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BY DON CLAUSING IN COLLABORATION WITH LYDA, BONNIE,
DALE, AND ELLIE CLAUSING: SEPTEMBER 2000



Paul Clausing
Principal Owner and Manager
Father of Don Clausing

Otto Clausing
Shop Leader and Problem Solver

PAUL AND OTTO CLAUSING
My father Paul and uncle Otto Clausing were born near the end of the 19th century and grew up on a small farm in very rural Hardin County, Iowa. Otto was three years older than Paul, and showed early evidence of a strong natural mechanical skill. Their parents had a tabletop "grandfather's clock"; in other words a clock with a pendulum. At approximately 11 years of age Otto would take this clock apart when the parents were away. Many children could have done that. The impressive aspect was that Otto would have it back together again before the parents returned. It would be working perfectly, and the parents did not know that Otto had been practicing his mechanical skills.
Time went by. By the early 1920s Otto was a carpenter and lead house builder building expensive homes in Kansas City. Paul was a commercial artist doing artwork for the Monarch Film Company. Paul started working for Monarch in Osage, Iowa. At the time that Paul and Hilda were married (Christmas 1925) the Monarch Company moved to Waterloo, Iowa. Then in 1929 Monarch moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Paul and Otto were back together.
Paul bought a South Bend lathe and put it in the basement, and used it as a hobby machine. After a while he started to think that he could make a better lathe. Then in the Fall of 1929 the stock market crashed, and the great depression started, even so, by 1931 Paul decided that he should get into the lathe business. He was motivated by three factors:

  1. He could make a better lathe than South Bend
  2. He thought that the Monarch Film Company did not have a bright future
  3. He wanted to be his own boss
Paul started looking, and he found a tiny business in Ottumwa, Iowa. It made small, cheap lathes that were sold through Sears as hobby lathes. These were not in the same class as the South Bend lathes, being much lighter, smaller, and cheaper.

Paul Clausing at work on his South Bend lathe, 1928.

Early Years of the Clausing Manufacturing Company
There are not any records of the years 1931-1934, so I have depended on my memory of what my parents told me. Paul and Hilda Clausing bought the business and building (Fig. 2) in 1931. I believe that they paid cash, and that most of the money came from money that Hilda had received from her parents when she became 21.
The original factory was only approximately 2000 square feet in area and was equipped with a few light machine tools: lathes, drill presses, and one shaper.
My parents and I moved to Ottumwa in the summer of 1931 into an apartment directly over the "factory." The accommodation was not very nice: it had electricity, cold running water, and a telephone; coal had to be carried up two flights of stairs from the cellar to the apartment for heating and there was no insulation, the apartment was hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
After six months Sears cancelled all orders for the hobby lathes - in the heart of the Great Depression few people could afford such a hobby - and this left the business with little revenue.
Otto moved from Kansas City to Ottumwa in March 1932 to work with his brother Paul. There were times when only Paul and Otto were working in the shop. When business was a little better there were one or two other workers.

Fig. 2 The Original Clausing factory with the author, as a little boy,  standing outside.

1935 - 1939
Hilda started keeping a diary in 1935. From then on her diary entries provide some record of the history of the Clausing Manufacturing Company. Also, my memory of events and people starts to help with these years.
The primary product that was made on a somewhat regular basis at this time was a slide rest (attachment for a lathe). These were sold to a company called Duro; other attachments were also made, but the main business was the slide rests; occasionally a lathe would be sold.
The finances of the business were very precarious. Often there were debts with no money to pay them. When a check was received, it was quickly used to pay the bills. On January 30, 1935 Hilda wrote "
Figuring bills. It looks to me we're in pretty deep. I cannot see the way out." Somehow they always found a way.
Neither family lived very high on the hog. Usually there was enough to eat, but sometimes meals were very simple. The simplest that I remember was a meal of a big bowl of rice - but usually it was better than that. Both families lived in substandard housing and their cars were old; Paul had a 1930 Model A Ford and Otto a 1928 Jewett.
In the factory the big event early in this period was the purchase of a planer. It arrived on January 15, 1935 at 6 AM, getting Paul out of bed. I still have a vivid memory of this. It was too big to fit through the front door which had to be removed and the opening enlarged in order to move the planer into the factory. On February 22, 1935 Otto planed the first lathe beds. These lathes were woodturning lathes but sales of them were very small and there was, as yet, no sign of the metal-turning lathes that Paul had set out to make.
On June 8, 1936 the first metal-turning, screw-cutting lathe was shipped. This lathe, which evolved into the Series 100, became the mainstay of the business. (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3 The first production Clausing metal-turning lathe (as shown in the earliest-known surviving catalog printed in 1937) and described as the "Dual" wood and metal-turning lathe.

During the day Paul and Otto worked in the factory, learning by trial and error how to do manufacturing. As an example they made a pattern for the casting of a lathe bed. When they took it to the foundry it was pointed out to them that it would not work. They learned from such experiences and became good manufacturers. Paul worked in the factory during the day, and did the rest of the business work in the evening, including preparation for advertising. A professional photographer took pictures of the products and Paul would do the touch-up work with an airbrush. Of course, Paul also had to do some business functions during the day as well including talking with bankers and occasionally making sales trips. Paul was steadily learning by experience to be a businessman. Paul did all of the catalog development work, which was then sent out for printing. When the catalogs came, Paul, Hilda, and I sat around the kitchen table to stuff them into envelopes and get them mailed. An early version of the catalog was mailed in January 1936. In 1937 an extension to the factory (Fig. 4) was built. It was completed in six weeks and doubled the space to approximately 4000 square feet.

Fig. 4  The first extension to the factory , 1937.

There is a diary entry for December 3, 1937 that Paul ordered Timken bearings for the lathes. This was a big competitive marketing advantage for the Clausing lathes. The South Bend lathes still used simple sleeve (plain) bearings.
In 1938 they started making a grinder that Otto had designed. The grinder, which had a grinding wheel and on top a horizontal honing stone that rotated, was particularly good for sharpening carving chisels.
In the period through 1938 the production quantities of lathes was still very small. There were also many production problems. The diary entry for August 14, 1938, which was a Sunday, reads: "
Paul worked all day. Fitted chuck and thinks finally got first clutch to work." This clutch allowed the lathe spindle to be started and stopped while the motor kept running. It became a permanent feature of this model of lathe.
In late 1938 the casting work was shifted from Clem Leedom's foundry in Ottumwa to the Pella foundry. Some of the Leedom castings had been defective. Perhaps some castings were still obtained from Leedom, but Pella became the primary source. Also, some castings were made in the foundry of the Dexter Company in Fairfield. Dexter made washing machines, but their foundry had excess capacity. I have strong memories of all of these foundries for, if I were not in school, my father would take me with him when he went to visit them. Occasionally my cousin Dale and I made a small contribution: November 5, 1938,
"Don and Dale painted castings and played in shop." Slowly during 1939 the business improved. The production problems were overcome, and the orders came a little more frequently.

1939--1941

Many changes occurred during this period; orders became much stronger, another addition was built to the factory and other investors were brought in.
One big change was the expansion of ownership in 1939. Howard Reep, who had been an executive of the Delta Manufacturing Company in Milwaukee before it was sold to Rockwell, came into the business and some other investors provided additional capital.
In September 1939 eleven lathes were shipped - this might have been a new monthly high. An entry for March 13, 1940: "
Arlene Eaton helping Howard in office." She was probably the first secretary who worked at the company. Until this time Paul had done all of the correspondence, typing letters himself. Howard Reep was accustomed to having a secretary. Arlene only stayed for a short time, but soon there were several secretaries. Sometime in 1939 or 1940 Ed Allmendinger in New York City became the export distributor for the company; he was very effective and exports came to be a relatively large share of the business.
Meanwhile, different variants of the basic lathe were developed and various lengths of bed offered..
April 4, 1940: "
Paul worked in shop trying to help get some lathes out. The first lathe with short bed; he thinks he got it to work OK."
Another new development was a quick-change gearbox. The first version of the lathe had only the fixed gear train. To change the speed of the leadscrew, and thus the pitch of the thread that was being cut, gears had to be manually changed in the gear train. The quick-change gearbox was a transmission that enabled the leadscrew speed to be quickly and easily changed: Fig. 5. The first one was shipped May 17, 1940. In June 1940, 29 lathes were shipped - a record figure at that date - and in 1940 the second addition was built onto the building (Fig. 6). It brought the total floor space to approximately 7000 square feet. I felt this very personally as it eliminated the yard in which I had always played. By this time the front two rooms of the second-floor apartment had been converted to an office. Both the office and the living quarters were too small.
Continued below:

Fig. 5  The first quick-change screwcutting gearbox designed by  Paul Clausing

Fig. 6. In 1940 the second addition was built onto the building - bringing the total floor space to approximately 7000 square feet. 

Continued:
On August 4, 1940 a company picnic was held at Leighton Park. There were over 60 people there, employees and families. The company furnished pop and ice cream. A key entry is for January 16, 1941: "Paul is drafting the lathe with one inch collet capacity." This development was interrupted by the war, but eventually went on to became the much improved, more capable and more expensive Model 200.
In January 1941 we moved from the apartment to our new house, which was about six blocks from the factory. This freed the entire apartment to be used as offices. Saturday Evening Post for October 25, 1941 had a picture of a Clausing lathe in an article about a man who was making bushings and steel spindles for anti-tank guns. This article was mentioned in the Ottumwa Daily Courier, the local newspaper.
The big news in the factory was a new Heald Bore-matic, which arrived on December 24, 1941. This was a machine tool that was in a class above the other machine tools in the factory. It was used to do very precise boring of two aligned holes from opposite ends. The primary use was to bore the bearing seats in the headstock. By this time the United States was in the war. The War Production Board kept a roster of the Heald Bore-matics so that they could used in vital war production. It was later used on the second shift to do precise machining on a part for a gyroscope. The big push now was more production. The factory had just been expanded in 1940, but that was now inadequate. Options were obtained on the two lots to the north of the factory. The first lot had a house, which had always been occupied by a family. The second lot was vacant. At this time the company had an extensive dealer network, the lathe was well received and most of the production problems had been solved, and with the onset of the war the only problem was to increase production.
The economic situation for the Clausing was looking up. Early in 1941 we moved into our new home. Otto's family moved to a much better house. Better cars had been bought. Otto bought a 1936 De Soto in 1939, and Paul bought a 1937 De Soto in 1940. These were huge improvements over the previous cars and houses.


The War Years
I
n April 1942, 2500 square feet of space was rented in the Hardsocg Wonder Drill Company and by the middle of the year 1942 shipments were at about 70 lathes per month.
There were now several office ladies. Abbie Martin and Mary Dayton worked in the front offices doing the secretarial and bookkeeping work. Mary had started in June 1941. Abbie Martin probably started about the same time. There is a diary entry that Mary and Abbie went to Chicago on vacation together in August 1942. Other ladies who worked in the office during the next few years were Lucille Mottet, Bonita Napier, and Gretchen Collet. In August 1942 after Lyda Clausing graduated from high school she started working to do the drafting.
The state of the drafting was interesting. At first there were probably not any drawings, Otto and Paul kept everything in their heads - the parts themselves told how to make them the next time. However, this is not very satisfactory and Paul had started to make drawings. Ray Graham had done drafting at least part time, but then he left for a better-paying job in the wartime airplane industry in Ft. Worth. When Lyda arrived, Paul trained her, and set her to work making drawings. I am not sure that the drawings ever completely caught up with the actual production and even when I worked there in the summers of 1947-1951 there were some still some important details that seemed to be primarily in Otto's head.
In November 1942, 85 lathes were shipped and by March 1944, even though shipments had reached 100 per month for the first time, production was also started in a house to the north of the factory. I remember often visiting my cousin Bonnie (Otto's daughter) there as she operated machine tools - she worked her way through college in this way.
Another addition to production was the shop of Deneen Graham in Bloomfield. In mid 1944 he had six men employed making parts for Clausing Manufacturing Company.
During the war many employees participated in bowling leagues. There was a company team in an industrial bowling league. Also, there was an intramural league within the company that had many teams. Paul was one of the best bowlers. Although his small stature kept his speed down, he emphasized accuracy.
In the mid 1940s most of the other investors were bought out. The only remaining investors, besides Paul and Hilda Clausing, were Gus and Martha Bischoff in Milwaukee.
Meanwhile, the factory building was proving inadequate for the larger company and in May 1945 a site was purchased on the bank of the Des Moines River, across from the Irving elementary school. As it was an old creek bed, there was much filling to be done. After clearing the land, the footings and foundation were poured and the filling began. A barge was built with a pump to send a slurry of sand and water from the opposite bank of the river where the concave side of a large bend provided a supply of sand that had settled out from the river's flow. This process worked to some extent, but gave a lot of trouble. Finally dirt was hauled in to finish the filling work. The brickwork was started on January 11, 1946 and in late May 1946 the move was made to the new building (Fig. 7) at 235 Richmond Street. The old factory was sold to be used for a bottling works. The new building was 21,000 square feet, about three-times the size of the old factory.
Continued below:

Fig. 7 The new factory at 235 Richmond Street photographed in May, 1946.

Continued:
Post-war Era

In January 1947 the shipments were 133 lathes - the business continued to be a success. However, in the following years two setbacks occurred a flood in 1947 and a trading recession in 1949; the flood, in the summer, was  the worst in the history of Ottumwa and caused great damage. When Paul had selected the site he inquired, and found, that the worst flood on record would not have affected the location; however, two years later the water was almost three feet deep in the factory. There was a little advanced notice, so some things were lifted up so that they were not inundated but it took much work to clean up the mud and get operations back to normal. I personally waded in water up above my knees to help put small items up high. After the flood I helped push out the mud.
After the war some men were made foremen. Harold Buchanan and Paul Walker are two who come to mind. Later Roy Kirk and Fred Sutton were made foremen.
In 1946 both Mary Dayton and Abbie Martin left to be married. Lyda Clausing left to go to school, and then moved to St. Louis to design dresses. Lucille Mottet left, probably in 1948, to work in Ames, Iowa. Ladies who came in included Mary Kay McGrath, Ruth Peterson, Elizabeth Coble, and Gretchen (Collet) Saffel.
Late in 1948 a new lathe, with a 1-inch collet lathe, the Series 200 (Fig. 8) went into production; this machine represented a big advance being a very capable lathe with distinctive styling; it looked good and was capable of excellent work; the first one was shipped from the factory on March 31, 1949.

Fig. 8
200 Series lathe on a semi-cabinet stand.

Although the business was a success in the immediate Post WW2 years, in 1949 the United States entered into a fairly severe recession. The machine-tool business is always boom or bust and when the economy slows down, the purchase of a lathe can always be postponed. Paul Clausing was also finding that most of his time was now spent talking to bankers, lawyers, union leaders, dealers, and doing paper work - and this was not what he had in mind when he set out to make a better lathe. The Company now had two good lathes, the 100 Series and the 200 Series and there did not seem to be a need for Paul to develop another, which is what really interested him; as a result, Paul rarely worked in the factory. However, one Saturday Paul and Otto worked together all day to realign the two heads on the Bore-matic. It was tedious and frustrating work, but for Paul it was a welcome respite from all of the chores that come with being a successful company.
One bright spot in 1949 was the trip to the 50th anniversary of the Timken Bearing Company, a great reward for being a regular customer of Timken; Paul could take one guest - and he took me. We drove to Canton, Ohio, and participated in the varied activities. We also made a visit to a sign-painting company for whom Paul had worked in the early 1920s. The two brothers who ran the company were still there. We went to lunch and the three of them had a great time remembering their experiences together.
A big event in early 1950 was the program Queen for a Day on the Mutual Network - a Clausing lathe was given to a queen.

The Sale to Atlas

Paul received a letter from the Atlas Press Company, I believe from Mr. Penniman, the President. Paul went to Chicago to meet the gentlemen from Atlas which was based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He met with Mr. Penniman and Mr. Ed Marsland, the Executive Vice President, at the Drake Hotel.
The original letter had only mentioned a mutual sales arrangement, however, this sort of letter was often used as an "ice-breaker" and was intended to lead to the purchase of a business. Therefore, Paul had thought about the possibility of selling the business before he went to the meeting in Chicago. Atlas was interested in buying and events then moved quickly and the sale concluded. Paul and Otto kept working for the new owners, as did all the other employees.


Atlas in Ottumwa

The name of the business in Ottumwa was changed to Atlas-Clausing. The Catalog numbers of the lathes were changed from 100 to 4800 and from 200 to 6300 and, at first, the name plate on the lathes was changed to Atlas as well. However, after a relatively short time an incident happened that led to a change: George Nancarrow, the Atlas Vice President of Sales, was visiting a dealer. A customer walked in and asked for a Clausing lathe. The salesman said certainly, and showed him a lathe with the name Atlas on it. The customer was quite indignant - he wanted a Clausing lathe, not an Atlas - the name on the lathes reverted to Clausing.
After a relatively short time "Boots" Avery came from Kalamazoo to take over management of the production side of the company. Otto became a master mechanic who solved the mechanical problems that others found difficult. He designed and built special production equipment and the people from Atlas greatly respected his unusual abilities.
Otto also had a small workshop in the "garage" behind his house. The primary product was the grinder that had first gone into production in 1938. Otto's had moved to Willard Street in 1943, and shortly after that he had set up some machine tools in the building behind the house. Ralph Williams came from the main factory to be the foreman. I worked there during the summers of 1945 and 1946 with both Bonnie and Dale - who were older, and much more productive than I was ...
Otto continued this business with the grinders being sold through the Clausing Manufacturing Company, and I believe that this arrangement continued under Atlas. In the Fall of 1952 Keith Nelson transferred from Atlas-Clausing to work for Otto.
Paul became, in essence, the office manager for the Atlas-Clausing, but he was not especially happy with that position for it had nothing to do with making better lathes, which had been his main motivation. However, after 19 years of struggle, he had much better financial security. Ironically, one of the other activities that he did remain involved in was dealing with the union. He didn't much care for this, but the workers knew and trusted Paul, whereas they did not know the Atlas people.
I don't know how much Paul and Hilda received for their share of the business but it was enough to relieve them of immediate worries about money, but not enough to live on for the rest of their lives. They paid off debts, and gave Otto the money to pay off his mortgage. In 1951 they invested a substantial fraction of their remaining proceeds in Atlas common stock. Paul was impressed with Atlas and thought that the stock was under-valued.
Activities continued throughout the years and the revenues continued to go up and down, as is typical of the machine-tool business.
In February 1957 during a visit to Ottumwa Ed Marsland told Paul that they intended to move the production of the Clausing lathes to their plant in Warsaw, Indiana, in the Fall of 1958. Actually, the move came sooner. Otto, Bill Deford, Roy Kirk, Fred Sutton, and Howard Weidman went to Warsaw with the plant and equipment. Otto and Alice left Ottumwa on January 18, 1958 to live in Warsaw.

Afterwards

Paul and Hilda Clausing and Gus and Martha Bischoff still owned the factory building in Ottumwa and were fortunate to sell it immediately to the Lunds, who had a business making agricultural knives. Located in Massachusetts, they were interested in locating nearer to their markets of whom one, John Deere (who had a factory in Ottumwa) was a major customer.
With the sale of the building the story of the original Clausing Manufacturing Company comes to a close. Otto continued to work in Warsaw until he died on June 14, 1960.
The Atlas stock that Paul and Hilda had bought had never done much. In the mid 1950s Atlas had missed their dividends for several quarters. However, in 1967 the Atlas stock had a run up in price and Paul and Hilda sold most of their holding. It continued going up for a short time to a peak that was about 10% higher than Paul and Hilda had received and they were quite worried that they had sold prematurely. However, the stock then started going down and in half a year it was below half of what they had received. Now they had enough money for relative financial security during their remaining years - six for Paul and eighteen for Hilda.
In the Fall of 1969 the Atlas Company changed its name to Clausing; it still exists today, although not as a mainstream manufacturer but rather a reseller of machine tools made in foreign countries.
After Atlas left Ottumwa Paul went back to what he really liked to do - mechanical work. He made some inventions and did some design work. He became involved with local people in the business of manufacturing the price markers that were used in supermarkets. One of Paul's inventions turned out to be worth quite a bit, but he had given away his rights to the patent.
Eventually Paul quit business, and went back to his first love, painting pictures and our house is filled with his works; my cousins also have some. The most cherished is the 'Childhood Home' where Otto disassembled and then assembled the clock. Paul started to draw there, including a sketch of the Childhood Home, which he used more than half a century later as the basis upon which to paint the picture of the Childhood Home.
Paul Clausing died in Ottumwa on March 15, 1973.


email: tony@lathes.co.uk
Home   Machine Tool Archive   Machine-tools for Sale & Wanted
Machine Tool Manuals   Machine Tool Catalogues   Belts   
Books   Accessories

Clausing Lathes
Clausing Home Page   Clausing 100 & 200 Series & 4800 & 6300 Models   
10" Model 4900   12" Model 6300   12" Model 5400   Clausing/Colchester 
Clausing Accessories   A History of the Clausing Company - by Don Clausing
 
Clausing Millers   
Fortis-branded Clausing   Clausing "Broadway"
Clausing 5900 Series Lathes - Serial Numbers

Manuals, Instruction Books Parts Lists and Reproduction
Catalogs are available for most Clausing lathes

BY DON CLAUSING IN COLLABORATION WITH LYDA, BONNIE,
DALE, AND ELLIE CLAUSING: SEPTEMBER 2000