin and Frank Dewey to Kalamazoo, Michigan, to investigate Mr. Zwermann's references and an agreement was then reached whereby the Chamber of Commerce was to furnish two acres of land and to erect a building 105' X 225' at a cost of $15,000.00. The Zwermann Company agreed to pay back this money in three installments of $5,000.00 each with interest at 5-1/2 percent and also agreed to invest $50,000.00 in working capital.

Mr. Zwermann moved to Robinson from Newark, Ohio, where he had lived since selling his interest the year before in a sanitary plant which he had built in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Work was immediately started on the new plant and William Byrd of Robinson was given the contract for the building.

The Zwermann Company was incorporated for $225,000.00 (7500 shares of 7 percent preferred stock and 15,000 shares of common stock, both with a par value of $10.00 per share) by Carl H. Zwermann, John S. Abbott, Alfred H. Jones, G. F. Schmidt, Charles C. Brubaker, Charles H. Olwin, and F. E. Lathrop. The above were elected to the first Board of Directors in November 1919, and they in turn elected the following officers:

Carl H. Zwermann, President and General Manager
John S. Abbott, Vice President
Charles H. Olwin, Temporary Secretary and Treasurer

At a later date James M. Bonner, Jr. was elected Secretary and Treasurer. The original stockholders and their holdings were:

Carl H. Zwermann - 4000/9500
John S. Abbott - 1100/1600
James M. Bonner, Jr. - 1100/2300
William B. Maddock - 500/500
A. H. Jones - 250/250
Theodore Zwermann - 200/400
G. F. Schmidt - 150/150
C. C. Brubaker - 100/100
Charles H. Olwin - 100/100
F. E. Lathrop - 100/100

With each share of preferred stock purchased, one share of common stock was issued as a bonus. Carl H. Zwermann received an additional 1500 shares of common stock for patents and royalties on his Zwermann Tunnel Kiln.

The Russell Engineering Company of St. Louis erected the first kiln, a Zwermann Twin Tunnel Kiln, about 190' long and capable of firing 96 water closet tanks per day using oil for fuel. One tunnel was used for bisque ware and the other for gloss. The Russell Engineering Company was later licensed to sell and erect these kilns. John Cass made the first plaster of Paris models and molds and the plant opened with 25 employees and a weekly payroll of $1,000.00. Casters were trained locally and received high wages for those times.

The first tank sold locally was to Arthur Obst, plumber, in April of 1920 and on July 16, 1920, the first shipment of pottery was made one water closet tank. That fall Harry Otey replaced G. F. Schmidt on the Board of Directors and James M. Bonner, Jr. replaced A. H. Jones. Total sales for 1920 were $96,040.50 with a net profit of $4,446.84.

The 1921 depression hit the building industry, so a 64' X 64' warehouse was built to help store the gloss ware, which at that time was piled outside the east end of the building. Thirty-two feet was added to each end of the main building and the kilns were lengthened to 224' to increase capacity. Sales for the year were $264,882.71.

Early in 1922 the capitalization was increased to $375,000 (1500 shares of 7 percent preferred stock and 22,500 shares of common stock). A 25 percent stock dividend was declared on the common stock and all subscribers to the Chamber of Commerce Building Fund were permitted to subscribe for stock proportionately or to receive cash for same. Additional stockholders then included A. W. Allen, E. E. Bussard, G. A. Brubaker, W. A Case and Son Manufacturing Company, C. F. Chandler, Ernest Evans, J. R. Evans, Leonard Gerhardt, C. S. Jones, Mary H. Jones, A. G. Meserve, Fred Mills, E. E. Newlin, F. B. Olwin, O. V. Redding, R. R. Rowland, Jesse Sheets, L. R. Springer, J. W. Springer, W. H. Swern, J. D. Toomey, V. L. Whitmer, and Helene Zwermann. At this time more land was acquired by the Company for further expansion. A new unit, Number Two Building, was approved north of the original plant that would double the capacity. Louis T. McConnell of Robinson was given the contract for the new building, 73' X 290', for a cost of $20,000.00. The Russell Engineering Company was awarded the contract for the 250' car tunnel kiln for $45,000.00 having a capacity of 250 pieces of ware per day. The Number One was used for making tanks and the new unit building for washdown bowls. Sales for 1922 were $318,945.94.

About this time development work was started on the one piece T/N non-overflow water closet, named for the inventor, James M. Teahen of Detroit, Michigan. This invention had been licensed to W. A. Case and Son Manufacturing Company of Buffalo, New York, jobbers of plumbing supplies, with 15 to 20 wholesale jobbing houses located mostly in New York state and vicinity. William Taylor of Detroit, Michigan, was the pattern maker who made the models and his son, Albert, cast the first molds. The development work was carried on for a couple of years by the Zwermann Company. Mr. John McClure Chase of New York City represented the Case Company in Robinson during this time.

In 1923 Theodore Zwermann, who had been Plant Superintendent since 1920, replaced Charles H. Olwin on the Board of Directors. Raymond R. Rowland replaced James M. Bonner, Jr. who moved to California, and he was also elected Secretary and Treasurer. George Brubaker replaced his father on the Board and A. W. Allen replaced F. E. Lathrop. Additional land was purchased bringing the total acreage owned by the company to ten. Two casting shops, one 64' X 112' and the other 130' X 145', were built on either end of Number Two Unit Building. Additional clay storage bins and a new sagger room were built to the west of Number One Unit Building and an additional warehouse 112' X 120' was erected east of the shipping room. L & W Schernekau was given the contract for Number Three Unit Building in which two Russell kilns were erected. The capacity was again doubled. A sprinkler system was installed and a water tower was erected. The plant at this time made nothing but wash down bowls and water closet tanks, turning out more of these per day than any other single plant in the country. Capitalization was increased from $375,000.00 to $575,000.00. (10,000 shares of 7 percent preferred stock and 47,500 shares of common stock). A 100 percent stock dividend was declared on the common. Sales were $324,327.09.

In 1924 J. R. Evans was added to the Board of Directors. An 80 car garage 93' X 150' for employees was built for $8,598.00 to serve as a warehouse, if needed. Another unit, Number Four Building, about 100' X 560' was built by L. & W. Schernekau for casting the T/N one piece non-overflow water closet. It contained two single Russell car tunnel kilns boosting the capacity of the plant from 96 pieces per day in 1920 to close to 1,000 pieces early in 1925.

In 1925 an additional water tower was constructed. The first company picnic with parade, ball games, contests, etc. was held at the city park. All five year employees were given a $50.00 bonus. The Company approved a plan to buy property north of the pottery which consisted of 20 lots and to build houses for employees and to sell on easy payments and to carry the mortgages.

In October both issues of preferred stock were retired at $11.00 per share. All stockholders agreed to sell their stock and on November 1, 1925, all the assets of the Zwermann Company were transferred to W. A. Case and Son Manufacturing Company of Buffalo, New York. The Zwermann Company was dissolved on November 24, 1925. Sales for the year to November were $1,191,250.60. At the time of the change the Directors of Zwermann Company were:

Carl H. Zwermann, President and General Manager
John S. Abbott, First Vice President
J. R. Evans, Second Vice President
Theodore Zwermann, Third Vice Presdent
A. W. Allen
George Brubaker
Raymond R. Rowland, Secretary and Treasurer

About 300 men were employed at the time. Ceramic Engineers who had worked with the Zwermann Company were John Maddock, F. A. Kirkpatrick, and Joseph Wright. Those with the Company at the time of the change were Richard Reif and Dave Innes. Ferd McQueen was chief casting foreman; other casting foremen were Sam White, Ralph McQueen, Clarence J. Welton, and Walter G. Henderson. Lester Knight was shipping room foreman, Loren Howard was mold shop foreman, Andy Best, slip room foreman, Ralph Beabout, glaze room foreman and Solomon T. Taylor, sagger room foreman.

C.H. Zwermann, J. S. Abbott, J. R. Evans, Theodore Zwermann, and R. R. Rowland acquired stock in W. A. Case and Son Manufacturing Company. C. H. Zwermann became a Director and Vice President of the company and remained Manager of the Robinson plant. J. R. Evans was made Assistant Plant Manager, Theodore Zwermann Superintendent, and R. R. Rowland Office Manager and Purchasing Agent. Case Company had outstanding as of January 1, 1926, 159,415 shares of $25.00 par value common stock. Business remained excellent throughout the remainder of the 20's. New construction consisted of roofing over a few of the open spaces between the existing buildings and the building of an additional oil fired muffle kiln for gloss firing of T/N's in the Number Two Unit Building. The T/N one piece was in great demand and as many as 220 a day were being cast.

The depression hit the entire pottery industry early in 1930. Business on the T/N remained excellent, but on the staple items, tanks and bowls, it was very bad. Design and manufacture of many styles of lavatories with some featuring a new idea in shelf space were started to take up some of the slack. Colored ware was coming into prominence and in order to boost sales, mainly on T/Ns and lavatories, a full line of colored ware was produced to match the metal bath tubs of all other manufacturers. A complete new style tank and bowl featuring a tank resting on the bowl and attached to it by a patented coupling was put on the market in both a competitive and a deluxe model. These featured low water consumption. Siphon-jet bowls and large tanks were also being made.

Carl H. Zwermann passed away in 1934 and J. R. Evans was made Plant Manager. Willard G. Young, who had joined the company as a Ceramic Engineer in 1926, was named Superintendent and Carl

Zwermann, Jr. Chief Ceramist. Clyde F. Hill, Mechanical Engineer who joined the Company in 1930 and resigned in 1942, was put in charge of the design and development of new fixtures and fittings.

C.H. Zwermann, Jr. resigned in 1935 and Kenneth D. Gould, who joined the Company in 1929 was made Chief Ceramist. In 1945 he transferred to sales. Mr. J. R. Evans resigned in October, 1939, and W. G. Young was made Plant Manager. In 1942 Mr. Young was transferred to Buffalo, New York, as Manager of the Pottery Division of Case Company and Albert C. Gerber was employed as Plant Manager. In 1949 Mr. Young returned to Robinson and replaced Mr. Gerber as Plant Manager in addition to his above-mentioned position.

Beginning in 1941 the entire physical plant underwent many improvements and additions. Eight original kilns were gradually replaced or rebuilt so that by 1954 there were 3 Dressler Thrift Kilns of the muffle type and two rebuilt open-fire kilns, the largest of which cost $175,000.00. The plant gradually changed from a "two-fire" to a "one-fire" process; thus saving fuel and handling costs and reducing the number of kilns needed. As the kilns were rebuilt, gas replaced oil as a fuel. A new slip room (1948) was built in the part of that building which had housed the sagger room, since saggers were no longer needed in the firing process. New clay bins were built and a screw conveyor system of unloading raw materials was installed. Number Four Unit Building was revamped for use of slip storage and a large casting room only. Two heater houses were attached to it for filtering and controlling the heat and humidity of the air at a cost of $65,000.00 (1949-50). The area way between Unit Building Number One and Two was roofed over and three casting loops were installed--one for lavatories and two for tanks. In the meantime (1948) an 1800' chain conveyor was installed at a cost of $50,000.00 for carrying unfired and fired ware from one department to any other throughout all the buildings. An additional water tank and pumping system costing $130,000.00 was installed for fire protection. A Proctor & Swartz Humidity Dryer was installed in 1940.

During the war years only white fixtures were manufactured. Grease interceptors were made for the Armed Services and battery boxes for the battery companies--both out of vitreous china. Special plumbing fixtures were made for Army and Navy ships. Following the war the manufacture of colored ware was resumed--the demand for which was greater than ever. Additional fixtures such as urinals and half-urinals, bowls and lavatories for trailers, Marine hoppers, a new Cassette one-piece water closet, and a new design T/N, now called the Case One-Piece, were put on the market.

In November, 1952, Bayou Interests, Inc., solely owned by Charles A. Allen, bought the entire 200,000 shares of Case Company stock for a reported 7 million dollars. It in turn was acquired by Ogden Corporation, controlled by him and listed on the American Stock Exchange. W. G. Young remained as Plant Manager and John Moore, who joined the organization in 1939 as Ceramic Engineer, was made Plant Superintendent.

Two new warehouses were built east of the office building--one in 1953 and the other in 1955. The office was greatly enlarged in 1955 to take care of the pottery sales force moved here from Buffalo. A large humidity controlled casting shop 125' X 585' extending along the entire north side of the property was built in 1955 at a cost of $625,000.00 by L. & W. Schernekau. Another Dressler gas fired double-deck open-fired kiln was built in the Old Number Three Unit Building at a cost of $225,000.00. With this latest building the plant had a total of nine acres under roof. The maximum capacity of the six tunnel kilns was rated at 600,000 pieces of vitreous china ware annually. As many as 640 persons have been on the local payroll in one week receiving as much as $58,000.00. Ware manufactured in 40 different colors has been shipped to 2800 wholesale jobbers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and South American countries.

In January of 1956 the Case Manufacturing Corporation was formed as a completely owned subsidiary of W. A. Case and Son Manufacturing Company. Included in the local management are:

Willard G. Young, Executive Vice President and General Manager
Kenneth D. Gould, Vice President and Sales Manager
John G. Moore, Plant Manager
Sam H. Davis, Jr., Plant Superintendent
Dwight W. Payne, Assistant Plant Superintendent
James A. Ducey, Plant Engineer
James Thorne, Ceramic Engineer
Charles Oxley, Chemist
Ralph G. McQueen, Supervisor of Casters
Arthur Fouty, Supervisor of the Kilns
Paul Rogers, Supervisor of Spraying
Olaf Rothrock, Supervisor of Shipping
Raymond C. Kibler, Supervisor of Testing and Assembly
Roy Rees, Supervisor of Gloss Inspection
William Boyles, Supervisor of Labor
Carl D. Garrard, Supervisor of Casting Loops
William Chillingsworth, Supervisor of Warehouse
Ernest Carter, Supervisor of Slip
Valmore Goodin, Casting Foreman
Harry Martin, Casting Foreman
Charles Moorehead, Casting Foreman
Marshall Vaughn, Casting Foreman
Olan Swope, Casting Foreman
Charles Osborn, Casting Foreman
Hayden Kirk, Casting Foreman
Vaughn Knoblett, Greenware Inspection Foreman
Kenneth Brown, Model Shop Foreman
Cloyd Carter, Color Ware Foreman
William Calvert, Glaze Foreman


This page last updated on February 05, 2015.