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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

VAN DORN DEMAG CORP. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The VAN DORN DEMAG CORP., formerly the Van Dorn Co., is a producer of plastic injection molding machines. The Van Dorn Co., once an innovator and expert in the forming of metals and plastic, began in 1872 when Jas. H. Van Dorn established a small fence business in Akron. Six years later he moved to Cleveland and named his firm the Cleveland Wrought Iron Fence Co. The plant at E. 79th St. manufactured all types of ornamental iron works and, within a few years was the largest producer of jail cells. To note this expansion, it was renamed the Van Dorn Iron Works Co. in 1884. The company developed a structural-steel business in time to profit from the emerging automobile industry at the turn of the century and Van Dorn's 1,100 employees began to supply frames, fenders, and automobile parts for local companies. The firm pioneered in the development of the mechanical dump-truck hoist, then added other metal products to its line. It produced tanks and armor plates for cars and aircraft during both world wars.

After barely surviving the Depression, the company sought to diversify in the 1940s by acquiring the Davies Can Co. and the Colonial Plastics Mfg. Co. From that base, Van Dorn became a leader and innovator in the container and plastics field in the 1960s, producing drawn aluminum cans for processed foods and plastic injection molding machines. Reflecting this new direction, the firm became the Van Dorn Co. in 1964. During the 1970s and 1980s, Van Dorn consolidated and reorganized its container and plastics subsidiaries and by 1985 had 19 plants in 7 states, Puerto Rico, and Canada. Van Dorn closed its Cleveland plant at 2700 E. 79th St. in 1991. In 1993, following an initial hostile takeover attempt by the German-based Mannesmann AG Co. and the U.S.-based Crown Cork and Seal Co., Van Dorn was purchased by the American company Crown Cork and Seal, which then sold the plastics division to Mannesmann AG which, in turn, formed the Van Dorn Demag Corp as an American subsidiary. In 1995 Van Dorn Demag employed 650 people in the Cleveland area and maintained 5 facilities in the U.S.

Van Dorn Co. 100 Years at Van Dorn (1972).

Van Dorn Co. Records, WRHS.

Last Modified: 23 Jul 1997 09:44:34 AM

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