Lehman Brothers Collection - Contemporary Business Archives

Harvard Business School Baker Library Historical Collections

Lehman Brothers Collection

Twentieth-Century Business Archives

American Building Maintenance Industries - Lehman Brothers Collection

American Building Maintenance Industries

List of Deals

Morris Rosenberg founded a one-man window washing business in San Francisco in 1909 called "Chicago Window Cleaning." His first customers included the St. Francis Hotel, the Phelan Building, and the Bank of Italy (later known as Bank of America). Over the next few years, the business grew beyond window washing into complete janitorial services. Due to this expansion, Rosenberg changed the name of the company to American Building Maintenance in 1913.

The company continued its robust expansion, and in 1920 it opened offices in Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. ABM made history in its field by becoming the first janitorial contractor in the country to clean a major college campus, when it contracted with Stanford University in 1921. Further growth led to the acquisition of Easterday Janitorial Supply Company in 1927; the company could then offer both janitorial services and supplies to its customers.

Theodore Rosenberg took over the presidency of the company in 1935, after the death of his father, Morris Rosenberg. The next year, a division of ABM wired the lighting system on both the Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridges.

During World War II, the company cleaned thousands of Navy ships docked in San Francisco, among many other West Coast ports. The company also assembled and installed the wiring on the amphibious vehicles known as "Water Buffaloes" that were built in Seattle during the war. By the end of the war, ABM was operating seventeen offices in the United States and Canada.

In 1962 American Building Maintenance and Easterday Janitorial Supply Company became subsidiaries of American Building Maintenance Industries, the corporation formed to become a publicly held company. Ted Rosenberg was named the chairman of the board, and Sydney Rosenberg was named president and chief executive officer of the new corporation.

In 1962 the company's sales were $31.1 million. By contrast, in 1965 the company's sales were $41 million: ABM Industries was growing rapidly. In 1965 the company listed its stock on the American Stock Exchange. By 1968 the company made over $50 million in sales. The company made several acquisitions in the years between 1965 and 1969, including Ampco Auto Parks, Commercial Air Conditioning, American Air Conditioning, and General Elevator Corporation. In 1971 the U.S. government commenced an anti-trust action against the company due to its acquisition of J. E. Benton Management Corporation and Benton Maintenance Company.

Harvard Business School Harvard Business School Baker Library Histrorical Collections