Home Learning Center Articles The History of Wiremold
In the 110 years since it began, the Wiremold Company has be renamed, moved throughout the Eastern and Midwestern United States, and changed hands from American to French owners. But one thing has always remained the same: no one does raceway, conduit and cable management like Wiremold.
It all started in 1900, when D. Hayes Murphy graduated from college and decided to go into the manufacturing business. Murphy, along with his father Daniel E. Murphy, became interested in the Milwaukee-based Richmondt Electric Wire Conduit Company.
The Richmondt Company was known for its distinctive household electrical conduit, which had a zinc-coated, pipe-like design with interior enamel lining to protect the wires running through it. While the product was in high demand, the company was inefficiently run, and unable to keep up with the high-volume orders being placed. Later that year, father and son Murphy purchased the company from C.D. Richmondt for $10,000, and assumed leadership of it as President and Secretary, respectively. The rest is history.
Read on for a few of the historic milestones that have led up to Wiremold becoming the leader in wire and cable management it is today:
- In 1901, the Richmondt Electric Wire Conduit Company underwent its first major change under new ownership, when D.Hayes Murphy moved the company to a larger facility in Waukegan, IL, and changed its name to the American Interior Conduit Company.
- In 1902, under pressure from competing manufacturers, Murphy merged the American Interior Conduit Company with the Safety Armorite Conduit Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – then the largest conduit maker in the nation. American Interior Conduit came under the control of the Garland family, who owned Safety Armorite, and began operating the American Conduit facility as a new branch of their own company.
- In order to be closer to their supply of piping, the new Safety Armorite Waukegan operations were moved east, to Pittsburgh. Later that year, with the continued involvement of D. Hayes Murphy, they began producing a highly successful line of cotton and resin-based loom-style conduit, marketed under the Wireduct name.
- In 1909, Murphy became president of the American Conduit Manufacturing Company, a separate holding also belonging to Safety Armorite’s Garland family. Two years later, when the family and their companies began experiencing financial difficulties, the 34 year old Murphy traded his Safety Armorite stock back to the Garlands in exchange for sole ownership of American Conduit Manufacturing.
- In 1914, Murphy moved his company forward by investing in a new factory to better meet the demand for his rigid conduit and wire loom products, which by that time were being sold by distributors in 33 states, and to large-scale manufacturers like the Pullman Company and the American Locomotive Company.
- When American households began facing the problem of accumulating an ever-growing number of electrical devices, but having no (or too few) outlets to plug them into, American Conduit came to the rescue with Wiremold raceway. This unique, lightweight metal conduit was designed to mount right onto surfaces, so that electrical wire could be run throughout a house without the need to cut into the existing walls and ceilings. To make things even easier, the company created surface-mount outlet boxes and fittings that connected seamlessly with the raceway, so that homeowners could customize the solution to their needs.
- At the National Electrical Contractors Association held in June of 1916, American Conduit debuted their Wiremold 500 Series, much to the interest of attendees. Following a 2-year delay due to an injunction from a competing manufacturer, Wiremold was finally approved by Underwriters Laboratories (UL) in 1918.
- In order to help defray business troubles brought about by World War I material shortages and inventory discrepancies, Murphy sold the rigid conduit portion of his business to the General Electric Company, and shifted focus entirely to loom products and Wiremold raceways. During this time, the company relocated to the former Franklin Lamp Works building in Hartford, Connecticut.
- In 1920, the American Conduit Company began to sound a lot more like the company we know today, when Murphy renamed it the American Wiremold Company. Six years later, Murphy completed the naming transition by omitting the word “American” to simply become The Wiremold Company.
- During the Great Depression, Murphy sought to sustain Wiremold’s business with a creative marketing program, in which traveling salesmen drove Wiremold trucks (fully stocked with samples of all product lines) throughout the Southern and West Coast states, educating electrical contractors about the company’s newest, most cutting-edge products.
- Shortly after fluorescent lighting was introduced in 1938, Wiremold formed its own lighting division.
- During World War II, Wiremold contributed to the War Effort by providing the military with loom for its wiring needs, and repurposing some of its machinery to manufacture over 1 million yards of webbing , which the US Army used for equipment straps and parachute harnesses. In addition, Wiremold began producing engine and glider components, as well as shipping containers for shells and rockets.
- In 1942, Wiremold responded to an Army Air Corps need by creating an air duct division, which manufactured flexible air ducts that would help aircraft engines preheat in frigid Arctic temperatures. After World War II ended, the company continued to produce duct products, but instead shifted their focus to automotive heating and defrosting.
- In 1955, D. Hayes Murphy stepped down as president of Wiremold, and was succeeded by his son, John Murphy, who had himself worked for the company since 1934. The same year, John Murphy’s brother, Robert, stepped into the role of executive vice president.
- In 1956, Wiremold further catered to the American Consumer’s ever-increasing needs for more power outlets with the Plugmold 2200, a wide multi-outlet raceway that could be installed in place of traditional wood baseboard.
- During the late 1950 and 1960s, Wiremold became the world’s leading producer of automotive air ducts, with product lines that included air conditioning ducts and carburetor air intakes.
- Beginning in 1964, Wiremold put a spin on their original product, and introduced multi-channel raceways for commercial properties that required more than one type of voltage, or needed to run a combination of power and data wiring within a single raceway. These multi-channel raceways eventually led to the rollout of Tele-Power Poles in 1969, which revolutionized power and data connection in cubicle-based workplaces.
- In 1975, Wiremold acquired product rights to an industrial track lighting system called Chan-L-Wire, from the Oakland, California-based Rucker Company.
- In 1979, Warren Packard assumed the role of President and CEO of Wiremold, which he had joined as company Treasurer in 1973. This marked the first time in company history that these titles were held by someone outside the Murphy family.
- Because of a decreased market for loom, Packard decided to sell that segment of the business to Frank D. Saylor & Sons, Inc. (Birmingham, Michigan) in 1979.
- In 1981, Wiremold very successfully began appealing to consumers with a new line of extruded plastic raceways, soon after which they reported an all-time record revenue of over $50 million.
- In 1991, Warren Packard retired as President and CEO of Wiremold, to be replaced by Art Byrne. Byrne soon began implementing Kaizen, a Japanese system of continuous improvement, throughout the entire company with exceptional results.
- In July 2000, French electrical manufacturer Legrand SA acquired the Wiremold Company for $770 million. Wiremold now works in cooperation with Ortronics, Inc, a Legrand-owned sister company based in New London, Connecticut.
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