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A Brief History Of Maytag

Author Photo
By Steve Owens | Feb 1, 1990

330 East 11 St. South Newton, Iowa 50208

The positions of leadership occupied today by Maytag Company and
its parent, Maytag Corporation, in the highly competitive appliance
industry stand in sharp contrast to Maytag’s modest beginnings
as a small, regional manufacturer of farm equipment.

In the Beginning

F.L. Maytag, who came to Iowa as a farm boy in a covered wagon,
joined with three other men to found the company in 1893. The firm
produced threshing machine band-cutter and self-feeder attachments
invented by one of the founders of the company. Operations were
housed in an abandoned, 30 x 40 foot stove works in Newton.

After the turn of the century, the company became involved in
several sidelines. The farm equipment line was expanded to include
hay presses, hog waterers and numerous specialized feeders and
harvesting equipment. Between 1907 and 1911, F.L. Maytag produced
‘Maytag-Mason’ automobiles in Waterloo, Iowa. As late as
1916, Maytag Company briefly produced farm tractors.

The first Maytag clothes washer was built in 1907 as a sideline
to the farm equipment line. It was intended that this product would
solve seasonal slumps in the farm equipment business and fill the
need for a home washing machine.

The 1907 ‘Pastime’ washer had a wooden tub with a hand
crank that turned an inside dolly with pegs, which, in turn, pulled
the clothes through the water and against the corrugated tub
sides.

About this time in the company’s history, F.L. Maytag became
sole owner of the firm. Improvements on the first washer came
steadily. A pulley mechanism was added so the machine could be
operated by an outside power source, and, in 1911, a model with an
electric motor was unveiled.

Three years later, Maytag developed its Multi-Motor gasoline
engine washer that became a boon to rural homemakers who did not
have access to electric power. In 1919 the company succeeded in
casting the first aluminum washer tub, producing what was called in
the trade ‘the washer that couldn’t be built,’ and
eliminating problems inherent in the wooden tub construction.

Expansion into a national company and world leadership came
during the first half of the 1920’s under L.B.Maytag, a son of
the founder, who served as company president between 1920 and 1926.
He was a member of the board of directors from 1940 until his death
in 1966. He also conceived a new washer design that replaced the
dolly under the lid with an agitator in the bottom of the tub.

Howard Snyder, a former mechanic whose inventive genius had led
him to head Maytag’s development department, worked out details
of the new design and came up with one of the most significant
inventions in laundry appliance history. His revolutionary washing
principle was to force water through the clothes with a vaned
agitator mounted on the bottom of the tub, rather than drag clothes
through the water with a lid dolly. Maytag first introduced this
type of washer in 1922, and it was a great success.

The new washer design put Maytag exclusively into the washer
business, prompted discontinuance of farm implement manufacturing,
and propelled the company to a dominant position in the young
laundry appliance industry.

Trainloads of Maytag ‘Gyrafoam’ washers went out from
the Newton plant in single shipments, and by 1927 the company had
produced its first million. It has now produced more than 40
million laundry and kitchen appliances.

Company Goes Public

In 1925, the company went public with listing on the New York
Stock Exchange. The company did not, however, turn its back on its
rural base. It soon began providing butter churn and meat grinder
attachments for its washer and adapted its Multi-Motor for use with
a cream separator and, in the 1930’s, to function as a light
generator. In 1924 an ironer had been introduced as a companion
appliance to the Maytag washer.

From 1926 to 1940 the company was headed by E.H. Maytag, another
son of the founder. In 1929 the company reached a pre-war high in
earnings of $6,838,883, and the firm made its way through the
depression years without encountering a loss.

As the shadow of war fell over the country, E.H. Maytag died,
and his son, Fred Maytag II, assumed the company presidency in 1940
at age 29.

During World War II, the company discontinued the manufacture of
washers and devoted its facilities to the war effort. From 1941 to
1945, Maytag improved and produced numerous special components for
military airplanes.

Production of wringer washers was resumed in 1946, and, three
years later, Plant 2, a new facility for manufacturing automatic
washers, was opened in Newton. Maytag’s first automatic washer,
the AMP, was introduced in 1949 and began a new era in the history
of the company.

With the beginning of the Korean War in 1951, Maytag again
served its country, constructing a building next to Plant 1 to
produce parts for tanks and other military equipment while
continuing its washer production. Production of clothes dryers was
added in 1953.

The End of an Era

Thirty years later in late 1983, the end of an era occurred when
Maytag discontinued production of wringer washers. The company had
produced wringer washers for 76 years, and when manufacturing was
discontinued 11.7 million units had rolled off assembly lines in
Newton. Industry sales of wringer washers had been decreasing since
1948, and, because of the low volume involved, it was no longer
economical for Maytag to manufacture the product.

Plant 2 has been expanded many times since it was built in 1949.
The facility and its adjoining product warehouse now cover more
than two million square feet on a 175-acre tract. Plant 1, where
component parts are manufactured, covers over 29 acres with its
numerous buildings and has a floor area of more than a million
square feet. The Headquarters building was dedicated in 1961, and
the Technical Center was created with the renovation of part of
Plant 1 in 1988. Completing the Maytag office complex are Research
and Development and the Training Center on the east side of
Dependability Square.

Upon his death in 1962, Fred Maytag II was succeeded as chairman
of the board and chief executive officer by George M. Umbreit. E.G.
Higdon was named president of the company at the same time. This
marked the first time in history that the company was not headed by
a Maytag. Since then, professional managers have led Maytag
Company, and family members have not been involved in
management.

In 1972, Daniel J. Krumm succeeded E.G. Higdon as Maytag
president and treasurer, and two years later he was named chief
executive officer.

Throughout history, Maytag Company has done more of its own
manufacturing than perhaps any other appliance maker, due in part
to its location, but primarily to its overriding concern for
product quality and cost control. Production facilities include
machining, sheet metal stamping and welding, rubber and plastics
molding and extruding, die casting, heat treating, plating,
porcelain enameling and paint finishing.

 Field Sales Organization

The company’s field sales organization is divided into
Eastern, Northern, Central and Western divisions, under which 24
branches with nearly 250 regional managers serve more than 10,000
retail dealers throughout the nation. Canada is served by the
Maytag Company Ltd., a subsidiary, and distributors headquartered
in Montreal and Truro, Nova Scotia. Overseas, Maytag appliances are
sold through Maytag Corporation’s international subsidiary,
Domicor.

In 1983 Maytag established a national parts distribution
operation in Jefferson City, Mo. Today, this facility and the
service and parts operations of all Maytag Corporation appliance
companies are consolidated under the direction of the Maycor
Appliance Parts and Service Company, headquartered in Cleveland,
Tenn.

In 1985 Maytag began operations in its second facility in
Jefferson City-a 100,000 sq. ft. manufacturing plant. This plant
produces wire harnesses, powdered metal parts and other components
for Maytag appliances.

Expansion of Product Line

In the late 1950’s, Maytag expanded into the growing
commercial laundry field. In 1958, the company began manufacturing
washers and dryers for commercial self service laundries and
commercial route operators.

Over the years, the company has introduced many innovations in
the commercial laundry field, including plastic tickets to operate
machines rather than coins and the concept of stacking two
regular-size dryers. The latter idea provides customers with their
own individual laundry areas, and it saves space while conserving
energy.

In addition to its single-load laundry equipment and multi-load
dryers for the commercial market, Maytag added, in 1987, a line of
front-loading washers to its offering of commercial products.

As far as non-laundry appliances are concerned, Maytag began
marketing a line of ranges and refrigerators in 1946, both of which
were manufactured under the Maytag name by other companies.
However, Maytag chose not to stay in this business. Ranges were
discontinued in 1955 and refrigerators in 1960.

Six years later the company reentered the kitchen appliance
field with a portable dishwasher, and in 1968 it unveiled a line of
food waste disposers. These products were manufactured at Maytag
Company facilities.

In 1969 the company added a built-in dishwasher and a
convertible dishwasher. Two more built-in models were introduced in
1971, and today the company offers a full line.

Growth by Acquisition

In 1981 Maytag launched a program of growth by acquisition and
purchased Hardwick Stove Company of Cleveland, Tennessee. Maytag
reentered the cooking appliance field in 1982 with a line of gas
and electric ranges, wall ovens, built-in cooktops and microwave
ovens. During that year, Maytag also acquired Jenn-Air Corp. of
Indianapolis, Indiana.

Jenn-Air manufactures electric and gas down-draft grill ranges
and cooktops. It pioneered the concept of down-draft cooking
ventilation. The company is the leading manufacturer of down-draft
cooktops, units that make barbecuing an indoor, year-round
activity. In 1987 Jenn-Air began marketing a gas model, downdraft
cooktop, as well as a line of refrigeration products.

Late in 1982, Maytag began manufacturing dishwashers for
Jenn-Air. These units are built in Newton, Iowa, and marketed by
the Indianapolis firm under the Jenn-Air label. Jenn-Air, in turn,
makes several cooking appliances for Maytag Company.

Maytag Corporation is Formed

Maytag Corporation, headed by Chairman and CEO Daniel J. Krumm,
was formed when the Magic Chef family of companies was merged into
Maytag operations on May 30, 1986. In January 1989, Maytag
Corporation expanded its worldwide presence by acquiring Chicago
Pacific Corporation and its Hoover division.

Today, Maytag Corporation is comprised of three divisions-the
appliance group, Hoover group and diversified products group.
Altogether, full or nearly full lines of major appliances are
marketed in the U.S. under the Admiral, Jenn-Air, Magic Chef and
Maytag brands. Other domestic appliance brands include Hardwick and
Norge. Hoover floor-care products are distributed internationally,
and Hoover home appliances are sold primarily in the United
Kingdom, Europe, Canada and Australia. The corporation also
manufacturers soft drink vending machines and currency changers
under the Dixie-Narco and Ardac brands.

The manufacturing and service companies within the corporation,
in addition to Maytag Company, include: Admiral Company;
Dixie-Narco Inc.; Domicor, Inc.; Heatube Company; Hoover Company;
Jenn-Air Company; Magic Chef Company; Maycor Appliance Parts and
Service Company; and Maytag Financial Services Corp.

Today, Maytag Corporation and Maytag Company are headquartered
in Newton. The company employs approximately 3,500 people in Newton
and Jefferson City, Missouri while the corporation employs
approximately 29,000 worldwide.

When Mr. Owens sent us this brief company history, he also
enclosed photocopies of service and parts manuals, as well as a
listing of serial numbers and their corresponding dates of
production. Maytag owners seeking such information may forward
questions to Mr. Owens.

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