Encyclopedia o f Chicago
Entries : Fansteel Inc.
Fansteel Inc.

Fansteel Inc.

In 1907, Carl Pfanstiehl, a native of Highland Park, along with a friend, James M. Troxel, started the Pfanstiehl Electrical Laboratory, which made coils for x-ray equipment, automobiles, and other products. During the 1910s, the company pioneered the development of tungsten electrical contacts, as well as the industrial use of tantalum, a new metal. In 1918, the company's name was changed to Fansteel Products Co. Inc.; 17 years later, it would become the Fansteel Metallurgical Corp. During the 1920s, sales of radio battery chargers drove annual revenues past $5 million. In 1937, a sit-down strike by workers at the company's plant in North Chicago ended when police fired tear gas into the facility. During World War II, increased civilian and military demand for electrical contacts led to expansion at Fansteel: by the middle of the war, annual sales were up to $18 million, about seven times higher than they had been in 1940. After the war, the company expanded to other locations but still employed over 1,000 people in the Chicago area. It remained a medium-sized company that supplied specialty components for the aerospace industry and other users of exotic metallic goods. After the late 1960s, when annual sales were close to $100 million, Fansteel stopped growing. By the end of the 1990s, still based in North Chicago, the company sold about $150 million annually and employed fewer than 200 people in the Chicago area.