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Twentieth-Century Business Archives

American Machine & Foundry Company - Lehman Brothers Collection

American Machine & Foundry Company

List of Deals

The American Machine & Foundry Company was organized in 1900 by Moorehead Patterson. The company was based in New Jersey and began as a manufacturer of machinery used by the tobacco industry. Over several decades the company diversified its product line and by the 1940s it became one of the leading manufacturers of automatic and semi-automatic machinery in the United States. These products included cigar- and cigarette-making equipment, bakery equipment such as bread-wrapping machines and mixers, and stitching machines including the Slipstitch Machine used by necktie manufacturers.

The company also developed or purchased the patents of other types of machinery. One such device was a pin-setting machine used for picking up and resetting bowling pins through the use of mechanical suction cups. In 1938 American Machine & Foundry hired the inventor of this machine and then spent six years refining the idea. The result, a product called the AMF Automatic Pinspotter, revolutionized the bowling industry. The product was introduced in 1946 and then reintroduced in 1951 with enormous success as the country experienced a "bowling boom." By 1957 AMF had installed 30,000 machines.

During the postwar years, AMF also grew as a military contractor. From 1948 to 1953, defense-related products rose from 7 percent of sales to 50 percent. AMF also became heavily involved in the construction of nuclear reactors. By 1955, AMF was awarded its fifteenth reactor project. AMF reactors were located worldwide in locations such as Puerto Rico and Portugal. In 1955 AMF also began designing and developing an underground launching system for the Titan intercontinental ballistic missile.

In 1960 AMF reported that earnings rose to a new high of $24.1 million on sales of $361.9 million, as compared to 1952 when it earned $4.2 million from sales of $105.8 million. While the company was now involved in many lines of business, including power tools and sports gear, it was the bowling equipment and military orders that represented the bulk of the company's business.

In 1960 AMF expanded its line of sporting goods by acquiring Ben Hogan Company, a manufacturer of golf clubs, bags, balls, and other golf equipment. The same year, it also bought Paragon Electric, a maker of timers for automatic defrosting in commercial and household refrigerators, for $6.4 million. In 1963 it acquired Tuboscope, a company that produced plastic coatings for tubular goods and other metal products.

In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, AMF began to change its corporate makeup by focusing more on consumer goods operations. It acquired motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson in 1968, Head USA (sporting goods) in 1970, and Hatteras Yachts in 1972.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the company changed direction yet again, divesting most of the leisure and consumer goods operations it had acquired.

In 1985 AMF became the object of a hostile takeover bid from corporate raider Irwin L. Jacob's Minstar, Inc., and the company was acquired for $563.8 million in June 1985. In the months that followed, Jacobs sold off many of the companies that comprised AMF. The bowling division, then the most profitable division of AMF, was sold to Commonwealth Venture Partners in 1986.

In 2002 AMF Bowling Worldwide is a publicly held company. It is the largest owner and operator of bowling centers in the world, with about 385 U.S. bowling centers and over 100 international bowling centers.

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