490 Broadway, Buffalo, NY
Photo source: A History of the City of Buffalo, published by The Buffalo Evening News, 1908
The 14-acre factory at Broadway and Mortimer was demolished in 2006.
Photo © 2003 Stephen Corbett
Poster source: Library of Congress American Memory
Poster on display at the Buffalo History Museum
Buffalo Forge Company
William F. Wendt was still a teenager in 1878 when he strode up five flights of stairs at 78 Washington Street and worked out a deal to become part owner in the new and somewhat shaky Buffalo Forge Company. The name described exactly the type of enterprise young Wendt was getting involved with - Buffalo Forge made forges.
The firm's name
hasn't changed over the past century. And indeed, it still produces a
small number of efficient blacksmith forges.
Although the corner blacksmith was slowly disappearing, the brothers were ready to take advantage of America's industrial expansion. Buffalo Forge's forges were efficient because they had gear-driven blowers instead of the traditional blacksmith bellows. Using that forge fan as a start, Buffalo Forge moved into air movement on a larger scale.
As early as 1884, Buffalo Forge discovered a way to warm air by circulating it through pipe coils which were heated by exhaust steam. By moving air over ice, the company created a primitive type of air conditioning. Another Buffalo Forge product relieved industry of poor air in plants by introducing ventilation. As Buffalo Forge improved its wide range of air-moving products, the Wendts found they needed specialized machine tools such as punches, shears, and bar cutters. Reasoning that other forge companies must also be in need of such tools, the Wendts began marketing the new line successfully. This pioneer in the development of moving large masses of air purchased a pump company in 1904. In this North Tonawanda facility Buffalo Forge produced centrifugal pumps capable of moving large quantities of liquids and semiliquids.
With its three basic products - pumps, machine tools, and air-handling equipment - Buffalo Forge grew to become a $125-million business. In addition to being one of the largest employers in the city of Buffalo, Buffalo Forge has several other plants in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Wendt family retained company ownership until 1941, when the ownership was broadened by a public stock offering.
[Ed. Note: In 1993, Buffalo Forge was acquired by the Howden Group. Buffalo Machine Tools was created in 1997 from the machine tool division of Buffalo Forge. In 1999, the Howden subsidiary containing the remainder of Buffalo Forge was renamed Howden Buffalo.]
|In 1878, William F. Wendt organized the Buffalo Forge Company
to manufacture a portable blacksmith forge. In the beginning, parts
produced by outside jobbers and were assembled and shipped by the
Buffalo Forge as ordered.
In 1880 the company moved from its original location at the corner of Washington and Perry Streets to its present site at Mortimer and Broadway. As the business expanded, it absorbed the plants of the George L. Squier Manufacturing Company - in 1902 - and the Buffalo Steam Pump Company in 1904.
- Robert Holder, The Beginnings of Buffalo Industry (online Sept. 2020)
2020 The Forge
© 2020 Chuck LaChiusa