Growing from humble agricultural roots into a manufacturing leader in consumer and commercial power equipment requires time, foresight and an ability to meet changing needs. Campbell Hausfeld, best known today for making air compressors, met all of these conditions during its 168-year history, evolving from a one-man wagon-making operation to a producer of air tools, painting systems, pressure washers and welders.
In 1940 Campbell Hausfeld made its first air compressor, The Pressure King (shown in photo above), which was later renamed The Pressure Queen.
Alexander Campbell started his business making horse-drawn wagons in Harrison, Ohio, in 1836. Two years later his brother James, a blacksmith, joined the Campbell Manufacturing Co. Recognizing that their agricultural community, located on the border of Indiana and Ohio, was on the brink of a growth spurt, the brothers knew farming equipment would be in demand. So the enterprising Campbells went from making wagons to developing cultivators and double-shovel plows. During the 1840s, they began designing a corn drill to simplify and speed planting. After a series of modifications — and more than 20 years — James achieved success with a model he called the Pioneer drill because he considered it the first of its kind. He purchased the company from Alexander and later renamed it The Pioneer Corn Drill Works after its top-selling product.
The Campbell Corn Planter, patented in 1859, had operational problems, but it eventually led to the successful 1863 corn drill design.
In 1900 James’ three sons bought the business. To protect assets, in 1911 they incorporated it under a more generic name, Campbell Bros. Manufacturing Co., which would better serve its evolving product line.
World War I sparked a metamorphosis in the company. The Campbells contracted with James Hausfeld’s company, The Ohio Pattern Works and Foundry, to make parts for his metal-melting furnace. Hausfeld designed the metal furnace when German-made clay crucibles, vessels used for melting materials at high temperatures, became difficult to import. (American clay had proved unsatisfactory for making crucibles.) Hausfeld’s company began supplying furnaces to other foundries that had been cut off from imports, and in 1918 Hausfeld relocated the company to be near the Campbells’ plant. The two companies merged to form the Campbell Hausfeld Co. on June 15, 1920.
Four years later C.E. Haddock, Albert Campbell’s son-in-law, was elected president of the company. Under his direction, the company purchased a line of multipurpose sprayers in 1926 and continued to diversify.
In 1940, Campbell Hausfeld discontinued all farm implement products and entered the air compressor business. The company purchased patterns, tools, dies and fixtures to manufacture the Pressure King Air Compressor. After World War II, it began to manufacture spray guns and expanded into a line of paint spray equipment and air compressors. To increase production volume, Campbell Hausfeld designed three tank-style sprayers that Sears Roebuck & Co. added to its product line in 1959.
In 1961 Campbell Hausfeld acquired Melben Products Co., a supplier of sheet-metal fabrications including air receivers, paint tanks and belt guards. The company continued to grow and moved to a larger plant in November 1965, developing 39 new items to become Sears' sole supplier of paint spray equipment by 1966. In 1968 Campbell Hausfeld’s sales totaled $10 million, and the company temporarily reopened its old plant to meet the demand.
In 1971 The Scott Fetzer Co. acquired the business, whose sales had reached more than $20 million, and Campbell Hausfeld became a brand name. Today the company employs 1,200 people nationwide and has earned the reputation reflected in its advertising slogan: “built to last.”
Year founded: 1836
Founder: Alexander Campbell
First product: Farm wagons
City originated: Harrison, Ohio