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Twentieth-Century Business Archives

Brunswick-Balke- Collender Co. - Lehman Brothers Collection

Brunswick-Balke- Collender Co.

List of Deals

John Brunswick opened a woodworking shop in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1845. In the same year, he built his first billiard table, which would prove to be a lucrative move.

Brunswick expanded his business in 1848 by sending his half-brothers to Chicago to open a sales office and factory. As the company grew, sales offices were opened in New Orleans and St. Louis. Brunswick merged with Julius Balke's Great Western Billiard Manufactory to form the J. M. Brunswick & Balke Company in 1873. In 1884 the company merged with Phelan & Collender and became the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company.

The company grew quickly and added new product lines to its business in the 1880s. Brunswick began selling wooden back bars, bowling pins, and bowling balls. Prohibition prompted a drastic change in the products offered by the company. Brunswick suspended its bar-fixtures operations, which accounted for one-fourth of its annual sales, and replaced the operations with automobile tires, the world's first hard-rubber toilet seats, wooden piano cases, and phonograph cabinets. The company was incorporated in 1907.

In 1922 the company began producing records under its own label. Musicians such as Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Irene Pavlovska, and Leopold Godowsky recorded on the Brunswick label. The company collaborated with General Electric in an effort to manufacture an all-electric phonograph, called the Panatrope, in 1925. The company had gone public the previous year.

The Depression was a difficult period for Brunswick; however, World War II brought a great deal of new business. The company's bowling and billiard products were popular in the United Service Organizations (USO) centers. The company also made war products such as mortar shells, flares, assault boats, fuel cells, floating mines, aircraft instrument panels, and aluminum litters. The postwar years saw fierce competition emerge in the bowling products field. The American Machine and Foundry Company introduced an automatic pinsetter for bowling alleys in 1952. In cooperation with the Murray Corporation of America, Brunswick established the Brunswick- Murray Pinsetter Corporation in 1954 and produced its own version of a pinsetter in 1955.

Brunswick did remarkably well after the introduction of the pinsetter. The company set out on a program of diversification and acquisitions and its sales increased from $33 million in 1954 to $422 million in 1961. Companies it acquired during the 1950s and early 1960s included MacGregor Sports Products, Union Hardware, Zebco, Owens Yacht Company, the Kiekhaefer Corporation, A.S. Aloe, Sheridan Catheter & Instrument Corporation, Roehr Products Company, and Biological Research. Brunswick's medical-supply business became known as the Sherwood Medical Group. The company also developed a line of school furniture and maintained its operations in the defense products field.

In 1960 the company changed its name to Brunswick Corporation.

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