1909 - National Brass Company
Second Floor of Kutsche's Hardware
Lower Monroe Avenue
Dexter Industries, Incorporated
1601 Madison Avenue, S.E.
In 1909, L. A. Dexter, Sr., a travelling salesman for cutlery, started a firm as a sales organization. They marketed cabinet hardware and miscellaneous items that were purchased in bulk from local manufacturers. The headquarters was on the second floor of Kutsche's Hardware store on lower Monroe.
The business was a success due to the fast-growing building industry but he kept his sights on manufacturing. Three years after starting the firm, it was incorporated as the National Brass Company. In 1911 they begin plans to build a plant and begin manufacturing. Later in 1911 they acquired the machinery, tools, and inventory of Grand Rapids Hardware Supply Company and production was quickly started - stamped hinges, screen door hinge sets, glass knobs, drawer pulls and handles, cast brass knobs, etc. soon came off the production line. Dexter then developed and patented a tubular style lock. It revolutionized the lock making industry from the large mortise style lock. This lock was much easier to install and used less materials. It quickly caught on and the factory was running a peak capacity to keep up with demand. Their were problems. The die-cast of the new locks did not work satisfactory and orders were soon stopped. Tests were made and the die-cast parts were replaced by steel stampings . The company staked its future on the improved lock and it announced to customers that the lock was available free-of-charge as a replacement for the original product. The production line was again going but only turning out replacements. Its capital began to dwindle. Mr. Dexter scraped enough backers to keep the company going. It paid off and the improved lock gained the approval of the industry.
The company struggled through the depression and began to prosper again when Mr. Dexter died suddenly in 1932. His son, Lou, was given the helm. He had been a salesman for the company after graduating from the University of Michigan in 1921. Then he had worked in various departments of the firm. Soon after, he began seeking new markets for the company's products. Automobile house trailers were being introduced and Lou saw this as an opportunity and so a line of hardware was designed specifically for trailers. He wisely put profits into research and plant equipment. He continued to come up with new ways and new products. During WWII the company concentrated on military and essential civilian work. A new plant construction was deferred. At the end of the war, the company mapped plans for a ten-year program and studied the nations' hardware needs. New locks were continually designed. The National Brass Company name was changed during this time period to Dexter Industries, Inc.
Created: 3 January 2008