The History of Thomas & Betts
- It all began in 1898, when Princeton University classmates Robert M. Thomas and Hobart D. Betts recognized a business opportunity that was too promising to pass up: the new and booming electrical industry. So the two joined their efforts and resources, and began supplying rigid conduit to New York electrical distributors.
- By 1912, business was going strong, and Thomas and Betts decided that if they were going to keep selling electrical conduit, it might as well be their own. They acquired the Standard Electric Fittings Company of Stamford, Connecticut, and took the leap into manufacturing.
- In 1917, The Thomas & Betts Company officially became incorporated and moved their headquarters to Elizabeth, New Jersey, where their engineering, manufacturing, and sales divisions were finally able to share the same the facility.
- In 1921, a young and ambitious Nestor J. MacDonald – the man who would later become Thomas & Betts’ President and CEO – joined the company as a salesman. MacDonald focused on meeting the needs of end users, and began introducing Thomas & Betts products directly to electrical contractors, two strategies that have largely contributed to the company’s long-term success.
- 1927 saw Thomas & Betts set their course northward when general manager G.C. Thomas – the nephew of co-founder Robert Thomas – realized the untapped sales potential that awaited them in Northeastern Canada, and to this day, Thomas & Betts remains one of the leading purveyors of electrical components in the Canadian market.
- During the 1930s, Thomas & Betts made their way both skyward and underground in the New York metropolitan area, as their newly introduced cast solderless slugs became integral components in the construction the Empire State Building, as well as in the New York Subway expansion project. So it probably comes as no surprise that around this time, the company’s advertising slogan became “Wherever Electricity Goes, So Do We.”
- Because their products became indispensable in the wiring of military planes, tanks and ships, Thomas and Betts’ New Jersey factory was ranked as one of the 12 plants most critical to the war effort from 1939 to 1945. The company also won several awards for their stellar work with the United States military.
- By the late 1940s, World War II had ended and construction was on the rise throughout the US. During this time, Thomas & Betts made yet another valuable contribution that would soon become an industry standard: the Color-Keyed® system, a line of connectors and compression tools that were color-coded to ensure proper installation.
- 1953 marked Thomas & Betts’ introduction of the world’s first flexible, liquid-tight, high-performance conduit connectors, which were incorporated into the Nautilus – the world’s first nuclear submarine. The company’s products quickly became the standard for submarine electrical specifications.
- In 1958, Thomas & Betts made engineering (and cable organization) history when they unleashed the Ty-Rap® cable tie, which had been developed to facilitate wire harnessing in aircraft. The first month’s Ty-Rap® sales topped out at a meager $350, but over the past 50 years, T&B’s cable tie line has come to encompass 15 different designs (available in 14 different colors, as well as multiple materials and sizes), and account for several hundred million dollars of the company’s annual sales.
- Thomas & Betts went public in 1959, when 300,000 shares of stock were made available to the public at a price of $17.50 per share. T&B was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1963.
- During the 1960s, Thomas & Betts ventured beyond the United States and Canada, and found new markets in Europe, Mexico, and beyond. Their Ty-Rap® cable ties and Sta-Kon® solderless terminals adapted easily to the metric system, and became popular choices with electricians and contractors around the world.
- By 1968, Thomas & Betts had seen 72 years of continual growth, and had spanned global markets and interests with their innovative, ever-expanding product lines. T&B chose this particular year to officially change their name to the Thomas & Betts Corporation, in order to accurately reflect the company’s worldwide presence.
- In the 1970s, Thomas & Betts branched out into telecommunications when they signed contracts with General Telephone and ITT. Shortly thereafter, T&B began making breakthroughs in telecom research and development, and one resulting product was Kold-N-Klose®, the first spliced cable repair system that didn’t require telephone technicians to use heat or flame.
- In response to the growing popularity of modular office furniture and the related need for adaptable office wiring configurations, Thomas & Betts began marketing its proprietary Versa-TrakTM under-carpet wiring system in 1980.
- When they acquired American Electric in 1992, Thomas & Betts not only doubled in size, it became the largest North American manufacturer of electrical components. The same year, T&B relocated their corporate headquarters from Elizabeth, New Jersey to Memphis, Tennessee.
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